Vignettes from 9 years old

February 15th, 2024



This is “capture the flag” in the year 2023. My eight-year-olds lean into Alexa to answer questions they know mom can’t.

I have vague, far-off memories of playing capture the flag at recess at their age. It was huge in my third-grade class, and I am happy it’s still a game. But I have zero recall about how to play it, and frankly, I’m sure I was very bad it. I was always that proverbial (and, in fact, actual) last kid picked in gym.

My daughters, though, are athletic. They grew from chubby babies into lean, muscular girls who can turn virtually any environment into a parkour course. Sometimes, this is incredibly frustrating for us as parents, but I know it will serve them in their lives. It does not serve us in places like the grocery store or while waiting to have an arm x-rayed, but c’est la vie.

. . . . . . .

I have been casually mentioning the idea of noise-canceling headphones to my daughters, identical twins who spend way too much time together and consequently often get annoyed at each other’s mere breathing.

I wake up to Eliza asking me how to cut a metal can. Once I realize what’s going on, it becomes apparent that she is making herself a pair of noise-canceling headphones. She has regular headphones, so she knows the right shape. 

“I’m not sure that’s going to work,” I say. I resent that I always have to be such a buzzkill. 

Days later, the half-constructed cardboard headphones are still on the kitchen counter.


Phoebe dons her big pink fluffy earmuffs. She looks so cute, but she’s scowling. “These don’t work,” she tells me.

“Are your ears still cold?” I ask. 

“No,” she admits, “but I can still hear you.”

I realize that she is expecting them to be noise-canceling.

. . . . . . .

“Mama, did you know you can make a sixth grader be your friend by staring at them? L told me that.”

. . . . . . .

This morning, expecting to wake up to 100 feet of snow per the weather hype machine, we were all disappointed to see that it had not snowed a flake. Phoebe opened the front door and squinted outside to where the merciless winter sun was glaring off the sparse patches of old snow: “I think it actually melted a bit.”

Jon and I, who love to commiserate around the sad state of weather hysteria in New England, could not stop laughing.

We are limping through this winter, dodging (but more often, not dodging) viruses as we wait endlessly for it to snow, and with all the forced stay-at-homes, getting to know and witness each other a lot more.

I think I’ve spent more quality time with my daughters this winter than I ever have before in their childhoods. It’s been pretty cool. I could do without the viral load all the time, though.

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