Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-Five

Dear Gwen,
Today you are fifty-five months old.

You continue to grow and change in fascinating ways, and are becoming ever more competent and capable.  While mornings continue to be a struggle, you are generally good as gold when we get home from school, knowing immediately what tasks are expected (take off boots and jacket, put them away; take containers out of lunch kit and put in dishwasher; put away lunch kit) without any reminders.  In general, you are excited and proud to show me that you have done these tasks.  A few days ago, as you unpacked your lunch kit, you commented, “Mom, the dishwasher’s pretty full now, but it doesn’t have any soap.”  “Well, would you like to put the soap in?” I asked, and you certainly did.  It was one of those moments, Gwen, when I looked at you and took a mental picture – I felt so glad that I was raising an observant, competent person, I felt like a good mom for guiding you to this point, and I caught a glimpse of who you are turning into.  It was a lovely moment.

(And just in case anyone is wondering, I would ABSOLUTELY expect the same domestic helpfulness from a son.  The generation(s) of men who have been raised without these skills, in addition to being pretty helpless on their own, make pretty crappy partners.  Mothers of sons, you’re not going to let that happen to the next generation, right?)

 You are still a very emotional and intense little girl, but you are finally starting to learn how to regulate your emotions a little more.  Recently, when you have become overwrought with anger or sadness, you have demonstrated that you know exactly how to soothe yourself so that you are ready to let go of that emotion.  Where previously you looked to me to soothe you, you can now recognize and say, “I want to rest,” or “I want to be by myself,” and go do that for a few minutes until you are calm.  This is pretty huge.  For you to begin to understand, at four and a half years old, that your emotions are your own responsibility, AND that you have the tools to deal with them … well, let’s just say I know one or two adults who are still struggling to learn that lesson.  And on some occasions, you do still look to me for comfort and cuddles, and I am all too happy to provide them.  It’s pretty fascinating to watch you realize that you have different options for different problems, and to choose the one you want in each situation.

There has been a lot of talk of movies in our house, this past month.  Around Halloween, I took you to see a special showing of Casper at the movie theatre – a fundraiser for a good cause that only cost us $2 each.  I’d never seen the movie before, but as you’ve been watching and thoroughly adoring The Nightmare Before Christmas since the age of two, I generally feel that you are pretty capable of dealing with scares – so I wasn’t too worried, even with a PG rating.  And sure enough, you managed just fine – no problems during the film; you watched the entire thing; and there were no nightmares following. 

A few days later, I decided I’d had it up to here with watching cartoons and wanted to watch something with real people in it.  So I put on Charlie and the ChocolateFactory, which like your beloved Nightmare Before Christmas is directed by Tim Burton, and also rated PG.  Well, this was a mistake.  I believe that you were put off right away by the eerie, discordant music in the film, but you hung in there … until about 30 minutes in, when Augustus Gloop fell into the chocolate river and was sucked up a large Plexiglas pipe.  That put an immediate, shrieking end to our Chocolate Factory experience.  Why did this frighten you so, while watching a child pull a shrunken head out of a Christmas box just makes you laugh?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s the fact that Augustus was played by a real actor, while the shrunken head recipient is an animated character and thus not ‘real’.  In any case, I felt pretty bad for causing you such fright, and promised you that you would never have to watch that movie again.  (I also told you that if we HAD watched a few more minutes, we would have seen Augustus climb out of the pipe in another room, have a nice bath to get all cleaned up, and then go home with his mom and a lifetime’s supply of chocolate.  Anyone who tells you differently will have ME to reckon with!)

 Anyway, we then watched The Wizard of Oz which you immediately adored.  This movie seems to have gotten into your brain somehow, and you are thinking about it, singing songs from it, and asking questions from it often.  For example: “What are poppies, and why do they make you go to sleep?”  “What is courage?”  and “Why doesn’t this movie have any colours?”  (Fortunately, that one was rectified fairly quickly … but it is kind of hard to explain to a little girl born in the age of smartphones and internet that movies used to NOT be in colour!)

From what I can remember, Casper is the first full-length non-animated movie that you’ve seen, and I’m looking forward to exposing you to more, especially more musicals.  In the meantime, another movie milestone is that for the first time, you are anticipating seeing a movie at the theatre.  When we saw Brave this summer, we saw a preview for Rise of theGuardians, which you call “the Jack Frost movie”.  For the first time, you understood that this was a preview for another movie, and that you could go see that movie at a later date (though the ‘later’ part, and all the waiting for the release date, has been harder to grasp).  All that time, you have waited and looked forward to the movie.  When we went to the theatre for Casper, there were posters up, and you were hopeful that this meant we could go see “Jack Frost” that day too – but the movie wasn’t released until just this week.  The waiting is almost over and I’m really looking forward to taking you to this movie, as soon as our schedule allows!

By the way, Gwen, if it seems like I’m pretty focused on movies this month, well … I’m a movie lover, and so is your dad.  In fact, the first time we met we spent a lot of time quoting movies at each other and testing each other’s movie knowledge, as a way of testing each other’s tastes.  We played the same game at our wedding dinner.  So, the fact that you are now at an age to enjoy movies that we enjoy, to anticipate the excitement of seeing a new film for the first time, to love as much as we do the experience of going to the theatre … yeah, it’s a pretty big deal for me.  I look forward to enjoying a LOT of movies with you as you grow!

As always, Gwen, I love you a million billion kajillion and four, and am so glad you’re my daughter.  There are so many exciting things coming up next month: your first music recital, Christmas and the children’s pageant at church, and of course the Jack Frost show.  I can’t wait to share them all with you!


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