Reminders of growing up

June 9, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

This week I received three tangible signs that brought into sharp focus just how much my older child has grown up.

First, there was the incident with the glasses.

Ten has worn glasses about three years now, and her eyesight has weakened a bit every year since she first went to the optometrist. Interestingly enough, this is one of the few doctor’s appointments I didn’t attend. Ten and Eight’s dad came home early from the hospital and offered to take her, and when my husband pitches in to help I don’t question it.

This year, yet again, Ten’s prescription changed, so off the entire family went to Sam’s to pick out new frames for her. She and Eight spent a few minutes playing with the various frame options, but after a little while Ten, my husband, and I got to the business at hand. Her dad found this pair of frames that were in her favorite color (purple) and looked good on her face, so we made it a unanimous decision and placed our order.

Earlier this week, I got a call from Sam’s that Ten’s glasses had come in. On Wednesday after camp, the kids and I had lunch and then we began our afternoon jaunt to pick up the glasses. Ten had been waiting with a great deal of eagerness ever since we ordered them, as much to get new frames as for the fact that she’d be able to see again, and I was glad the call had come because (quite frankly) I was tired of her asking me.

We got settled in the eye department at the store and the lady took Ten’s glasses out of a locked case. She brought them over and instructed Ten to put them on. Ten dutifully took off the old glasses and put on the new ones.

Suddenly my entire perspective of her shifted.

You would think, since I was there when she picked them out, that I wouldn’t be so shocked when I saw them on her. But these frames and glasses looked so different from the previous two pairs that I had to pull a Mom move on myself. I had to remind myself that it’s not polite to stare, never mind that it would be at my own child.

Her previous two frames, also purple, had curlicues on the arms and little metal hearts. When Ten first got her glasses, they made her look older. With these new frames, she looks grown up. The simple, clean lines of the soft rectangles somehow open up her face in a whole new way for me.

She no longer looks like my little girl who wears glasses; now she looks like a young lady.

The second instance happened after the trip to Sam’s. We stopped in the grocery store to pick up a few supplies for dinner that night. Somehow we got sidetracked, the three of us girls, and we found ourselves looking at new flip flops and sandals. Ten’s old flip flops had started to look like she’d borrowed them from Eight, and even though she’s never complained about the old ones I decided to buy her new ones.

We started in the kids’ department, but we couldn’t find a pair to fit her. Even the kids’ size 5 didn’t do the job. So I steered us to the women’s department, reasoning that surely a 6 would do it. But it didn’t. Neither did a 7.

Inhaling a sigh of resignation, I asked Ten to look for a size 8.

The size 8 just fits her now. In fact, when we came home and everyone collected in the evening on the back patio, my husband wondered aloud whether even the size 8 flip flops were a smidge small. And I looked down at Ten’s feet again.

The size 8 looked fine to me. I did my level best to ignore the fact that they didn’t come from the kids’ department. But my husband couldn’t quite grasp it.

“Did these really come from the women’s department?” he asked, amazed.

I nodded while wondering what exactly this is supposed to mean. I mean, I wear a 7.5. Most of her other shoes run around a 4.5 to 5 in kids. So what do I make of the fact that she’s wearing women’s flip flops too big for even me?

It didn’t help that while we shopped for shoes, Ten looked down at her feet and said, “My feet are just long, that’s all.”

Speaking of things bigger than me, the biggest shock this week came from a piece of string.

At the beginning of fifth grade, all the kids in Ten’s class put together personal mini time capsules. They took paper towel tubes to school and filled them with pieces of paper listing their favorites—books; movies; TV shows; singers; etc.—as well as their thoughts for the school year that had just begun. The teacher also measured each child’s height with a piece of string, cutting the string to match the height and allowing the kids to ball up the string and stuff it in the cardboard tube along with everything else.

Ten brought home the tube with glee.

“Look at this,” she said, pulling out the string. She held it up and let it stretch to its full length. Then she stepped on the bottom tip with her toe and pulled the string taut.

It came just above her chin.

In this one school year, my child has grown five inches.

I wanted to email her teacher and ask whether she might have made a mistake while measuring Ten. It’s not humanly possible for people to grow that much in a year…is it? And, surely, it’s not possible for kids to grow so much, period.

Is it?

I guess I know the answer to that one, really, I do, but I’m afraid to utter it.

Latest Spurts: Sister talk and lots of swag

May 26, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Today is the last day of school, and because of that we’ve talked a lot lately about moving to higher grades. Ten and Eight will be sixth and fourth graders, respectively, this fall. They’ve already thought ahead, though.

One morning at breakfast they were talking about going into the eighth and sixth grades. Now, mind you, technically Ten hasn’t even started middle school yet. But my kids often extrapolate their current lives into the future.

“You’ll be in sixth grade when I’m in eighth,” Ten said.

“That’s when you’ll be doin’ your thang,” Eight said with swag.

As long as neither of them let their pants fall halfway to their shins, they can “do their thang” all they want.

***

Last week I received an Evite from the parents of one of Ten’s classmates. The invitation announced a backyard bash for the fifth graders to celebrate their “graduation” from elementary school. Because Ten gets along so well with the classmate hosting the party, I replied “yes” right away.

Later in the day, when the kids came home from school, I told Ten about the party.

“Finally,” she exclaimed, “someone understands how important this is!”

I didn’t want to give her my spiel about the whole concept of a fifth-grade “graduation,” especially because the family hosting the party is incredibly gracious to do so and really wonderful overall. But I wonder at this eagerness to create milestones out of things that are nothing more than a part of regular life. Like giving kids five dollars for losing a tooth. Why? I don’t get money when I put on my shoes, and putting on shoes is a learned skill. Losing teeth is not.

Instead of saying anything, I just smiled at Ten. The party is slated to be a casual gathering, so I figured I wouldn’t dampen her enthusiasm for it. At least we’re not being asked to get ready to march in to Pomp and Circumstance.

***

Earlier this week Ten and Eight’s school held Moving On Up Day. On this day, kids from every grade spend some time in the grade they’ll enter in the fall. Each child is assigned a “host” from the current class for their time in the new classroom, and kids get a mini course on what to expect come August.

Because Eight has been at the school since kindergarten, she already knew many of the fourth graders. The 4/5 classroom, too, is right across the hall from 2/3, and Eight already knows the fourth-grade teacher fairly well. I didn’t really worry much about how her day would go.

More curious for me was Ten’s entire experience. Even though this is her first year at this school, she has fit in beautifully. She’s always been a social, confident child, so I knew once she got the first-day jitters out of her at the beginning of fifth grade she would be fine and she was. But now we’re talking middle school. Whole new ball game.

So far she’s approached the entire idea of middle school with nonchalance, but the night before Moving On Up Day when I finished saying good night to her at bedtime she stopped me with a question.

“What do you wear in middle school?” she asked.

I have to admit, I was a little slow on the uptake. It didn’t occur to me in the moment why she was asking. But I sat on the edge of bed anyway.

“You just wear what you’ve worn before,” I said, “and anyone who doesn’t want to be your friend because of the way you look or your clothes isn’t a friend worth having anyway.”

She seemed satisfied with my answer, and I realized that maybe some of the nonchalance—just a little bit of it—is as much to bolster her own courage as it is to reassure us that she’ll be fine next year.

***

On Saturday morning after cleaning the breakfast dishes away, I went upstairs to take a shower and stopped at Eight’s room. She’d set up a few of her stuffed animals on the bed, and she was reading to them from a National Geographic book. Most of the other animals sat behind her on her window seat. One, her white horse, lay on top of her panda pillow pet on the floor.

“Oh, what happened to him?” I asked, entering her room.

“He’s sleeping,” she replied.

“Is he okay?”

“Yeah, I just put him to sleep. I had to…what do you call it? Sedate him. Yeah, I had to sedate him.”

“Why, is he sick?”

She grinned, and her impish self shone through.

“No, I just felt like doing it.”

“But…” I didn’t know how to ask the next question or even what to ask, truthfully. “Well, normally doctors sedate a patient if he has to go for surgery or something,” I said finally, trying to give her an ethical out.

“Yeah, I know,” she said, ever the experienced physician’s kid. “I just felt like doing it.”

“Um…okay,” I said. I went down the short hall to Ten’s room.

“Your sister sedated her horse just because she felt like it,” I said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Ten’s eyes got a little wide, but my announcement didn’t seem to faze her as much as it did me. It struck me, again, how well the sisters know each other. She was surprised but not shocked.

“That’s why we don’t want her becoming a doctor,” she said in a low voice. “If she did, the world would go rogue against doctors.”

Hmm. Maybe I should get my husband to stop trying to convince Eight to go into medicine. We don’t need people under sedation “just because.”

***

Last Sunday Eight had a cello recital, and the girls and I ended up going to it alone. Eight’s piece didn’t last too long—about 33 seconds, according to the counter on my cell phone’s video camera—and the entire recital ended after about 20 minutes. We grabbed Eight’s cello, congratulated a few of the students on playing well, and went to the car. In the parking lot, one of Eight’s classmates from her group cello class called, “Good job!”

“You too!” Eight replied politely.

As we got in and got settled into our seatbelts, Eight turned to her sister. “That’s K.”

“Oh,” Ten replied. She turned and looked through the back windshield. “Is she one of those kids?”

“One of what kids?” I asked.

A pause from the backseat.

“Nothing, Mamma,” Eight said.

“What kids?” I repeated.

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean, ‘those kids’?” I asked again.

“Nothing,” Eight replied patiently. “It’s just sister talk.”

I think this is actually the first time the girls have shared something with one another that they haven’t shared with me. I was torn, simultaneously proud of their relationship and as curious as Alice in Wonderland at what they meant. Whatever their code for “those kids,” it’s clearly something that belongs only to the two of them. And in some ways, that’s heartwarming.

Latest Chart: Managing the fallout from disappointment

May 19, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Sometimes it’s beyond the scope of parents to help their children manage disappointment. In those cases, thank goodness for teachers. Without them parents would probably end many days transformed into little puddles of parent goo that the kids would have to come home and mop up, and, really, since when have young children been good with mops?

In the last couple of weeks, Eight has had two disappointments. For both of them, I did my best to make her feel better and reassure her. She didn’t find much consolation in my methods. Her teachers, however, made much more progress.

I’ve shared here on Growth Chart how upset Eight got when she found out that her current teacher will move to the East Coast during the summer and how Eight found it within herself to use the energy from her disappointment to organize a surprise party for Mrs. B. Eight wanted to hold the party at our house at the start of the summer, but I suggested moving the party to school before the end of the year so everyone could join in the celebration. She didn’t like that idea.

That night, after I first suggested it, I asked her what upset her so much.

“This is my first time planning something all by myself,” she said tearfully, “and you had to come in and take over.”

Oops.

So I referred her back to the second grade teacher, because Eight’s school uses the combined class model, and explained in an email to the teacher that scheduling the party earlier rather than later might work out better for everyone.

For a couple of days after I first talked to Eight about it, she moped any time we talked about the party. Then I got an email response from the second grade teacher. She talked to Eight, she said, and Eight was totally on board with the idea of moving the party to school.

I don’t know if my suggestion did any good, but I do know that Eight did a 180 on the idea only after the second grade teacher talked to her.

I also don’t know what the second grade teacher said, but clearly she found the right words—and the right combination of them—to make Eight see how, logistically, holding the party at school worked out better for everyone involved. In hindsight, it doesn’t surprise me that the teacher talked Eight around without making Eight feel like she was losing control. This teacher is the mother to a high schooler, a third grader (one of Eight’s classmates,) and a toddler.

Clearly she has way more practice than I do in pivoting on the proverbial dime when the situation demands.

I could say I feel bad that the teacher did what I couldn’t, but, really, I’m more relieved than anything else. Today is the party, and Eight has looked forward to it with all the fervor of a child anticipating Christmas. In the end, that’s all I wanted for her.

***

The second instance of disappointment came at dance class.

We’ve always, intentionally, put the girls in activities they could attend together. It started out years ago when we held double birthday parties for them, since their birthdays are only two weeks apart. It continued in their swimming lessons when we used their closeness in their favor so they could cheer on one another without realizing just how hard they were working on their individual skills.

Essentially, Ten and Eight are best friends, and through the years they’ve gotten used to doing things together. This includes their Irish dance lessons. When they started Irish two years ago, they both enrolled in the same beginner-level class. Then, at the start of this school year, they both auditioned for the next level.

I held my breath for the few days before we found out they’d both moved up. I knew Ten had a pretty good shot of making it. Eight’s moving up was more of a wild card.

Of course, you probably know where this is going. At some point, because Ten is older and more in tune with her dancer self than Eight is, they would end up in different levels. The Irish dance teacher, in a bid to get ahead for the coming summer and fall, decided to hold auditions for the next level two weeks ago.

Ten moved up; Eight did not.

I know they both really enjoy their Irish dance lessons. It’s bouncy enough for Eight. It’s disciplined enough for Ten and gives her a chance to showcase those mile-long legs.

Plus (and maybe this is more me than them…?) it’s just fun to dance.

I got the email about Ten moving up and Eight staying in the same level on a Monday. I sat on the news for a full 24 hours before talking to my husband about it, because I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to break the news to the kids. I couldn’t come up with anything that ended in smiles all around, so I figured my parent partner-in-crime could conjure a magic spell or two.

Funny thing about partners-in-crime who have science-based professions; they really don’t spend a lot of time conjuring stuff.

I had to tell the kids eventually, though, so I went to Ten first at a moment when she was in her room alone and gave her the good news about her moving up. I also told her I hadn’t given the bad news to her sister yet about staying in the same level. Her face filled with excitement at her advancement, but she agreed to keep it to herself until I talked to Eight.

Which is where I went next. I sat on the floor of her room and pulled her into my lap.

“Ms. E. is really excited about how hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve learned this year,” I said, “but she thinks it would be best for you to stay in the same level for Irish for one more year.”

She stared at me for a minute then pulled away and curled into a ball on the floor.

Don’t ask about Ten, I thought, trying to redirect her thoughts with my awesome mind power. Don’t ask about Ten. Don’t ask about Ten.

“What about Di-Di?”

I guess this is why Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. calls them “telepathetic powers.”

“She moved up,” I said in that same quiet voice.

Eight didn’t say anything after that for several minutes. I asked if she wanted to come back to my lap. She said no, that she’d like to be alone for a little while.

I didn’t leave the room, but I gave her a little time to process what had happened in silence. Ten walked in, saw Eight curled up, and left again. Before I could call for her, she came back, iPad in hand, and started swiping. Within seconds, she had her little sister smiling again over a slideshow she’d made specifically to help Eight feel better.

Her disappointment didn’t completely disappear, however, until she and Ten went to their next dance class. The teacher’s assistants talked to the students about the outcome of auditions. When I came back after dance to pick the girls up, Eight looked much perkier.

“Ms. M. said [Eight] might be able to move up during the year next year,” Ten announced.

Eight nodded with more positivity on the subject than I’d seen from her since I gave her the news. And I haven’t heard her comment on it since. She’s probably still not thrilled about staying in the same level, but at least she’s no longer acutely focused on it either.

Like I said, I’m so grateful for teachers.

Latest Spurts: A full moon and channeling Katniss

May 12, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Eight has finally come around to the idea that her teacher will leave school. That is, she’s no longer stomping around the house and greeting me with whimpers when I go to say good night to her because “everything” in her life is “totally confusing and moving too fast.”

After we talked a few weeks ago in my studio, the two of us scrunched together on my super comfy chair, Eight started to calm down. She stopped acting out as much, and she stopped pointing out the negative in absolutely everything. The most tangible proof of her about-face came last week, however, during Teacher Appreciation Week.

The head of the school sent out an email reminding all parents about the variety of opportunities during the week. One of these opportunities was encouraging our kids to write notes to their teachers. The school manager would collect the notes, organize them, and then present them to the teachers when the week ended.

We had some free time early in the week, so I encouraged the kids to write their notes. Both of them ambled away, and within 15 minutes Eight came back. She handed me her note to Mrs. B. and scampered off again.

I expected the run-of-the-mill “Thank you for being an awesome teacher; I love you” kind of message. Instead I got, in part, the following, parentheses and all:

“Don’t feel guilty leaving… I (knowing you) assure you that you’ll have a future brighter than the full moon on a pitch-black night. You had a different destiny.”

A future brighter than the full moon on a pitch-black night.

Is it considered legally actionable plagiarism if I steal from my own daughter? Wouldn’t I be able to make the case that because I gave birth to her and she has 50 percent my genes and I write for my profession that I’m technically responsible for, and part owner of, any freakishly awesome combination of words she creates creative endeavors?

I truly do not know where these children came from.

*****

Ten isn’t the most athletically inclined child. That is to say, if she tried really hard she could probably be good at sports. But she’s not enamored with the idea of chasing a ball/hitting a ball/doing laps-sprints-really long distances for fun.

Weirdly enough, though, this child really enjoys archery. She’s way too young to read The Hunger Games, but I keep wanting to call her Katniss. And telling her that the odds will most likely be better for her than they ever were for Gale.

The latest offering in P.E., then, really got Ten excited when they spent every P.E. session for a week shooting arrows at targets. On the second day of archery P.E., Ten got into the car and couldn’t help bragging—just a little—that she got close to the bull’s-eye.

“I was the only one who got it that close so many times!” she said, the grin on her face more telling than her words.

“You rule archery, Di-Di!” Eight exclaimed. “You’re the queen!”

I don’t think Katniss ever became queen of Panem, but, hey, it could happen here, right?

*****

Last week Central Illinois got buckets of rain. The kind that makes you forget what the sun looks like. The kind that leaves fields with huge pockets of standing water days later.

Fortunately the rate of rainfall ebbed and flowed a little bit, so we weren’t completely drenched as we moved through the week and from one activity to the next. On Wednesday as we left dance class and went to the car the rain fell in disinterested drips, just below a drizzle. I had folded my umbrella but still pulled my hood over my head, and Eight did the same.

Which, of course, prompted a discussion several minutes long about whether hoods were really necessary and how much we enjoyed wearing them.

“I just don’t like it,” Ten said. “I know some people think it looks dope, but I don’t feel comfortable with it on my head.”

Dope. Right. That’s exactly what I go for when I pull the hood over my head. Has nothing to do with having naturally curly hair and knowing that any amount of moisture that doesn’t come from a shower will create an unwanted crown of hair that no amount of product will control.

*****

From the time that Eight found out Mrs. B. is leaving, she’s been in high gear party-planning mode. If I have to be perfectly honest—and I think Growth Chart is a place where unvarnished honesty belongs—I didn’t even believe the party was real for the first 10 days or so when Eight mentioned it. I really thought she and her friends were playing some elaborate game that was just getting more detailed and creative as time passed.

Eventually, though, when she bugged me for the second or third—or maybe twelfth—time to email the second grade teacher, Mrs. P., to discuss when and where the party was to be held, I started to get the idea that maybe this wasn’t the latest “play pretend” game doing the rounds of the third graders at school.

Apparently this party has way more moving parts than I had originally realized. According to Eight, there is already a decorating a committee, a snacks committee, entertainment (a comedy skit and other acts,) and even a person designated to be the first to jump out and yell “surprise.” The party, Eight informed me with all the sagacity of an experienced planner, would be held at our house, and the second grade teacher had concocted a plan to trick Mrs. B. into coming so she wouldn’t be suspicious at all.

I didn’t want to ruin Eight’s idea by telling her that Mrs. B. has been teaching for longer than Eight’s even been alive and would probably smell something fishy a mile off, so I just nodded in agreement.

Things got sticky in the party planning, however, when W., the student responsible for the solo comedy skit, announced his family was going on vacation soon after school ended. Now not only did I have to contact Mrs. P. about when to hold the party, I also had to contact W.’s mom to ask when they were leaving so we could have enough acts booked to keep the party attendees entertained. All of this, mind you, without a commission.

It occurred to me, then, that it might make more sense to hold the party during school before the year ended so we’d have guaranteed attendees and so the talent would have guaranteed rides. Clearly I’m due for my parenting recertification, because instead of discussing this with Mrs. P. I made the mistake, my first, of asking Eight what she thought of moving the party from early summer to the end of May. I made the second mistake of bringing it up over dinner.

Eight’s face fell, and she started voicing her disgruntlement. We got through the rest of the meal, and Eight, still making a face, got up to put her dishes away. She washed her hands, dried them off, and started walking away to get ready for bed (because, of course, I had to strike out completely with my third mistake and do this on a school night.)

As she walked away, without bothering to turn around, she called over her shoulder, “And just so you know, we are SO not done talking about this!”

Um…aren’t parents supposed to have exclusive rights to that line?

Latest Spurt: Pots and pans and adverbs, oh my!

April 21, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Last week, Eight got some terrible news: at the end of the school year, her teacher will move to North Carolina.

Eight loves her teacher. She had the same teacher for second grade, and when she found out Mrs. B. was looping up to third grade Eight was ecstatic. (So, by the way, was Mrs. B. The two are in a mutual admiration society.) Consequently, when Eight heard last week that the teacher she adores will no longer be around school, she had a meltdown.

Never mind that the child is moving up to the fourth grade next year and wouldn’t have had the same teacher anyway.

I wasn’t at school when Mrs. B. broke the news to the class, but she emailed me about it before the end of the day. Apparently Eight cried hard for several minutes, along with some of the other kids. Later at recess, however, they all rallied when Eight suggested a going-away party for Mrs. B. Within minutes they’d formed several committees, including decorations, whose house would host the party, and who would jump out and yell “surprise” first.

By the time Eight came home, she seemed pretty chipper. She surprised me, actually, because I’d expected her to get in the car still in tears and sniffling. But she hopped in brimming with ideas instead of tears.

Her good mood didn’t last long; later in the day she wilted like a tulip in late spring. As much as I wanted her positive mood to last, I also had a hunch when she first got home that it wouldn’t. When she declared that evening that this summer would be the worst of her life, I almost nodded in acknowledgment.

Kids, if nothing else, are predictable.

(Note: Be sure to come back next week for more on this whole issue in an expanded Chart.)

***

On Monday the kids went into the basement to play, and they jumped into one of their impromptu games where they narrate the game as they move through it. I sat nearby listening with half an ear as I finished editing the book of one of my favorite writing clients. When the kids were younger and used to narrate their games, I would listen to them but as they’ve gotten older they haven’t done as much game narration. I’ve almost gotten out of the habit of listening to them because, honestly, most of the time the narrations are just downright silly.

My brain had kicked into high-gear editing mode as I looked for the last round of typos, so I may not have been listening to the kids’ game when they first started. Soon enough, though, my ear picked up on something coming from behind me. After several minutes, I had to turn around.

“All right, everyone,” Ten announced, sitting primly on the sofa with Eight sidling up to her. “Adverb.”

“Okay,” Eight answered in a babyish voice.

“The sprightly young—wait,” Ten said, interrupting herself with a grin, “that’s old people talk! Who says ‘sprightly’ anymore?”

The girls broke into a round of giggles. Then they composed themselves, almost at the same time, and Ten kept going.

“Quickly, young Herbert—Herbert? Who names their child ‘Herbert’ anymore? Okay, um, quickly, little baby, let’s get moving. Yes, that sounds better!”

Another round of giggles, and this time I had to smile at them. I guess, technically speaking, Ten was right. “Sprightly Herbert” does kind of sound like he lives in the past.

***

On Wednesday of this week, I had a minor kitchen mishap. I was home alone, so no one got hurt, but this was the kind of mishap where I had to spend several minutes scrubbing the countertops. And the cabinets. And a small section of blinds.

I have yet to make it to the ceiling.

I told the kids about it after school on Wednesday, but I gave them the short version. Yesterday morning as the kids ate breakfast, they asked more questions about the incident.

“Were you in the kitchen when the pressure cooker started spraying?” Ten asked.

“No, I was on the phone,” I said.

“How did you know what was happening?”

“Well, I could hear it,” I said. “I know my pots and pans really well and the sounds they make when something isn’t right.”

Ten sat up straight, impending drama evident on her face. “She’s the pot and pan whisperer,” she said in a whisper herself.

“She’s the pot and pan whisperer,” Eight repeated in a normal volume. “It doesn’t sound the same when you say it like that.” She dropped her own voice to a whisper. “She’s the pot and pan whisperer.”

“Yeah, definitely sounds better like that,” Ten said in her own normal voice.

Well, I’m glad I finally found out where my destiny has brought me. Who knew I had such talents on hand? Most people want to be rich and famous when they grow up.

I’ve become the pot and pan whisperer.

 

 

Brand new Chart: Tween life, here we come!

April 14, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

I think my older child has begun taking her first tentative steps to tween-dom.

On Monday I took the kids to their music lessons. The weather has begun warming up here in Central Illinois, but that also means days of gusting winds. Monday was just such a day; not too cool but just windy enough to encourage me to take along a light jacket with a hood.

The girls and I left the arts building after their lessons and started down the street. As we walked, we chatted and the wind gusted from behind us. I pulled my hood up and tried to settle it on my head.

Just then we came toward the crosswalk where we would have to wait for the light to change, and a car to our left sat waiting for the same thing. The gentleman in the car had his windows down, and we could hear the bass. You know the kind: where you suspect that the real reason why the windows are down is because they got blown out.

“Man, that music’s loud,” Eight commented as the car drove by.

“Yeah, it’s so cool,” Ten said with a giggle to indicate the opposite.

“Hey, it is cool,” I joked.

Just then the light changed, indicating we could cross. I caught sight of my shadow with my hood up and jacket hanging open. So there was only one thing I could do as we went from one side of the road to the other.

“It’s cool music,” I said, strutting across the crosswalk. I altered my gait to make it more swag-like and jammed with my fingers. Surely no mom has ever looked so phat.

(Do people still say “phat”? Mental note: check slang from the twenty-first century.)

Eight giggled this time, and after seven or eight steps I saw out of the corner of my eye her abbreviated attempts to mimic me.

My older child had other ideas.

“Oh my gosh, I’m mortified!” she said with an embarrassed smile.

She was smiling, so I guess that’s a plus. She didn’t quite turn away from me or avert her eyes or, heaven forbid, declare that she never wanted to be seen with me in public again. I figure I’ve still got one or two years before I hear that one.

Eight and I had finished strutting in front of the cars waiting patiently for us to pass them, and we entered the bank parking lot where I’d parked. Just then, Ten joined us in her own version of the bass music strut. I turned to her.

“So, what, you can jam here with us?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Why didn’t you do it before? Were you embarrassed?”

That smile came back. “A little. But there’s no one here to see us.”

I filed that information away for later. Still haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do with it. That is, whether I’m going to go strutting across any more crosswalks…

Yesterday I encountered my second instance of impending tween-dom. The weather, as I said, has begun getting warmer. The kids went to school in the morning in long-sleeve shirts and jeans, although I suspected the temperature would go up during the day.

Sure enough, it did. As I was leaving the YMCA the day felt springy and warm. I decided that after I showered and washed the breakfast dishes, I would grab some short-sleeve shirts and take them to the kids at school. I was meeting a friend for lunch a little later and would be driving right past the school anyway.

I finished getting ready at home and went to school. I looked through the window of Ten’s classroom first, but one of the teachers stood at the front of the room and was talking. Not wanting to waste any time, I went across the hall to Eight’s classroom.

My younger child greeted me with a huge hug and sigh of relief. The class was in between activities, so her teacher allowed her to dash to the bathroom to change her shirt. I chatted with the teacher while I waited for Eight, and just as I thought she came back from the bathroom with a huge grin on her face along with a big thank you. She thrust the long-sleeve shirt in my direction and skipped back to her desk.

I went back across the hall to Ten’s classroom and found the kids gathering their things for lunch, but I didn’t see Ten anywhere. Turns out, she’d been in another room down the hall all along. I told her teacher why I was there, and she smiled and walked me down to the room where Ten was.

Just as we approached the other room, some of Ten’s classmates came toward us. I slowed down, figuring Ten would be right behind them. She saw me from about 10 feet away and came to a stop for a moment.

She didn’t smile; instead her eyes got a little bigger, and already I could see her lips rounding the start of the question.

“What are you doing here?”

I held out her shirt. Because she didn’t have PE that day, she’d also chosen to wear her boots to school. I had her tennis shoes with me too.

“I thought you might be hot when you go outside, so I brought you a shirt and your other shoes,” I said.

“You can go change right now before you go to lunch,” her teacher added helpfully. She turned and went back toward the classroom.

Ten shook her head and started heading back down the hall again. I fell in step with her.

“I’m fine,” she said in a neutral tone.

“Well, just in case you’re hot,” I said. I handed her the shirt and shoes. She looked for a fleeting second like she wanted to tell me to take them home.

“I’ll be okay,” she replied.

“But this is a sweater,” I said, indicating the top she wore.

“But I like this top,” she said.

Ever since we bought the light sweater for her in an after-Christmas sale, it’s been one of her favorites. It has three horizontal bands of color almost too wide to be called stripes in a rosy pink, a soft cream, and gray. A simple pattern but elegant nonetheless.

“I know,” I responded, “but it’s just in case.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll go put them in my cubby.”

She darted off, and I called to her one last time to let her know I was leaving. She nodded and kept trotting toward her room. I turned to the left and exited the school.

And now I’ve seen it twice in one week. Tween-dom. I remember some instances of that gawky phase with clarity, and the rest of it is kind of fuzzy. It’ll be interesting to watch Ten go through this time in her life.

Maybe I’ll just have to strut in circles around her—with my hood up, of course—to show her that keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing will help.

Latest Spurts: Observations of growing up

April 7, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

More and more I’m noticing just how fast my older child is growing up. Recently I’ve turned around to listen to her suggestions, consider her ideas, and laugh at her jokes. Like her father, she’s got her share of zingers and has begun developing quite the sense of humor.

To that end, I’d like to share some instances from the last couple of weeks—special “growing up” Spurts—all about Ten.

*****

One morning last week, Eight was running late for school. Ten had already come downstairs and started eating her own breakfast, and we were waiting for her sister to join us so we could get going. As soon as Ten finished her cereal, she glanced at the time.

I called to Eight and asked how much longer she would take to come downstairs. She said she was almost dressed.

“I’ll go ahead and get her breakfast ready,” Ten said.

She trotted to the pantry and grabbed the large container of Cheerios, Eight’s current favorite. Her gesture touched my heart. I know she wanted to help any efforts possible to make Eight move faster, but I also knew a small part of her was being the older sister.

Ten poured some Cheerios in a bowl. “Is that enough?”

“That’s good,” I said, “but don’t put any milk in there just yet. [Eight] doesn’t like soggy cereal.”

“Oh, I know,” Ten said, the expert. “[Eight] really doesn’t like her cereal soggy.”

Her tone suggested she’d heard a considerable amount of commentary on the subject, and I couldn’t help sharing a grin with her.

***

Another morning I went into Eight’s room to wish her a good morning and noticed the lights were on. Now with the time change, we get ample sunlight in the morning so I chided Eight playfully about turning on the light when she could just as easily have opened the blinds.

“I didn’t turn on the lights, Di-Di did,” Eight said.

“Oh, really?” I asked. “Why?”

“Because I didn’t want to get out of bed,” Eight responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “and she said, ‘I’ll turn on the lights.’ So I told her, ‘Go ahead and do it.’ And she said, ‘All right,’ and then turned on the lights and turned them up really bright.”

Well, what do you know? She’s acting like a little mother already. Now I just need to get her to do the dishes and laundry, and I can scuttle off to a mini vacation for myself.

***

Last week, I fought a massive sinus infection coupled with a cold. My husband made an executive decision to get me some antibiotics, and when he went to go pick it up the girls were with him. The three of them came home, and Ten marched into the house.

“One tablet every single day,” she said, handing me the bag. “Starting from today. It’s for six days.”

“Okay.”

As if the pharmacist-in-training wasn’t satisfied, for the rest of the week when I went to say good night to her she would ask in a kind, gentle voice whether I’d remembered to take my medicine. By the third night I felt like our roles were almost reversed. I could hear echoes of my own mother in Ten’s tone, and I made sure I definitely took my medicine so I could, in fact, answer in the affirmative.

At the end of the week and on the day of my last dose of medicine, Ten looked at me over breakfast in a thoughtful way.

“You look better,” she said with confidence.

Her observation made me smile. It’s nice, once in a while, to experience that role reversal. After all, everyone wants to be taken care of.

***

This May it’ll be one year since we moved into the new house, and there are a few small things that need attention. One of these is the drinking water filter in our kitchen sink that causes a gurgling sound every few days after the filtered water tap gets used several times during the day. There’s no leakage, and, really, more than anything else it’s just the sound that is kind of annoying.

One night at dinner, Ten looked at me pointedly and said, “Do you think we should have someone look at that?”

Her tone sounded so grown up, almost like an adult, and I had to hide a smile. And then reassure her that, yes, we would get someone to look at it.