The One Hundred-and-Thirty-Sixth Chart

August 8, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Last week after camp the kids sat at their little princess table enjoying their lunch while they watched television. Normally the kids watch pre-recorded shows from PBS, which means no ads, but on this day they watched something from another channel. When the show broke for a commercial, a blip began for Hair Club for Men.

I usually don’t give much thought to my husband’s hair loss, and he has learned to deal with it with the utmost of grace and his wonderful sense of humor. When a person can look at a personal trait with just the right dose of self-deprecation, it’s easy to forget that that trait even exists.

Our girls, apparently, have noticed.

“Daddy should use that,” Eight said, watching the commercial end and go to another one.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I saw a man on the commercial who has hair like him except it was brown,” she said. “And Daddy can use that to get his hair back.”

Maybe Hair Club for Men should make her a spokesperson.

***

On another day after camp I stopped at the grocery store for a couple of small items. The kids, in a good mood, followed me down the baby aisle to head to the front of the store so we could pay for our things and leave. As we made our way down the aisle I pointed out the baby food and told the kids about how they used to eat it.

Eight picked up a jar of mashed bananas and teased Six with it. She tried to hand it to Six. Six jerked back her hand at the last second.

You can guess what happened next.

The jar of mashed bananas landed in a splat on the floor. Eight reached for the bottle and tried to pick it up, but I told her to drop it. I didn’t want her to cut herself on the jar.

I didn’t want to create a scene, and I know Eight didn’t mean to drop the bottle. So I just told the girls that we would have to let a store employee know so that it could get cleaned up before someone stepped on it. The girls, already mortified about dropping the jar, got even more shocked.

“This is so embarrassing,” Eight murmured to her sister as they followed me to the register.

“I didn’t mean to do it,” Six said in the same low tone.

They repeated the words several times as I got into a line and told the cashier that we accidentally dropped a jar of baby food. I held my breath a little. Sometimes cashiers have an off day and let their customers know.

In this case, however, the cashier’s young age gave us some leeway. She didn’t bat an eye at the dropped baby food; instead, she turned to the cashier at the next register and asked that person how to make an announcement for cleanup in the baby aisle. Given that she didn’t say anything else about it, the kids felt a little better but still looked embarrassed.

When we walked out of the store, I reminded the girls gently that items in stores aren’t free. If we broke something, someone had to pay for it. Sometimes the store would make us pay for it; if the cashier (or the store manager, in some cases) didn’t charge us then the store had to pay for it. Nothing, I told the kids in a kind voice, came for free.

They appreciated what I had to say and promised to be careful next time. And even though they felt bad, I’m glad I could show them how to handle this kind of problem. The next time something like this happens, I hope they’ll remember this incident and feel comforted by the fact that it can get handled well if they react the right way.

***

With a couple of editing projects now on hand, I have to divide my time in the day between the kids’ stuff and my own work. Earlier this week I gave the kids some workbook pages and made sure they got settled at their princess table in the breakfast area with pencils and erasers. Then I picked up my laptop and got ready to leave the kitchen.

“Do your homework, and if you have a question come and ask me in the dining room,” I said. “Don’t disturb the other person.”

“I won’t, Mamma,” Six said. “I swear I won’t.”

She swears, hmm? I wonder if I can get that in writing for the next time she wants to bother me.

***

Last week I got to see two sweet moments between the kids.

The first came in the morning before I took them to science camp. Eight loves Honey Bunches of Oats cereal but doesn’t like the almonds in it. I told her several months ago that if she didn’t like the almonds, she could pick them out. I wouldn’t do it for her, but if she had the patience (and, surprisingly, for tasks like this she always does) she had all the freedom to take them out.

Eight takes out the almonds, and she usually gives them to Six. On this morning Eight trotted to the table and came back to the kitchen with a napkin. She started fishing out the almonds, and then she took out a piece of granola.

“I always tell [Six] she can have some of my granola with the almonds,” Eight explained with a grin.

I didn’t know that, but it made me smile.

A little while later I drove the kids to the YMCA. I parked the car, opened the sliding door from the dashboard, and got out. I turned around to help the kids out of the car, and I saw Six (whose sits behind the driver’s seat) already out of the car. She held out a hand to Eight, and Eight took her hand for a little extra support as she climbed out of the van.

It made me smile again. Sometimes when the kids bicker, it drives me nuts and I wonder whether they’ll spend their entire lives fighting about stupid stuff. Then they do something like this, and it reassures me that at some point in the future the ratio of bickering to caring will probably even out.

At some point. I just have to keep repeating that to myself during the rounds of bickering. Kind of like Dorothy clicking her heels, right? “At some point to come…at some point to come…at some point to come…”

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