Chart Number 176

June 26, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

My first-born is a year older, so enjoy these special birthday Spurts, readers!

On the morning of Nine’s birthday, I hugged my older daughter and told her how special she was to me. I do this every year, but as I did it this time I didn’t notice at first that my younger child had slipped away. Because Six had already eaten breakfast (early riser that she is) and Nine had yet to consume her morning meal, I encouraged Nine to get into the shower so she could go downstairs. Nine skipped off to the bathroom, and I went to Six’s room.

When I entered I could feel the frustration radiating in my direction from the bed where Six sat frowning over a sketch pad.

“Good morning, my big girl,” I said, going to her.

“Why are you saying that to me?” she asked.

“Because you’re my big girl and I love you,” I said.

“But why are you calling me that? Shouldn’t you be saying it to Di-Di? It’s her birthday,” she said, with just enough kid-size sarcasm edging her voice that she couldn’t get in trouble for it.

I had to suppress a smile. “I’m saying it because you’re also my big girl.”

“Not to be mean,” she said, “but when Di-Di talks about her birthday, it sounds like she’s bragging.”

I explained to Six that her big sister wasn’t, in fact, bragging, that she was just excited. Then I reminded her that in a family, this is what we do for one another. We celebrate each other’s good moments and are happy for one another. I also reminded her that we should feel grateful for the opportunity to have family who want to celebrate with us. Not everyone is blessed with the small things we always take for granted.

After a few minutes of coaxing, I convinced Six to get into the shower. When she got out I ran downstairs to check on the birthday girl to make sure she didn’t have any trouble with getting her own breakfast.

I whispered to Nine that her sister was upset.

“Why?” she whispered back.

“Because it’s your birthday,” I mouthed.

She grinned. “I know. I’ve already dealt with it this morning.”

Six called from upstairs just then for help with her clothes, so I didn’t get to ask what Nine meant. Given that she seemed totally at ease with whatever encounter she and Six had, I knew I probably didn’t have to worry about it. I also realized that I probably didn’t need to dig into the situation. Now that she’s in her last year of being a single-digit age, I think it’s fair to let her take in the smaller issues without needing to probe every little thing.

I hope that giving her the freedom to handle these small things will make her comfortable later on to share the big things with me.

***

When we found out that Inside Out would release on Father’s Day weekend, just around the corner from Nine’s birthday, we came up with a plan: the girls would see the movie with their dad on Father’s Day and then go again with me on the day of Nine’s birthday.

The kids came back from their Father’s Day outing talking about the movie, the details spilling out and their voices filling the room like bubbles floating on their excitement. Because we’ve watched enough Pixar movies now to know the company’s M.O., I asked about the short before the feature film. Nine told me the story of “Lava” about a male volcano yearning for true love.

Nine found “Lava” charming. She added details as she went through the story, and Six jumped in with descriptions of the volcano itself. I’d read a couple of reviews of Inside Out by this point, and while the reviewers gave the movie unequivocal praise one of them offered a little bit of skepticism on the short.

Regardless, I have to hand it to Pixar both for their shorts as well as their feature-length films. The creative team blows me away every single time. I wish, sometimes, that I could sit in on a planning session or two on one of their films, if only to experience that kind of collaboration with so many creative, excited minds.

On Nine’s birthday I picked up her, Six, and a friend from camp, and we went to Subway for lunch. After a quick stop at the dry cleaner’s (it’s hard for me to be completely impractical, even on birthdays!) we drove to the movies, bought our tickets, and went into the theater.

We enjoyed the trailers, and then the lights went down and “Lava” began. I don’t want to ruin the short for anyone, so I won’t say too much. The entire story is told through song, something I don’t think Pixar has attempted before. The volcano goes through its ordeal, and I smiled several times at its plight. At the end of the short, Nine leaned across her sister and her friend in my direction. I saw the movement out of the corner of my eye, and on instinct I turned toward her.

“Mamma, wasn’t that so sweet?” she asked, her eyes shining.

I bobbed my head, and once again my child’s increasing sensitivity charmed me.

***

People have complimented me on my writing, and I appreciate their comments from the bottom of my heart. I work hard at this talent and want to reach people with my writing and my stories, putting my heart into every single word I write.

I can’t exactly say the same for my ability in the visual arts.

Given that Six is turning into quite the visual artist, I know at some point it’ll be a source of amusing embarrassment for her that her mother can’t even draw stick figures properly. So when my mother told me she and my dad were sending Pictionary to Six as an early birthday present, I had to suppress a groan. The kids, I knew, would beg me to play, and I wouldn’t be able to make excuses forever.

Wouldn’t you know it, Nine asked on the day of her birthday if we could play the drawing game. I couldn’t help it—I started laughing even before we began playing. I took a moment to explain the rules, and we decided right away to eliminate the timer and also not to play on teams. My husband sat with his computer, trying to get through patient charts before we went out for Nine’s birthday dinner, and the girls’ grandpa sat on the sofa to watch the fun.

I let Six go first, and when she drew a card that instructed her to draw a cat she began with slow careful strokes and started sketching an ear. She moved her hand from the ear to the top of the cat’s head, and Nine and I both guessed the picture right away.

Six got upset. We didn’t even let her finish the picture, she told us. Why were we just calling out answers like that?

I exchanged a look with my husband, and we both had the same thought. If Six couldn’t get past the drawing aspect of the game, this would be a long playing session. So I decided to take a turn next, knowing even before I picked up the dry erase marker that my art skills could turn the mood around.

I drew a card that instructed me to draw a home office. Really? Really?? How, I wondered, does a person draw a home office?

Two faces stared back at me, not knowing what I had to draw but expecting something.

So I started with a rectangle, put a triangle on the top, and hoped to get the kids to the word “home.” They couldn’t guess the word right away, even though I kept pointing at the rectangle. What’s not to get, I tried to say with my emphatic jabs of the marker.

The word “home” didn’t show up anywhere, so I abandoned the house and drew a taller rectangle and started adding several smaller rectangles. An office, I tried to send the girls through telepathy. I hoped that by splitting up the phrase I could get the kids to guess it.

They couldn’t. They started giggling, both of them, and the friendly fire started to fly from Nine on a stool nearby and my husband behind his laptop screen. At the same time Six began defending my drawing quite vociferously. She didn’t want anyone to hurt my feelings by them making me feel bad, and while I appreciated that about her I also told her that I knew my drawing was terrible.

By the time we left for dinner, Six seemed to be in a better mood. She didn’t mind so much about not getting to concentrate on the details of her drawing, and she caught on by the end of the game to the fact that she didn’t have to give us everything in the drawing for us to guess it. Still, she threw us for a loop a couple of times—when she drew the word “captain,” for example, she drew a pirate and put a hat on his head; we asked her why, and she said, “I read the word ‘captain,’ and I thought why not draw a pirate captain.”

For the most part, though, everyone enjoyed the game. If that means I had to put my best drawing skills on display to bring Six around, so be it. She and her sister just better be ready for the rematch.

I might have to go hardcore with circles next time.55

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