The Seventy-Seventh Chart

April 5, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

This week we got to take it easy and enjoy spring break.  The kids and I got a chance to spend some time together without the pressure of school or homework.  Even though they had to go to their respective dance classes and swim lessons, we sauntered through the other portions of our days instead of racing from one thing to another.

Of course two energetic kids can’t possibly get through an entire week without a few minor behavior mishaps.  But as my husband reminds me, for the most part Six and Four are pretty good kids.  Barring those intermittent moments, we had a lovely time.

Here then is our Growth Chart Spring Break Special.  I give you some of the highlights of this week:

* On Monday we had a “girls’ day out.”  Both kids had worked hard to earn stars on their calendars.  I awarded Six a star for every day she got ready fast in the morning before school, and she had to hit her goal of 30 stars.  Four had to work toward finishing her breakfast on time before heading out in the mornings, and she had to get 10 stars.

They both reached their respective goals before the end of March, and I’d promised them that on their first day of spring break they’d get a special prize.  I did that in part to buy time.  I knew that no matter what I did for them, it would have to match the hard work the girls did, because each of them really had to dig deep to change their previous habits.  I also wanted to honor their work and encourage them.  And I wanted to give them something that would match in magnitude what they had done.  It took me time to plan something that would do all of that.

So we had our “girls’ day out.”  On a recent trip some family friends had given both girls Barnes and Noble gift cards, so we headed down to the Gateway Center of downtown Salt Lake.  Our first stop was the bookstore, and I let the girls browse the children’s section for whatever they wanted.  After spending about a half-hour in the store, they each chose a book and a pair of binoculars.  Four chose a book that had a collection of four stories about The Berenstain Bears.  Six chose a three-in-one book of The Adventures of Frog and Toad.

The binoculars were an impulse buy, but something both delighted in.

After the bookstore we went to an actual sit-down restaurant for lunch.  I debated for a few minutes about whether I should take them to the Subway in the outdoor mall’s food court, but because I wanted this occasion to stand out in their minds I figured a real restaurant would make the day out that much better.

We went to a nice Italian restaurant and the girls split a single serving of macaroni-and-cheese while I enjoyed some chicken with grilled vegetables and balsamic marinated Portobello mushrooms (so yummy!)  We managed to beat the lunch crowd.  When we walked in the restaurant only a handful of patrons sat in booths and at a few tables.  We got our lunch within a reasonable time and got to chat as we ate.  The girls assumed prim and proper accents for a few minutes and broke into giggles soon thereafter, and because the restaurant didn’t start to get busy until we were almost done we could actually hear one another and talk.

From lunch we did a brisk walk to the IMAX theater where we sat enthralled by “Flight of the Butterflies,” an amazing documentary that details the work of Canadian scientist Dr. Fred Urquhart and the 40 years he spent tracking the migration paths of monarch butterflies.  If it sounds too much like school, believe me, it isn’t.  We got to see the film in 3-D, and when the movie reached its climax as Dr. Urquhart finally discovers the hideaway of the monarch butterflies I actually covered my mouth in awe.  If this documentary comes to an IMAX near you, be sure to check it out.  It’s definitely worth it.

* In the middle of the week Four decided to read aloud from her new Berenstain Bears book.  When she started “The Berenstain Bears Play T-ball,” I could tell that Brother Bear and Sister Bear had signed up for trouble as the coaches of two T-ball teams.  I really enjoyed stories about the Berenstain Bears when I was a kid, so I could almost tell what would happen before Four got to that particular part.  But I still couldn’t help laughing when a young bear cub under Brother’s tutelage hits the ball hard, is instructed to run home—and actually runs all the way back to her own house.

Something about the scene tripped my laughter button.  Add to that Four’s mildly halting way of reading the book and discovering the story for herself at the same time, and all of a sudden Six, Four, and I convulsed in laughter for a few minutes.  Four had to stop reading and wait for all three of us to settle down.

She managed to finish the rest of the story, but even at the end we kept laughing.  And if I think about it now, it still makes me smile.

* The kids normally have two swimming lessons a week, but with the time off for spring break we took advantage of the extra days and scheduled an additional lesson.  In the middle of the week the rec center pool almost seemed like a foreign place.  With the exception of four senior citizens quietly doing laps on one end, we had the entire pool to ourselves.  That gave the girls’ teacher a good chance to really connect with them and push them a little harder than usual.

Six and Four have made vast improvements in all of the beginner skills, but they both had balked at one thing: jumping into the water from the edge of the pool.  It didn’t make any sense.  When they’re in the pool they both dip below the surface without a moment’s thought.  They love to push off the bottom step and glide toward their teacher.  And they’re practicing proper arm strokes.

But both have hesitated at jumping.

During the first two lessons of the week, their teacher exercised every ounce of patience she had to get either of them to jump.  Four still managed to throw herself in the pool a couple of times, but Six spent a lot of time dripping and complaining about how cold she felt.

I decided to resort to that old parenting trick: bribery.  I told the girls that if they jumped during their Friday afternoon lesson, they’d both get a prize.

I don’t know exactly why it worked this time, but it did.  Both girls worked hard during their lesson, and when their teacher told them to hop out of the pool to practice jumping Six raised her hand eagerly to say she would volunteer to go first.

She got out, took a deep breath, and then sailed through the air into the water.  And I had a cheerleading flashback as I pumped both arms in the air and pointed at her with every ounce of pride I had.

I’m so glad I got to share these moments and others with the kids.  We did art projects, went to the library, and watched movies, and Six and Four got to play together almost all day every day.

But I guess I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t say: as fun as it was, I’m glad spring break is over.  There are only so many episodes of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” that a parent can watch.

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