June 7, 2013
By Ekta R. Garg
Yesterday was the last day of school, and although the girls are too young to spend much time reflecting on memories and the meaning of life and all that I can’t help doing it for them. My husband and I have spent the last year watching the girls, and they’ve surprised us several times since August of 2012.
Four began the year approaching words in a tentative way. She’d started reading a little bit at the end of the previous school year, but this year the teachers and the curriculum helped her progress so far that she can pick up many of her older sister’s books and read them. Thanks to the school, she’s received the groundwork needed to read most books at a first-grade level.
She has the skills; now we just need to find a way to ignite her passion for stories. When I told her that during summer vacation she and Six would have to spend a half-hour every day reading, she screwed up her nose like I’d just told her she had eat liver.
“I don’t like reading,” she’s confided to me more than once.
Fine. But because I’m a bibliophile myself, I think I can make a worthwhile case for wanting to convince her to try to become one too. After all, I’ve managed to bring her older sister to “the dark side.”
In addition to her academic achievements, Four has also developed quite a fun sense of humor.
We all tease one another gently that one or the other is “crazy,” a “moonhead,” “silly,” and any number of other benign terms. Often when Four says of her older sister, “Mama, Di-Di is silly,” I look at her and say, “Just like her little sister.” She’ll usually protest at that point that she’s not silly.
Yesterday morning Four watched Six prance out of the bathroom in excitement about the last day of school and the fun activities the administration had planned for the students. Four looked at me and said, “Mama, Di-Di is silly.”
I opened my mouth, and she gave me an impish grin.
“Just like her mother,” she said as I commented, “Just like her little sister.”
I pretended to be shocked, but more than anything she surprised me in a pleasant way with her quip. She’s said other funny things in this year, and I can’t help grinning back when she utters something particularly amusing. Her father also has a wonderful, quirky, engaging sense of humor, so I know exactly where she got it.
Six has continued to accelerate in her reading skills. Because she actually does like to read, she’s been through several of classics abridged for young readers. Thanks to Target, I picked up several books in their dollar section that will give Six exposure to some of the greatest writers of our time at a price that makes me happy. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Adventures of Dr. Doolittle, and others crowd the kids’ section of our bookcase, and like me she re-reads her books.
She also read the entire beloved series, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and even though she didn’t fully “get” all of it I know she’s now a Narnian in her heart. Seeing Disney’s superlative production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe also has kept her engaged with the books. I only wish Disney hadn’t given up the books and let someone else start making the movies.
In addition to her reading, though, which we kind of expected, Six has blossomed in her ability to talk to people. Last weekend we toured the Timpanogos Cave National Monument (a fascinating, beautiful place,) and Six stayed in the front of the tour group. She didn’t hesitate to query the tour guide when she didn’t understand something and answered the tour guide’s trivia questions, and more than once I saw her follow the tour guide without a look back to check whether we came behind her.
Her confidence both amazes me and makes me proud. It also makes me sigh in relief that she won’t ever experience those moments of anxiety and inhibition that her mother experienced as a young child and still, occasionally, experiences in a new situation. Too many times even the most well-meaning people will misunderstand or misconstrue something communicated by a reticent person.
In relation to her new confidence, she competed in her school’s speech festival this year with a great deal of enthusiasm and even more preparation. She ended up winning first place in her class and third place in the entire first grade (comprised this year of three separate classes and almost 70 students total.) Six brought home a beautiful white ribbon, and along with her first win in a competition I also experienced a first: the first time a child I birthed came home and presented me with a ribbon.
I got to relive that first this past Wednesday at the school’s Merit Assembly where, once again, the teachers and headmaster recognized Six for her speech festival success. She received certificates for both her classroom first-place win and her grade-wide third-place finish, and she also received a certificate for achieving straight As the entire year as well as having good “comportment” (they actually call it that, although most of us lay people would just say good behavior.) As I snapped pictures and applauded for Six and her classmates and friends who also received awards, I marveled once again at how quickly this year has gone by.
When the babies come, everyone says, “Enjoy it while you can; they grow up fast.” No one can really articulate, however, just how fast those days slip past you. Somewhere between diapers and formula, baby food and spit-up, between first steps and first teeth, the first “No!” and the first time they brush their own teeth, between homework and acting as a chauffeur, cook, clothes launderer, special projects coordinator, tutor, personal shopping assistant, disciplinarian, primary comforter—somewhere in the middle of all that, they really do grow up.