Friday, December 27, 2013

Dear Gwen – Month Sixty-Eight

Dear Gwen,

This is the first newsletter I’ve ever been late with, and those who know me well will know how annoyed I am with myself for missing my self-imposed deadline and be not at all surprised that in nearly seventy months, this is the first time I’ve ever slipped.  I’m not even going to give you any excuses, just dive right into the news – but I couldn’t just start the newsletter without acknowledging the lateness.

Being December, this month has been incredibly busy and full.  The month started off with an outing to see “Cirque de la Symphonie,” an event at the Port Theatre featuring the Vancouver Island Symphony and a team of European acrobats.  Since you have been asking for years to go to the circus, and I have promised to take you if the circus were ever nearby, I just had to keep my word.  As luck would have it, Grannie and Grandpa got to join us, too.  We had front-row seats and you were completely enthralled with the entire event!  You loved spotting the different instruments and were enraptured with the acrobatic feats – and there was no complaining about the absence of elephants and lions you might have been expecting.  In fact, you loved the show so much that at one point you identified a young boy contortionist as a good candidate for fathering your future children!  We all loved the show and felt that you were now ready to experience a Cirque du Soleil show when the opportunity presented itself – since then, we have purchased tickets to see their next show in Vancouver, in June.  Something wonderful to look forward to!
The very next day, I was very busy preparing a Christmas dinner for 19 people while you had your own jam-packed social schedule: you went to your friend Lily’s birthday party and then went to perform in your Christmas piano recital.  You were all set to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and were wearing a beautiful, brand-new sparkly dress for the occasion. Your dad was on a tight schedule to go pick you up from the party and bring you directly to the recital, so imagine his shock when he arrived at the birthday girl’s house to find you in the midst of having your face painted – and not just a tiny butterfly on one cheek, but a full-face, professional stage makeup type jobby wherein you looked (from close up) like a cat, and (from far away) like the drummer from KISS.  With no time to scrub it off, he took you to the recital where you played flawlessly and no one seemed to blink about the strange makeup, perhaps thinking it was all part of your performance.

The following weekend was also crammed full of Christmas family activities.  We went out to Milner Gardens to see their Winter Wonderland light display, and went to the movie theatre to see “Arthur Christmas”.  We had never seen this movie before, but it has become our new favourite Christmas movie – not only because the child lead is named Gwen, but that doesn’t hurt!  Finally, we went to Parksville to experience the immersive “Bethlehem Walk”.  You and I had been before, but Dad had never been, so it was really fun to share that with him, and to look at all the amazing displays and performances.  With all these events in one weekend, we definitely felt like we were in the Christmas spirit!

Still, however, there was something missing.  Since your first Christmas, at eight months old, we have always had your picture taken with Santa.  You have never enjoyed this proceeding, but I have never given you a choice.  This year, before I could consider my wording, I asked, “Would you like to take your picture with Santa?” and quick as a wink, you answered “No thank you.”  Now I was stuck!  I wanted to respect your wishes, but of course I still wanted a Christmas picture of you.  I started making backup plans to just take a picture of you in front of our Christmas tree, but Dad also suggested just taking you to the mall and walking by Santa’s photo area, to see if you would be tempted.  Our luck being what it is, we happened to arrive for this excursion when Santa was on his lunch break, so there was absolutely nothing to hold your interest.  We gave up and went home.  The next day, however, you and I were set to go to a fundraising event called “Breakfast with Santa” where there were many activities to enjoy: a delicious pancake breakfast, of course, as well as horse-drawn wagon rides, a kids-only toonie store where you could choose presents for your friends and family (and even have them wrapped!), an incredibly well-stocked silent auction, and, naturally, photos with Santa.  We arrived at the event and immediately saw Santa on stage, waiting for children.  I innocently asked, “Would you like to get your photo with Santa today?” and you immediately responded, “YES!”  I wasn’t sure if you would be bold enough to follow through, but you did, and the result is probably the best photo with Santa you’ve ever had.  I guess giving you a choice in the matter worked out well, after all.

The Christmas fun was still not over!  Next came your Christmas concert at school, a new milestone for you.  I was aggravated to see that really only the first two or three rows of seats had any chance of actually being able to have a decent view of the stage, and nearly enraged when the final number of the show – the one you’d been practicing at home for weeks – had the smallest kids in the school ON THE FLOOR in front of the stage, making you completely invisible from where I sat.  How frustrating!  On the other hand, I was charmed to find out that the cliché of children looking for their parents in the audience so they could wave to them and call, “Hi, Mom!” was actually true.  I enjoyed what I could see of your concert, and I think you enjoyed performing – especially after you’d caught sight of your parents and grandparents who’d come to see the show.

We went to the theatre again the following weekend to see the movie “Frozen”, the new Disney feature.  We’d all been looking forward to this film, you because, well, Disney princesses, and Mom and Dad because of the buzz that this film was smarter and more feminist-friendly than many of the previous Disney princess films (more in the line of “Brave” and perhaps signifying a new and modern direction for children’s films).  We were all really enjoying the movie, but about two-thirds of the way through a drama-filled crisis scene caused you to burst into tears and insist on going home.  I took you out of the theatre and calmed you down, then suggested that the worst was over and that we should go back in to watch the rest of the movie, which would no doubt include resolutions and happily ever afters.  But no – you were DONE with that movie and wanted nothing but home.  I have never seen you so upset at a movie before, and you are very fond of some movies I think of as pretty dark and scary – you have always loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, for example, which isn’t so shocking for a five-year-old, but you’ve been a huge fan of that movie since the age of two.  You also love 9, which I think is super creepy.  I think what upset you in this movie is that the snow queen, Elsa, was not in control of her actions, and was hurting people (including her beloved sister) without meaning to.  That is a scary concept.  All you could articulate about it is that it scared you “when the queen be’d mean,” but that is my own pet theory about why that pushed you over the edge.  Dad noted that while we were out of the theatre, before I went back in to tell him we were leaving for good, that the movie actually got even darker, so maybe it’s good that we left when we did – however, though we won’t show it to you again, both your Dad and I would really like to watch the rest of the movie and see if the reviews are correct!

The Sunday before Christmas, you participated in our church’s Sunday School pageant – you were proud to tell anyone who would listen that you played the angel Gabriel.  Not just a nondescript angel, you got to deliver the important news to Mary that she was going to have a child, and that she should not be afraid.  Your dad came along to watch the show, and when you danced down the aisle to talk to Mary, he worried that you were just being your usual goofy self.  “It’s okay,” I told him.  “She was specifically asked to dance!  She is doing just what she is supposed to do.”  You were well-cast as a dancing angel, and did a terrific job.

Then it was time for Christmas at your Gramma and Grandpa’s.  You got loads of presents, including a Furby Boom, which is what you had asked for.  You were immediately smitten and it was funny to watch your grandparents, who had not been sure why this not-very-interesting stuffed animal was such a big deal, understand that the big deal was the Furby’s computer and the way it interacts and learns from its ‘owner’.  You paid little attention to the rest of us for the rest of the evening, interacting instead with your new pet, “Bee-Tah”.  This was a nice rest since you typically demand constant attention from those around you!

The next day we headed to Powell River to have Christmas with that side of the family.  For the first time in your life, we had Christmas morning with your cousins, which was pretty terrific.  We all went to church on Christmas Eve, where your grandfather and cousins participated in the pageant, but you (fair enough!) were performed-out.  Unfortunately, we had a very rough sleep on Christmas Eve, and when we woke up on Christmas morning, you were sick and even threw up.  What a sad way to start your day!  You were very upset and needed lots of comfort.  Meanwhile, everyone else was ready to move into the living room and start opening their stockings.  After a few minutes, we decided to set up a comfy little bed-throne for you in the living room, so you could rest and still be part of the fun.  As the morning passed, so did the sickness, and you were soon yourself again.  We all got completely spoiled at Christmas, especially you, receiving (among other things) a LeapPad tablet.  Mom and Dad got Apple TV, a Netflix Account, and a portable DVD player, so it’s fair to say we are all well-equipped with technology and media entertainment for the foreseeable future!

We just arrived home from Powell River last night, and now we have a week or so more of Christmas break to enjoy both relaxing leisure activities and the tasks of finding homes for all our new presents.  As I write this you are happily playing with your tablet and practicing writing letters with the stylus.  We are so blessed to have had such a wonderful Christmas, spending time with so much of our family and receiving so many fun and useful gifts.

Merry Christmas, my girl!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dear Gwen: Month Sixty-Seven

Dear Gwen,
Today you are sixty-seven months old.

If I could pick one theme that describes this past month, it would be "bumping".  Because this has been the month that your wonderful, quirky, creative, and crazy personality has been bumping into the constraints of the outside world.  In a way, I knew this would happen when kindergarten rolled around, but the fact that I expected it doesn't make it any clearer how I should help you address it.

Your parent-teacher interview was a few weeks ago.  Your teacher described you as "a really creative thinker," in a tone that made it clear this was NOT meant as a compliment.  She also noted that you are "VERY busy."  These things? Are not news to us.  But your creative thinking is AWESOME, and your busy mind and body come up with all kinds of unusual ideas, and I don't think that's something to fix.  This blog is full of stories of your creativity and out-of-the-box imagination - and here's one more!  A few weeks ago, when tidying up the front hall closet for a party, I asked you to take an armful of coats upstairs and put them on my bed.  You did so, and then asked me to come upstairs so you could show me what else you'd done - taken blankets off your own bed and laid them on the floor, so that I would still have a place to sleep now that my bed was covered in coats.  Creative thinking?  YES.  And that's what we love about you!

But your kindergarten teacher, I guess, does not so much love the creative thinking.  Because her job is to teach you (and 21 other little balls of energy) how to do a lot of important stuff, and she can't do that job when Gwen the Creative Thinker is disrupting her class.  So now we have to learn how to channel that creativity and quirkiness into appropriate times and places, so that you don't end up spending your years at school just sitting outside the principal's office.

You continue to love kindergarten madly, which is a blessing, and you adore your teacher.  All the same, I can see what kindergarten is taking out of you at the end of the day.  The most obvious place I see this is at our weekly piano class.  Whereas last year you had piano class after a day of preschool - an environment that made very few demands on you - this year, by the time you get to piano class you have had before-school care, full-day kindergarten, and after-school care, plus transitions in between each of these.  I think in particular it is very hard for you to transition from after school kids' club, which is a very busy and active environment where you can engage in a lot of free play, to a music lesson where you must sit and listen and bring your attention to a range of directed tasks - especially after you've put in a whole day of directed tasks at kindergarten.  It's just too much, and this is made clear when you sit at your piano with your hands on your lap and outright refuse to play.  (Note: you do this only at class, not at home.)  Your dad and I are not sure how best to proceed (especially since we've already signed a contract and a raft of post-dated cheques for this year's piano lessons), but it seems obvious that if we don't support some kind of change, soon you will want to quit altogether, and that is not what we want.  I have a strong hunch that private lessons would be easier for you to handle at this point - if the piano class was not full of five other busy kids and their parents, you might be able to focus more - and that is something we are looking into.  In the meantime, your Christmas recital is in a few weeks, and hopefully it will boost your confidence and remind you of the good parts of piano playing.

Lest you think this past month has been all struggle and strife, let me describe some of the more excellent activities we've enjoyed.  We went to a Spooktacular Science Race put on by NS3, an organization in Nanaimo who is trying to build a Science Centre for kids.  The event was great fun, with participants wearing costumes and making their way through our beautiful wooded Bowen Park to find several science stations with neat demonstrations and stuff to learn.  All three of us had a great time. 

Then it was time for Halloween!  As you had planned for almost a full year before, you dressed up as a Rapunzel firefighter.  You got the idea for a 'mash-up' costume thanks to Uncle Mikey's birthday party last year, where he encouraged his guests to come as a mash-up of two concepts or characters.  This stuck with you, and you decided to combine your love of Rapunzel with your desire to help people - thus, Rapunzel firefighter.  You also told anyone who would listen that this was not just your costume, but is also what you want to be when you grow up.  I don't know if people knew quite what to make of it all, but you had a great time and that's what counts!

Our next fun event was an Open House at the Nanaimo Hatchery.  We attended with some friends and saw a fish being dissected (this did not gross you out in the slightest, and you were super excited to touch every single one of the fish's organs).  You also got to do some artwork, take a fry to the water, and (hopefully) learn a thing or two about the salmon's life cycle.  Good (educational) times for all.

The following weekend, you and I went to the Lower Mainland for a visit to some of our friends.  We got to spend two days and nights hosted by your friend Rachel and her parents in their beautiful new home.  Rachel is not quite two, but you played with her really well.  There was this amazing moment when Rachel - who, understandably, was having trouble sharing her toys - took one of them right out of your hand.  You looked at her sharply, and I saw you draw in your breath to address the problem - and then, quick as a blink, I saw you decide to let it go.  I saw you understand that Rachel is littler than you, that she doesn't understand sharing yet, and that it was harder for her than for you, and you chose to let her have that toy and go find yourself another one.  I have NEVER been so proud of you as I was at that moment, my Gwen, and I let you know it, too.

You and Rachel had lots of fun times together - colouring, playing Hide and Seek, swimming, and going on forest walks.  We even got to eat dinner at your favourite restaurant, Boston Pizza!  After two nights at Rachel's house, we said our goodbyes and drove to Breana's house, where we got to meet her new little brother, Connor.  You and Breana played really well together in her room while I got to visit with her mom, which was very fun for all of us.  Then we got back on the ferry and came back home.  What a great trip!

This past weekend was a whirlwind as well - you went to birthday parties at Jumpin' Jiminy's TWO DAYS IN A ROW and then spent today at the VIU Festival of Trees Family Day event with your friend Lily. Predictably, this did not wear you out at all, whereas I could happily pass out right this minute. 

I love that you're a creative thinker, my Gwen, and I love all the energy you bring to life (even when it wears me out).  I can't imagine you any other way.  I love you, my girl, and am so proud to be your Mom.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dear Gwen: Month Sixty-Six

Dear Gwen,
Today you are sixty-six months old – officially five and a half.

You have really grown and matured a lot since your fifth birthday.  It’s hard to know how much of that is due to your environment – summer camp, then kindergarten – and how much is due to you just hitting a certain developmental stage.  Whatever the cause, the changes are delightful.  You are getting a lot better at self-regulation: just a few days ago, you were trying to explain something to me and I just wasn’t understanding you.  I heard the sharp intake of breath as you were about to shout out your anger and frustration, but in the blink of an eye, you changed your mind and got yourself under control, choosing instead to explain yourself in another way.  I immediately understood your question, responded, and we moved forward in a positive direction.  I was so impressed with your ability to keep your temper!

You have learned two important things this month, things you have been trying to learn for YEARS.  You can now whistle and snap your fingers.  You are so incredibly proud of yourself!  Both of these skills were learned from other kids at your after school program, which you enjoy almost as much as kindergarten itself.  You always have so many stories to tell me about what you did that day, and although they don’t always make sense (see anecdote above), I love hearing them anyway.  If only you would stop? Talking in questions? It would really? Make me even happier?  If that were possible?

On the day you broke your wrist – hours and hours later, while we were in the hospital waiting to see the results of your x-ray – a story came to light that simply must be shared here.  You and I were in the bathroom, because you had to do what one has to do in bathrooms.  I imagine other kids your age have the same bathroom-related fear that you do, namely, that the flush – especially when it is an automated flush that goes off without warning – will be too loud.  (It is a valid fear, because some of them are WICKED loud.  Add the excellent acoustics of a public bathroom and you have a recipe for frightened children!)  You were pondering whether this particular toilet would be too loud, and I reminded you that even if it was loud, it couldn’t hurt you, and besides, I was right there to comfort you if you were startled.  Then you told me the following story: “On the first day of kindergarten I didn’t know that the middle bathroom was really loud.  Now I know that I should go in the first one or the last one but not the middle one.  But on the first day of kindergarten I went in the middle one and it was really loud so I cried and ran back to my classroom right away.”  Further questioning revealed that you did, indeed, run down the halls of your school with your pants down around your ankles as you fled the loud flushing toilet.  The good news is, this must count as a normal occurrence in kindergarten, because your teacher never even mentioned it.  I guess you are fitting in well!

We got to go to an open house at your school and I was really impressed with your classroom (and so happy to finally see it!).  You proudly showed us lots of examples of your artwork and classwork on the walls, including some you’d made with your “big buddy” (I guess this is a Grade Five or Six student who comes and does art with you once a week – you talk about her a lot!).  You also showed us where you sit for Circle Time and what you have to do while you’re there – you have to do “The Five”: smiling face, listening ears, hands in lap, eyes on teacher, mouth closed.  Every day one student wins the opportunity to be the “Super Star Helper” by demonstrating these skills superbly, a privilege you eagerly long for!

Wearing a splint on your wrist for three weeks hardly slowed you down, and you have continued with your two extra-curricular activities (aside: I truly don’t understand how families manage to pack any more than two extra-curricular activities into a week.  Then again, I don’t totally get how people manage with more than one child, so clearly I’m not an expert).  You are doing really well at piano, and I am really happy that I get to accompany you to the lessons this year, which wasn’t a possibility last year.  You somehow ended up in the Advanced class for Sunshine 2, and there are definitely higher expectations on you than there were last year, with a much faster-paced class.  But as I said, you are doing well and keeping pace with the rest of the students.  My one concern is that while I think a group format class is more fun for you than a teacher-student one-on-one, it can also be pretty distracting for you.  On the other hand, I don’t know that any teacher, dynamic and energetic as s/he might be, could keep your focus solely on piano for a solid hour, without the release of having other students to share the attention with.  In any case, I absolutely love the format of the Music for Young Children program.  You are already starting to play with both hands together, and can already read more of the bass clef than I could before joining these lessons with you (being a soprano, I can read treble clef just fine, but why on earth would I need to know bass clef?!).  We’ve even started some limited playing of chords.  Amazing!

You are also still enjoying karate, and your sensei even thinks you are ready to grade for the first stripe on your belt.  It’s nice that the dojo makes available the requirements for every level of grading, so that you can figure out what you need to work towards.  Like piano, you are meant to be practicing certain parts of karate every night, but this doesn’t always happen.  Nevertheless, you enjoy the classes and must be progressing (I don't know as much about it as parents don't get to watch).  I hope your first grading goes well, as you will doubtless be incredibly proud to earn that first stripe!

The approach of Christmas has initiated some interesting conversations in our house.  I knew that this would be the year you started to really ask for stuff, as you have spent a lot of time with other kids of varying ages and are really aware of what toys they have.  You have already asked for a Barbie doll and a Monster High doll, neither of which I am willing to have in my house.  Taking inspiration from a fellow mom, I tried to explain to you why I don’t like Barbies.

Me: Did you know that some people think the most important thing about girls and women is how pretty they are?  They think it’s more important than being smart, or kind, or patient, or honest, or curious, or anything else.  Do you think that’s the most important thing?
Gwen: No.
Me: Some girls and women are so worried about how pretty they are, or worried that they aren’t pretty enough, that they do really unhealthy and unsafe things to themselves, trying to be prettier.  They can get really sick or even die.
Gwen: Oh no!
Me: And that’s why I don’t like Barbie.  The only interesting thing about Barbie is that she’s pretty.  And I don’t think being pretty is super important.  I think it’s more important to be smart, and kind, and patient, and loyal, and all that other stuff.  Don’t you think so?
Gwen: Yeah. Well, Rapunzel is pretty …
Me: Yeah, she is!  But you know what else?  Remember how Rapunzel said, “When I make a promise, I never ever ever ever ever EVER break that promise. EVER!”?  That’s because Rapunzel is loyal to her friends and she tells the truth.  Do you think that’s more important or less important than being pretty?
Gwen: …More important?
Me: Yeah!  So that’s why I don’t want to have Barbies.  Do you understand?
Gwen: Because … being pretty makes people sick.

Okay, so I didn’t quite nail it this time.  Hopefully there will be further conversations and I can try to sort this one out!  In the meantime, you have also requested a Monster High doll.  Now, most grown-ups will say they don’t like these dolls because they’re ugly.  I actually care less about that than the fact that not one of them is wearing an outfit that would be acceptable in an elementary school setting (the age group of the kids who play with these dolls).  Apparently, you have some friends at the after school care program who have these dolls and won’t let you play with them because you don’t have them.  On the one hand, it breaks my heart to see you miss a social opportunity.  On the other, SCREW THEM if that’s the way they choose their friendships!  I guess if you can learn the lesson now that friends care about each other no matter what toys/clothes/cars/shoes they have, you’ll be on the right track.  Let’s see if I can have THAT conversation without screwing it up …

Well, I guess that’s about it for this month, Gwen.  You continue to amaze me with your flexibility, your joy, your abilities, and your pure enthusiasm for life.  I am so very blessed to be your mother.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dear Gwen: Month Sixty-Five

Dear Gwen,

Today you are sixty-five months old.


You always amaze and astound us with your incredible personality and unique perspective on the world, but two particular events this past month have me completely in awe of your strength and abilities.  First, you started kindergarten.  You and I had agreed that on your first day, I would stay with you as long as you needed me to, and you had even told me exactly what you were going to say when you were ready for me to leave (“Mom, I’m okay now.”)  We had practiced getting out of bed early and doing your morning routine without (as much of) the dawdling, arguing, and whining that usually accompanies it, and as such you were ready for Day One of Kindergarten a full 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  So we went to the school early and you played on the playground.  When it was time to line up in front of the doors, the kindergarten teachers came out and called each child by name.  Your name was called and you took your place, looking so small and yet so big with your backpack and your ponytails.  When all the names were called, the teacher surprised us both by instructing the students, “Now, say goodbye to Mommies and Daddies, you’ll see them at the end of the day.”  I was immediately saddened by the lost opportunity to share this milestone with you, to together discover your cubby, your coathook, your classroom … but more than that, I worried that this deviation from our arranged plan would throw you off.  Not for a second.  You gave me a big hug and a kiss, said goodbye, and followed your classmates into the school without a backward glance.  Probably easiest on students and teacher, I thought, to make a clean break of it, start as you mean to go on.  And you handled it beautifully.  Every time high expectations are set for you, you exceed them with ease.

And you LOVE kindergarten.  You love it!  You talk about it constantly, telling me all about what you do at school and who you play with and where you go.  You talk about your Big Buddies (older students who come and do art with you) and Library Days (oh! The joy of borrowing a book from your VERY OWN SCHOOL LIBRARY!) and the songs you sing (A you’re Adorable, I’m a Pizza, Four Hugs a Day) and what the Superstar is (the person who gets to help the teacher with the day’s calendar) and how you get to be one (“sit really straight and do The Five”).  Kindergarten is your favourite thing ever and I am so incredibly happy for you that you are doing so well there.  And feeling like I shouldn’t have ever considered any other possibility.

Then, a week later, you fractured your wrist.  You were playing outside after school, waiting for the after-school program’s bus to come pick you up (and can I just digress, for one second, to note that you have transitioned from lazy days of being taxied around by Mom and Dad for three or four days of summer camp a week, to five days a week of rigidly scheduled before-school care / full-day kindergarten / bus transport to after-school care without a hiccup?) when … something happened.  Your description of the event was, “I was standing on some dirt, and I fell onto the curb, and my wrist went too high.”  Which I’m guessing means that it bent backwards, in some fashion, but it is a complete mystery to anyone involved how you fell off some dirt badly enough to get significantly injured.  A school secretary was on hand (it is still not clear if she actually saw the fall, or just came when you burst into tears) and she assessed you; you were also assessed by a visiting firefighter who I’m guessing happened to be on hand doing some sort of fire safety presentation to the school (these are the random things that happen in the world of elementary school!).  Anyway, although you were crying pretty hard and did not want to get on the bus, the secretary convinced you to do so, and then called my cell phone and left a message letting me know that “Gwen got a bump on her arm today after school, she is fine but just wanted you to know what happened in case she talks about it later.”  (I did not get this message until about 45 minutes later, because I do not answer my personal cell phone at my new fancy-shmancy job.  But even if I *had* gotten that call, I probably wouldn’t have done anything, because she was painting a very clear picture of So Not a Big Deal, Nothing to Worry About.

But forty-five minutes later, it was quiet in my office and I just happened to hear my phone buzzing in my bag, and although I didn’t find it in time, I did see the name of your elementary school listed on the Recent Callers list.  And darling Gwen, as every parent knows and as someday you may know, nothing strikes cold vacant fear into the heart of a parent like seeing the name of the person entrusted with their child on the call display.  Because that call always means something is wrong.  The second call I’d received was from the after-school program, who left a voicemail telling me that you had been at the centre for forty-five minutes and had yet to stop crying.  “I’ve never seen her cry like this,” the leader reported, and fancy-schmancy job or no, I was grabbing my coat and keys and calling your dad to come meet me with the car so we could go pick you up.  (Exciting superhero imagery aside, it was only about ten minutes before I was due to leave work ANYWAY, but that’s not the point.  I think.)  We raced off to the centre to meet you, and when we arrived you were no longer crying but it was obvious from your red streaky face that you had cried, hard, for a long time.  A girl named Harmony was sitting with you, reading one book after another to you in efforts to comfort (distract?) you.  Another child was fetching you snacks from a nearby table.  Even in my worry for you, I had time to think about how you were no doubt reveling in being waited on this way!  After thanking the program leaders (and Harmony), we got you into the car and headed for the ER.  You fell asleep on the way there, no doubt exhausted from all the stress.

It was a long, long wait in the ER.  The thing we needed, obviously, was an x-ray, and there was a 3.5-hour wait for the machine.  Every thirty or forty minutes either your Dad or I would say, “She’s fine.  She’s obviously fine.  She’s not in any pain.  We should go.  This is ridiculous.”  And the other one of us would say, “We’ve been here (x) hours already.  We might as well wait.  I don’t want to have to come back tomorrow and start all over again.”  So we waited.  I really did think that you were fine.  There had been no tears and no complaints about pain since we had picked you up.  You were happily playing games on the iPad, using your sore hand without incident to poke at the screen.  It couldn’t possibly be broken, right?

We finally got the x-ray, and then waited almost another hour for a doctor to examine the x-ray.  Just as the doctor entered the room to give us the diagnosis, you told us you had to go to the bathroom.  Of course!  What timing.  I quickly took you to the nearby bathroom, and as I turned your hand over to wash it (quickly, quickly, doctor is waiting) you howled in pain.  Ohhhhh.  So THAT’S where it hurts.  And how close we were to just blowing the whole thing off…!

The doctor examined the x-ray with us and showed us where the break was.  I badly wanted to take a picture of the screen with my smartphone so I could blog it for you, but I restrained myself.  There was a tiny little ‘buckle’ break just at the front of your wrist.  He set it in a fiberglass splint, wrapped it in a tensor bandage, gave us some instructions, and sent us on our way.  It was an hour after bedtime by the time we got home.  I helped you take off your shoes and coat, my mind racing with getting you into bed and then getting everything ELSE done that hadn’t got done in the past four hours.  You asked, “So, what’s for dinner?”  I forgot the other chores, sat and spoonfed you chicken noodle soup.

All that night I worried and wondered how you were going to deal with your injury at school the next day.  You loved kindergarten so much, and were getting on so well!  Would you now have a negative association with school?  Would you go hungry because you needed more help, now, to open the various food containers in your lunchbox?  Would you fall behind and be upset if you couldn’t hold a pencil to write or draw?  Would you be able to get your shoes on and off alone?  What about going to the bathroom?  Yikes!  Everything suddenly seemed really complicated.

I suppose the thing to say is that someday I will learn not to worry about you, but in truth, I don’t expect I ever will.  It’s part of my job as Mom to do the worrying.  But even if I can’t manage to not worry, I certainly have learned to laugh at myself when I do.  Because you woke up the next day ready as always to head off to kindergarten.  There was no question of you wanting to stay home (in secret, we had Gramma on standby in case you weren’t up to it).  We talked a bit about having to do things differently while your wrist healed, and you practiced what to say to people who asked about your arm, and how to ask people for help when you needed it.  And then off you went.  Before-school care, full-day kindergarten, bus to after-school care.  Little Miss Independent, and never a complaint was heard.

I guess those two stories have taken up my whole letter this month, Gwen.  Well, that’s probably quite accurate – in years to come, when we look back on this time, we will remember little else besides the start of kindergarten and the first broken bone.  Believe it or not, there have been other amazing moments, too – like the time you told me, “I’d prefer if zombies ate flies, so that there wouldn’t be any flies in our garbage can.”  What’s more fascinating about this sentence – the adult tone in the word ‘prefer’, the imaginative repurposing of zombies, or the random ignoring of the fact that zombies don’t live in our house?  These are the types of questions that one must ask, if one is to embark on a life with Gwen.  And I am so very, very glad that I have.

Love you always, my astounding girl.



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