Friday, August 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-Two

Dear Gwen,

Today you are 52 months old.

The main event this past month was our trip to the lake. We got to spend almost a week there, with Grandpa, Grannie, Auntie Sara and your cousins, and various other day-visitors. It was a really excellent trip. I was a little worried (okay, kind of terrified) that your recent spate of accident-proneness would carry forward to the lake, where tiny mishaps such as falling down can actually lead to major injuries or fatal drowning, but NO! You fared just fine, with not even ONE incident of falling in the lake. I have to take some credit for this, since I devoted some time and energy before the trip into devising a few simple rules that I knew would work for you:

- Visual reminders on both doors of the cabin to help you remember to put your lifejacket on when going outside
- Using painter’s tape to mark boundaries which you were not to cross without a grown-up accompanying you

These both worked really well, and you were quite well-behaved and stuck to the rules, which in no way prevented you from having an excellent time at the lake. You were in swimming nearly every day, and apart from your inflexible need to have me get in the water to help YOU get in the water, you really had no need of my assistance or presence once you were in. You spent a lot of time “rescuing” toy boats or other floating items that you asked people to throw in the lake for you (yes, basically a glorified game of Fetch). I was very proud and happy to see how comfortable you were in the water and how much you enjoyed it. I have many years of happy memories of my own ‘water-baby’ days at the cabin, so it’s pretty neat to watch you experience the same thing.
You also spent a lot of time in various paddle boats and row boats with your cousins. Andrew is now 9 and Scott 6, so they are old enough to take these boats out (in our sheltered area) without a grown-up, and most of the time they were happy to take you along. This was wonderful for you as you got to spend time with your big cousins, and wonderful for me as I got to sit on the deck and have a break! You really are much happier when there are other kids around to play with, even if they aren’t exactly your age. If we get into camping or other family vacations in the future, I’ll have to remember that tidbit.
There is one area where your behaviour was not exactly flawless, and it was in the area of dinner consumption. The saga of Gwen and Desserts at the Cabin will no doubt become family lore, so let me share it here with you. The first night we were all at the cabin, we had hamburgers for dinner. You have happily eaten hamburgers in the past, but this night you were having none of it. Perhaps you were just too excited to be with your cousins, perhaps you’d eaten too many snacks throughout the day, perhaps you were just being your incredibly stubborn and unpredictable self – whatever the reason, I advised you that if you did not eat (a good portion of) your dinner, you would not get dessert. Sure enough, you didn’t eat. An hour or so later when dessert was served, you asked me if you could have some. When I responded that you could not – well, I’d heard the phrase “her face broke” before, but now I really know what it means. You were devastated. Most tellingly, while you almost always come to me for comfort when upset, this time you shunned me and ran to the room we were sharing, shut the curtain, flung yourself on the bed and wept as if your little heart was breaking.

Meanwhile, the three other adults in the cabin tried to persuade me that I was being too harsh. “It’s the cabin!” “She’s on vacation!” “We didn’t think you were SERIOUS about not giving her dessert!” But serious I was, and I didn’t waver for an instant. “If I hadn’t specifically told her she couldn’t have dessert without eating dinner, MAYBE I could give her some, but now that I’ve said it I can’t go back on it,” I told them, and left the room full of disapproving clucks and sighs to go comfort you.

Well, next thing I knew your two cousins were in the room too. “Don’t worry, Gwen, we won’t have dessert either,” they said in an amazing show of solidarity. My sister cut up some apple slices for the kids to share, Gwen sniffled her way back into the common room, and there was no further mention of dessert.

The next night we had chicken fajitas. Not a food you’ve had before, but made of ingredients – chicken, salsa, cheese, tortillas – that you like. Once again, you refused to eat even one bite. Once again, I made the threat about dessert and it fell on deaf ears. This time I got a little bit wiser, and I put your plate aside when all the others were tidied up after the meal. When dessert time came around, you asked for your share, and this time I had a backup plan – I told you that if you ate your (now cold) dinner, you could have dessert. Well, what do you know – you sat down and ate it! The other adults, now having a much better picture of your day-to-day eating habits, were much more sympathetic to me this time, and the other kids made no heroic offers to sacrifice their desserts on your behalf.

This post is already plenty long but I have to add one more note, which is that I am starting to get a glimpse of the older, more mature Gwen and it sometimes takes my breath away.  It's not so hard to believe that you will be off to kindergarten in only one year.  You are sometimes so independent, so capable, so reasonable and so pleasant to be with that I am in awe of the person you are becoming.  Those moments when we can be together as two people, rather than as caregiver and child, are so precious and amazing.  I look forward to more and more of them as you continue to grow, and hope that I will keep your trust and earn your willingness to confide in me.  I love you so much, and am so proud of you!


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