The Thirty-Ninth Chart

May 18, 2012

By Ekta R. Garg

Yesterday morning as I helped Five dry off after her bath before school, she started to giggle.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said.  “I just thought of C. and how crazy she is.”

She explained how her school friend acted.

“She was being so silly at lunch time, just flailing around.”  She waved her arms above her head to emphasize her point.

Flailing around?” I repeated.  What five-year-old understands the meaning of “flailing around”?

Apparently mine does.  When I asked her, she demonstrated it quite appropriately.

On Wednesday Three came to me, handed me a picture she’d drawn—one in a long line of many, I might add—and declared, “When I grow up, I want to be an artist.”

Now, I realize I might be biased, but I think this child definitely has some talent in the visual arts (you can check out Growth Chart Art here on the blog and let me know if you agree.)  I’ve tried my level best to find art lessons for her for the summer and haven’t had much luck—apparently art lessons start at about the age of five in the Salt Lake area—but I’m still trying.

In this year since we’ve moved to Utah I’ve seen a dramatic change in my children, and I spent part of Mother’s Day marveling at this change.  Less than a year ago, my husband and I were spending time agonizing about our younger daughter’s stubborn attitude against potty training.  She seemed not to care much about how tired we were of changing her Pull-Ups.

Today Three marches to her dresser drawers and pulls out her own clothes—underwear included—and doesn’t hesitate to dress herself.  Of course, often she and I end up in deep discussions about exactly what she can wear; sweat pants and a sweatshirt don’t exactly seem like the most comfortable thing on a day that promises to hit 90 degrees or better.  But, still.  Her independence amazes me.  We even spent part of Mother’s Day morning negotiating her independence!

When Five began preschool, she hesitated to communicate with people she didn’t know.  I coaxed and encouraged her through these last couple of years, and now when the teachers help her out of the car in the morning in the drop-off line she doesn’t think twice about saying “Good morning” in response to their greetings.  In fact earlier this week as she got out of the car she gently teased one of the teacher’s assistants about chewing gum, against the rules for the students.

On Mother’s Day earlier this week, both girls knew exactly what occasion we were celebrating.  Five presented me proudly with the cards she’d made at home and the magnet she made at school with her picture on it.  We enjoyed a day full of fun events, and that night as I said good night to Three she looked at me with concern on her face.

“Mama, I didn’t get you a present.”

“Yes, you did,” I replied, reminding her of the cards she gave me after her spring program performances earlier in the week.  Then I emphasized for her that gifts didn’t matter; what mattered was that we loved each other and that we were able to spend the day together.

Who are these young-women-in-the-making, I wondered on Mother’s Day, as they spent the day joking and understanding the difference between serious words and those thrown about playfully.  Since when did my girls’ personalities begin to shine through so clearly?  Five quite unabashedly assumes the role of elder sister and lead imagination spinner.  When the girls play their games—“Let’s pretend you’re Baby, and Baby wants to have lunch”—when they play, Five provides a running narration of what happens next in their games.  And she doesn’t hesitate to dress down her younger sister if she deems it necessary.  But she also acts as Three’s first confidante and comforter when things go awry.

Three fills the role of the quintessential younger sibling: a little mischievous and always “up to something,” in thought if not deed.  She has a soft heart, though, and feels things much more deeply than what people might realize.  I still remember when she wasn’t quite two yet and my husband had to leave one morning for a conference.  She saw the carry-on suitcase in my husband’s hand, and she refused to grant him either a hug or a kiss before he left.  She had yet to start speaking in full sentences, but her body language expressed more eloquently her anger that her father was going away.  When he walked out the door, she finally allowed her tears and baby wails to emerge.

I saw all these things on Mother’s Day earlier this week and couldn’t help half turning around to look for my babies once again.

But I got a reminder that they’re not fully grown up yet, and that was nice to see.  By the time we’d toured one of the large gardens here in town and had lunch out, Five had reached her limit for that part of the day.  Seeing her exhaustion my husband made the executive decision to take us all home so the kids could nap, and Five began yelling in the car that she didn’t want to go home.  This child normally is the more composed of the two, so when she started crying as though the entire world had stopped rotating on its axis we knew it was REALLY time to go home.  She kept insisting all the way home and all the way up to her bed that she wasn’t tired and that she wanted to go back out; I gently convinced her that a short nap would do wonders.

And it did.  And as we continued on the rest of the outings for the evening, I felt happy that they haven’t grown all the way up yet.  That at some points of their days and weeks, they’ll still need my husband and me and all the other grownups in their lives to guide them when their own judgment fails.  And that we can still marvel at their growing up in the process.

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