The Ninety-Ninth Chart (Spurts)

Sept. 27, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Recently the girls have done and said things that give me a glimpse into the fact that I just might be doing something right in this whole parenting business.  Maybe.  So in today’s Spurts I will share with you some of the things that make me smile and exhale with relief.

***

Most people meet the kids, their father, and me and instantly assign kids to parents.  “[Seven] is just like you,” they tell me, “and [Five] is just like her dad.”  For the most part the assessment adheres to fact, including the point about reading for pleasure—or so I thought.

My husband says that when he was in school he actually enjoyed reading literature and fiction.  When he began his medical education in earnest, however, he didn’t have time to read anything that wasn’t a medical textbook.  For the last 20 years he has spent all of his reading time on medicine.

Regular readers of this or any of my blogs will know I am a bibliophile, so when Seven began heading in that direction I cheered (quietly.)  Finally!  Someone else with whom I could share all the books of my childhood!

Like her big sister, Five began reading at a young age; by the age of 4 she was easily navigating sentences.  But she didn’t seem to like reading as a hobby.  Given her love of animals, I’ve tried to encourage her through the years by bringing home books about anything on four (or more) legs.  But the simulated bribe never seemed to work.

It never occurred to me that maybe she doesn’t like to read because she doesn’t feel challenged by the books we’ve given her from the library or as gifts.  So when she spent two hours—without a break—reading one of Seven’s library books, the reality hit me like a smack in the head.  Both girls thrive on an academic challenge.  Why didn’t it occur to me to try harder books with Five?

Now that I’ve seen that Five will read of her own volition, I’m curious about whether I can cultivate this newfound fondness for the hobby further.  We might just end up with three bibliophiles in the house after all.

***

Last week at the end of Seven’s dance class, the teacher handed out stickers to all of the students.  I went inside to speak to the teacher for a few minutes, and when we had finished our conversation Seven turned to her teacher.

“Can I have another sticker for my sister?”

I smiled at this.  Seven has always looked out for Five in this regard.  She actually has a long history of asking teachers for extra treats and stickers, and when the teachers hear why she wants one it makes them melt a little.  Because of her nature, they never doubt her and they have no reason to.  Seven became a big sister the minute she met Five in the hospital all those years ago.

What really made me happy about this situation, however was the following: By the time we got home from Seven’s dance class Five was in bed.  So Seven put the sticker on the dressing table.  I thought she would have forgotten about it, but she didn’t.  The next morning she managed to find a few minutes in their getting-ready-for-school routine to give her sister the sticker.

This is just one of the reasons why the girls are best friends.  I hope Seven will always look out for Five in this way.

***

On Wednesday morning after breakfast, I told the girls to hurry up with their shoes and socks.  Five, my cannon-shot child, got hers on in a few minutes (it helps that she only has Velcro straps to worry about.)  Seven takes her time in everything, and she worked on her shoelaces with double-knots.

Five went to the laundry room, grabbed her backpack and lunchbox, and then picked up her sister’s things and brought them back to Seven in the foyer.  I praised Five for thinking of her sister, and she smiled at me a little shyly.  Then I told Seven she should do the same thing for Five, and yesterday she did.  Without my prompting—or, let’s face it, my even remembering—Seven grabbed her sister’s things and set them down next to Five.  And she even thought to do this before she began working on her own shoes.

I love it when the girls look out for one another like this.

***

Seven indulges Five on the car ride to school by engaging in their sister chitchat.  We drive to Five’s school first and drop her off, and then Seven has about 15 minutes to herself in the backseat before we reach her school.  Within the first few minutes of the ride to her school, she inevitably asks for her backpack.

I always oblige, because I know she wants to take out her book and read.  I know that she doesn’t get much time during the weekdays for pleasure reading and don’t want to take away her time from one of her most favorite things to do.

I’ve noticed, though, that despite her deep love for books, she keeps an eye out for when we’re getting close to school.  About the time we’re approaching the long school driveway, she puts her book away and waits patiently for me to stop the car and open the door for her.  It may sound like a small thing but, as the parent of any young child will tell you, I spend a lot of my time reminding both girls of things.  “Put your socks in the laundry,” “Hang up your backpack after school,” “Finish your water with your meal,” “Clean up your toys/crayons/books/clothes/random bits of stuff that gets strewn across the floor.”

My brain often feels like it’s stuck on the same conversations throughout the parts of the day when the kids are home.

So for Seven to notice and remember on her own that she has to get ready to get out of the car for school means that she has—at least in this scenario—learned to be responsible.  And if she can do it here, then there’s hope yet for all the other things.

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