Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dear Gwen: Month Forty-One

Dear Gwen,

Today you are 41 months old.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, you are loving school and are thriving there. At the end of your very first day, your teacher mentioned to me how impressed she was with your numeracy. Your literacy is coming along well, too - you are very clear that letters combine to make words, and love to read out each letter in a word and then ask, "What does that spell?" You also love to point out your favourite letter (G) and your favourite number (3) at any opportunity.

I couldn't be happier at how well school is going for you. You seem more social, more confident, and more yourself as days go by. Last month, I commented that I hoped you would be able to tell me what you did at school each day: admittedly, when asked an open-ended question, you are not likely to give detailed answers. However, I stumbled upon a fun and fascinating way to get info about your school day: we role-play! You are always asking me to play House or School, and when I play either game with you I learn a lot about how you see these environments and the people in them. When we played School a few nights ago, you told me to be the teacher but you still led me through the activities ("Is it time for Circle Time now?"), which I loved. Your questions let me know what you expected of Circle Time, Snack Time, and so on. For example, when I confirmed that it was Circle Time, you asked where your name was in the circle. When questioned, you revealed that you have to find your name in the circle and sit at it - the same thing happens at Snack Time. I had no idea!

You have a great new hobby that I am so excited about. A few weeks ago, we watched an episode of "Blue's Clues" where Steve, the host, told a story using some ASL signs. You thought this was fantastic, and you started telling the story yourself, along with the signs. I started teaching you other signs that I remembered from my long-ago ASL class, and told you that when you were a baby and couldn't talk, you used to use sign language to say "more", "please", and "thank you". Well, you started asking me the signs for everything under the sun! When I didn't know the sign, we would look it up on the internet and learn it together. You really love using signs and you are pretty good at remembering them, too. You don't really use them to communicate - you are a much bigger fan of talking - but you think they are cool and love to show off your knowledge. In fact, for your very first Show and Tell you showed your classmates some signs you'd learned. I've been trying to encourage you to show your signs to your teachers and caregiver, as they also know many signs as well, so that they can share your enthusiasm.

Your gymnastics class has started and you really enjoy it. Your dad, who took you to the first class, told me that you were really good at waiting your turn. You followed the instructions pretty well, and had a lot of fun. I think gymnastics is a great class to use up that incredible energy you have! We plan to get you into something long-term when the time is right. I'd like to get you back into music class, as well.

A big event this past month was that I took you out to the theatre to see The Backyardigans live show. I didn't even tell you what we were doing until we got to the lobby, just said we were going to do something special. Even when I said we were going to see the real Backyardigans, I don't think you knew quite what to expect. When the theme music started and an adult-sized Pablo came out onto the stage, though, your eyes lit up like lightning. It was such a magical moment! I had a lot of fun watching you while you watched the show. I was so glad we could share that together! I also thought it was adorable that while we were waiting in the lobby amongst hundreds of kids clutching Backyardigans merchandise and wearing Backyardigans shirts, that you said, "Oh, they brought their Backyardigans stuffies from home! And she has a Backyardigans shirt!" How marvellous to have a child old enough to enjoy the show, but not yet old enough to realize she can beg and whine and plead with Mommy to walk over to the counter and plunk down a ridiculous amount of money for her very own overpriced souvenir. Gwen, you are the best!

It's amazing how independent and competent you are becoming, Gwen. It seems such a short while ago that I bemoaned your inability to play alone, but you are now quite content to play on your own provided certain conditions are met first. For example, I have rearranged my day a little bit so that I do errands before I pick you up from school/daycare, and I even go home and put all the groceries, dishes, work stuff, and so on away before I go get you. That way, when I walk in the door with you, I can focus entirely on you instead of all the little tasks that need doing. I find that if I give you 15-20 minutes of dedicated attention and playtime together, your tank is full and you are then able to entertain yourself for a while so I can get dinner ready. It's such a simple change, but it has worked really well for both of us.
You are also ready to take care of many of your own self-care needs, like toileting and grooming. I think it helps that you are mostly expected to do this on your own at daycare and preschool (not that help isn't available when you need it - but I've noticed that when you expect a child to be competent, and make that expectation clear and positive, it usually comes true). It's now "your job" to take off your pajamas and pull-up in the morning, and put them in the laundry/diaper pail before going to use the potty. I can see this as the first step towards you doing your entire morning routine yourself someday. It's exciting to see you growing up and looking after yourself!

Since we're on the topic of grooming, though, I have to mention your extreme dislike of having your hair combed. I insist on combing through it (with the assistance of anti-tangle spray) every morning, and every morning it's a battle. Your hair is mad curly, and moments after I've combed it you can't even tell it was done ... but I do it anyway. Partly it's to get both of us used to the neccessity of that habit; partly it's to be able to say, "yep, I combed her hair," and feel like a competent mommy. I would say it's also partly so that you have a well-groomed appearance, but like I said, I don't think anyone can tell your hair was combed unless they actually watched me do it.

Well, as always, Gwen, I am so grateful that you're my daughter and that we get to share this adventure together. I love you so much and am so proud of you, every day!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Maybe when she moves out to her own place I will get to stop blogging about sleep

Gwen tends towards nightmares. They seem to come in waves: she'll have a bad couple of weeks, and then get past it, and be fine for a few months. We had one of these bad waves, oh, say mid-to-late August? All sorts of extra bedtime rituals are implemented at this time: I huff and puff and blow all the bad dreams away, I spray "good dream spray" (lavender-scented pillow mist) on her pillow, she uses her handheld "Buddy" nightlight, etc. And now that she is a big girl in a big bed, another nightmare-related ritual has begun: the exodus of our child from her own room and into ours.

Her nightmares probably lasted about a week, and she was in and out of our bed one to three times per night during that week. Then the nightmares ended ... but the nighttime visits continued. It seems she has established the habit of crawling into our bed several times an evening, and just because she is no longer abjectly terrified of some indescribable Scooby-Doo related phantom, doesn't mean she should discontinue her midnight socializing, right?

(Aside: When your child comes home from daycare and out of the blue tells you in the saddest voice ever, "We watched Scooby Doo today. That means I'm going to have scary dreams,"? YOUR HEART BREAKS.)

To give you an example of how fun our evenings have been lately: last Thursday, Gwen came into our bed sometime between 10 and midnight. She threatened to have a fit if she were returned to her own bed, so Chris actually volunteered to go sleep on the couch and allowed Gwen to stay in our bed with me. The next night, Gwen visited again around the same time. After Chris attempted, unsuccessfully, to return her from whence she came, *I* went and slept in Gwen's room, and she and Chris shared the big bed. Even on nights when we do manage to get her back to her room, she is often up again around 3am and then up for the day between 5 and 6. It's a good thing neither of us stay home with her during the day, because we are exhausted and so is our patience.

Last night I arrived home around 10pm after visiting with a friend. Chris told me he'd already had to intervene a couple of times to get Gwen to stay in bed, but that she was now asleep. We chatted for a bit and then I headed up to bed. Seeing Gwen's door ajar, I took the opportunity to peek in and bask in how adorable she is when she's asleep. Except ... wait, where ... is that ... no, that's just a ... hmm.

Where is she??

Sure enough, she was in our room. Scamp had crept quietly out of her own room ("It must have been while I was on the phone," said Chris) and snuggled herself down into our bed. I felt equal parts admiration, annoyance, and disappointment: What, all these midnight trips to our bed weren't about US? She just wanted our BED?? Conversation the next morning revealed she was fully aware of her subterfuge. "I sneaked!" she told us proudly. "Daddy didn't come upstairs." Ooooh, the scamp. Too smart for her own good. DEFINITELY too smart for me.


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