September 7, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
My husband and I have begun the Countdown to the Decade—in 2013 we will celebrate 10 years of marital chaos, uncertainty, happiness, setbacks, and, yes, even bliss. This week marked the tenth anniversary of the first time we ever met face to face and agreed to get married (and that’s just about how it happened too.) Of course, many things can stand as milestones in a marriage, but one of the most tangible milestones—or, in our case, two of the most tangible milestones—come in the form of children.
Earlier this week, on the actual Day Of, I folded laundry while I listened to the girls read before bedtime. We had a cacophony of The Little Engine That Could (Four) and The Boxcar Children (Six,) and because both of them were simultaneously reading aloud I had a hard time making head or tail of either story. I’ve read the first book—it was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, which is why I bought it for the girls—but I haven’t read the second. So I got to hear the familiar refrain of, “I pull the likes of you? Indeed not!” along with a story about four children who appear seemingly out of nowhere (as children do in these sorts of books) and, in the section Six read that night, are making some sort of soup.
Six reads with fluency; she will occasionally come across a word that stumps her because of its length or unusual letter combination that throws her for a loop in the pronunciation, but for the most part she’s an independent reader. Four has begun to read with more confidence and accuracy—she’s able to sound out two and sometimes even three-syllable words about 50 or 60 percent of the time without any help. And both of them blow me away by this ability.
Six, like me, is turning into a bibliophile. That night as I said goodnight to her in the dark, we talked for a few minutes about the magic of books, how they can take you absolutely anywhere and allow you to have adventures all from the comfort of your own home. If a person can’t travel for whatever reason, s/he can read a book and visit any destination of choice. And I saw that shine in her eyes, the one that tells me she realizes what a special gateway books provide her.
It’s too early to tell whether Four will follow the trend of book lover, but I certainly hope so. She’s my firecracker, my daredevil, and I don’t mind that she likes to laugh a little louder and jump constantly (as in, not stand still because she’s got so much energy she actually has to just jump it out)—she’s my reminder that I need to laugh loud and jump a lot too. But my hope for her comes in the form of helping her retain some of these special secrets—like the gateway of books—and use them to their full capacity. Don’t some football players take ballet lessons? So why can’t a firecracker stay on the ground for a little while to indulge in a good story before shooting off and lighting up the sky with her exuberance?
The girls also amaze me because I can see in them little women in the making. The three of us sing loudly in the car to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” or Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A” as we dance and probably look ridiculous to other drivers on the road. We talk about going to the mall, and they have strong opinions on the clothes they wear. Occasionally—and I guess this is just the age for it—they’ll play one of their made-up games where someone is getting married and has children (all within the span of the 20-minute car ride to school; talk about moving fast!) Four asks questions constantly about why we do this or go there, and Six expresses her ideas on just what she thinks I should be doing with my spare time. Especially if it’s something that will directly benefit her.
I know I designed this Growth Chart to be mostly about the kids, but I can’t help thinking that I’ve done some growing myself in these last 10 years. If you had to document it on a graph, I think the steepest part of the curve would be in the last six years. When my parents and sisters and I would go out and meet people, I would often joke that, “It’s so hard to raise good parents these days,” complete with a mock sigh and shake of the head. But I realize now, as a parent myself, that maybe what I said as a teenager really wasn’t so much of a joke. Because in order to be a good parent, you have to grow with your child—change, adapt, and be willing to do it all on the spur of the moment if the situation called for it.
I don’t know what things will be like another decade from now (or even if my children will allow me to continue writing about them like this; I have the advantage of ignorance—and that thing called “bliss” again—on my side, because they’re not old enough to surf the web and therefore don’t have a clue Growth Chart exists. I’m wondering if I can keep them off the Internet until they’re at least 35 or 40 and then break it to them gently that I’ve been writing about them.) I don’t know, as I said, what we’ll be doing 10 years from now, but I have no doubt we’ll continue to grow and learn in the interim—and maybe even read a good book or two along the way.