Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dear Gwen: Month Eighty-Nine

Dear Gwen,

Today you are eighty-nine months old.

It has not been an easy month. Your temper is on a hair-trigger right now and anything can set you off. Once you’re off, it takes up to two hours to get you back to normal. It’s incredibly draining. I just realized the other day that I am now dreading our evenings and particularly bedtime with a sense of foreboding similar to what I felt when you were an infant, and I knew that I would have to spend anything between 30 minutes and four hours trying to get you to go to sleep. That’s pretty much how bedtime is going currently, too, which makes me want to scream.

Your dad and I are trying really hard to figure out the root of your recent over-the-top emotions. We've noticed that the common thread seems to be that you are very, very rigid in your needs and expectations. Any time that things don’t go as you expected, you will lose your temper and start screaming, crying, or even getting violent. This is especially difficult because you don’t always state what your expectations are before they are violated. For example, a while ago you had a friend over to play. The two of you decided to play dress-up. You decided that meant having a costume parade, and that each of you should parade three costumes each throughout the house for the audience of parents. Your friend wanted to only wear one costume. Before anyone could intervene, you were yelling and crying and nearly inconsolable about how your friend was ruining everything and doing it all wrong.

Right now, it feels like everything is a battle. I have to battle with you to do your backpack jobs (emptying your backpack and lunchbox, putting containers in dishwasher etc.), battle with you to do any homework, battle again to get you to practice piano, battle with you to eat your dinner, and then battle with you to go to bed. Any one of these things takes three to five times longer than it should because instead of just getting the tasks done, we spend time fighting about it. It is tiring, frustrating, and leaves no time for us to do anything fun together or even just relax and have some downtime. I am really, really, REALLY sick of it!
Okay, that’s all the complaining I’m going to do. Now I’ll tell you about the good stuff that’s happened this past month.

You've just started Grade Two, and you seem to be enjoying it. For the first time, you’re in a split class (Grade One/Two). Though being in a new school is challenging, you are starting to make friends, both with the teachers and the students. When I picked you up at school last week, another girl gave you a big hug goodbye, so I thought that was a good sign. You also told me you made “great friends” with the music teacher, thanks to your recognizing a posted of a C scale he had hung on the wall. “Nice C scale!” you told him, and from then on of course you were buddies!
I wrote last month that you’d discovered chapter books, and since then, you have dived right in to this new level of reading. Not only do we read chapter books together at bedtime, but you have also started reading them on your own, which is SO GREAT! I bought you a Judy Moody book at Value Village, and you read it without any prompting from me in only a few days. Then I took you to the library and showed you where they had a whole shelf of that series …. Oh, the way your eyes lit up! You started scooping them all into a pile and took home as many as you could carry. I’m so happy to see you enjoying reading so much.

You've also discovered “The Far Side” by Gary Larson. You really enjoy the cartoons, but you want many of them explained to you. I've learned that explaining a Far Side cartoon to a seven-year-old with very limited life experience and a significant lack of cultural references takes a LOT of explaining. The very first one you asked me to explain involved a full discussion of near-death experiences… not exactly something I expected to tackle at this stage in your life. Hooray for expanding your horizons, I guess?

We had a great visit with your beloved cousins on the weekend before school started. We drove down to Cowichan and all went tubing on the Cowichan River, which was fun, relaxing, and silly! We also played board games, watched movies, read books, jumped on the trampoline, and had lots and lots of lovely visiting time. You even got to have a sleepover with your cousins, with all of you camped out in the loft on various air mattresses. Yay for cousin time!

Dad and I went to see our new family counsellor for the first time, and she prompted us to try and bring as many familiar things into our new home as we possibly could. Meaning, if we used to spend time baking together, we should do that. If we used to listen to certain music, we should do that. Any of our family traditions or d├ęcor that would help you relax and understand that we are home, and we are together, and everything important has not actually changed that much – we should do that. So, we've been doing quite a bit of baking. We made lots of muffins for school lunches, we made some crazy frozen banana-caramel-chocolate concoction, and we even made some cool toast-kabobs for dinner one night. And let’s not forget some truly epic birthday cupcakes! We also hung your most recent birthday pictures in the same frames we've used every year since you were born. We didn't bother hanging them in April when they were taken because we were told not to hang photographs in a house we were trying to sell, so this is the first time the photos have been hung, and they’re the first photos to be hung in our new house. I don’t know if any of this is helping you, but at least it’s fun!

One night, out of nowhere, you decided to set up a spa in your room with me as your client. You brushed my hair, "massaged" my shoulders (which involved stroking them so gently it was a struggle not to laugh), painted my toenails, and did my makeup. Oh, and you provided entertaining reading material and relaxing music (live, on the piano) while I soaked my feet. It was such a fun time, for both of us. One of my favourite parts was that after my spa experience, you asked me to "post a comment" about it, which it turns out means I should write on your door sign.

Your extra-curricular activities have started up again. You've chosen to be in gymnastics again, and you’re also in your fourth year of piano lessons. It makes for a busy week, but there are a few things that help it work “smoothlessly” (as your dad would say). One, the activities start a little later in the evening, which means we are not rushing to pick you up from your after school club and racing to make it on time to the start of your lesson/class. Two, your after school club is close to work, which cuts down on our rushing even more. We make sure to have a high-protein snack waiting for you in the car when we pick you up, and then dinner is on the table as soon as you get home so that your bedtime doesn't get too delayed. Hopefully as we all settle into these routines, it will all be worth it for the enjoyment and enrichment you are getting.

Last night we got to go to your school and meet your teacher for the first time. I can't believe you're in Grade Two! Your teacher says you are adjusting well to your new school and have made some new friends. We got to meet one of your friends last night, too - Brenna. We'll definitely have to arrange a playdate soon! You and Brenna apparently like to spend your recesses in a "Bug Boogie" exploration club, in between practicing song-and-dance arrangements to Nightmare Before Christmas songs. Sounds like a match made in heaven!

Well, that's it for this month, Gwen. I love you a million, billion, kajillion, and seven, and I look forward to seeing what the next month will bring.


1 comment:

Sally said...

September is so hard. And you guys are in a new home and a new school to boot! Crossing my fingers that it all irons out soon.


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