June 8, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these Spurts from the last couple of weeks, readers!
On Wednesday as we drove to dance class, Five piped up from the back and told me that one of her teachers had given her a book to read in class.
“It’s called Seven Kisses in a Row,” she said. “And it was really funny.”
“Really?” I said in that semi-distracted way parents respond as I watched traffic.
She paused then continued. “And you know what? It has a G-I-R-L-F-R-I-E-N-D and a B-O-Y-F-R-I-E-N-D in it.”
She spelled the words out, and I didn’t know if she did so for dramatic effect or because she didn’t know how I would react. I suspected it was for both, but one thing was for sure: she had my full attention now.
“And who gave you this book?”
Now, I like Mrs. Y. well enough. She is a sweet person and has children herself. She also has, on occasion, made jokes with the kids about girlfriends and boyfriends. Certainly not in an inappropriate way; she’s used the concept of boyfriends and girlfriends in explaining some of the lessons for the children.
When I first heard this a few months ago, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. These are, after all, five-and-six-year olds, which in my opinion is way too young to find out about the dating world. But I didn’t really say anything at the time.
Now, though, Mrs. Y. had given Five a book that included these ideas…what was I supposed to do?
“I don’t remember how many chapters there were in the book,” Five continued, not noticing as I pondered all this during her chatter.
“Maybe this summer we can try to find it at the library,” I suggested casually, “and then I can read it with you.”
Later I Googled the book and sighed in relief. The plot of Seven Kisses in a Row by Patricia MacLachlan centers on a young girl who goes with her brother to stay with their aunt and uncle while their parents go away for a few days on a business trip. The main character, Emma, frets when she finds out her aunt and uncle do things differently than her parents, and she sets out to change their minds and learns about how grownups can show their love in different ways. The reviews I read said nothing about a G-I-R-L-F-R-I-E-N-D or a B-O-Y-F-R-I-E-N-D, but I suspect they have something to do with Emma’s big brother, a teenager.
I still plan to get the book from the library and read through it, but I’m glad Mrs. Y. gave Five a book with such a positive message. I feel much better about the whole thing and Mrs. Y.’s approach to school. And it gives me hope that one day I can drop her and her sister off at their grandma’s and not look back (for a few weeks at least!)
Later, after dance class, Five and I chatted casually. Our conversation came to a natural break, and I took a few minutes to watch the traffic and navigate the construction happening on the road home. Suddenly Five said, “Do you promise not to tell anyone something?”
“What is it?”
“First promise you won’t tell anyone.”
“I promise,” I replied immediately. If she had something this important to tell me, then I would allow her to invoke the confidentiality rule that governs communication between a mother and her children.
“I pretend to be L.’s friend,” she said in a subdued way, the confession coming out as though she’d thought for a long time about whether she wanted to tell me about it.
I’m sure my eyes narrowed in thought.
“What do you mean you pretend?”
“I mean, I pretend.”
“You mean you act like you’re her friend, but you don’t feel it inside?”
“L.’s so mean!” she said, her words bursting with frustration. “She’s not nice to anyone at all.”
“Well, we’ve talked about this before,” I reminded her, applying the brake and slowing us down as the construction forced traffic to crawl. “If she’s not nice to you, then you don’t have to play with her. You can just walk away.”
“I’ve tried that,” she explained, her words still full of the frustration she’d experienced after a year of dealing with this. “But then she comes after me, ‘[Five], come play with me.’” She imitated L.’s voice.
I gently reiterated my previous instructions: walk away. She and I had discussed the situation with L. several times during the school year, and we talked about how she should try to talk it out with L. and then, if that didn’t work, Five should quietly and calmly walk away and find other friends. She had made several attempts to talk to L., and now—if Five had come to a point where she had to pretend to be this little girl’s friend—I just wanted Five to walk away. If she’s facing these types of situations, even at this age, I feel she should learn it’s okay to let some situations go. They weren’t worth the extra stress and pressure they bring if they aren’t going anywhere.
We continued talking, and I praised her for confiding in me. We talked about trust and what that meant, and we also discussed how L. would eventually lose her friends and not be able to make any more if she continued in her current trends. I chose my words carefully and didn’t say anything disparaging about L. or her parents, focusing instead on what Five should learn from this and how she had to think about the choices she made and how she treated people.
I thought about how to help her, and after some careful consideration I decided to employ a grownup tactic. Yesterday morning I called the school and requested that when class assignments are made for first grade that Five and L. not be in the same class.
“They just don’t see eye to eye,” I explained to the school secretary who made a note of my request, “and we thought this would give them the opportunity to interact with other people.”
The secretary replied just as non-judgmentally as I’d made the request, and after I hung up the phone I felt better. I don’t know what kinds of situations Five will encounter in the future, and I don’t know if I’ll always have the opportunity (or her compliance) to interfere. If I do I hope some of them are just as easy to handle as this one.
Yesterday Five proved that not only is she going to be a first-grader soon, but also she has begun to understand and interpret the subtext in conversations.
Because we’re in the last week of school, the enthusiasm for academia has dimmed considerably. Teachers and students alike are more relaxed, spending more time engaging in fun activities and enjoying one another’s company. For Three and the rest of the preschool students, they’re enjoying two days of “Circus Days.” I’m not exactly sure what all that entails, but I imagine they’re probably playing lots of circus-themed games and singing lots of circus songs. They’re definitely drawing lots of clowns.
Three brought home a bottle of bubbles, which she showed me with a great deal of excitement when I picked her up from school, and I told her she could play with them outside when Five came home from school. When I brought Five home, she followed the sound of Three’s voice to the back porch where Three sat and played with her grandfather. Three popped up immediately and declared she wanted to play with Five outside, and she made a beeline for the bubbles.
Five went through her normal after-school routine of changing her clothes and washing her hands, and Three took the bubbles outside. Five saw the bubbles.
“Oh, did you get those from school?” Five asked. “No fair! I didn’t get any.”
“I bought you some bubbles the other day,” I said immediately. “You can go upstairs and get those.”
She turned her back to her sister who by this time had retreated again to the back porch and was blowing bubbles at a furious rate on the other side of the screen door.
“I want her to feel good,” she replied in a low, conspiratorial tone, holding her hands up to say she was really okay.
And once again my older daughter made me pause in my day for a few minutes to reassure me that she is indeed growing up.