Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

My daughter is a Marxist

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My daughter blew my brain yesterday. She’s already a literary critic.

Virtually every Lithuanian child, no matter where they live in the world, learns a poem-and-tickling-game called Virė virė košę by the time they are old enough to talk. The game is very simple. The child’s palm represents a pot of porridge while the fingers represent five children ready to be fed. A caregiver takes her finger and “mixes” the porridge in the child’s palm, tickling it lightly, reciting a poem which has many variations. The one I use is shortened from a longer version and translates roughly to this:

We’re mixing, mixing porridge

The children are leaning back

This one gets some

This one gets some

This one gets some

This one gets some

But there’s none left for the little one…

More variations follow after this last line. When I was a kid, my grandmother would pinch my pinky, the “little child,” then run her fingers up my arm to tickle my neck and say “Here’s the cold water!” I never understood this association with a lack of food and cold water or why the little child had to run away hungry—did he jump in a frozen lake or discover a spring?—but I accepted that the adults must have known what the hell they were talking about. Their stories often had to do with wartime scarcity and hunger, so this fit the themes, if sideways.

Yesterday, my daughter, Kira, who is not thirty days from her fourth birthday, had a problem with the song. She must have heard it five hundred times in her life, but now I saw a light had gone off. She interrupted me before I could tickle her neck.

“Why isn’t there any porridge for the smallest one?”

“Well,” I reasoned. “We’ve run out.”

“But why?”

“Well…we’ve given it all to the older kids.”

“Then you have to take some from the other bowls and give it to the little one.”

“That’s a great idea,” I said. “We should share with the whole family.” At this point I was scrambling, suddenly aware that this song teaches acceptance of a toddler’s starvation and even jokes about  it.

Kira looked quite perturbed. “I don’t understand why mama wouldn’t make enough.” She looked down at Saša, her brother, fourteen months old and playing with some blocks on a rug, drool dripping down his chin. “You have to plan,” Kira said. “You have to think of everyone, even if they’re small.”

One thought on “My daughter is a Marxist

  1. Your daughter is smarter than most adults I know.

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