Twinnings 8

July 28, 2010

Kids! They drive you mad! For instance (and this conversation could happen with either child speaking any line and not necessarily in turn):

“I want the blue mat.”

“No I want the blue mat!” (It doesn’t matter that there are two blue mats; they will fight over one blue mat anyway, and outright reject the other.)

“If you don’t give me the blue mat then I’ll be sad.”

“If you don’t give me the blue mat I’ll tell mama. Then mama will scold you.” (Truly terrifying, I don’t think.)

“No, if you don’t give me the blue mat, then I won’t give you chocolate. (Not that she has chocolate to give anyway.)”

And finally, the ultimate weapon…

“If you don’t give me the blue mat then I won’t be your friend!”

At this point, if nothing works, physical violence usually ensues, which usually requires some adult intervention. If my hands are full with food and dishes, as they usually are, my preferred strategy is to scream at the top of my voice, sending shivers down spines as far as 300 m away. Amit says all the kids within half a km radius of our house instantly stop whatever they are doing, even those who can’t actually hear me but just feel the shock waves. Maybe even some of the weaker adults freeze for a couple of minutes. Thankfully, it’s not completely ineffective at home either – maybe because I only do this when biting or other forms of grievous bodily injury are imminent. In any case, I always confiscate the blue mat – or whatever prized possession they happen to be fighting over.

The aggrieved parties retire, sobbing pitifully, and trying tearfully to convince me of their utter innocence, the justness of their cause, and the dastardliness of the acts committed upon them by the other.

One-and-a-half minutes later, resigned to using the red mats, they are best of friends again, sharing food, spilling milk, and bubbling over with mischievous (maddening) giggles. While I nurse a sore throat.

————–

Then, on the other hand, they can be such fun…

I took them to the play area yesterday. They don’t have any friends there – just a bunch of other kids who seem to change every day. That doesn’t bother them at all. The other day there were only three other kids in the play area. One kid had his dad hanging around. A few minutes later, the boy was completely avoiding his dad and running around with Mrini and Tara like he’d known them all his life. He looked a little older than the girls, but was less used to the play area. The girls ran rings around him – especially since there were two of them to do the running, and he probably couldn’t keep trak of which one went where – but he did his best to tag along as fast as he could. It was entertaining and cute to the nth degree. By the time he got home that evening, he must have been exhausted!

Yesterday, there were plenty of kids. The girls ran around doing their stuff. Then a somewhat older boy found a kite. He must have about 8 or 9. He didn’t have a reel for the kite, just a short string, which, in the inexorable wind that’s been blowing the last several days, was enough to get the kite up in the air, but not very high. Anyway, a girl went up to this boy and the boy ran away taking his kite with him. The girl chased him, making him run faster. The girl looked about 6 or so, and might have been a sibling. The two of them raced around the playground, up the steps, down the slides, around other kids and in and out of the octopus-like tentacles of the playscape. Naturally, this was irresistible. In seconds,Mrini and Tara joined the chase. I don’t think they knew that they were running after the kite. They were just running because the other two kids were running. But it was great to watch!

—————

And they are just SO smart!

Tara: That is the train.

Me: Yes.

Tara: It’s moving slowly.

Me: Yes.

Tara: It has so many people.

Me: That’s right. In our car there’s only one person. (I don’t know why I said this; I wasn’t really concentrating on the conversation.)

Mrini (quickly): No, there’s three persons.

Me: That’s true. And when Baba is here, there are four of us.

Tara: Now what is the train doing?

Me: it’s going away.

Mrini: It will say, watch out everyone here I come.

(The train obligingly toots its horn.)

Tara: The train is at the station?

Me: It was at the station, now it’s leaving the station.

Tara: Why?

Mrini (knowledgeably): Because that is what trains do! Cars take people home because that is what cars do, and trains go to the station because that is what trains do.

Ok – so this is why I still want to drive them to school instead of putting them in the school van.

————–

And then, they are just so forward! What is going to happen when they turn teenagers I shudder to think.

Mrini (coyly): I gave Navneet kissie today.

Me: Really!? Then what happened!?

Mrini: Then Navneet gave me kissie.

Groan! They are not even four years old yet! Granted “kissie” is not the same as “kiss” (hopefully!) – but still!

(At least she’s loyal – Navneet has been her “special” friend since she joined school a year ago.)

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Grammar, Syntax, Counting, Repartee, and Strategy

July 19, 2010

I’ve been collecting these little snippets of conversation for quite a while. They are not so much fun when you write them down, of course, but for whatever it’s worth, here they are.

—————–

The other day I was telling the girls about a small little girl I’d seen at the tennis court who was really swinging her racket with elan. She must have been about six years old. I told Mrini and Tara about her and Mrini said, “what was her name?”

Tara supplied the answer: “Sharapova.”

Hmmmmmm… they’ve been watching too much tennis on TV. Apart from Roger (whom they can recognize a mile off in any newspaper or magazine photo) they know Rafa, are on nodding terms with Andy (Murray) and Novak, and are almost best friends with “Jelena Jelena Jankovic” and Sharapova.

————-

Tara: Baba scolded me because I’m so sad.

She means, I’m so sad because Baba scolded me. She often gets her “because” mixed up with her “that’s why” (to great effect!) when she’s composing a sentence, though she uses it ok when she’s answering a question that starts with “why”.

————-

At the playground, the girls decided to play running games. Mrini ran, and Tara ran behind her, trying to catch her. They completed an entire circuit, twice, and each time Mrini came running up to me at the end (I was the starting pole as well) and collapsed in my arms, and Tara ran up a couple of steps behind her, grabbed her shirt and said, “Mini, I caught you.”

Me: Now Mrini, you go catch Tara.

Tara: No.

Mrini: Ok.

Tara ran off with Mrini in hot pursuit. Then Mrini overtook Tara and the round ended much the same way that the previous two rounds had ended! They just forgot that Mrini was out to catch Tara!

————-

In the car:

Tara: See, so many cows. One, two, three, four, five cows. (There were three cows. Tara is never going to be a mathematical genius at this rate.)

Me: How many wheels does a car have?

Tara (sitting in the car and counting on her fingers): One two three four five six wheels.

Mrini (getting out of the car and walking around to count): One, two, three, four. Four wheels.

The next morning, they were showing me a sheet of paper on which the outline of a car had been drawn and they had each painted it in, red for the car and black for the wheels.

Me: How many wheels does your car have?

Tara: Two wheels. (It was a side view of the car, so it had only two wheels, of course.)

Mrini (to me): Your car has four wheels.

Me: And how many wheels does your car have?

Mrini: Two wheels.

Me: Then how will it go, with only two wheels?
Mrini:  One, two, three, four. Four wheels. (She counted the two wheels that were visible and the two that would have been on the far side of the car.)

Me: That’s good – you counted the wheels you can see as well as the wheels that you can’t see.

Mrini (turning over the paper): Where are the other two wheels?

————-

Tara: I want to open the car.

Mrini: No, I want to open the car! You can lock the car when we get home!

This went back and forth for quite a while, with escalating decibel level, pitch, and frenzy. Finally…

Mrini: Tara, I have a good idea. Shall I tell you a good idea, Tara?
Tara: nodding

Mrini: Today I’ll open the car. When we get home then you lock the car, ok Tara? Is that a good idea?

Tara (nodding happily and smiling): Ok.

Hmmmmmmmmm …. Mrini is the one to watch out for – she just sugar-coated her words and sold the deal to Tara! And Tara bought it lock, stock, and barrel!

————-

Prior to go on any kind of outing, I make the girls use the toilet at home. Typically, this is how the conversation goes:

Me: Girls, go do sussu.

Tara: I already done sussu.

Me (suspiciously): When?

Tara (with conviction): Today!

I should hope so! This could be at 6 p.m.!


I Don’t Think I Like This

July 12, 2010

Amit is off to the mountains again. For a trek. For three weeks.

I shouldn’t grudge him this. When we decided to have kids, I knew I would have to give up travelling. I knew I’d have to give it up for several years, at least, and after that, if we did return to it, it would be very, very different. So I did all I could before the kids came. I took a three-month break from work and spent it in the mountains. That was in 2005; and after that, our treks in 2006 and 2007 were an unhappy bonus, granted to me by the same Fate that denied me the babies I wanted to have. But at last, in 2007, our babies came home and we started on a new journey called parenting.

At that time, I was resigned to giving up travel the way we knew it then. Because, after a while and a lot of miles, you begin to feel like a marble rattling around in a tin can. I had realized that if it is a family you want, then travelling, no matter how much fun it might be, is not a substitute. The more I tried to relish the freedom of travel, the more I wanted, paradoxically, something that would tie me down, something to go home to, something to dedicate myself to for practically the rest of my life. Irritating, but true – you can have too much of a good thing.

We’ve travelled a bit after the kids came. According to Amit, we could have done a lot more, and a lot more adventurously, but I don’t agree. Travelling, the way we like to is such a selfish activity. It’s all about our own enjoyment – and there’s nothing wrong with that, but when you begin to drag two little girls around and subject them to significant inconveniences and discomforts, when they’d much rather be playing or sleeping in their own home… it all seemed more than a little unfair to me.

So we go with them to more safe and sanitized places than we used to. Of course, Binsar and Lakshadweep might not be everybody’s idea of a safe and sanitized vacation – nor Devbagh and Cauvery Fishing Camp (Doddamakkali), come to think of it; especially when you consider that two of these four places don’t have electricity and all of them don’t have a reliable doctor anything less than two hours away… but I agree that we didn’t do anything really adventurous, like going off for a trek in the Himalayas or heading for, say, Tibet or Outer Mongolia (both being way up there on the list of places to visit next).

I always knew I’d give up travelling with a pang of regret, but I’d give it up nevertheless. The problem with travelling is, to do it properly you have to make a job, even a career out of it. Vacations are just not enough. One or two weeks – or even one or two months – of travel each year does not make up for the rest of one’s life. Those who’ve been reading this blog for a while know that parenting was not something that came quickly or easily to me. The decision was slow in the making, and even slower in coming to life. It was definitely not something that just happened to me – I had to go out of my way – far out of my way – to make it happen. So by the time it happened, I was sure of one thing if nothing else – I really wanted to do this. Even if it meant giving up the joys of rattling around like a marble in a tin can.

Amit always maintained that even when we had kids, we should travel. At any rate, he said, when I expressed my reservations, he would travel. I had no objection – I privately thought that when push came to shove, he might not want to. As it turned out, what he wanted was for all of us to travel together, but without making any significant change to our rough-and-ready, backpack style of travel. He didn’t think much of my objections to how the kids would handle it. He thinks of travelling more as a broadening of horizons and perspectives, even educational in value, and less as a selfish indulgence. In his book, travel is good for the soul. The kids, he said, would love it. I remained stubbornly unconvinced for the most part.

He surprised me recently by acknowledging (spontaneously, albeit reluctantly) that the kids were not really of an age yet to go trekking with us; but he assesses their tolerance of discomfort at a much higher level than I do.

In any case, Amit never attempted to give up travelling. He would have to travel for work, of course, when occasion required, but he steadfastly maintained that he would continue to travel for pleasure as well. And he would do his best to make me come along, kids in tow. When the kids were not even two years old, in a moment of madness, he persuaded me that it was not such a bad idea to take them on a flight to Leh. Thankfully, the flight got cancelled, so we never had to put this crazy venture to the test. We took them to Chandigarh and Kasauli instead, where they got sicker than they have ever been before or since. (If you really want the gory details, read this.)

Last year Amit called off his trip to the mountain for unspecified reasons, so this year he was long overdue for a trek. My going was out of the question, of course – I have very little leave. So he planned to go on his own. He had no enthusiasm for it, though. It’s been a whole year since he went anywhere for business or pleasure and he’s not used to going away any more. He misses the kids even when he spends an evening away from home, so the prospect of three weeks seems like eternity. It’s worse now that the kids are old enough to understand and express things. We’ve been talking to them about Amit’s upcoming absence, of course, and told them where he’s going and what he’s going to do. We showed them Amit’s tent and sleeping bag, and showed them plenty of pictures of a previous trek in Ladakh.

On Sunday afternoon, Tara woke up from her afternoon nap, came to me, snuggled into my lap, and asked in a small, wistful voice, “Ladakh is very far away?” It almost brought tears to my eyes – and I’m not even the one who’s going away! Mrini wanted to know, in a more matter-of-fact way, whether I was going as well, and if so, what would she do, where would she stay? They haven’t yet thought of asking why he has to go there and do that… at least, they do ask why, but they accept “to walk in the mountains” as an answer. In another year, I’m guessing, that won’t do.

The weekend passed in a flurry of activity. We tried our hardest to get a tenant for the apartment before Amit left, and whatever free time was left from that endeavour went towards getting Amit prepared for the trek. Trekking involves so much more preparation than a more ordinary holiday – you need so much more equipment! Medicines, shoes, absurdly heavy warm weather clothes, tent, sleeping bag, pots and pans, plates and spoons, all kinds of emergency and contingency equipment such as needle-and-thread, matches, candles, cutting implements, rope, crepe bandage… the list is complicated and endless!

For two nights, our dining table was piled high with a mass of assorted stuff. When I fell asleep, exhausted, last night at midnight, a few parts of it were just becoming visible. Amit watched the football, caught up on office work, tidied up odds and ends of household chores, and cleared the dining table. He got to bed at 4 a.m. When I woke up at 6, I found the dining table largely cleaned up, and three huge sacks neatly assembled in the living room. At last, it was beginning to look like he really was going for a trek!

It’s the strangest departure he has ever made from home. His mind is full of work and household tasks left undone. I’ve been given a long list of tasks to complete, right down to filing his tax return if I can (yeah, right – I can barely manage my own). His eyes are missing the sparkle of the impending trek, his voice is toneless, and a teary goodbye to the kids at school was just a heartbeat away – but they ran off giggling and spoilt it! All the same, I’ve never seen anyone this reluctant to leave on a holiday – and when you consider that it is Amit leaving for a trek in Ladakh, it is completely… unexpected is the best word, though not incomprehensible perhaps.

Strangely enough, this time we both felt compelled to consider the worst-case “what if” scenario – though there’s really no reason to get that melodramatic about what is, after all, just another trek in the mountains. It’s just that the entire spark of travel is missing from this venture and it’s more like he’s dragging himself off for some particularly tedious obligation instead of embarking on yet another exciting rendezvous with the mountain gods.

Meanwhile, I’m completely, unabashedly envious. I watched him pack and wanted to pull out my own stuff and throw it in the sacks as well. I can see in my mind the fantastic landscape he’s soon going to be walking through. I can feel the peace and solitude of that ethereal place. I can hear the tinkle of the horses’ bells far away in the vast, silent, eternal universe. I can feel the weight of everyday life falling off my back as I hoist my backpack and become a wanderer once more.

But even as I envy him the trek, I can quite understand how leaving home is breaking his heart. Kids do that to you. Three weeks is a long time.

We were lucky that we shared ten great years of travelling together. And we are happy to be on this new journey called parenting. And we can still choose to take our more adventurous holidays alone, while the kids enjoy the comfort and security of home. And we all know that you can’t have your cake and eat it too…

But I don’t think I like it!


Football Fever (At Last!)

July 8, 2010

The most magnificent game of football was played out in our living room this evening. Not on TV, of course – that’s just mundane. The most magnificent game was between two four-year-olds with two silky pony tails apiece.

Not that the pony tails are at all relevant to the tale – they just add flavor. It’s so much more incongruous when football is played by female players under the age of four, if the said players have two silky pony tails each.

Mrini stood at one end of the living room. Her goal was represented by the carpet which is laid against one wall. Tara stood at the other end. There’s a broad white granite border running across the black granite floor and her goal lay behind the white border. The border actually spans the width of the room – which is far wider than the carpet – so poor Tara would have had an impressively wide goal area to defend, but the glass-fronted bookshelf occupying a significant portion of the width of the room did make her job somewhat easier.

They took it in turns to politely kick the ball to each other. If the defender fumbled, it was a goal. The goals came thick and fast at first, what with one goalie sitting down on a bolster and another goalie lying down on her tummy on the ground for a bit. Then at one point Tara place the ball neatly in the centre of the room and backed away preparatory to taking a healthy swipe at it. Mrini quickly rushed in and kicked the ball into the goal before Tara could sort out her left leg from her right leg.

At one point, Tara aimed for the goal, but missed and her ball struck the goalpost (the corner of the carpet) and rolled away harmlessly. “Not a goal,” I ruled. “But I did shoot!” came the indignant rejoinder promptly. Meanwhile, Mrini’s strategy was to touch the ball as lightly as possible, so that it barely crawled halfway across the room before running out of steam. She still managed to score a few goals, though.

The game progressed apace, with Tara scoring some spectacular misses, but making up with enthusiastic, inspired goal-keeping. She also had an impressive feinting technique. She lunged at the ball several times, in such a convincing manner that I’m not sure even she knew that she was feinting. When she finally kicked the ball, though, it went tamely straight to Mrini. Then just as it came to Mrini’s turn to shoot, Tara said, “sussu!” and rushed off to the bathroom! She was back seconds later, tugging at her clothes in comic fashion and grinning broadly.

After the game had been on for a while and everybody had lost track of the score, I decided we’d play for golden goal. There were seven or eight attempts without a goal being scored when finally Tara shot wildly, the ball ricocheted off my foot and caught Mrini unawares and it was… gooooooooooooal!!! (Though technically I think it should have been disallowed… if the ball strikes the referee it can’t be a goal, can it?)

With the championship out of the way, the champions were hauled off for bath and bedtime by the referee! I’m sure you wouldn’t see that happening in the televised version of the game! No red cards, no yellow cards, and not even a single self goal! All in all, it was the best match of the season.


Twinnings 7

June 17, 2010

The girls have started playing rough and tumble games. It is absolutely adorable to watch, especially because they are both girls. They’ve got their ponytails, their earrings, their frocks (sometimes), and they’re small and thin, so it’s about as ridiculous as it can get. They lock their fingers together and push against each other with all their might, reeling around the kitchen like miniature drunken soldiers, sometimes giggling to boot.

Another favourite is for one of them – usually Tara – to crawl on the ground on all fours, while Mrini climbs on top and rides her like a horse!

Other times, one girl will somehow be flat on her tummy on the bed, and the other girl sits astride her back, while the giggling, wriggling girl underneath does her best to throw off or escape from under the one on top. It sounds vulgar, I know, but it’s just hilarious!

The other day, Tara was squatting on the floor in the froggy position. You’d best use your imagination, because words might only confuse the picture, but let me try to describe it all the same. She balanced on her hands and the balls of her feet, with her arms straight and her knees bent. Got it? No? Maybe you should try it.

Anyway, having done this, she was doing froggy hops – kicking her legs up and settling down again, exactly the way frogs do. It wasn’t anything new – she must have picked it up as part of a nursery rhyme or something at school, months ago. Quite unremarkable. Except, with one quite unremarkable jump, her heels reached the vertical, hesitated for a fraction of a second, and then descended on the other side of her head! It was a sort of a combination between a handspring and a somersault. She sat up looking dazed, not sure whether to laugh or cry, while Amit and me roared with laughter and clapped enthusiastically. Unfortunately, she could not be persuaded to repeat the stunt, not even for the benefit of the camera.

Meanwhile, their conversations are no less entertaining..

—————-
Mrini and Tara went to their room, took colouring books and a few sketch pens out of their cupboard, and sat down at their tables. They coloured away very sweetly for 15-20 minutes, running up to us every few minutes to show us what they’d done. Tara, for the first time ever, copied the colours of the model onto the blank outline that she was supposed to colour. (Garbled sentence, but you do know what I mean, right?)

Anyway, Mrini was colouring a crab blue (the original was muddy brown and yellow).

Mrini: This crab is happy.
Tara: Why?
Mrini: Because that crab is this crab’s friend.

—————-

Tara: I got hurrrrrrrrt. Say Uffffffff.
Me: Ufffffffff…
Tara: No! Say Uffffffffffffff
Me: Fuuuuuuu…
Tara: Yes. Now it’s ok.

—————-
Tara’s hasn’t got the concept of “nobody”. She prefers “anybody”.

Me: Who wants to tell me a story?
Tara: Anybody is not going to tell you a story.

Me: Who’s going to tidy up this place?
Tara: Not annnnnybody!

—————

Mrini has fallen in love with two concepts:

Mrini: Tara, come here! Come here Tara! I have an idea!
Tara comes and listens while Mrini explains her idea.
Mrini: Is it a good idea, Tara?

Mrini: I’ll tell you a secret?
Proceeds to whisper something unintelligible in my ear.
Mrini: That is a big secret, ok? Don’t tell anybody.
Proceeds to whisper in Amit’s and/or Tara’s ear.
Me: Can I tell Amit and/or Tara?
Mrini: No! That is a big secret!

—————

Yesterday, Tara discovered the joy of love. She hugged me, squeezed me, and said quickly two or three times, “I love my mummy.”

After that it was Amit’s turn. Typically, his turn lasted all evening and ran into at least 20 repetitions. (No fair!)

It wasn’t the first time either of the kids told us they love us. The script that is part of our goodnight routine is, “I love you verrrrrrrrrry much,” – naturally accompanied by a set number and sequence of kisses and hugs. But Tara’s demo yesterday was different because it was not part of any routine, the line was scripted by her (not one we’d used or taught her), and it was completely spontaneous.

What a wonderful feeling – we must be doing something right.


Landmark Ponytails

June 11, 2010

Landmarks come in all shapes and sizes.

So do ponytails.

So, if it comes to that, do husbands. And daughters.

So, if you can get your husband to make two ponytails on your under-4 daughter, even if the two ponytails turn out to be different shapes and sizes (with nothing resembling a parting getting in the way), it’s still a sort of landmark, right?

Actually, it’s more than that – it’s an award-winning accomplishment. Trust me.

I mean, Amit is a pretty useful dad. He’s done every one of the nasty tasks associated with raising kids, right from disciplining them to cleaning up all sorts of things, and even bathing them. There’s really nothing he hasn’t tried so far.

Except ponytails.

He was ok with clips as long as it was just the clips. Still no parting anywhere in sight, but he managed to put the clips in so that they stayed, at least for a while. But a month or so ago, the girls became amenable to ponytails and that’s when the fun started.

I don’t really know why I’m even growing the girls’ hair (hairs?), considering I’ve never had a clue how to deal with long hair. When my hair gets long, it becomes a complete mess. And it’s a mess I hate handling – oiling, washing, conditionering, combing, arranging and rearranging… what a headache! So ideally I should have just kept the girls’ hair really short and, chances are, if they decided to emulate their lovely mother (me, I mean) they’d want to keep it short.

But on the other hand, I do envy people who have lovely, thick, long hair and I think that to get there, you have to start really young. And if you have lovely thick long hair, you can always cut it off later if you want (criminal though it might be); but if you don’t, you can’t grow it overnight.

So we’re growing the girls’ hair(s) – which means, we have to deal with “arranging” it on a daily basis. Sigh.

I’m not too good at doing their hair myself. The partings I make are far from being straight and narrow and are not always in the center of the head either. I can manage to put their clips in two or three basic orientations, but I can’t do really ornate things there, the way their daycare attendants do. And I really haven’t learnt the art of making wriggly-squirmy kids sit still while I do their hair, so however simple my attempt, it usually turns out a lot less ordered than intended.

When I tried ponytails on them the first few times, I wasn’t too sure how to go about it. About a quarter of a century ago (at least) I’d seen a very good friend of mine doing her small cousin sister’s hair. The said cousin sister had extremely long, silky hair, and she sat patiently while my friend neatly combed and plaited it. That, dear reader, was the only live demo I’d ever had. So you know what you can expect.

By now, having done ponytails at the rate of four per day for a month or so, I’m fairly adept at it. That is, I can get the hair into two roughly equal and more-or-less symmetrical bunches on the head even when the head has a mind of its own quite at odds with my ambitions. But I have to admit, it’s not easy.

It’s not half as difficult, however, as trying to persuade Amit to do ponytails. After many attempts, I finally got him to lose his ponytail virginity by doing Tara’s hair. The result could well have been displayed in the museum of modern art for its brilliant creativity, stupendous asymmnetricality, and sheer artistic exuberance. I don’t know how many admiring looks it would have won poor Tara in school. Yes; callous mom that I am, I sent her off to school like that! (Though I should add that she was quite insistent about not having me “fix” her hair.)

Hopefully this is the start of a new era: The era of the ponytailing dad!


Back to School

June 7, 2010

We’ve been reminding the kids for a week or so that school would be re-opening soon. We took them out clothes shopping and school-bag shopping. All weekend, we talked about going back to school on Monday. And at last today we did it. Tara gulped down her breakfast, while Mrini dawdled over it, but as soon as I’d brushed their teeth, they rushed to put on their new clothes. Mrini is into Winnie-the-Pooh t-shirts and Tara is into Mickey Mouse. Mrini chose a pair of blue denim shorts and a white t-shirt, while Tara went for yellow pants rolled up at the bottom and a bright red t-shirt. They grabbed their new school bags and stuffed in their snack boxes and water bottles. They both agreed to two ponytails in their hair, and enthusiastically posed for photos.

Despite all of which, we got out of the house a good half hour earlier than we had been doing during the summer holidays, encountered as little traffic as could be hoped for, and they were (as usual) the first kids in their class to reach school. They are in a new classroom this year, but have the same teachers and most of the same classmates, apart from a handful of new admissions who haven’t actually joined yet. Predictably, both of them were shy when we actually reached their new classroom, but it took only a couple of minutes for them to relax enough to enter the room. After that, they kissed us and pushed us firmly away, waving happily. It makes me so proud when they do that – I’m so glad that they’re confident and secure enough to send us away smiling, even after a 10-week break and with a new classroom to boot. It must be so difficult for parents whose kids cry and fuss and don’t want to go to school.

Their teacher told us that school had already been open a week for older kids, and the bus/van services were fully operational. I’d planned to go and check that the girls get on the van today, but after speaking to their teacher in person and the van driver over the phone, I’m going to take a chance on it. I will go to daycare at lunchtime, to ensure that they reach as expected (and to drop off their lunch). And if that part of the day goes according to plan, then it’s official. The kids are back at school, and they’re not “babies” any more – they’re “second-years” now. They really are growing up!


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