The Sixtieth Chart (Spurts)

Oct. 12, 2012

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

One day after giving Four her bath, I sat in front of her and applied lotion to her legs.  She stands just tall enough now to be able to see over the top of my head, and she examined my hair for a minute.

“Mamma, you have some white hair.”

“I know,” I said, smiling at her.

“Why do you have white hair?”

“Because you and Di-Di bother me so much!  It makes my hair turn white,” I teased.  It’s a long-running joke in our family, and Six, in particular, gets a kick out of it because she gets to argue loudly that I’m making it up.  Which I am.  Sort of.

Four giggled, gently passed a hand over my head, and then became thoughtful.

“If all your hair turn white, will you still be the same?”

I looked at her for just a second, and I felt my smile fade.  It’s such a loaded question.  How much do we change as we age?  As the years pass—marked by the natural alterations in our body—what inside our hearts stays the same and what alters with time?

But I know Four doesn’t know any of these things yet; she’s not old enough to ponder the deeper meaning of life and living.  So I smiled again and tickled her.

“Of course, you silly girl.  I’ll stay the same.”

We finished getting ready for the day, and she skipped along.  But at some point, I think, her question warrants some thought.

***

One morning as we drove to school, we talked—again—about what the girls should do if they ever get lost.

“We should find a nice lady or a policeman, tell them our name, and then tell them our phone number.”

“And what’s your phone number?” I asked.

Both girls recited it, and I sighed quietly with relief.  Almost every day when I turn on the computer and go online, I watch the various headlines flash of children who are kidnapped or go missing for one reason or the other.  It’s every mother’s worst nightmare: losing a child.  If I let myself think about it too long or too hard, I can work myself into a blithering tizzy to the point of hysteria.

So from the time they were both really little, I’ve taught them the scenario that Six repeated to me that morning as we drove to school.

“But what if we can’t find a nice lady or a policeman?” Six asked.

“Then don’t go away from that spot.  We’ll come find you,” I reassured her.  Of course, we have no guarantees in life, but I have to arm Six and Four with something to help them.

“What if a bad person takes us?” she asked next.

And there it was.  The question I’ve dreaded, because I’ve dreaded the actual scenario.

“Do whatever you can to get away,” I told her.

“Even if we have to fight?”

I hesitated, only because we’re constantly teaching the kids to speak to one another with respect.  If one of them starts to strike the other either with a hand or a kick, we intervene.  I want the girls to learn to use their words to solve problems.

But in this case, I knew the right answer and I think Six knew there would be a difference.

“If you have to,” I told her finally.

She digested this information for a minute, and then finally she and Four took the conversation in a different direction.  And once again I said a prayer for the children’s protection.

***

Six and Four go to a school that takes pride in challenging its students.  To balance that, however, the first graders get three—count ‘em, three—recesses during the day.  One of those counts as P.E., where the kids follow a particular physical fitness regimen.  But the other two are normal recesses, where the kids have free rein to run and play.

One day last week when I picked Six up from school, she sat in her seat with a huff.

“No one wanted to play with me during the first recess,” she complained.

“Did you ask your friends to play?” I asked.  I started listing the names of the children whose names I knew in her class.

“What about M.?” I asked.

“M. is my enemy, and I don’t want to play with her.”

“Why is she your enemy?”

“It’s a long story.”

She stated it with such a deep sigh that I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t.

“What happened?”

She relayed a story from kindergarten and sounded a little fuzzy on the details.  As she told the story, I think she realized on her own what it sounded like and in the next minute she reassured me that in her second and third recesses of the day she had an abundance of friends who approached her.

“Maybe next time this happens you can go to your friends and ask them on your own if they want to play.”

She conceded that maybe the idea would work, and we began talking about something else.  I couldn’t help smiling, though, at the pressures of first grade.  In addition to everything else, Six has to worry about the troubles with her “enemies.”

***

After their swimming lesson this week, both girls announced they had to go to the bathroom.  Neither have had to go after swimming before, so I felt a little surprised but dutifully led them to the women’s locker room where I helped Six strip her somewhat damp swimming suit.

She sat on the toilet, and as we heard the tinkling she sighed in relief.

“Ah,” she said.  “Warm pee-pee.”

All three of us girls giggled, and I think I laughed longer than Six and Four combined because I know exactly what she’s talking about.  Whenever I’ve gone swimming and have had to go to the bathroom, I’ve felt exactly the same way.  So it was funny to hear my own observations reflected in her.  And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go to the bathroom after swimming again without laughing at her relief at her “warm pee-pee.”

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