Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dear Gwen: Month Ninety-Five

Dear Gwen,

Today you are ninety-five months old. One month short of eight years.

 Earlier this month, you brought home a report card I can only describe as AWESOME. It is ALL 3s and 4s (“Meeting Expectations” and “Exceeding Expectations”). In eight of the twenty-four of the scored areas, your score improved (either from 2 to 3, or from 3 to 4). You are ROCKING this school year! This is especially impressive given all the transitions you went through in the summer and fall. Your parents and grandparents are incredibly proud of you!

The excellence of your report card makes the contrast between your school progress and the stories of your day – which are primarily about your experiences at after-school club, due to your short attention span and the fact that after-school club is the last part of your day before we see you – really, really sharp. Just about every day when we pick you up from club, one of two things happens. Either you are upset about the way you’ve been treated (shunned and/or bullied) by certain kids, or the leader is pulling us aside to tell us about how you misbehaved that day (usually in response to the way the other kids treated you, which seems to happen at specific times when the leader is not closely supervising). Sometimes, it’s both. Oftentimes, this misery carries over for an hour or more into our evening as we try to console you and get you past whatever feelings of rejection and injustice you are feeling. It got to the point where we dreaded picking you up from club, because we knew how unpleasant the experience was going to be.

It all came to a head when your Dad and I tried to discuss these ongoing difficulties with the club leader, who was the exact opposite of receptive and collaborative. This conversation told us all we needed to know about her approach to problem-solving, and we understood that nothing was going to improve. So we started looking at other options. Having watched you struggle to connect with other kids in a large club setting, and meanwhile thrive and blossom in the one-on-one time you get with your Big Sister Christina, I decided to find a sitter to provide after-school care in our home every day. I posted about my search on Facebook, in case anyone knew anyone suitable, and I was immediately and consistently gratified by the response – not that it helped me find anyone, but that everyone who has ever babysat you before posted on the thread about what a wonderful kid you were, and how much they enjoyed their time with you, and wished that logistics or geography allowed them to take the job. That was so cool! After several interviews, we have hired a young woman to start with us next week, and we are all excited about this change.

 The past two weeks have been Spring Break for you, and there has been no shortage of adventure. For the first week, you attended a day camp at the after-school club you used to go to before we moved. You loved re-connecting with the kids and leaders there. Yes, it was inconvenient to drive across town twice a day, but it was worth it for you to have such a fun and positive week. Then last Sunday, you and I walked on the ferry to Horseshoe Bay to meet Grannie and Grandpa. They took you to your great Auntie Liz’s house to join in her annual Spring Break adventure, wherein she takes all four of her granddaughters to Chuck E Cheese for a day. This year, it was two grandmas and FIVE granddaughters! From what I hear, you had a wonderful time. The next day, you and your grandparents headed up the Coast, picking up your beloved cousins Andrew and Scotty on the way to Powell River. I can only imagine that the three of you are having all kinds of fun together, and hopefully not driving your grandparents too crazy. The house is sure quiet here without you! We, along with your Auntie Sara and Uncle Dave, will be there soon for Easter weekend. We are sure grateful to Grannie and Grandpa for taking care of you this week!

There have been a few Spring-like days over the past few weeks, and we’ve used them to teach you how to ride your bike without training wheels, which you picked up faster than I could have imagined. We also bought you a brand new, bigger bike, but opted to have you stay on the more familiar bike for a while yet, until you are super comfortable with the new balancing technique. I’ve got to say, watching you learn this skill has been one of the coolest moments of parenthood. And for your part, you attacked this learning with a dedication and determination that I don’t see from you too often. On our first day of practice, you told me “I am going to keep trying over and over until I am an expert!” Such a simple statement, and yet it speaks volumes. And you know what? You DID keep trying over and over, and the only reason we stopped is that the clouds had rolled in and the rain was starting to fall. The next day we were at it again, and by the end of that session you had it mastered – although it was clear by that point that the main reason you were struggling to balance was actually that your bike was legitimately too small for you, and that as you raised your knees to pedal, you needed to swing the handlebars from side to side to get them out of the way. We had unintentionally handicapped you in our wish to make things easier! Oh well, when you get back next week you can start riding your beautiful new bike, complete with handbrakes, a bell, a lock (which you are oddly fascinated with), and of course a new helmet and knee/elbow pads. I can hardly wait!

I took advantage of the fact that you were away for a few nights to clean up (junk out) your room, including pulling out a great many of your old story books that you are well past reading. (Don’t worry, I still saved plenty!) Most of your reading time now is chapter books, such as the “Dear Dumb Diary” series and Choose Your Own Adventure books. You also still love to read comic books and Chirp/Chickadee magazines, as well as the relatively new addition of graphic novels such as “LumberJanes”. When I took you to Horseshoe Bay last weekend, it was such a pleasant experience. Rather than sitting in the noisy, crowded, and always conflict-filled Kids’ Playroom, we sat quietly together and read our books for the entire ferry ride. YEAH! This is what a ferry ride is all about! When you get back from PR, you’ll have a newly-organized bookshelf with easy access to all the chapter books your heart could desire – and the library or used bookstore is always an option when you finish reading all those.

It seems like a long time ago when I heard from another family that the rule for their daughters was, they couldn’t host or attend sleepovers until they were eight years old. Since you were only three or four years old at the time, I thought this was a good strategy. You, of course, after hearing this rule only a couple of times, immediately began planning your eighth birthday party as a sleepover party. Well, now you’re about to turn eight and the plan can finally come to fruition! We are going to invite over three of your good friends, turn the loft into a sleepover paradise, and have a super fun time. We’ll start the full-on planning next week when you get back from PR.

Well, that’s it for this month, Gwen. As always, you are such an awesome kid, and I’m so glad I’m your mom!


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