By Ekta R. Garg
June 28, 2013
Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!
Recently a cousin’s daughter came to visit for the evening, and we took her out for dinner. Before we picked her up Six and Four asked about her and how she fit into their world view (well, maybe not in those exact words, but that was the gist of their questions.) When I told them they would meet a new cousin (the easiest way to describe the familial relationship,) Four began bobbing on the sofa.
“Can I take my ball so we can play ball together?” she asked.
I explained to her that this cousin was much older than them: twenty-three years old. Both girls expressed disappointment that this cousin would probably spend more time talking to the grownups than them. And because this cousin’s daughter attends Yale as a master’s/Ph.D. student, the girls’ prediction came true. Although their “cousin” is an incredibly bright, down-to-earth young woman, she didn’t really spend much time talking to the kids.
The next day I talked to Six and Four about the dinner, and conversation turned to the question of age.
“How old was our cousin?” they asked.
“She’s 23,” I said.
“But she’s not a grownup,” Six assured me.
“Really? Why not?”
“Because you have to have kids to be a grownup,” she said sensibly. “You have to be married and have kids.”
“So Machu isn’t a grownup yet?” I asked, referring to my younger sister and the girls’ aunt.
Both girls shook their heads confidently. Not married? No kids? No, she wasn’t a grownup yet.
On Saturday night after dinner Six skipped to the kitchen, put her dishes in the sink, and went to the bathroom to wash her hands. In an unusually chipper move, she skipped out of the bathroom and came back toward me. Just at that moment her foot hit a slick patch on the vinyl floor, and she did quite a fantastic slip-and-flip combination on the floor.
She began crying right away, of course, and she grabbed her arm and rolled onto her side. “I can’t get up!” she wailed.
I could tell from her crying that she would be okay, but I went to her and knelt on the floor next to her. I reassured her that she would be okay. After that I asked her bend her arm and her wrist every which way to make sure she hadn’t hurt herself too badly. Seeing me take a proactive approach to her injury helped her calm down, and within a few minutes her tears had disappeared.
About 10 minutes later, to help her feel better about the whole thing, I gently teased Six that she looked like an egg that someone had flipped when she fell on the floor.
She laughed, surprising me with her easygoing reaction. “Sunny side up,” she added, concurring with my description as she began picturing how she might have looked.
Her response made me happy that Six is learning to laugh at herself. It’s a quality that’ll come in handy later in life.
As we prepare to move, the girls have watched me slowly transform certain corners of our home into a house again. One day I went through their rooms and began taking down the pictures, coloring pages, and photographs from their walls. The kids watched with interest and asked plenty of questions about who, what, where.
Six ran to her room and stood on her bed. She began gently peeling at the autographs on the walls the girls had received from various characters in Disney World this past Christmas. We’d put the autographs in sheet protectors and I’d given the kids folded pieces of masking tape to stick the autographs to their walls. When Six pulled at the tape on the first couple of autographs I kind of held my breath, but she got them off without any problems and I found it easy to agree readily when she asked whether she could get all of the autographs off the walls.
At one point I watched her working diligently on a piece of tape, and it struck me that my little girl isn’t so little anymore. She’s turning seven this summer, and somehow she’ll cross the threshold from “little” to “young” when she does so. Wasn’t someone supposed to tell me that all it took was an eye blink for this to happen?
A couple of years ago I told the girls that when their birthdays came, they could pick what they wanted to do on their special days. Even though I never said it in so many words, they translated that autonomy of choice into monopoly of planning. More than once Six and Four have voiced the idea that when their birthdays come they can do anything they want.
During the weekend my husband pointed out that giving the kids full authority on choosing what they did on their birthdays might be translated into something more difficult to control in a few years. I saw his point. I had offered the girls their birthday as an opportunity to do something fun, but I could only imagine what a teenager might do with such an “opportunity.”
At dinner that night I told Six that we needed to talk about her birthday, and I explained to her that because it was her birthday she got to give her opinions and ideas first on what she wanted to do. That didn’t mean, I added casually, that we would do what she dictated.
“We have to do what’s best for the entire family,” I said.
She didn’t miss a beat as she nodded and took charge of our brainstorming session, and I sighed inwardly with relief. I’ve worked hard in the last two years to emphasize for the girls that their family counts more than presents or material items. When we have one another, it doesn’t matter what toys or other things we have.
Six listened patiently as each of us described our ideas for her birthday, even when Four suggested playing Legos and going to the mall as what we could do. It reminded me again how fast she’s growing up, and I hope she keeps these memories fresh in her mind for a long time.