The One Hundred-and-Thirty-Ninth Chart

August 29, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Lately my children have reminded me about how I need to keep readjusting my perspective of them as they get older. At one time my husband and I found it easy to tease the girls about things and leave them a little mystified. Unfortunately they can now give it right back to us…in spades.

They’ve also found their own internal resources to solve problems. I see them going from the simple expression of their frustration to a productive dialogue about how to handle issues. Before I can jump in with my own suggestions, they’ve begun parroting those suggestions that they’ve probably tucked away in their memories somewhere after hearing them about a million times.

Earlier in the week as we drove from Six’s school to Eight’s school during the afternoon pickup run, Six told me about an incident that day. A new student in class had made fun of another child’s last name.

“Did you say anything?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I told R. that she should stop making fun of J.’s last name. I said it wasn’t nice.”

“Did she stop?”

“Yes.”

“That’s very nice,” I replied. “I’m so proud of you for standing up for your friend.”

“Actually, J. was sitting at the next table, so I don’t know if he heard.”

“Still,” I said, “the important thing is that you stood up for him. What if J. had heard what R. said? It would have hurt his feelings, right?”

“Right.”

She sounded pleased with herself and the praise, and I reiterated for her the fact that she should always stand up for people but do it in a kind way.

When Eight got in the car, Six asked me, “Mamma, can I tell Di-Di about how I stood up for J.?”

“Of course,” I said.

She repeated the story, and that led into a discussion about standing up for friends and having courage to do things.

“Even if you feel nervous, you shouldn’t hesitate,” I said. “Just do the right thing.”

“I always hesitate in stuff,” Eight said in a moment of mature clarity. “I hesitate in swimming, school, everything.”

“Why?” I asked, knowing where this would go.

“Because I’m afraid of making a mistake,” she said.

“What would happen if you made a mistake?”

“Well, I would feel bad about it.”

“I know,” I said, hoping to lead her down a slightly different path. “But what would actually happen? Would the sky fall down, would your book blow up, what would happen?”

“Nothing.”

“It’s totally okay to make mistakes,” I said. “It’s even okay to feel frustrated about those mistakes. But you shouldn’t let your frustration keep you from trying and moving forward.”

“I know,” she said, somewhat resigned to her fate as a perfectionist.

“That’s what your notecards are for.”

This summer I made her write an inspirational message on a 4×6 notecard. Eight had the idea to rewrite it several times on different notecards so she would have them in all the places she might need them: her violin case, her homework binder, and a whole stack waiting for distribution anywhere else she could use them. Although she still gets frustrated and wants to throw in the towel, now she has a tangible tether to bring her back to shore.

The change has come at a glacial pace, but it’s coming.

Perspective.

This one really threw me for a loop, though. The other night as we sat the dinner table, Eight started talking about “this guy named Will Shakespeare.” I made sure to look good and confused and said, “Is he a new kid in your class?”

She gave me the half eye roll—you know, when your kid is about to do it but gives you a pointed look just beforehand—and said drily, “No, Mamma, he’s not a new kid.”

“Is he a substitute?”

She didn’t miss a beat. “Yeah, he’s a substitute.”

“So where’s Mrs. N.?”

“Um, she was…in a meeting?”

Six looked at her sister and smiled. Then she looked back at me and said, “Actually, Will Shakespeare was a writer who lived in Victorian times. He wrote plays and stuff, and he wrote, ‘Good night, good night, parting is such sweet sorrow.’”

My husband, in his work with patients in the last 20 years, has seen a lot of things, and it’s much harder to floor him. This came really close. I covered my face with my hands, leaving just enough so I could look at him and say, in all seriousness, “Okay, we are officially stupider than our children.”

Our six-year-old is quoting Shakespeare. She knows he lived in Victorian times. When did this all happen??

I’m still trying to get some traction on the fact that they’re in third and first grades. How will they change my perspective next time? How will I keep up with it—and them?

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