Chart Number 223

July 22, 2016

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

One day after camp I took the kids to Subway for lunch. We decided to eat there, and I got the kids settled with their sandwiches at a table. As they ate, they took advantage of the quiet that a meal typically brings to look around. For a little while Ten examined the menu above the Subway employees.

“They spelled ‘delight’ wrong on the their menu,” she said.

“They did that on purpose,” I said.

“Why?”

“To attract people’s attention,” I said. “It makes their menu stand out for people.”

She frowned. “That’s not right. They’re purposely misleading kids by spelling it wrong.”

“That’s two reasons why I don’t like Subway,” Eight says. “The first is because they misspell stuff, and the second is for all the bread they waste.”

I’m sure I did a double-blink, as I often do with my younger child while my brain works to catch up. Sometimes Eight’s thoughts and conversations become a whirlwind, and you have two options with her. Either find a way to keep up with her speed, or spend a chunk of your time trying to figure out what she’s talking about.

I’m at the point where I can now keep up with her. Most of the time.

I realized that when she was talking about the wastage of bread, she was referring to when we first ordered our subs. I’d asked the woman cutting the kids’ subs to make the bread a little smaller before she started putting the sandwich ingredients. She cut the bread and tossed the extra ends into a bin nearby.

“You don’t know that she threw the bread away,” Ten said to her sister. “Maybe she’s saving it for later.”

“I think she threw it away,” Eight said.

“What do you think they could use the bread for?” I asked.

“They could use it for croutons,” Ten mused.

The girls kept talking about the bread and whether it had, in fact, ended up in the trash, and I just listened to them chatter. Sometimes it’s fun to hear their ideas and reactions, and I learn as much or more from listening as I do from talking.

*****

For Eight’s birthday weekend we made a trip to Chicago. It was the first trip to Chicago we’d made since we started the house back in the fall, and we really wanted to make the most of it. In addition to visiting the zoo, we also went to Ikea to buy desks for the kids’ rooms.

Anyone who has shopped at Ikea knows the drill. You buy the item and picked it up in flat-packed boxes just before checkout. Then you bring it home, take out a hammer and screwdriver, and get to work. In our house I’m the parent who does these sorts of handyman—handywoman?—jobs, and now that the kids are older they enjoy sitting with me and watching as I perform these tasks.

I started one desk one day just as my husband came home from work, and it ended up taking two hours to put it together. I hadn’t anticipated how long it would take and also how heavy the desk would get. Toward the end of assembly my husband, my father-in-law, and I were working together to turn the desk first on one side and then on the other. It turned into quite the project and one I knew I wouldn’t be able to do on my own by myself when it came time to do the second desk.

A day or two later I opened up the box for the second desk, and the girls scampered to join me. As we took out the pieces and separated the hardware into piles, I told the kids we’d have to wait until “the boys”—their father and grandfather—came home before we could complete the desk.

“But why?” Eight asked. “I thought girls were awesome and could do anything boys could do.”

“They can,” I said, “but being awesome doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. Sometimes we need to work together because the job is too much for one person to do alone. It doesn’t mean that girls aren’t awesome.”

They both nodded as they thought about it for a few minutes. A little while later their father and grandfather came home, and once again we worked together on the desk and flip it first on one side and then the other to finish assembly.

I’m glad the girls know they’re capable of anything. It’s just as important, I feel, that they learn to accept help when it’s offered. I often struggle myself with the same idea—letting someone help me when a job gets too big—but maybe the kids and I can learn together.

Parenting, after all, is just as much about learning as it is about teaching.

*****

I have declared myself officially on vacation.

After all the push and pull, the stress and exhilaration of building a new house, the kids and I have made our way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to visit my parents for a few weeks before the start of school. In the weeks before coming, as we prepared for the trip, I kept telling the kids that when we arrived at “Nani House”—grandma’s house—I was on vacation and if they needed anything or wanted anything they should ask their grandparents or their aunt, my sister.

This edict has now come back around as the kids repeat it with glee.

“Can we have ice cream?” Eight asked one night after dinner. She studiously ignored me although I only sat a few feet away.

“Ice cream?” I asked, pretending to be shocked. In our regular routine at home, dessert after dinner is the exception, something to be savored a few times a month.

“You’re on vacation,” Eight said calmly.

“Yeah,” Ten repeated, and she couldn’t hold back her impish grin. “What happens at Nani House stays at Nani House.”

I rolled my eyes but had to turn away before they saw my own grin. I’m glad they feel free enough with their maternal grandparents to ask for these little cups—or, in the case of the ice cream, waffle cones—of joy. Relationships don’t get built by grand gestures. It’s the small moments of encouragement that make them happen and stick. I hope we continue to receive the opportunity to enjoy these small moments together for a long time to come.