Chart Number 204

February 5, 2016

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Last week Nine and I dropped Seven at school and made our way to Nine’s school. My older daughter piped up from the back.

“Mamma, what days do you volunteer at [Seven’s] school?”

“I go on Fridays,” I said, “but not every Friday.”

“No other days?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I have other things to do,” I said with a little bit of a scoff. “You know this house we’re building? Guess who’s helping Daddy get the work done? Me.”

“Really.”

“Yup. Daddy’s got a personal assistant, and she’s right here.” I pointed at myself.

“I didn’t know Daddy’s got a personal assistant,” Nine quipped. “So where’s his wife then?”

I wondered if she was too young for me to explain to her that sometimes the terms are interchangeable.

***

On Monday it was my birthday, and a few weeks ago my husband requested the day off. He made plans for the day, but then real life intervened. The schedule for the construction of our new home required that we spend some time on selections for certain home features. Because my husband’s schedule rarely allows him to have time during business hours to shop for these things, we decided to make the most of the day and go shopping for countertops.

It was a weekday, of course, and the girls wished me in the midst of getting ready for school. Seven hugged me tight.

“What are you going to do for your birthday today, Mamma?” she asked.

“Well, Daddy and I are going to go look at countertops for the new house.”

She didn’t actually roll her eyes at me, but I saw a shadow of that expression cross her face.

“Shopping…for countertops?” she said, punctuating her words with dramatic pauses. “That’s so lame! Why don’t you do that tomorrow?”

I grinned wryly at her. If only celebrating birthdays were so easy at my age. If only real life didn’t intervene so much.

***

This week we got to have not one but two “big girl” conversations with the kids. The first happened at the dinner table.

“N. said Hot Cheetoes are her drug,” Nine announced with an amused grin Tuesday night.

I frowned at the choice of words, and I could see Nine’s confusion at my reaction.

“What?” my husband asked, feigning ignorance at the word “drug.” “What’s that?”

“You know…” Nine said, uncertainty creeping into her voice.

“It’s got alcohol in it,” Seven said, supplying her sister with an explanation.

“Yeah,” Nine said, “it’s got alcohol and it makes you sick.”

I decided to take a leap then. The girls have watched movies where a character would get drunk, and we’ve described the not-so-savory effects of the morning after. Now, I thought, it was time to up the ante on real life.

“Actually, drugs are something that people can take as a pill or they can shoot it in their skin using an injection,” I said. “The reason why they take it is because it makes them feel really good for a little while, but then when it wears off they feel awful. So they take it again and it makes them feel good again, but then they feel bad and the whole thing goes on.”

My husband interjected the fact that the word “drugs” can also be used to mean prescription medication, but often in casual conversation “drugs” takes on a less savory meaning. At first I wondered why he would jump in at that moment to point out the difference. Later, though, I realized it made sense for them to know how to use the words properly.

“It’s like on Little House on the Prairie,” Nine said. “Pa helped a man who was having trouble.”

In the craziest throwback to the previous century—literally—my girls love watching episodes of Little House on the Prairie. Nine has read all of the books, and both girls get a kick out of watching the depiction of life in the olden days. Thanks to the magic of DVDs, the kids can watch episodes whenever they want.

I’d forgotten, though, that beyond life on the prairie, the show helped families tackle real-life problems.

Nine explained the plotline she meant: a man, newly widowed, takes out his anger at his wife’s death on his son and uses alcohol to suppress his emotional pain. When the man demands that the son give him his liquor, the little boy answers in a trembling voice that he destroyed the bottles like the father had asked in a sober moment. Eventually, of course, Pa gets involved and helps the man get on the road to recovery.

The fact that the girls watched a sanitized version of what happens when a person flirts with addiction helped us segue into why people begin abusing a variety of substances. We talked about how sometimes really hard, bad things happened to people and they had two choices when those situations occurred: they could face the hard situation and try to work through it, or they could mask their pain with a substance that would only last for a short time.

Our conversation ended soon after that, but at least we got one in. I hope we can keep the dialogue running until the kids get old enough to understand the less savory realities of life. Then, I hope we can keep talking to guide them away from those realities.

***

The second “big girl” conversation happened in the car as we drove to school.

“So, Ms. M. keeps saying that in fifth grade we’re going to get The Talk,” Nine declared one morning.

“About what?” Seven asked.

“About puberty. What’s puberty?” Nine asked.

Oh boy, I thought. Here we go.

“It’s when a person’s body changes,” I said, keeping my tone nonchalant. “You know boys and girls have different bodies than grownups. It’s when that change happens.”

“Do they stink?” Nine asked.

“Sometimes.”

“How young does it start?”

“Around 10 or 11,” I answered truthfully. Nine also asked if there was an upper limit on the age range, and told her around 13 or 14. I based this on anecdotal evidence and personal experience (and, yes, I know this isn’t always the case, but that was beside the point in this conversation.)

“I don’t want to go through puberty,” Seven said.

“Why?” I asked, not having the heart to tell her it’s inevitable for all of us.

“It’s a funny word.”

I chuckled. “It is a funny word, isn’t it?”

I know at some point Nine and I will talk about this again, and that might need to be a private conversation when her little sister isn’t around. I’ll let her lead with her questions, and maybe I’ll have more answers then. So, here’s to growing up. I guess.