September 19, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these Spurts from the last couple of weeks, readers!
On the weekdays I’m up before the sun, waking up so that I can get myself going before I have to wake Six and Four up for school. We go through a streamlined and, dare I say it, high-speed routine that gets us out the door on time. I’m the first to admit, however, that early mornings are not my most favorite time of day. Waking up at 6 a.m. every single day, and then convincing myself to get out of bed by 6:20 so I can get the girls up at 6:45—well, I don’t exactly call it a fun time. So I enjoy weekends when I can sleep in until 8 or 9.
Given the exuberance of youth, however, the girls are usually up around 7:30 or so, and they follow their weekend routine without fail. They wake up, chat and/or play for a while, and then gather their comb, hair rubber bands, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, and head downstairs to start their day with their grandfather (who is usually up no later than 6 no matter what day of the week it is.)
One Saturday a couple of weekends ago, I woke up just as the girls got their things from their bathroom (which is right outside the entrance to our bedroom,) and I heard the following.
“Do you like eating lunch at home?”
“No, I don’t like it.”
“Me either. Why don’t we tell Mamma that we want to go out to lunch today?”
“Yeah, we should go out to a restaurant…”
The conversation continued as they made their way down the stairs, and I couldn’t help smiling in amusement as I stirred and got out of bed. At least they’re only asking for lunch in a restaurant. I’m not sure what’ll happen when the conversation changes to a Mercedes versus a BMW.
I’ve trimmed the girls’ hair in the past, but it’s always terrified me to do so. Once, when we still lived in Texas and I was at home completely alone with the girls for an entire weekend, I attempted to trim Six’s hair. Nothing too terribly catastrophic happened, except that it probably ended up two inches shorter than what I’d originally wanted. Six (who was, I think, only four at the time,) didn’t seem too phased by it, but I couldn’t help bursting into tears at the sight of all her black curls on the floor. What had I done to my child?
Recently the girls were due for a trim, and I kept promising Six throughout the summer that I’d get around to it. I made excuses every time she reminded me that we hadn’t done it yet, but I couldn’t exactly come to the point with her and let her know that her mother felt scared to death every time I held a pair of scissors close to her head.
Finally, I decided I had to find a solution to the problem. Six’s hair, in particular, had begun to get knotty at the ends because of all the dead hair there, and Four’s was on its way. So I figured I should just suck it up, pay the price, and take the girls to a salon.
This wasn’t Six’s first time to a hair salon, and she grinned the entire time. She’s not even a tween yet, but already she thoroughly enjoys anything where she can be pampered. Both girls enjoy painting their nails and looking pretty in nice dresses, but in ways Six truly is a princess. She’s what some people might call a “girly girl.”
So this visit didn’t really differ from her previous one. She sat primly in the elevated chair and answered the stylist’s questions politely and with confidence. She watched with great interest as the stylist pulled out various hair clips and combs, and she smiled when she saw the result. It was only a trim of about two inches, and we hadn’t changed the style of her hair at all. But she loved the entire experience, start to finish.
Four, on the other hand, is a contradiction in many ways. In some things she mirrors her sister’s likes and dislikes—she doesn’t like her hair to be messy at all, and she insists on clean hands at almost all times—so I can say in those moments that she’s as much of a girly girl as Six. But then Four also likes to laugh louder and longer than her sister, and she has the temperament of an artist. It’s volatile; she’ll smile and hug you one minute, and five minutes later she can cross her arms and declare in a loud voice that she’s “not talking to you” because you committed what is in her book an offense. And while Six displays, even at her young age, the level-headed life approach often seen in first children and/or older siblings, I know that Four, with a gleam in her eye and sometimes even the well-timed joke, will always be a trickster.
She doesn’t like anything out of her comfort zone, however, unless she’s established the ground rules to be out there. So when the stylist sat Four in the chair, she sat incredibly still. Six and I smiled and encouraged her, and she responded when the stylist asked her to tilt her head down or up. But the look on her face clearly told me, “I want this to be over with ASAP!” She didn’t cry or scream or protest, but certainly didn’t enjoy herself either.
It’s always interesting to observe the differences in the girls in situations like these. Always makes me wonder how else they’ll develop and continue to grow.
On some days a mother can wonder whether all of her teaching, yelling, pleading, and reminding—for the twentieth time—is doing any good. And then something happens, and you realize that maybe—just maybe—some of all of the above is actually getting through.
Like any good parents, we strive to teach our children to be courteous and respectful toward one another as well as others. Sometimes they exhibit this desired behavior; other times I have to make one of them apologize to the other for some minor infraction. And then I have to remind the offender that she wouldn’t like it if someone talked to her that way, so she shouldn’t do it either.
It can be exhausting at times. I told my husband just last week that while I know I occasionally may go overboard in getting mad at the kids for one thing or another, I do my best to restrain that excess and just keep it to what’s necessary. And even for what’s necessary, I get sick of hearing my own voice correcting them over and over.
My mother has a policy on this that, I guess, I’ve begun to follow. She tells my sister and me that no matter how old we get, because she’s our mother she knows it’s her duty to teach us. So we can yell and scream and fight with her as long or as loud as we want, and she’ll still continue to teach and remind us of the essential principles of life. And she does with her trademark smile, cheerful attitude and—curse her for having so much more of this than me!—patience.
She’s right. Her approach is the only reason why my sister and I can function and succeed in society today. And I want the same for my daughters. But it’s a LOT of hard work.
And then comes that moment—that moment of affirmation that I must be doing something right.
The girls take private swimming lessons together—they share the lesson time and the teacher, and the teacher works with them individually in a quiet corner of the pool. She’ll seat one girl on the steps, remind her to stay put and hold on to the side, and then take the other girl out into the water. They’ve both enjoyed themselves and have gotten closer as sisters and better as swimmers with this method.
Last week as Four waited patiently for their teacher to bring Six back to the steps, two or three adults finishing a water aerobics class made their way to that very set of steps where she sat. She saw them approach and got up and moved out of the way so they could exit, sitting on the lip of the pool to give them the entire berth of stairs so they could leave.
It would have been one thing if she’d just leaned to one side as most people would have done (including, quite frankly, me.) But she assessed the situation and politely, respectfully, and without hesitation moved. I know a lot of this comes from her personality, indicative of the same trait in her father to go out of his way to help people even before they ask for it. But as a young child, it’s our job as her parents to help her cultivate this trait and make it a strength. And it’s nice to know that some of what I’m teaching them, to help them cultivate their strengths, is getting through.