November 9, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!
On Halloween Six and Four wore their costumes to school and got into the car and the ends of their respective days full of excitement and stories about what they’d done. Four described the party and the snacks she enjoyed that day as well as her friends and their costumes. Four had dressed up as Barbie Mariposa, and her friends’ costumes ran the gamut of the normal choices for preschoolers.
When I picked Six up from school, I asked her what costumes her friends wore and some of the responses also fell in the realm of the norm: a devil, a cheerleader, a superhero.
“And M. was a dead princess,” she said, rounding out the descriptions.
“A dead princess?” I repeated. “Wouldn’t it have been more fun if she’d been a live princess?”
“No, Mamma,” Six said confidently. “A dead princess is so much better. They’re scarier and better for Halloween.”
So much for tiaras, wands, and the “Oh, my!” reaction.
Last week I took Six and Four to their swimming lesson. Because the weather was nice, when we came home the girls asked whether they could play outside and I agreed. But by the time we got inside, showered, and changed clothes, Six and Four’s dad suggested the girls stay inside. They’d had a long day at school and after swimming, he reasoned, the girls should just hang out and take it easy.
Four had a fit. She stamped her feet, yelled, and declared that it was “the worstest day ever!”
When she made this declaration, I happened to have the phone to my ear as I talked to my sister. Who lives in the northeast. And who had just lived through the assault of Hurricane Sandy. Needless to say, she couldn’t help chuckling.
As I figured out what to do to distract Four, I put my hand in the pocket of the jacket I still wore and found a dime there. I’d pulled it out of the dryer earlier in the day as I did the laundry and had stuck it in my pocket to deal with later.
“Hey, [Four], guess what I have?” I asked her, trying to sound as whimsical and fun as possible.
“What?” she asked in a strained voice, dramatically wiping the tears from her eyes.
“Look!” I said, handing her the dime. “Guess where I found it?”
“Where?” she asked, the strain considerably eased.
“In the dryer!” I said, trying to make a big joke out of it all. “Somebody left it in their pocket, and it went through the laundry!”
She managed to give me a little laugh and took the coin. As she left the kitchen, where I stood, she skipped into the family room.
“Look, everyone!” she exclaimed, holding up the dime. “Look what Mamma found in the dryer!”
I sighed as I wondered whether it will always be this easy to distract her from the “crisis” at hand.
Earlier this week as I got the girls ready for school in the morning, I hurried them through their morning routine. This is nothing new. Every morning I have to goad one or both of them through the entire regimen. Some days I manage to hold my tongue and exude a great deal of patience. Some days I raise my voice. And some days I keep my cool but make it clear I want the girls to move faster.
Six had chosen this particular morning to hop, skip, and jump through all the hoops of childhood imagination, and I told her in a calm but firm voice that if she continued to play throughout the morning she would be late for school and wouldn’t finish her board work on time.
Six strives every morning to finish her board work to come in the Top Ten—an accolade bestowed on the first ten students to finish. It’s an individual effort combined with team spirit. If ten students finish their board work before their teacher closes the door (indicating the end of board work time and the start of their day,) then the entire class gets to enjoy an extra five minutes at recess.
So, of course, I’ve shamelessly used the Top Ten and board work to get Six moving. It works—some of the time. Sometimes she gives me a Look that makes me wonder whether she’s saying to herself, “Oh, great, not the board work lecture again.”
But on this particular morning I didn’t lecture her. I simply reminded her that she needed to hustle. And when Four didn’t put her jacket on fast enough to suit me, I redirected some of my firm tone toward her.
Both girls sat quietly in the car listening to the local classical music station, not saying anything, not playing one of their usual games that they’ve invented—“Little Butterfly” or “Baby” or something else. As we got close to school, though, Six finally broke the silence by commenting on something outside of her window. I engaged her in a conversation about what she saw, and Four piped up from the back.
“So, Mamma, are you feeling better? You should apologize to Di-Di and me.”
“For what?” I asked incredulously.
“For getting mad at us.”
“I wasn’t getting mad at you, but if you two do something that isn’t right or if you’re not listening then I’m going to tell you to listen to me.”
She seemed to absorb this and certainly couldn’t argue the logic of it. By then we’d gotten to school and we bid our goodbyes to one another. And I couldn’t help shaking my head at it all.
Yesterday I brought Six home from her full day of school and had about 40 minutes before I had to take Four to her dance class. After helping Six change out of her uniform, I sent her downstairs to watch TV for a little while before doing her homework. Four joined her, and because the girls had “Angelina Ballerina” to keep them entertained for 30 minutes I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I lay down on the bed.
I didn’t watch TV or check my email or read a few pages from the newest book on “to read/review” list. I just lay down and let my mind drift wherever it chose. The phone rang, and I ignored it. I didn’t have to answer it just that minute. If it were important, the person could leave a message, I thought. I just needed five minutes.
I couldn’t enjoy my repose for long—the young college student from my alma mater, egged on by her goal to meet for the hour, called back. When I saw the same number pop up twice in almost as many minutes on the caller ID, I knew I had to answer it. The girl asked in a tone that almost sounded grown up whether I’d want to contribute with a gift of $500 to the fundraising efforts, and as I politely but firmly turned her down (does she have any idea I could buy five weeks’ worth of groceries with that much?!) I realized my down time had ended. But for once it felt nice to take those five minutes for myself, free from any distractions or obligations. I think I just might have to do it more often.