The Thirty-First Chart

March 9, 2012

By Ekta R. Garg

I have a deep confession to make: I cry at movies.

Did I mention I cry at movies I’ve seen several times?  Movies where I could probably quote some of the key lines that induce said crying?  Movies where I know exactly what’s going to happen, who’s going to deliver the significant silent Look and who will offer the heartfelt line that prompts the waterworks?

For some movies, I’ve seen them so many times I know the exact moment when I’ll begin crying.

Mind you, I don’t do this when I’m with anyone else.  I only allow myself to cry when I’m completely alone.  I may not be old and wise, but I’ve lived enough years now to know that most of society would consider me at the best overly sentimental and at the worst downright ridiculous for crying at these cinematic creations.

But I don’t do this—have these heart-deep reactions—for just movies.  After all, I’m a writer.  So I can fight dragons and execute assassins and solve the world’s problems on paper—and in real life, sometimes I can choke up at a TV commercial.  I can cut my finger while chopping vegetables and feel the tears spring to my eyes faster than the blood beads on my skin.  And I can have a run in with a disgruntled grocery employee, and feel my own mood plummet for several minutes.

I can be a little sensitive about the little things.

Raising children allows us the opportunity to find our own personality quirks in our children and smooth them out so they can avoid some of the pitfalls of our own childhoods.  Knowing the source of these quirks—our own selves—also allows us to deal that much more effectively with our kids.

Take Five, for example.  She and I are a lot alike.  I won’t bore anyone with the good qualities she has inherited.  I know, like me, that she needs some time in the morning to get her body and brain in gear.  Just because our eyes have opened with the morning light doesn’t necessarily mean we’re “awake.”  And we both like to be pampered just a little bit, whether that be emotionally or physically.

For me that emotional pampering comes as a result of having a writer’s fragile ego.  In an intellectual way I understand that small failures do not outline my successes, but I can take small things to heart right away and fret over them for a few minutes, an hour, a day.  Eventually I manage to return to my outwardly level-headed self, the practical me who approaches the world with a straight-shooter attitude.  But that initial reaction springs from my heart first and foremost.

Five, too, has a tendency to cry at the drop of a hat.  Little things will evoke a strong response from her.  If she’s eating a snack in the car and it slips out of her hand, the tears begin to flow.  If she asks for permission to wear a pair of hair clips and I suggest that she wear them the next day, she might run to the sofa and dig her face in a pillow as I hear a sob emerge from the microfiber.  If her little sister gets to choose what movie they’ll watch in the evening and Five had her heart set on a different film, her little shoulders will begin to shudder.

In most of these situations I am constantly reminding her not to react so strongly.  I don’t want her to lose her sensitivity, but I do want her to understand that some circumstances just don’t warrant such a high dose of it.  Sometimes, though, I use my knowledge of her tendencies to my advantage.

This past Tuesday Five woke up as the latest victim of cold-and-cough season.  As I urged her to brush her teeth, I could see her face turn a shade paler than its normal color.  This child did NOT feel well.

Three declared she had to go to the bathroom, and because Five had claimed the girls’ bathroom first I walked Three to our bathroom.  When I came back to the girls’ bathroom, I found Five lying on the floor and asked her what on earth she was doing.  She told me she felt like lying down, and I examined her face closely for a minute.  Her color looked much better, and she talked to me in a normal tone of voice.

I realized it wasn’t the right time to start my regular morning, “Let’s get moving, it’s a school day” speech.  Somehow I knew it wouldn’t accomplish anything.  I decided instead to give Five some time and told her she could lie down in her bed for a few minutes.

I got Three started on her morning bath and then called Five into the bathroom to join us.  She sat on the stepstool and chatted amiably with her sister and me, and that’s when I saw that she would be just fine.  Just to be sure, though, I asked her how she felt.  She questioned whether she needed to go to school, and I told her frankly that I had no real reason to keep her at home.  She didn’t have a fever, she didn’t feel like throwing up, and there was nothing else wrong with her.

She looked dubious, but then I told her that if she got ready fast when we went downstairs I would look for some medicine for her to take.

She cheered; she and Three both enjoy the flavored children’s Tylenol (although we buy the generic acetaminophen and dose the kids with that.)  She asked whether I had the cherry flavor, and I told her I didn’t know what flavor I had but that I would look.  Her entire outlook changed considerably, and she returned to her completely sunny self.

We went through the rest of the morning, and before we left the house I went through the children’s medicine when the girls were putting on their shoes to see if I had any acetaminophen left.  The two bottles we had, however, had expired a long time ago; apparently we hadn’t used them in a long time.  Fortunately Five had completely forgotten that we’d talked about taking anything.  She got ready for school with a skip in her step.  And with that she confirmed my strong instinct: Five just needed some extra time that morning, and she needed a parent to understand that.

I don’t know whether Five will grow up and actively participate in something artistic; she may just have an overly sensitive nature and need to be taught when it’s okay to let go and when she needs to still her emotions or reserve them for later.  In the meantime I hope I can continue to encourage and help her by using what I understand of myself.

And maybe someday, we’ll be able to cry at movies together.

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