Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dear Gwen: Month Sixty-Six

Dear Gwen,
Today you are sixty-six months old – officially five and a half.

You have really grown and matured a lot since your fifth birthday.  It’s hard to know how much of that is due to your environment – summer camp, then kindergarten – and how much is due to you just hitting a certain developmental stage.  Whatever the cause, the changes are delightful.  You are getting a lot better at self-regulation: just a few days ago, you were trying to explain something to me and I just wasn’t understanding you.  I heard the sharp intake of breath as you were about to shout out your anger and frustration, but in the blink of an eye, you changed your mind and got yourself under control, choosing instead to explain yourself in another way.  I immediately understood your question, responded, and we moved forward in a positive direction.  I was so impressed with your ability to keep your temper!

You have learned two important things this month, things you have been trying to learn for YEARS.  You can now whistle and snap your fingers.  You are so incredibly proud of yourself!  Both of these skills were learned from other kids at your after school program, which you enjoy almost as much as kindergarten itself.  You always have so many stories to tell me about what you did that day, and although they don’t always make sense (see anecdote above), I love hearing them anyway.  If only you would stop? Talking in questions? It would really? Make me even happier?  If that were possible?

On the day you broke your wrist – hours and hours later, while we were in the hospital waiting to see the results of your x-ray – a story came to light that simply must be shared here.  You and I were in the bathroom, because you had to do what one has to do in bathrooms.  I imagine other kids your age have the same bathroom-related fear that you do, namely, that the flush – especially when it is an automated flush that goes off without warning – will be too loud.  (It is a valid fear, because some of them are WICKED loud.  Add the excellent acoustics of a public bathroom and you have a recipe for frightened children!)  You were pondering whether this particular toilet would be too loud, and I reminded you that even if it was loud, it couldn’t hurt you, and besides, I was right there to comfort you if you were startled.  Then you told me the following story: “On the first day of kindergarten I didn’t know that the middle bathroom was really loud.  Now I know that I should go in the first one or the last one but not the middle one.  But on the first day of kindergarten I went in the middle one and it was really loud so I cried and ran back to my classroom right away.”  Further questioning revealed that you did, indeed, run down the halls of your school with your pants down around your ankles as you fled the loud flushing toilet.  The good news is, this must count as a normal occurrence in kindergarten, because your teacher never even mentioned it.  I guess you are fitting in well!

We got to go to an open house at your school and I was really impressed with your classroom (and so happy to finally see it!).  You proudly showed us lots of examples of your artwork and classwork on the walls, including some you’d made with your “big buddy” (I guess this is a Grade Five or Six student who comes and does art with you once a week – you talk about her a lot!).  You also showed us where you sit for Circle Time and what you have to do while you’re there – you have to do “The Five”: smiling face, listening ears, hands in lap, eyes on teacher, mouth closed.  Every day one student wins the opportunity to be the “Super Star Helper” by demonstrating these skills superbly, a privilege you eagerly long for!

Wearing a splint on your wrist for three weeks hardly slowed you down, and you have continued with your two extra-curricular activities (aside: I truly don’t understand how families manage to pack any more than two extra-curricular activities into a week.  Then again, I don’t totally get how people manage with more than one child, so clearly I’m not an expert).  You are doing really well at piano, and I am really happy that I get to accompany you to the lessons this year, which wasn’t a possibility last year.  You somehow ended up in the Advanced class for Sunshine 2, and there are definitely higher expectations on you than there were last year, with a much faster-paced class.  But as I said, you are doing well and keeping pace with the rest of the students.  My one concern is that while I think a group format class is more fun for you than a teacher-student one-on-one, it can also be pretty distracting for you.  On the other hand, I don’t know that any teacher, dynamic and energetic as s/he might be, could keep your focus solely on piano for a solid hour, without the release of having other students to share the attention with.  In any case, I absolutely love the format of the Music for Young Children program.  You are already starting to play with both hands together, and can already read more of the bass clef than I could before joining these lessons with you (being a soprano, I can read treble clef just fine, but why on earth would I need to know bass clef?!).  We’ve even started some limited playing of chords.  Amazing!

You are also still enjoying karate, and your sensei even thinks you are ready to grade for the first stripe on your belt.  It’s nice that the dojo makes available the requirements for every level of grading, so that you can figure out what you need to work towards.  Like piano, you are meant to be practicing certain parts of karate every night, but this doesn’t always happen.  Nevertheless, you enjoy the classes and must be progressing (I don't know as much about it as parents don't get to watch).  I hope your first grading goes well, as you will doubtless be incredibly proud to earn that first stripe!

The approach of Christmas has initiated some interesting conversations in our house.  I knew that this would be the year you started to really ask for stuff, as you have spent a lot of time with other kids of varying ages and are really aware of what toys they have.  You have already asked for a Barbie doll and a Monster High doll, neither of which I am willing to have in my house.  Taking inspiration from a fellow mom, I tried to explain to you why I don’t like Barbies.

Me: Did you know that some people think the most important thing about girls and women is how pretty they are?  They think it’s more important than being smart, or kind, or patient, or honest, or curious, or anything else.  Do you think that’s the most important thing?
Gwen: No.
Me: Some girls and women are so worried about how pretty they are, or worried that they aren’t pretty enough, that they do really unhealthy and unsafe things to themselves, trying to be prettier.  They can get really sick or even die.
Gwen: Oh no!
Me: And that’s why I don’t like Barbie.  The only interesting thing about Barbie is that she’s pretty.  And I don’t think being pretty is super important.  I think it’s more important to be smart, and kind, and patient, and loyal, and all that other stuff.  Don’t you think so?
Gwen: Yeah. Well, Rapunzel is pretty …
Me: Yeah, she is!  But you know what else?  Remember how Rapunzel said, “When I make a promise, I never ever ever ever ever EVER break that promise. EVER!”?  That’s because Rapunzel is loyal to her friends and she tells the truth.  Do you think that’s more important or less important than being pretty?
Gwen: …More important?
Me: Yeah!  So that’s why I don’t want to have Barbies.  Do you understand?
Gwen: Because … being pretty makes people sick.

Okay, so I didn’t quite nail it this time.  Hopefully there will be further conversations and I can try to sort this one out!  In the meantime, you have also requested a Monster High doll.  Now, most grown-ups will say they don’t like these dolls because they’re ugly.  I actually care less about that than the fact that not one of them is wearing an outfit that would be acceptable in an elementary school setting (the age group of the kids who play with these dolls).  Apparently, you have some friends at the after school care program who have these dolls and won’t let you play with them because you don’t have them.  On the one hand, it breaks my heart to see you miss a social opportunity.  On the other, SCREW THEM if that’s the way they choose their friendships!  I guess if you can learn the lesson now that friends care about each other no matter what toys/clothes/cars/shoes they have, you’ll be on the right track.  Let’s see if I can have THAT conversation without screwing it up …

Well, I guess that’s about it for this month, Gwen.  You continue to amaze me with your flexibility, your joy, your abilities, and your pure enthusiasm for life.  I am so very blessed to be your mother.


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