Chart Number 212

April 1, 2016

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Last week the kids had spring break and for the first time in…well, ever, I didn’t sign them up for any camps. I didn’t even make them do workbook pages. I was tempted on both counts, don’t get me wrong, but I also had an ulterior motive for forgoing the usual vacation route.

I wanted to spend the week cleaning. With the kids.

I really didn’t think they’d go for it. After all, when kids describe what they do for fun I don’t think sorting clothes and toys comes high on that priority list. But as we get closer to the completion of the construction on our new home, I knew I could spend this week with the kids uninterrupted and have them weigh in on what toys they wanted to keep and what they wanted to donate.

Both girls surprised me, however, in that they showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the task for the week. On one of the days I suggested a break. Let’s drive by the new house, I said, and go see how far the brick layers had gotten on the front of the house.

We went in our PJs, and Seven didn’t even wear shoes. I just picked her up in my arms, although she’s really almost too big for that now, and put her in the car. Nine scooted in after her sister, flimsy Crocs knockoffs dangling from her toes.

I drove to the new house and we sat and talked about the progress, about how much we loved the colors in the brick and what we couldn’t wait to see. And then my older child piped up from the backseat.

“All right, that’s it, back to cleaning,” she said. I could hear the dedication in her voice to getting the task done, and for a moment I experienced a bit of role reversal. I started the car wistfully, wanting to sit for just five more minutes to watch the brick layers. But I listened to Nine and drove home, and we tackled the closet yet again.

I hope she’s this responsible about cleaning when she’s 13.

***

Sometimes, really, my children come to me with questions or comments—or both—that really stymy me.

One evening during spring break Seven charged into the kitchen.

“Do you like the way Di-Di writes her As?” she asked, hands on hips, consternation in her voice.

“I don’t know,” I said. I wanted to ask for context, or at least for an example of the offensive handwriting, but I didn’t get a chance.

“Well, it’s driving me crazy!” Seven stated. She stomped off, and I could swear I saw an imaginary hair flick.

Maybe it was a vision of the future coming back to haunt me now. But…writing As? Really??

***

Every afternoon the most popular radio station in town does something called the “Kill A Half-Hour Question.” The RJ asks a question dealing with pop trivia, the kind of thing you might find on BuzzFeed or other sites like that, where often the question starts with “Did you know…” or “Studies show…”. The question usually happens between 3:45 and 4:30 in the afternoon, right around the time the girls and I are driving to various after-school activities.

On Wednesday as we drove to their dance class, the RJ announced he would be asking the question.

“The average woman says she have to be at least 90 days into a new relationship before [doing] what,” he said.

I had a pretty good idea of one possible answer but didn’t want to guess aloud, something I do when the questions are tame enough.

“Get pregnant?” Seven suggested.

I had to bite my lip. If she was about 15 years older, we would have probably joked about her answer. But no way was I going to weigh in on what she was guessing.

“Hug,” Nine said soberly.

“Yeah, I think that’s it, hug,” I said.

Because the RJ takes calls and guesses for about 30 minutes or so, depending on how hard the question is, we never did hear the official answer. We were too close to dance class by then, and I changed the radio station anyway on the off chance that the guesses some radio callers offered weren’t PG. I want to have an honest, open relationship with my girls—my young ladies in the making—but I certainly didn’t want to blow that relationship wide 10 minutes before they started practicing an Irish jig.

For those of you wondering, by the way, the answer is, “Go without makeup around her partner.”

I know. Go figure.

***

We’re a kid-friendly house, which means plenty of kid-friendly snacks. Which also means the adults help themselves to those kid-friendly snacks on a regular basis. After all, there must be a benefit to allow your life to be railroaded by little people who can’t drive yet, right?

I always make sure we’ve got a steady supply of Nutella in the house, and my husband enjoys a spoonful (or two) after dinner sometimes. One night Seven, who shares the sweet tooth “affliction” with her father, asked if she could share some with him. He let her have a little taste from his spoon and chased her off, saying it was a school night.

In the middle of the week dinner got delayed just a bit, so the kids scooted upstairs right after they finished eating to brush their teeth and get ready for bed.

“[Seven] wanted some Nutella,” my husband said. “She said we should keep it a secret just between her and me.”

I checked the clock. “It’s too late, isn’t it? She’s probably brushed her teeth by now.”

“No, I know. I told her she could have some on the weekend.”

I didn’t think anything else of it until I went upstairs to say good night to my younger child.

“Mamma, have you noticed something about me?” she asked in the semi-darkness.

“What’s that?”

“About the way I handle problems?”

Why do kids always get philosophical just before bed?

“What exactly do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, now if I have a problem, I don’t get so mad about it anymore. I may get mad about it for a little while, but then I get over it.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“Well, Daddy and I have a secret, and he said I couldn’t do it tonight because it was too late, and at first I was a little upset but then I just said it was okay.”

The Nutella. I didn’t say anything for a few moments, but when I started thinking about it I realized she was right. Lately she’s begun tamping down her anger much faster. She still loses her temper in some situations, but in others I’ve watched as her frustration flares and then she calms down soon thereafter.

Progress. Finally. After seven years, tangible progress.

Sometimes we get to see the fruits of parenting labor sooner than a few decades.