Chart Number 178

July 10, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these special birthday Spurts, readers!

The day before Seven’s birthday, I told her that she still had time to think about it. She still had time to reconsider becoming a year older.

I know, I know, a person really can’t prevent a birthday from coming. But my babies are…well, they’re not babies anymore. And I’m a little in awe of that fact and trying to deny it all at the same time.

As I talked to both kids about Seven trying to prevent her birthday from happening, I couldn’t help bringing up the future. I mentioned college and how, at some point, the girls would grow up and leave home to do amazing things.

At first the girls joked about the fact that they didn’t want to go to college together.

“I don’t want to live with that,” Nine said, hooking a thumb in her sister’s direction as Seven danced around in a crazy way.

Within several minutes, though, Seven became more sober.

“I don’t want to grow up,” she said, frowning.

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t want to go to college and get married and have a husband and a kid,” she said.

I wanted to laugh, I really did, but I just pulled Seven into my lap and explained to her that she still had a long way to go before we had to worry about a wedding or her going into labor. After talking it out for a little while—including me teasing her that husbands were mostly useful for carrying heavy things—she felt better, but it makes me wonder a little bit about what will happen when she actually does get old enough for all these things.

***

On Thursday I arrived at the yoga studio where the kids are attending a yoga-cum-art camp this week. Despite the slightly drizzly weather, the yoga instructor had the kids waiting just outside of the studio and drawing on the sidewalk. I approached them and greeted the group, and Nine and Seven came to me and gave me big hugs.

“Wait, I forgot my dream catcher,” Nine said. I watched her dart inside the studio and turned around just in time to hear Seven say, “I can help you.”

She crouched in front of a boy who must have been at least 8 or 9 years old and tied his shoe for him. His mother watched Seven and thanked her, then knelt and added a double knot to Seven’s work to fortify those laces. The boy said thank you, and something about the way he said it made me wonder whether he had a disability.

Later I asked Seven whether the boy had asked her for help.

“No,” she said, surprised I’d asked. “I just wanted to help him.”

I told her that I was proud of her for helping, and I hope she continues to seek opportunities to do so.

***

Normally weekends and vacations for the girls mean slumber parties. They’ll share Nine’s bed and giggle and whisper until a grownup admonishes them. They also do their fair share of complaining about the sleeping arrangements: one pulled the blanket in one direction, the other kicked too hard. But they’re not quite ready to give up their slumber parties.

There are exceptions, however. I started a tradition several years ago for the kids. The night before their birthdays I hang a birthday sign in their rooms and put up balloons so that they can feel the special quality of celebration from the moment they wake up.

When the kids were younger it was easy to tell them that the balloons and sign showed up by magic. That trick got revealed a long time ago, when they got old enough to reason things out for themselves. So it didn’t surprise me when, the night before her birthday, Seven asked to sleep in her own room.

I went to say good night to her and she grinned when she told me she wanted to wake up and see her balloons in the morning. Later that night, when everyone else had fallen asleep and I carried the balloons on ribbons two at a time to Seven’s room, I took a moment after hanging everything up to look at my baby and smile. It’s nice to know that she enjoys these small efforts I put together for her day, one that we celebrate with her.

I wonder, though, how she’d feel waking up in her twenties to a birthday sign and balloons.

***

It’s fun to observe differences in my children’s personalities.

On the surface Nine comes across as the more reserved child. A book lover, if we don’t hear her voice for a little while it’s because nine times out of ten she’s curled up in a corner of the house somewhere with a book. As the older child, she doesn’t mind offering her viewpoints on her life but I certainly wouldn’t call her loquacious.

Seven definitely balances her sister’s surface reticence. She’s the quintessential younger child, bubbly, chatty, with an impish grin ever ready. She’s also more temperamental than Nine, exhibiting all of the classic qualities of an artist. One minute she’s sweet and affectionate, ready with a hug and a joke. The next she’s stomping to a corner of the room and declaring that this is “the worst day of my life.”

I find it fascinating, then, that when it comes to trying new things and adventure, Nine jumps in readily. She will approach new situations with a proactive mindset. In those situations her sister still clutches my hand in quiet apprehension. I still have to offer whispered reassurance before she finds her place in a different place.

Seven also thrives on routine. She likes to eat at the same time every day, often gravitates toward the same foods, and notes a change in circumstances with a slight frown. So when we began talking about where she wanted to go for her birthday dinner, she shocked me in the best of ways when she said, “I want to try something new for my birthday dinner.”

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just want to try something new.”

Could it be, I wondered. Had my younger child finally turned a corner in her adherence to all things familiar?

Well, almost. When I suggested she let her dad pick the restaurant, she agreed…and then begged him to do his restaurant hunting with her by his side. She wanted to know what he would pick before he made a final decision.

So maybe she couldn’t quite make the leap into the world of spontaneity.

My husband had some work to do and promised he would find a place later, which he did. Of course, that was after the kids went to bed. We talked about the restaurant—a place in our quaint downtown to get Mongolian stir fry—and in the morning I offered Seven my biggest smile, hoping it would disarm her enough to accept her dad’s dinner suggestion.

“Mongolian stir fry?” she asked, wrinkling her nose. “What’s that?”

I explained, and she felt a little better. When we got to the restaurant later and she declared her dinner a success, my husband teased her that he should get all the credit for the success. Seven didn’t hesitate to roll her eyes.

In another surprising departure, Seven decided she didn’t want a birthday cake this year. She opted to go out for ice cream after dinner instead, which again surprised me. For all the years before this one, I’ve enjoyed watching Seven’s face glow as brightly as the candles on the mini cakes we would pick up from various bakeries in town. But this year she decided to do something completely different, and it makes me happy to know that she feels confident and brave enough to explore new options. To experiment.

To go on adventures. After all, isn’t that part of what growing up is all about?

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