I SPEAK KID
By ELAINE DONG
What does cracking an egg and subtracting 19 from 36 have in common? They’re both daunting at first, but can be done. Not just for six-year-olds but for adults too!
While I’m at it, what does drawing a girl and hopping non-stop for 30 counts have in common? You guessed it! Both are perfectly doable, for three-year-olds AND for adults.
I guess you have a pretty good idea what’s been going on in my house these couple of weeks. A lot of subtraction, some hopping, a little baking and some furtive girl drawings that are shaping up quite nicely.
The six-year-old in question is my elder girl, Angelica, whom I have been drilling in mathematics. By drilling I mean doing about 20 subtractions a day. Yes, I’m a big softie. The hopping three-year-old is Lauren, who can’t sit still for more than five heartbeats. Both are climbing metaphorical hills, achieving new skills that they seem obsessed with.
Lauren’s people drawings have always been variations of a rectangular shape with eyes, a nose and a smile. Sometimes, she throws in a few hairs. About a week ago, she was scribbling madly in her sketchbook and suddenly, she had this big grin on her face.
She looked at me, back at her drawing, at me again and then she couldn’t contain her excitement any longer. She hopped over and shoved her sketchbook at me.
“Look, Mummy! I drew a girl!” And there it was. A bonafide girl drawing! With hair and everything.
There were no legs, but who cared? She could draw a girl! It was time to break out the hot chocolate and tear open that bag of marshmallows!
With an older daughter who has achieved all these milestones earlier by default of age, I admit sometimes I overlook certain things with Lauren. I try not to, and give each achievement a big hurrah. Like the girl drawing. But while we were ooh-ing and aahing over every line and detail, the sage six-year- old casually looked over our shoulders and haughtily pointed out that her sister had forgotten to draw legs.
I gave her the narrowed eye, and a subtle shake of my head to say, leave her sister be. I believe she understood my meaning, but chose not to. Angelica looked back at me innocently and proceeded to draw a girl of her own, complete with dresses, accessories and, of course, legs.
“See? This is how you draw a girl,” she told her sister in a superior voice.
However, on a good day, she can be very encouraging. Once, Lauren drew a blob, and her sister promptly declared it the best drawing of a rabbit she’d ever seen. I’m not kidding you, it was just a blob. But both of them were so excited about the blobrabbit that I let it slide. I even let them have some cotton wool to glue onto the blob so that it could be a fluffy rabbit. I just want to sit back and enjoy the sisterly love.
I baked over the weekend, and the girls helped. It wasn’t Angelica’s first attempt at cracking an egg, but that day, she did it perfectly.
A knock on the side of the bowl, little fingers separating the shell and out came the runny white and yolk, not on the floor, but right in the middle of the bowl! After a moment of stunned silence, there were shrieks of excitement.
“I cracked an egg, Mei Mei!”
“Yeah, you really did! Wow, Mummy, Jia Jia cracked an egg!”
(Mei Mei means little sister, Jia Jia big sister.)
“And I didn’t even spill it!”
“And you didn’t even spill it! Look, Mummy!”
Then the two of them wandered off talking excitedly about the egg. Now I know the perfect way to get them out of my way when I’m baking. Give them an egg to crack.
When my pumpkin pie was done, there were still whispers about the egg.
I will take days like this with the ones where they’re fighting over everything. Once I brought home a packet of beads, which of course started a fight about who got more pink ones. Soon, it wasn’t about making a necklace anymore; it became a counting war. Angelica said that whoever could take 20 beads first would win. Lauren gamely took on the challenge, even though she could only count to 10.
I told myself to let them resolve this. Do not butt in, no matter how tempted I was. If I could just sit on my hands for five minutes, and resist the urge to step in and separate the two prizefighters, I knew they would come to a solution themselves.
So the counting began.
Angelica took her 20 beads and looked at me triumphantly. Then she looked at her sister struggling to gather the beads. She pursed her lips and looked at me again, expecting me to help Lauren. I shrugged. Finally, she sighed loudly and went over to her sister.
“You can’t count, Lauren.”
“I can! One, two, three, four ...”
“I mean, you can’t count after 10.”
“So, you win?”
“Yeah, of course.”
Then she sat down and showed Lauren that if she counted to 10 two times, she would get 20.
Like the egg incident, suddenly the two became thick as thieves again, complimenting each other on their choice of beads, the argument happily forgotten.
So my second one will always trail a little behind her sister; it’s just how first-borns and second- borns are. What I can do is celebrate every achievement by both, big or small, and hopefully they will catch on to the fact that each of them is special in her own ways.
Elaine Dong has learnt not to interfere ... most of the time. Get her pumpkin pie recipe at www.angelolli.com.