August 3, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these Spurts from the last couple of weeks, readers!
Earlier this week as the girls, their grandfather, and I drove home from an impromptu lunch out, Six asked, “Mama, what are you going to do when we go?”
As odd as her question might seem, I knew exactly what she meant. Translated into adult speak, she was asking me, “What will you do when Four and I have grown up and left home?”
Six and Four have a unique opportunity to make mental, emotional, and physical connections with their grandparents. My husband’s father lives with us, so the girls have the immediate benefit of learning from an older generation right in their home. And then, with their maternal grandparents living in the same country, they have access to the continuance of their lineage. They can trace their family back and find out why they have a particular trait or physical attribute.
My sister and I never had this luxury; we had to wait for the trips to India every two to three years to make those connections. And a month-long vacation—in which we fought jet leg, change of weather, different food (to an extent,) and culture shock—a vacation doesn’t provide someone enough time to enjoy continuity of thought. Of emotion. Of filling in the generation gap.
Six and Four get all these things and more, however. They’ve already visited my parents more times in the last six years than I visited my grandparents in the first 10 or so years of my life. And I’m so grateful my children have this opportunity.
Having this opportunity to spend time with their grandparents also heightens the kids’ awareness of my relationship to my parents. Six, in particular, finds it interesting that not only am I her mother, but also I’m someone’s daughter. Just as she is someone’s daughter. And a daughter, she has seen, one day leaves her parents’ home and goes to someone else’s.
Which went back to her question and her curiosity of what her father, grandfather, and I would do when she and her sister left home.
“Well,” I said, thinking through my answer even as I gave it, “Papa will still go to the hospital, and I’ll still be writing and editing. And Dadu [their grandfather] will just enjoy his time with us.”
“What if Dadu isn’t alive then?”
He heard the question but didn’t say anything. An uninhibited question from a child makes a person pause in just that way.
“We don’t talk about things like that,” I said kindly, not wanting to make Six feel like she’d done something wrong. “We always wish everyone a long, happy, healthy life.”
“Okay,” she said, seemingly satisfied.
As Six and Four changed the subject to something completely different in that quicksilver way children have, I let my mind go to the future for just a minute. I remember—vaguely—a time when we didn’t have children in the same curious way I now remember my high school years, wondering whether I really did and said those things. And now that Six posed the question, I allow myself to imagine a time again when my children will no longer run to me for a solution to every little problem, a time when they’re young women. What will we do then?
I don’t have a ready answer, wanting instead to enjoy the time I have with them now.
Like millions of families across America, we’ve spent an hour or so every night this week watching the Olympics. The girls have watched the various competitions in fascination; this is the first time they’ve been old enough to understand the idea of the Olympics and what the athletes have attempted to do in their various disciplines.
Listening to the girls’ commentary during the swimming competitions this week provided my husband and me with several reasons to smile. Six and Four have just finished two sessions of summer swimming lessons, so they certainly felt qualified to pass judgment on, say, Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte.
During the first competition the girls saw, Six asked, “Can they touch the bottom?”
In her last class of the last session, the instructor took a chance and escorted Six and the other swim students to a deeper pool for a few minutes. The instructor strapped all three students into tight life jackets and tried to give the students a sense of what real swimming would feel like. Until that point the children had taken their lessons in a pool shallow enough that the kids could stand with the water coming barely higher than their waists. Going to the deep pool—12 feet, to be exact—freaked Six out. She managed to calm down by the end of her time there, but the experience certainly stayed with her. Hence her question.
We explained to her that the Olympic pool was much deeper than the one she swam in on her last day in lessons, and when NBC showed the swimmers from an underwater camera it allowed Six to get a sense of the depth of the pool. She was highly impressed.
Four, too, offered a connection between the swimmers on TV and her own experience when she saw the swimmers drawing deep breaths during competition.
“I can blow bubbles sometimes,” she commented confidently.
“That’s how they breathe while they’re swimming,” my husband told her.
The girls nodded knowingly; they’ve both tried to learn, with varying degrees of failure, how to control their breathing in order to learn how to swim.
A third event showed the swimmers performing the backstroke, and Six nodded.
“I can float on my back sometimes too, but my teacher has to help hold me up.”
I couldn’t help smiling at that one; the best athletes—the ones who reach the Olympics—make it look easy, so easy that a six-year-old and a four-year-old sitting thousands of miles away can find common ground with those athletes. Of course, my husband and I share the wisps of dreams that those thousands of other families share, wondering if our children could ever reach a level where they could compete in something like the Olympics. Maybe Six and Four won’t ever make it to that particular international stage, but watching these Games makes me wonder again just what their futures hold and what they will be able to accomplish.
Why do children delight in talking about disgusting things?
Yesterday as I sat in front of my computer at the dining table, Six and Four played in the family room. My mind stayed focused on the screen in front of me, but I kept half-an-ear on what the girls did in the event I needed to quell any arguments.
What I didn’t anticipate was fake barfing.
That’s right: at some point the girls turned to one of their favorite imaginary games known simply as “Baby,” where one of them (usually Four) acts like a baby and the other one acts as the mother. In this version, Baby (Four) watched helplessly as Mom (Six) had to “vomit” numerous times. Six did a pretty admirable job making it sound somewhat realistic, which is what caught my ear in the first place. My gut told me she didn’t actually have to toss her cookies, but I didn’t know if I’d interpreted their choice of game correctly. I turned around in my chair just in time to see “Mom” lean forward and “throw up” again. She then looked and me and grinned.
“You’re gross,” I declared. Both girls thought it hilarious and kept playing.
About 15 minutes later they abandoned this version of the game and went on to something else. I thought we’d reached the pinnacle of the “ick” factor for the day when they decided to move their game to underneath the dining table, and after getting settled there I heard one of them say, “Pretend you’re eating poop.”
I couldn’t see them—I was still looking at the computer screen—but both of them proceeded to “eat poop” and make it sound like they enjoyed it.
My kids are so weird.