January 10, 2014
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these special Christmas vacation Spurts, readers!
My parents gave the girls the board game Scrabble for Christmas. Despite the fact that the box suggests the youngest age for players to be 8 years old, Mom and Dad figured that because Seven reads so much and Five just seems to absorb everything her sister says they could handle it. Of course, I was excited. It’s a game that has to do with words and organizing them in the most compact, innovative ways. What’s not to love?
My husband was slightly underwhelmed—after all, you can’t usually make any of those nineteen-syllable medical terms with the letters in the Scrabble tile pouch—but because we spent part of our honeymoon playing Scrabble in a coffee shop in Shimla, India, he offered the kids the appropriate amount of enthusiasm about receiving the game as a gift. More than that, though, he’s just as competitive as me in most things, and I think he looked forward to the opportunity to even the score from our honeymoon. He had the chance to beat me at something that I claim as a talent.
Seven found the whole idea of a game with words intriguing, so we spent pretty much the entire Christmas break having marathon Scrabble matches. Her inherited competitive spirit ran smack dab into her slightly fragile self-confidence and gave us many games where we ended with Seven metaphorically throwing her hands up in the air. At times she got frustrated because she couldn’t come up with words fast enough; then she complained that all the words she made were only two or three letters long (I know the official Scrabble rules probably forbid words like “it,” but we figured it was okay to fudge the rules for the kids.)
Despite all her vexation, though, whenever we would sit in the evenings and chat about games to play for our “family nights,” Seven usually said, “Scrabble!” At least she’s not lacking in persistence.
By the time we played our last game before school started again, I noticed something interesting: Seven was still complaining about how long it took her to come up with words, but she had started making longer ones. And she had started using a little more strategy in how to place them. In addition, Five (feigning complete indifference to the game) started sitting in and playing with us. Granted, her attention span is shorter than her sister’s. We played more than one game where Five sat down at the start with her seven letter tiles and by the time we’d filled the board she was running circles—literally—around the house.
But it was really fun to see this small bump of progress. I think it’ll make spring break and summer fun and give us some great alternatives to watching movies, reading, or driving their mother insane.
One of the pleasures of cold weather is eating warm things. Although I’m not a fan at all, the kids love a good bowl of oatmeal in the winter. I don’t let them eat it on school mornings because it takes too long. They spend time letting it cool off, and then they spend time complaining about how hot it is, then they pick up a spoonful and blow on it forever, and—well, you get the picture.
During Christmas break, although the girls would wake up at the same time Five usually ate her breakfast before Seven. So Seven would keep Five company while she ate, and then when Seven felt hungry Five would keep her company. Because I’m usually on top of their breakfast time during school days, I don’t really say anything to them at all while they eat breakfast during their days off. I just let them chatter and play and eat at a leisurely pace.
I sat reading a book on my Kindle in the family room as Five kept Seven company one morning, and after a few minutes I heard feet thumping across the hardwood floor.
“Mamma, Di-Di’s blowing her oatmeal too loud,” Five declared, standing attendance at the arm of the sofa. “I’m trying to tell her to stop, but she won’t.”
Blowing her oatmeal too loud…okay. I think I got it, but I’ve found with the kids sometimes it’s better not to ask for a lengthy explanation. They really don’t care about giving me one anyway, because (as kids are wont to do) they just want the “problem” fixed.
“Well, tell her in a nice way to stop,” I said, “and if she doesn’t she’ll wind up making a big mess and have to clean it up.”
I figured I had all my bases covered: finding a way to solve the problem, empowering Five to fix it by herself, and encouraging her to do it respectfully. Pretty good to get all that in a simple suggestion, right?
“But she’s blowing it, like, literally so loud. It’s going to blow back into the bowl.”
Blowing it literally so loud. Yes, that’s officially a new one.
My sister couldn’t join us for Christmas this year, so she sent her gifts ahead of time: a lovely dollhouse complete with furniture and a family of seven dolls. On the day we opened presents, the kids got all excited about putting the dollhouse together. It required some basic assembly, so I took a screwdriver and pulled out the instructions. About an hour later, we had a beautiful home for the dolls that came in a separate box.
The kids found the dollhouse interesting and attractive, and they took their time placing the furniture and playing with the family. By the time they finished playing with it that morning the doll family had all decided to take naps. Seven left the grandma doll lying down with the baby.
With their maternal grandparents in town, the dollhouse and most of their other gifts got moved to the side. When Mom and Dad left town, the kids had more free time to play with their new presents. By this time the dollhouse had moved to the play area in our home’s mini library. One evening as I took care of the laundry in the laundry room, I heard high-pitched giggling. The kids were laughing and talking at the same time, but I couldn’t really understand anything else. I went to the play area to ask what was going on but got my answer: the girls were making the dolls jump off the balcony to the floor below.
Somehow they found it beyond hilarious. I didn’t know whether I should stop them—after all, they were encouraging their dolls to suicide—but I didn’t have to. Almost without missing a beat they decided to pull out the little toilet in the dollhouse bathroom and stuck the dolls head first into it. The giggles became almost uncontrollable.
Do I need to be worried that they might torture kids with swirlies one day? I hope not. As long as it stays within the dollhouse, I guess it’s okay. I think.