The Fortieth Chart (Spurts)

May 25, 2012

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

“I want some applesauce.”

“We don’t have any.  You can have it tomorrow.”

“But I want it now.”

“We don’t have it.  You’ll have to wait.”

“I WANT APPLESAUCE NOW!”

“[Three]!  Stop screaming!  You can’t have any applesauce right now!”

A wail followed these last words, and I finally decided to speak up from the front of the car.  Because so far this exchange had occurred between Three and Five, respectively.

Last week when we drove home from school, I’d given Five her usual snacks in the car.  She has breakfast at 7:30 and lunch at 11:15, so by the time she’s in the car and we’re driving back by 3:45 she’s hungry again.  On the day that would eventually spark the above conversation, I had given Five an applesauce-on-the-go pouch (it’s good stuff, all natural with nothing artificial and no preservatives, and it’s easy for her to manage strapped in her seat.)

Now, keep in mind that Three has always spoken out ardently against applesauce.  She’s had several opportunities to try it and hasn’t liked it even once.  But last week she decided she wanted to try it again, and after taking a quick sip from her sister’s applesauce she decided she wanted her own.

I forgot to take it in the car for her, and when she started making a fuss Five jumped in.  Hence, the heated conversation between the sisters.  After trying to add my own two cents, I decided to let them argue it out.  And after Five fought with Three for a few more minutes, Three got the picture: she would not be getting any applesauce on that day.

The irony?  On Tuesday when Three got up early from her nap, I handed her her cup of milk.  When she was done with that, I handed her an applesauce pouch.  She’d barely taken half a sip when she shook her head.  She didn’t want it and didn’t even make a peep when I gave the applesauce to Five.

Sigh.  This child could offer researchers an excellent microcosm of the contradictory nature of young children.

***

The contradictions continued throughout the week.  Later on Tuesday Three had her dance class, and in the last couple of months she’s become somewhat resistant to going to dance.  Her teacher, engaged to a military man, has had to miss a couple of classes to plan her wedding and upcoming international move (after the wedding she and her new husband will go to Italy for a year.  What a terrible way to spend your first year of marriage, right?)

But how does one explain the complexities of wedding planning to an incredibly determined three-year-old?  Especially a three-year-old who loves her dance teacher and doesn’t like substitutes?

We drove straight from picking up Five after school to the dance studio, and when we all got there we headed straight to the bathroom so Five could change out of her uniform and into something more comfortable.  After everyone had done everything they needed to do, we headed to Three’s classroom.  No one had turned on the lights yet, so I helped Five take out her stuff to start her homework when in walked a substitute dance teacher.

“It’s Ms. J.,” Three said with measured dismay.

“Well, Ms. J. is nice,” I said, handing Three her bag.  “You’ll have fun.”

“I don’t want to go,” she said in a whiny sort of way.

I gave her a gentle nudge.  “Go on.  It’ll be fine.”

So I managed to coax her into the classroom, but her expression told me everything I needed to know about her feelings on having a sub versus her regular teacher.  About 10 minutes later I saw the teacher leading Three’s classmates in a variety of moves, and I didn’t see Three standing with the others.  I got up and looked through the observation window and saw Three sitting by the wall.  And suddenly I knew she’d been sitting there since the beginning of class.

When the teacher took a break so all the girls could change from their ballet shoes to their tap shoes, I stuck my head into the classroom and asked Three if she wanted to change.  She told me no—emphatically.

To her credit she didn’t make a peep during the entire class.  She didn’t throw a tantrum like some students do, and she didn’t cry or make a fuss.  But she also didn’t back down from the point she had to make: she liked her regular teacher.  She didn’t like the substitute.  End of story.

***

During their nightly bedtime routine, usually one or both girls will ask whether they can sleep next to each other like they do on the weekends.  Three normally makes these requests, and on school nights when she’s told a gentle but firm, “No,” it’s cause for lots of loud wailing and crying, most of it fully appropriate for the stage.  Seriously, if Three ever decided to become an actress, she would have the crying scenes down pat.

But last night when she asked and I reasoned with her that she and Five both needed their sleep because we were going on our long-weekend trip today and she and Five should get ample rest, she didn’t argue even once.  She just flashed me one of her famous, full-face, toothpaste commercial-worthy, heart-squishing smiles, and agreed.

And at dinner—a time when I hear complaints about why we aren’t having absolutely anything else in the world other than what I’ve decided to cook and serve—at dinner last night, Three looks down at her plate and says, “Mama, this tastes totally awesome.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard her use that phrase before—“totally awesome”—and it made me smile.  It also made me marvel, once again, at this vivacious bundle of contradictions I call my younger child.

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