The Eighty-Seventh Chart

June 21, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

The summer season equals birthday season in our house.  Both Six and Four celebrate their birthdays in the first couple of months of the summer, and I can’t help spending a little bit of time here on The Write Edge Growth Chart to share with you a few thoughts on my first-born daughter and these past seven years with her.

***

She came five days after her due date, a fact that should have alerted all of us to her personality.  Even today Six takes her time to get anywhere, whether that means physically or emotionally.  No one can rush her, and even though I’ve helped her learn how to get ready for school at a decent pace she still often takes her time to turn the corner in other matters.

Case in point: When we lived in Houston Six took ice skating lessons, and when we moved here to Salt Lake City we continued with them.  She got a fairly decent start on the sport in Texas, but the organizers of the ice skating program here didn’t do such a good job of organizing.  As a result Six backtracked on some of the progress she made in Houston, and eventually she quit.  She declared that she didn’t want to take lessons anymore, and I figured that after a year-and-a-half of ice skating she could make that decision.

My husband protested.  We should keep encouraging her, he said, make her give it another try.  I simply reminded him that she had tried, and we called that discussion a draw.  We haven’t discussed it since.

Now we’re preparing to move to Illinois, and this whole week I’ve spent every day managing Six and Four as well as details of our move.  One day at lunch Six piped up from behind me and said, “Mama, when we move to [Illinois] I want to take ice skating lessons again.”

She shocked me enough that I turned around to face her but couldn’t say anything for a moment.  “Really?  You want to take ice skating again?”

She nodded nonchalantly as she ate her food.  Not wanting to let go of the opportunity, I told her that she absolutely could try ice skating again and that it would probably be fun.  Right away Four spoke up and said that she wanted to take lessons again too (when Six quit last year, Four followed suit right away.)

My older child.  Sometimes I feel like she’s the personification of the adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

***

I never really read any parenting books while pregnant with Six or even after she arrived.  Culturally I didn’t grow up with a background of following the advice of Dr. So-and-So, Ph.D., who did seven hundred studies on a population of nineteen thousand children between birth and the age of 10…  My parents raised me on the basis of their common sense, so I figured if they could do it then so could I.

I didn’t completely ignore all parenting advice, however.  I did read articles online and would evaluate the advice within the context of my own experience.  One recommendation I really liked (admittedly because I love to read) was to read to the baby in utero.  It helped create a bond between the baby and her parents as well as possibly developed a lifelong love of books.  My husband felt kind of skeptical about the whole thing in the beginning, but as we took turns reading to Six at night he began to enjoy it.

As I said before, I love to read.  My friends have often joked that any love of reading my children would exhibit would come straight from me.  So I can’t fully attribute Six’s current bibliophile-in-the-making status to the fact that we read to her before she was born.  But I like to think that it helped.

These days this child looks for an excuse to read.  If she sees that she has a few minutes to spare, she’ll reach for a book or past issues from her “Spider” magazine subscription.  Four has complained more than once that Six wants to read and not play.  And earlier this week Six described a new book that she’d just finished and said to me, “You should read it sometime.”

My firstborn.  We share a love of the written word as it comes from the imagination of others.  I hope it’s something that keeps us close through the years to come.

***

Often we understand our children better within the context of their relationships to their siblings.

Six came first, of course, and for two years she got to enjoy the position of only child.  At the age of two most children can’t articulate whether they need a companion.  They simply skip along (well, walk jubilantly is more like it) and accept what comes to them.

During my pregnancy with Four I often wondered how Six would react with another child in the house.  I’d read online some horror stories of first children turning into monsters once they realized they had to share their parents’ attention with someone else.  I discovered that parents would buy their first children elaborate gifts to appease them, as though a new doll—or a Sony PlayStation—could possibly stand in as an equivalent alternative to all the hours the child used to spend with his or her parents.

I had no intention of spending hundreds of dollars trying to bolster my two-year-old’s self-esteem.  But naturally I worried a little bit.  I couldn’t help thinking that if, for some reason, she didn’t like her baby sister that we’d all have a real mess on our hands.

People say that a woman’s maternal instinct turns on like a switch when she has children.  I feel that the same applies to becoming a big sister.  At least, it applied to my older daughter when she met Four for the first time.  I can still hear Six’s plaintive demands in the background, when we brought the new baby home, asking us to please give her the baby to hold.  Six held out our arms to emphasize just how much she wanted to hold this darling new creature who had just joined our small corner of the world.

Big sister always.  Nowadays she scolds and laughs and relies on Four as only a best friend tied heart-deep can.  If she ever gets invited to a party or receives some sort of treat, she always asks for a second one for her little sister and no one has ever turned her down because they’re so touched by the request.  And I delight in the girls’ relationship and look heavenward as I offer a small prayer that it always stay this way.

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