Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dear Gwen: Month Thirty-One

Dear Gwen,

Today, you are thirty-one months old. You are officially on the downhill slope towards three years old. You have recently become very interested in school, and often ask me when you are going there. I've started telling you that in the spring, when the flowers come back and you turn three, you can go to school. This seems to satisfy you.

You have little to no sense of time, as evidenced by your response to the Christmas decorations at the grocery store during the first week of November. "Mama! We have to get a tree, a Santa tree! Santa is coming!" I assured you that we would, in fact, get a tree long before Santa's arrival a full SIX WEEKS later, but these words mean nothing to you. Every once in a while, especially when you notice other people's (or store's) decorations, you mention it again. In fact, last week when I asked you what you wanted for Christmas, you had only two requests: 1) a tree, and 2) a present. I am entirely sure that we can fulfil both of these requests, which makes this probably the only Christmas you'll ever have where you get every single thing that you want. Enjoy it while it lasts!

The night that I wrote of my cautious optimism that we had seen and survived the worst of your sleep problem was, of course, the very same night you decided to turn into a non-sleeping, bedtime-stalling, crazy-making monkey all over again. Your latest tactic is shrieking "WAIT! I have a question for you," just as I am about to leave your room at night. In typical Gwen fashion, this of course means that you want me to ask you a question. And I usually do. Through this I have learned that your favourite colour (this week) is green, that your favourite animal is Lamby, and that I am your best friend. Of course, I immediately asked, "If I'm your best friend, why won't you listen to me and go to sleep?!"

Despite the stall tactics, I am really pleased and proud (and I tell you so, often) that you are once again able to sleep all night in your own bed with the light off. We have replaced the normal-wattage bulbs in your room which means that I can actually see two inches in front of my face again, which is a pleasant change.

Winter has definitely hit Nanaimo in the past week, with lots of snow and very cold windy weather. This is your first real experience with snow and you are loving it. You are fascinated with the fact that you can leave tracks with your feet and imprints with your hands - I'll have to teach you how to make snow angels, if I can bear to lie down in the stuff myself (we're not all as lucky as you with full-body snowsuits!). Your dad made you a snowman at the park last weekend - you adored it and were quite upset when you learned we were not going to pick it up and carry it home with us. Aside from the snow, you're not too happy with the cold weather and the end of Daylight Savings Time. When we pick you up from Denise's house, you are very annoyed that it is already dark outside, and so cold and windy too. "It's supposed to be sunny!" you insist, and as you have no sense of time, I can't seem to get the message across to you that it won't be sunny again for quite a while.
One thing I have learned in the past week is that I should plan to take two or three times as long to leave the house at this time of year. The length of time it takes for all of us to get into warm jackets and/or snowsuits, mittens, hats, scarves, and boots seems to take an eternity, and we are not very good at arriving anywhere on time.

You have undergone another growth spurt recently and are now just over three feet tall. This, combined with your thin frame, means that none of your clothes fit you properly. Most of your shirts and jackets end above the wrist; if we put you in shirts that are the proper arm length, they're way too big in the neck and chest. Same with pants: either they hit you mid-calf, or they are falling down off your tiny waist. Your dad has assured me that no one notices the ill-fitting clothes, or if they do, they don't proclaim me a negligent or cheap parent. There just isn't anything that fits you properly, dammit. (Although these Dapper Snappers are a big help in the pants department.)

On the most part, Gwen, it's been a really hard month. You have not been easy to get along with: your whining, fake-crying, tantruming and other manipulative behaviours have been at an all-time high. Even Gramma Karen had her fill of you last week, and I think that's the first time that's ever happened in the history of Gwen. As all the parenting resources tell us, you have discovered that you are a person who is separate from Mama and Dada, and you are asserting your own personhood by denying our will at every opportunity. Your stubbornness and willfulness have overcome your desire to please and often, every little part of our day contains a battle. I've done some reading and a lot of thinking and have not come to any great conclusion about how to handle these moments. While I agree that rewarding negative behaviour with attention reinforces that behaviour, I also feel very uncomfortable telling you that I am just not interested in hearing what you have to say until you finish being upset. I want you to know that I am always here for you, Gwen, that I love you unconditionally and will always hold you and comfort you and support you even in those moments when you are so upset you can't even tell me what's wrong. The advice to ignore a tantrum or breakdown makes rational sense, but then I think about how I would feel if I were in tears and your dad told me he didn't want to hear my whiny voice, only my big voice, and that when I could use my words he would be happy to listen to me. And that is why I keep rewarding your negative behaviour with attention.

It's been a month of adventures, too. Tumble Bumble class has started, which is a wonderful opportunity for you to tear around a full-size gymnasium, wreaking havoc and burning energy, instead of doing so in the much smaller arena of our living room. I have no idea what we're going to do when that class finishes up! At this week's class the facilitators gathered all the students together for a very loosely-structured game of tag, wherein one adult stood in the middle of the gym, and all the students all stood at one end and said a little rhyme (with accompanying actions) and then raced to the other end of the gym while the adult tried to tag you. If anyone had asked me, I wouldn't have thought you capable of the necessary attention span to learn this game, let alone actually participate. Well, I was proved very very wrong because by the third round you were right out in front of the crowd, doing the rhyme and actions with no prompting and then gleefully racing across to the other side of the gym. You weren't even waiting for the facilitator and the other students to catch up. While your dad calls this evidence of your impatience and bossiness, I prefer to think of it as your obvious leadership qualities. I've also had great opportunity to be very proud of you at this class, when another parent handed you a ball and you said "Thank you" without prompting, or when you shared equipment with another child. It's nice to see that some of our parenting is sinking in!

I guess that's all for now, Gwen. As always, I love you (a million billion trillion fajillion) and think you are absolutely perfect just the way you are. I hope you are as glad to be my daughter as I am to be your Mama, and I hope you'll bear with me as we continue to ride the roller coaster of toddlerhood and parenthood together. Thank you for all the love and laughter and pointed reminders not to take things too seriously.


1 comment:

Surprised Suburban Wife said...

So well written as always - I can relate to EVERY SINGLE THING you said about Gwen - the whining, the difficulty of a two and a half year old, the fascination with so much is soo familiar! Happy 31 months Gwen!


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