Friday, February 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Forty-Six

Dear Gwen,
Today, you are forty-six months old.

You are so close to Four, you can taste it. This year, for the first time, you are able to anticipate your coming birthday and the accompanying party. Just about every day, you mention something about your party – what kind of cake you’d like (banana chocolate), where the party should be (All-over Woods), and when the big event is going to happen (in the springtime).

Aside from your birthday, another thing you talk about often is your plan to plant a sunflower in the spring. You are also very interested in science right now, and we do an experiment a few times a week. Our experiments are not usually very scientific, as they often just consist of various permutations of “What will happen when I put [substance] in water?” or “What will happen if we put [substance] in freezer?” When you realized recently that one of your great loves, cooking/baking, was really just one big science demonstration (water gets hot, turns into steam; hot water turns hard things into soft things; baking in oven turns soft stuff into hard stuff) I do believe your mind was blown.

You continue to be an extremely social little girl, and this is reflected in your latest idea to build a “move machine” and a “grow machine”. The move machine would move all our friends to our house without getting wet in the rain, and the grow machine would make our house big enough to hold all our friends. I’ve encouraged you to draw me a picture of these machines, but mostly you just enjoy talking about them.

You are growing and changing in fascinating ways right now. You have a new saying, “Tell me all about that,” which I think you must have picked up at preschool (perhaps the teacher says this at Show and Tell?). In any case, it has changed our conversations quite a bit. Your attention span is starting to be a bit longer, and you seem interested in what people have to say. For example, a few days ago you told me you really liked my “city pictures”, which are oil paintings I bought on my long-ago trip to Rome. I showed you on the globe where Italy is, and told you that I’d taken a plane all the way across the ocean to get there and be in a race. You wanted to hear more, so I took down my Rome scrapbook and we looked through it together. I showed you pictures of me in the race and pointed out the medal that hangs with my “city pictures” – you are very aware of races and medals because of a Backyardigans show that you enjoy. It was a really neat moment, sharing my memories and experiences with you. Your only confusion was asking me – “Mom, did you miss me? Didn’t you come back to see me?” You couldn’t quite understand that you weren’t even born yet!

Another thing I am really proud of is that you had your second dentist appointment and you were an absolute HERO. Your first dentist appointment, which was several months ago, did NOT go well. You wouldn’t let the dentist near you – I think this is because he was wearing a mask and strange glasses and looked pretty scary to you. Although we reassured you over and over that all he wanted to do was count your teeth, you stubbornly kept your mouth clamped shut. I decided to try again, and between you and me, if it hadn’t worked out this time I was going to book you in with a pediatric dentist, figuring they must have special tricks up their sleeves to help kids cope. But even before the appointment, we tried some different strategies.

We borrowed a book called “Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit to the Dentist'>Show Me Your Smile,” about Dora’s trip to the dentist, and we read it every day and practiced opening wide for the dentist. I took a few tools out of your doctor kit and we took turns playing dentist and patient. We talked about the dentist constantly for the weeks leading up to your appointment. And it worked! You were calm and accepting and even let the hygienist scale your teeth, to which she commented, “Wow, usually kids don’t let you do that until they are at least 5 or 6.” SUPERSTAR! We were very proud of you.

You are becoming more interested, and more proficient, at various computer games. You have a LeapFrog computer that hooks up to our television, and we also recently discovered all the cool, educational, and FREE games that you can play online at You can easily spend 40 minutes on the Curious George games alone. When we’re stuck inside on a rainy February Saturday, I really don’t mind you spending time with these games – they’re better for your brain than passively watching videos, and aside from the educational value you are also learning mouse skills, which you will indubitably need in today’s computer-based world. Last week you were playing online and I was blown away by your skill at tangram puzzles, in particular.

We’ve found a new church to go to, and you seem to really enjoy Sunday school and your friends at church. I am so thrilled that you have a church “home” and have found joy in that community. A few weeks ago at church, the topic of the children’s talk was water, as our congregation is working to raise money to build a well in Malawi, Africa. The teacher asked about different ways that we use water, and one kid mentioned that she has a pet fish who lives in water. You decided to get in on this action and stood up proudly in front of the whole congregation and announced, “When I am five years old, we are going to get a pet and I am going to name it Sparkles.” For the rest of the day the adults in the congregation kept coming up to me with a wink and a smile and saying, “Sparkles, hmm?” Hey, it’s news to me but it sounds like a PERFECT name for a goldfish, don’t you think?

I have to tell another church story as well. This past week, after the service, you were playing with an older child (8 or so years old) outside the hall. A few minutes later, the older child appeared, but you did not. Apparently, you had sent her back to the hall to get something (because even as the younger child you are the BOSSY one) and when she went back to where you’d been playing together, you were gone. A few minutes’ search revealed no Gwen, and suddenly the icy weight of panic crept into my stomach. Other moms joined in to help me find you. In my rational mind I felt fairly certain that you wouldn’t just wander away from the church, as it has friends, a playground, toys, and a playroom to keep your interest, whereas the street has nothing fun about it. On the other hand, I was running out of places to search and there was still no sign of you. Finally (after what felt like 10 minutes but was probably less than 5) someone found you, back inside the church sanctuary. They guided you towards me and when you saw me you said, “I couldn’t find you and I was scared.” I thought, GOOD! and told you I’d been scared too.

I guess every parent goes through this with their kid, but I have to say I feel like we go through it more than most. Maybe because it’s just you and me so much of the time, maybe because you are by nature a super curious and active kid with little regard for safety, or maybe it’s just your age. Your dad suggested a ‘rendezvous point’ so that if we do get separated again, you have a specific place to go to find me. Of course, we’d both like it a lot better if you either stayed with me, or kept me updated on your whereabouts, but that doesn’t seem to be happening very consistently, so the planned meeting spot seems like a good Plan B until you get a little less crazy.
So, that’s our life these days, Gwen. You are turning into a fascinating (though sometimes aggravating) little person, and I am doing my best to keep up. I love you a million, billion, kajillion and three, and can’t wait to see what’s next.


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