July 20, 2012
Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!
The other day as I prepared lunch for the girls, I heard them playing one of their made-up games. Most of these games involve one or both of them assuming a different identity and sometimes involve a few imaginary characters as well. Six and Four derive these imaginary participants from different sources: they create variations on real-life friends and family or sometimes they use the characters from the PBS shows they enjoy so much.
These days the girls anticipate watching “Sid the Science Kid” and ask for the show with all the enthusiasm they possess. It’s a fun show with—you guessed it—science as its main offering. The show’s writers provide viewers with a lot of factual information in a fun way that kids tend to remember, and no matter what my husband might say about the ridiculous fact that there are only four students in Sid’s school and that he, his friends, and his teacher all wear the same clothes every single day—no matter what, I think the main character, Sid, is pretty sweet.
So, the other day, as I mentioned, the girls played one of their latest games, and for some reason they decided to add an extra “h” to everyone’s names that day.
One of them said, “We should get Shid here.”
“Don’t call him Shid,” the other said. “Call him Shiddy.”
I don’t have to explain that from a few feet away and around the corner to the kitchen what “Shiddy” might sound like, and my first gut reaction told me to trot around that corner and tell both girls not to say “Shiddy.”
But when I thought about it, I realized I would have to explain exactly why they shouldn’t say “Shiddy”—and I don’t want to have that conversation with the girls any time soon.
I don’t use profanity in either my writing or my conversations; I don’t feel like there’s a need for it, and my husband doesn’t use it either. We’re hoping that by our example the girls grow up the same way, because in my opinion most people have a sufficient enough vocabulary to express exactly what they’re feeling. Using profanity, for me, is a form of laziness.
So I didn’t want to get into a discussion with the girls of why they shouldn’t use “Shiddy” in their playtime, and in truth I didn’t want to take away from the innocence of their childhood. They’re still at a point where the world holds many wonders and few disappointments or sullied points. I hope to keep them there as long as possible.
These days we’re in the middle of “Indian Idol” fever.
Simon Cowell created a blockbuster concept in “American Idol” and did the most practical thing by providing other countries with the rights to recreate the show in their own languages. So it is with India, where much of the music industry is derived from the Hindi film industry. There are literally thousands of songs “Indian Idol” contestants can choose from, and it provides an interesting dimension to the show because the judges can mandate that the contestants, for instance, sing songs from movies of the 1960s or perform the songs of a particular film playback singer.
So in addition to the rest of the perks of summer vacation we’ve enjoyed the progressing rounds of “Indian Idol,” which comes on Sony Entertainment Television on Friday and Saturday nights. And the girls are watching with increasing interest every week as we listen to the contestants and try to make guesses about who will stay and who will go.
Eventually, of course, watching “Indian Idol” inspires anyone to start singing, regardless of skill level. And we are no exception. We are the contestants and the judges, and we’ve begun our own version of “[Salt Lake City] Idol.”
A couple of weeks ago it was Six’s turn to compete on our stage, and Four played judge. We’d already gone through a couple of rounds of “competition,” and I had been summarily kicked out. Apparently I didn’t pass muster and the competition was about to get fierce, never mind that somehow it was okay for the kids to kick me out but for them to take turns competing until they both decided one was the winner.
On this day, though, Four sat with a special “guest judge” and made sure to point this out during Six’s audition to get onto the show.
Four: “Hello, [Six] and welcome to Indian Idol.”
“How long have you been singing?”
“Well, I’ve been singing for a few years in school.”
Not to keep her guest judge out of the loop, Four turned and gestured to her side.
“This is my teddy bear.”
Something about the way she introduced her bear made all three of us girls fall into immediate giggles, and Four rode out the moment by introducing her teddy bear a few more times. I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard, and despite my husband’s demand to know just what was so funny it took three or four tries before I could relay the whole story to him.
He just shook his head; I guess he doesn’t understand just how important these light moments are for those of us who compete on such a grand stage.
This year for her birthday, Four got a special treat: her aunt (my husband’s sister) and cousin came to visit and spend some time with us. And aunt and niece began making the rounds of the ring from the first day.
Four is very much like her father in the sense that she loves a good joke and loves to tease people. She’ll pretend to be annoyed when she’s secretly delighted that you want to tickle her. She rolls her eyes and opens up those big baby browns in exaggerated expressions, and she uses her hands to gesture dramatically and emphasize her points.
Her aunt had a field day teasing Four, and Four didn’t hesitate to give it right back to her. On the surface it looked like the two were picking on each other constantly—but that’s just one of the ways Four (and her father, incidentally) shows her affection for someone. Because when that someone has to leave, she misses them so much that her words and gestures instantly become affectionate and full of love and longing for family.
When my sister-in-law had to leave earlier this week, Four took it bravely but I knew in her heart she missed her aunt. I love to have fun with my kids, but because my personality leans strongly in a different direction I know Four misses having someone she can constantly taunt and tease. And she missed her aunt dearly.
Missing her didn’t stop her from continuing their back-and-forth. That evening as my sister-in-law called to say hi and check on my nephew who is still visiting, Four asked who was on the phone. When I told her, she asked to talk to her aunt.
Talking on the phone with Four is a rare event; for her to ask to speak to someone on the phone and then actually follow through with it is almost unheard of. So when I handed Four the phone I didn’t know quite what to expect.
Given the 10 days she’d just spent with her aunt, Four didn’t disappoint me.
“Hello, Ugly Monster,” she said sweetly.
Her aunt picked up their old game right away, and even though I didn’t hear the actual response I had no doubt it went toe to toe with Four’s saccharine greeting. And I watched as Four enjoyed chatting with her aunt, calling her “ugly monster” repeatedly, and enjoying this new family relationship that I hope will bind them forever—taunts and all.
Grownups often assume that children don’t remember what we do for them, that they have to be taught how to be grateful. But I think occasionally they give us a reason to second-guess our own assumptions.
This week out of the blue, Four came to me just as I stood up from the dining table after my breakfast.
“Mamma, I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking me to the zoo on my birthday.”
The trip to the zoo was almost two weeks ago, and it touched my heart that she still remembered it. Maybe the fact that she’s been planning this particular trip to the zoo since—I kid you not—September has something to do with it.
I grinned and gave her a huge hug, the kind where I crouch down to her level to gather her into my arms.
“My pleasure, [Four]! Anything for my girls!”
At times like these I’m so glad I can give my kids at least some of the things they want. And I hope that while I continue to teach them how to express gratitude for those things, I remember that some of that gratitude is already there.