Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Gwen: Month Thirty

Dear Gwen,

My, my, how time flies. You are officially thirty months old today - that's two and a half years. It's a big milestone, in toddler terms: thirty months is the age at which children "graduate" from one type of childcare to another. This means nothing to our arrangements right now, in practical terms, but it does remind us that you're now considered old enough to be doing many things by yourself.

We are still mired deep in the unhappy land of sleep disturbances, unfortunately, so there is no forward progress being made in the areas of potty-training, dressing and undressing, and so on. I hate to let [lack of ] sleep be such an all-encompassing topic, but it's just completely impossible to ignore, so hopefully if I cover it straight off the bat I'll be able to discuss other topics throughout the rest of this letter. The past week or so has shown some improvement, mainly because your dad replaced the light bulb in your room with the lowest wattage bulb we could find, and we started letting you leave the light on all night. This means that you don't get as deep a sleep as you really need, and this is definitely affecting your mood and behaviour. On the other hand, insisting that you turn the light off means that you fight bedtime for a good three hours, and even if we do get you to sleep (through pure exhaustion on your part), you wake in the night screaming because you are terrified and disoriented. So, at the moment, a longer and less satisfying sleep is the solution. We're going to keep trying to improve everyone's sleep, but we're not yet sure which direction to take.

As I said, the sleep debt is affecting your mood and behaviour. You are simply not the cheerful girl I'm used to, these days. You are angry and demanding and volatile, with flailing tantrums on a hair-trigger. I love you anyway, dammit, and I work very hard to remain patient with you, but you are just kind of exhausting to be around at this stage. I very much recognize that it's not entirely your fault, that you are tired and out of sorts and don't even understand why. And I want to do whatever I can to resolve that for you, to change the circumstances before your behaviour becomes a habit. I promise you, I'm working on it. I really hope my cheerful girl will be back before long.

On to more positive things. This past month, we started your first formal music class, Music for Young Children. All three of us have been going to the Saturday morning classes together, which is a great activity to start our weekends. I really enjoy the classes, and I can tell that you do too. You are singing a lot these days, including songs that are not really in my repertoire (such as "Open Them, Shut Them"), which shows me that you are really interested in, and adept at, picking up songs and lyrics from a lot of different sources. Your favourite song is still "Twinkle, Twinkle" but you also like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "The Wheels on the Bus". Oh, and you really like what I call "The Opposite Song". One thing that's interesting about the music class is that parents are requested not to give directions to the students during class - that is the teacher's job. This is a good example of how the world will start to view you differently, now that you're a great big two-and-a-half-year-old. Up until now, if we took a class with you the teacher would instruct us and then we would filter those instructions down to you. Now, the teacher wants us to stay present to ensure you are safe and not wandering out of the classroom, but we are to stay quiet so you can get used to receiving instructions directly from her.

Your dad, incidentally, has a lot of difficulty with this rule. He and I have talked about this numerous times, because generally if I give you an instruction he will repeat it immediately after the words come out of my mouth. In my opinion, this is a really good way to teach you not to listen unless instructions are repeated. He's working really hard to quit this. We both laugh often when he catches himself doing it, and quote a movie that we'll probably make you watch someday: "I have one job on this lousy ship..."

You are becoming more creative and imaginative in your play, which is pretty fun to watch. You are quite enamoured with your costume collection and love to dress up and pretend. Your dad recently bought you a little doctor's kit, and you are quite happy to give check-ups to all your stuffed animals (and family members) several times a day. This purchase was prompted by you finding a pair of his headphones and trying to use them as a stethoscope, which I think shows remarkable resourcefulness. It's fascinating to get this glimpse into your psyche. I'm happy about the doctor's kit because we are getting into cold and flu season, so I'm sure there will be several trips to the doctor coming up in the next few months. Hopefully we can use your new gear to do some role-playing and help you feel more comfortable in the doctor's office, so we can avoid tearful scenarios.

We had a strange tearful scenario last weekend, in fact. I bought you this DVD while I was away in Las Vegas, thinking you would enjoy the music. When we put it on last weekend, you did seem to be enjoying it, until about five minutes in, when Snuffleupagus sings and acts out "On Top of Spaghetti". His giant, tasty-looking meatball did in fact roll away, get stuck under a bush, and turn into mush, at which point you burst into inconsolable tears of sympathy. You were so, so sad! I tried to comfort you, and fortunately the video soon moved on to more cheerful songs, but honestly I'd never seen a reaction like that from you. It was quite heartbreaking, but also just a teensy bit funny.

Though I was worried about being away from you for so long, the flip side of us being apart is that I can look at you with new eyes when I get back home. I swear, you got bigger and taller and stronger and of course smarter while I was gone. Your sentence structure is becoming more complex, and you are starting to express more abstract concepts. For example, adjectives are starting to become more and more common in your speech, especially opposite words: big, small, quiet, loud, bright, dark, hot, cold, and so on. You use them in your very own special way, though. If you say, "It's too bright," that means it's too dark. If you say "It's too hot," that means it's too cold. You have decided "fit" is an adjective too, as in "that shirt is too fit," which I guess means it fits just right. Sometimes you manage to put your words together perfectly. As we drove home from the ferry terminal where you and your dad met me after my trip, I asked if you were happy Mama was home. "Yes, Mama, because I love you very very much," you told me. I can't even express how my heart swelled to hear those words!

Another interesting milestone this month was your first shiner, visible in the picture below. You were running into the kitchen and were not paying attention to where you were going (which is common) and ran smack into the corner of our large hutch, which, by the way, has been in the exact same place for your entire life, so it's not like you didn't know where it was. I turned around just in time to see you bounce off the hutch and fly backwards onto the floor. There was an eternal pause while you sucked in a universe worth of oxygen in order to let out the loudest scream of pain and rage possible, and I quickly gathered you into my arms and tried to comfort you and assess the damage at the same time. Thank God you're as tall as you are, or that corner might have taken your eye out: as it was, you were miserably bruised for a couple of weeks, but you recovered pretty quickly. Well, that's your newsletter for this month, my girl. I'm so happy to be the Mama of the strongest, smartest, most amazing two-and-a-half-year-old in the world. I love you so much and can't wait to see what's next!


1 comment:

Jen said...

Happy 2 1/2 years birthday buddy! Love, Anderson


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