Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dear Gwen: Month Sixty-Three

Dear Gwen,
Today you are sixty-three months old.

First day of school, last day of school.
Life with you is becoming even more entertaining and amazing, as you continue to become even more yourself.  You say and do the most hilarious and thought-provoking things.  A few days ago, we were listening to a song whose lyrics said, “The mother of a thousand sons.”  “Why not a thousand daughters?” you asked – your Dad thinks this is your first feminist critique! 

You have been at summer camp now for three weeks (although you only go three times a week).  You are really enjoying it as the camp is full of all kinds of great activities and field trips to waterparks, playgrounds, beaches, and even visits to the karate school and the gymnastics school.  Your first week there, you ended the day exhausted and out of sorts – I should have been more aware that this transition would have worn you out.  After all, it’s the first time in your life when you have to look after and carry your own backpack every day, and since your camp takes the city bus around town there is a lot of walking to and from the bus stop, which you are not used to.  You seem to have adjusted now, though, and are enjoying all the different field trips.

After the first week of summer camp, out of the blue, you told me that “One day at summer camp, I was on the bus, and I looked out the window and saw that my team was off the bus and I didn’t know it was time to get off the bus.”  Well, like any red-blooded mother I FREAKED THE HECK OUT and started imagining scenarios where you were left on a city bus all alone.  Also, knowing you as I do, I know it is not so implausible that you might not hear the leaders’ prompt to get off the bus, and that 15 seconds of inattention might lead to very scary circumstances.  But I tried to keep all this freaking out inside as I asked you, “Well, what did you do?”  You responded that the bus was still stopped and so you got off the bus and went to your team.  I tried to find out if other people from the camp were sitting with you, but you are not always so good at giving straight, focused answers, so I settled for trying to assume the best: for all I knew, there was a leader standing in the aisle staring straight at you and waiting patiently for you to disembark.

All the same, though, I decided to implement a little safety net for you.  When we went to Disneyland earlier this year, we made a laminated ID tag for you to wear around your neck (under your clothes) with your name, our name, and my cell phone number.  If you were to get separated from us, you knew to find someone who worked at the park and show them the tag so that they could get in touch with us.  I decided to do something similar for summer camp.  Since you carry around your backpack every day, and it is clearly labeled with your name, I just added my cell phone number – and made sure you knew I had done this.  The strategy I shared with you was that if you were separated from your group, or anything else went wrong, you could talk to the bus driver or a parent with kids, show them the tag, and ask them to call your mom.

The following week at summer camp, when I came to pick you up, one of the leaders told me how well-trained you were.  She had been encouraging you to pick up the pace and walk a little faster to the bus stop after a trip to the beach, and told you that “If we miss the bus, we’ll be stuck for an hour waiting for the next one, and we don’t want that to happen!”  Well, as is sometimes the case, you seem to have misinterpreted this somewhat, and perhaps concluded that you would be waiting for the bus ALL BY YOURSELF.  So you showed her the tag on the backpack and said, “Call my Mom!”  All ended well: the leader reassured you, and you all made it to the bus on time, but she was impressed that you knew what to do in case of a problem!
On the whole, I have seen a new independence blossom in you, and the expectations set at summer camp are only part of that, I think.  You have become much more helpful in day-to-day life, as well.  It’s usually just you and me on the weekends, and in addition to fun adventures and playdates, chores have to be done as well.  I often find myself responding to your requests to play with a statement like, “I have to fold this laundry.  You can help me fold it, or you can wait until I’m done, and then we can play.”  Lately, you are far more likely to respond that you want to help.  Sometimes, when you are playing and I am busy with chores such as cooking, you will come to see what I am doing and then ask to help without me having suggested it.  You are eager and excited to help, and for routine tasks like buttering your toast or putting together a lunch you are starting to want to do it yourself.  I’m pretty excited and amazed by that!  I hope I can encourage you to continue this trend of independence and of being interested in learning and helping.
You seem to have a growing self-awareness, as well, and unfortunately one of the things you have become aware of is your tendency to be forgetful or distracted.  That is one of the things most likely to cause an argument between the two of us: I send you upstairs to put on your pajamas, for example, and fifteen minutes later I discover you lying on the floor of your room, half-naked, staring at the ceiling and singing.  Or we’re trying to get out the door to go to summer camp, church, or a playdate, and instead of remaining focused on the process of getting ready to go, you get distracted by any number of random things and will even ask to watch a movie or play a game, having totally forgotten that we are trying to leave the house!  As you can imagine, this leads to frustration on both our parts, and you and I have agreed on a new strategy for dealing with it.  The idea is, when I notice that you are becoming distracted away from the task you are supposed to be focused on, I say “Squirrel!”  Then you remember what you’re supposed to be doing and re-focus.  This prevents me from nagging, gives you some measure of responsibility, and is also light-hearted enough to keep us both in a good mood.  This idea is still in the trial phase so I can’t give a verdict on it yet, but I think it’s neat that you recognize the problem and have ideas for solving it. 

We’ve had some pretty awesome experiences already this summer: Canada’s birthday with our friend Gracie, an outdoor movie in the park with Ryan, and Superhero Training Camp with Leonie and Evangeline.  There are more adventures coming, including birthday parties, an air show, and at least one trip to the lake.  What a wonderful time we’re having together!  Next summer will be even more amazing, since your Dad will get to join us for all these adventures.
It really does seem to me that you have done some significant growing-up in the past few months, and the idea of you heading off to kindergarten seems a lot more real.  You are a much more confident and contented child than I could have anticipated at this time last year, and you are getting better at asking for and accepting help when you need it.  I couldn't be more proud of you, and I am so excited to see what kindergarten is like for you.  I think you are going to love it!  And there's something about you that draws people in and makes them want to be around you - last week we waited in a long long line at a neighbourhood event so that you could try rope-climbing a tree.  You climbed really high, quite fearlessly, and listened well to the helper's instructions on how to come back down.  When you touched ground again, the people gathered around all clapped and cheered for you.  No other climber had that effect on the crowd!  You have a charisma and magnetism that will definitely serve you well as you head to public school.
Well, that's it for this month, Gwen.  As always, I love you a million billion kajillion and five, and I am glad I get to be your mom.

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