Chart Number 193

By Ekta R. Garg

November 13, 2015

I’m shaking my head and crossing my arms. No. I refuse to let this happen. I don’t care if it’s inevitable. I—don’t—accept it.

In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about this business of “getting older” and “becoming mature” that these children have begun.

Just this past week I’ve seen evidence of this ridiculous notion that these kids need to actually grow in height, increase their vocabulary, and articulate their thoughts well. I don’t know what to make of this. It’s just wrong.

***

On Monday morning as I rushed around the kitchen making the girls’ lunches, the jar of mayo slipped from my hand and landed with a splat on the floor. Because it was a plastic jar and not glass, the jar itself didn’t break but the lid did pop off and crack. The girls, eating their breakfast in the dining room adjacent to the kitchen, heard the jar hit the ground.

“What happened, Mamma?” Nine asked. She got up from the table with her cereal bowl and headed in my direction.

I couldn’t help sighing as I grabbed paper towels to clean up the mess. “Nothing, I just dropped the mayo.”

“Di-Di,” Seven called, “maybe you should go to the kitchen through the laundry room to put your bowl in the sink.”

Mind you, I’d tried to say the same thing to Nine. With the fogginess that persists in the brain on a Monday morning, somehow I couldn’t get my mouth to form the words. Seven had taken care of it, though. Such a sensible child. Is this normal, for a child this young—or old, I guess—to see a solution so easily?

“Are you okay?” she asked as a follow up.

I had to smile at her. “Yes, I’m okay.”

***

This week Indians all over the world celebrated the festival of Diwali. One of the parents at Seven’s school sponsored a pizza lunch for all of the students as a way to include the school in the celebration. With lunch taken care of, I didn’t need to pack Seven a lunch on Tuesday.

This fact had registered on my radar sometime last week, but in the course of the weekend and especially after the mini mayo disaster on Monday the pizza lunch completely slipped my mind. On Monday evening, as I made dinner, I also went through my routine of getting lunchboxes ready for the next day: juice boxes for the kids, fruit for both of them and my husband, an additional snack for Seven since she had chorus after school…

Seven peeked around the corner between the dining room and the kitchen. “I have pizza lunch tomorrow at school for Diwali.”

It may seem like a small thing to many of you, but something about that moment shimmered and morphed for me into a glimpse of the future. I saw, in that glimpse, my younger daughter poking her head around the corner of the wall to offer me a reminder about a future lesson, practice, get-together, party at a friend’s house. Her size may have stayed the size of a seven-year-old, but the tone of her voice leapt years ahead in those few words.

***

On Tuesday morning Nine and the other members of her class performed in a special school-wide Veterans Day assembly. I got to the school early enough to get a seat in the front row of the bleachers in the gym, and after several minutes kids began entering the gym and sitting on the floor in somewhat neat rows. I was delighted when Nine’s class sat close enough for me to be able to watch her interact with her friends without distracting her.

As she chatted with friends in between performances by other classes, I suddenly realized that the uniform shirt she wore looked a little shorter than normal. Nine had gotten a little taller over the summer, but it didn’t really occur to me to have her try on her uniform shirts before school started. Between the jet lag we all experienced after our trip to Europe and the organized chaos that the start of school brings, her uniform shirts didn’t figure too high on my priority list. As long as the pants fit, that was good enough for me.

I knew then, sitting watching Nine, that I’d need to buy more shirts.

***

Because the girls had Wednesday off for Veterans Day, I didn’t check their homework Tuesday night. I told Nine, in particular, that I would look at it but somehow didn’t get to it and put it on the mental to-do list for the next day. We’d planned a fun outing with several to go see the new Peanuts movie (super cute and a thorough throwback to the childhoods of kids of the 1980s!!) Between the movie, our own Diwali celebrations at home that day, and me working on my latest book, I didn’t get a chance to ask Nine about her homework until around dinner time.

She recounted for me her homework assignments. As we talked through them for a few minutes, I realized that in these particular assignments she didn’t need me to look through her work.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” Nine said. “No big deal.”

***

But it is a big deal. Doesn’t she understand? Don’t either of them get it? I find it highly ironic that even though I carried each of them inside of me and had to put my body through giving birth to both of them, I don’t get a say whatsoever in what parts of their upbringing I get to savor and what parts I get to skip. Does anyone else think this is wrong?

It doesn’t help that occasionally my older child looks at me, grins, and says, “Next summer I’ll be a whole decade old.”

A whole decade has already gone by? On whose authority?

No. I don’t accept this at all.

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