Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Gwen: Month Fifty-Four

Dear Gwen,
Today you are fifty-four months old: officially four and a half.
You are really growing up and becoming more of a child than a toddler. It’s amazing to witness. You are very sharp and observant and curious, and are asking really interesting questions about the world around you. It’s kind of astounding to see how you think so deeply about things, even as you continue to be a very busy, chatty, active little girl. A week ago, you asked me the big question: “How come I don’t have a little sister?”

I always thought I would be upset when you asked that question, but that wasn’t the case. You weren’t upset either – just very matter-of-fact – so I matched your mood and responded, “Some people have two kids or one kid or no kids. Some people have three kids or five kids.” “Or a HUNDRED kids!” you joined gleefully, as that is the number of kids you tell me you plan to have someday (50 boys and 50 girls. The girls are named Princess and the boys are named King.) “That’s right,” I agreed. “Mommy and Daddy only wanted to have one kid. And we are SO GLAD it’s you!” You accepted this quite easily and went on with whatever you were doing.

An example of a sharp observation you made recently came when we were listening to a Raffi CD in the car. Raffi was singing about how a great variety of people were being sat upon by an elephant. He named lots of people, including Dennis and Bonnie and many others. After a moment, you told me that Sharon (your preschool teacher) would probably be pretty mad if an elephant sat on her husband Dennis and her dog Bonnie! I was pretty impressed with how you put that all together.

You are going through kind of a sensitive phase right now (at least, I really hope it’s a phase). I’ve written here often of how dawdly you are, especially in the mornings, and how it takes a lot of effort to move you through your daily routines. Well, we have to be careful how we prompt you on this, because even an utterance of your name in a firm or raised voice can cause you to burst into tears and flee the scene – thus putting us even more behind schedule. Recently, you responded to my admonishment of “Gwen!” by hiding under my desk crying. When I came to find you, you said, “I don’t think anyone loves me right now.” It was heartbreaking! I explained to you that Mom and Dad will always love you, no matter what, but that it is frustrating for us when you don’t listen to us and get your morning (or evening) jobs done. It makes me really sad that one word would be enough to make you feel unloved – the rest of the day, I really do try to fill up your love tank, bottomless though it may seem.

Many of our fall activities have begun and more are starting soon. You have been in piano lessons now for over a month, and mostly seem to enjoy them, although the practice at home can be a challenge. I have chosen ‘right before dinner’ as our practice time, which is good in that we are almost always home for dinner and it’s a very consistent time, but bad in that it’s the end of your day and your behaviour is not always great (nor is my patience). There are certain concepts in your music learning that you catch on to incredibly fast. For example, the curriculum uses various animals and characters to teach the notes: “Creepy Crawling Critter” is C, “Dancing Dinosaur” is D, and “Elegant Edyth the Elk” is E. You take these in very quickly and then seem to have no further use for them: You know where C is, with or without the cutesy name. Also, your firm grasp on high notes and low notes, and your quick understanding of which end of the piano produces what pitch, has led to your finally being able to tell the difference between your left and right. The usual “left-hand-makes-an-L-shape” is pretty confusing to a pre-literate kid, after all, but my improvised sing-song that “right hand makes high notes” (because right and high kind of rhyme) and “left hand makes low notes” (because left and low begin with the same letter) has sunk in quite effectively. You are able to identify your left [body part] or right [body part] on demand, very quickly, even when not sitting in front of the piano. Hooray!

Our other activity is Kingdom Kids, which I am grateful is only every second week since I am the leader of this club! I am finding it very challenging to balance my role as your mom with my role as the club leader – not necessarily during the club meeting, when I get to be with all the kids and do craft time, story time, and so on, but before and after the meetings, when it’s only you and me on hand and I am really busy rearranging the entire room (and then putting it all back), setting up all the supplies (and then putting them all back in my car), and all the other set-up and take-down activities. You are largely ignored during this time and it’s really unfair, especially after club is over when we really need to get home, and you are tired and hungry and so completely done, and your mom is moving 35 chairs back to position and you are SO OVER IT. Other than these logistics, you are really enjoying KK club, and I think you like that your mom is the teacher and that you get to be in the loop on what we are doing before the other kids. And I was so proud of you when we were on our way to our second club meeting and I mentioned how last time, you had gotten to find the special message from our puppet. You picked up your cue right away and told me that “Tonight, I’m going to let someone else have a turn.” And you did! You are the best!

Now here’s an odd thing. A few days ago you plunked yourself down on the couch, peeled off your sock, and stuck your big toe in your mouth. It’s not so much the toe in the mouth that is odd, actually – it’s the matter-of-fact way in which you performed this task. When I casually asked you what you were doing, your response was even more interesting: “I don’t know if you want to know, Mommy.” Well naturally this made me even more curious, but I kept it low-key as I replied that actually, I really did want to know. You showed me your toe and asked me to feel its texture: it was ‘stripey’ and ‘polka-dotty’ and ‘funner’ (your words). Apparently you engage in this behaviour quite often in bed, before you go to sleep. Well, your dad had noticed for the past few months that the skin on your big toes was shredded and raw, and had wondered if you had some kind of fungus. Nope. It’s just you, chewing your foot for some reason. I asked if it hurt your toe when you chewed on it, but you said it didn’t. Whether this is the result of some kind of anxiety (which seems to run in our family) or whether you are simply enjoying the physical stimulation, I don’t know, and I don’t think you have the language to express either without me putting words in your mouth. Either way, we will have to figure out a way to help you stop this, as it’s not a healthy habit. Eventually, you won’t be able to put your foot in your mouth, but if you’ve already built a habit of chewing/picking by then, you’ll just find something else to fill that need. I still find it quite interesting that you chose to demonstrate this habit to me, and I told you at the time how glad I was that you told me about it. 
Well, I think that’s it for this month, Gwen. As always you are awesome and hilarious and smart and fascinating and wonderful and crazy. I love you a million, billion, kajillion and four and a half.



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