Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dear Gwen: Month Sixty

Dear Gwen,

Today, you are five years old.

The past few months have seen some incredible changes.  You have become really interested in drawing and colouring, for the first time.  You are also very interested in writing and often ask how to spell certain words.  It makes me think that writing, rather than reading, might be the key to literacy for you – it makes sense that you would be more interested in figuring out how to communicate your own messages, rather than interpreting others!  Anyway, it’s exciting to see these parts of your brain unlocking.  I am always thrilled when you show me your latest picture and tell me the story it’s portraying!

A great example of this was your participation in the recent Sunday School Talent Show, where you chose not to sing, play piano, dance, do gymnastics, or any other active performance that might be expected from a girl of your physical energy – you chose to read a story you had written and illustrated.  I admit I didn’t think this was a great idea as a performance piece, but I was proven wrong as you shared your story with great presence and confidence and received a multitude of compliments from audience members of all ages.  I think the compliment that meant the most to you was from a ten-year-old boy (who, as we all know, do not pull punches when it comes to critique, and are much less likely to be swayed by factors like “adorableness”).  He told you your story was great and that he loved “the part where you said it was written and illustrated by Gwen Buechler.”  I loved that part too!

 Obviously, the biggest event in the past month was our big trip to California – Disneyland, SeaWorld, and the San Diego Zoo.  You loved all of it and were so well-behaved!  You got a lot of practice at standing in line, and although I admit that you are still not the world’s most patient person (neither am I, for the record), you kept your cool and just accepted that instant gratification was not the order of the day.  One of the highlights of our trip was the day you got a Princess Makeover at the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique and became “Princess Gwen from the faraway Kingdom of Canada”.  It was really amazing to see this side of you come to life, and of course you loved every minute of it.

Another recent event was your bout with scarlet fever.  When the doctor at the walk-in clinic gave this diagnosis, I felt panicked – it sounded very serious!  In fact, all you needed was a course of antibiotics to get back on track, and within a day or two you were back to your normal bubbly self.  Which was too bad, because we still had 4 days to quarantine you away from other kids!  A bouncy energetic Gwen who is confined to her house … well, it wasn’t an easy few days.  Your face just dropped when I told you why we couldn’t have anyone over for a playdate, even though it was a “Mom and Gwen day”.  However, we did lots of fun stuff on these days: we turned the kitchen table into a fort, we set up your mini tent in the living room, we watched lots of movies and played lots of board games and spent lots of time online at  I’m not sure if you were about ready to hit this developmental stage anyway, or if the enforced isolation actually made it happen, but right around this time you got in touch with your inner introvert (for which I am REALLY grateful).  You started being able to – and interested in – spending 20-40 minutes playing by yourself, whether in your room with your dollhouse, at your craft table with your art supplies, or in the living room with your ponies and other playthings.  I had started to think that you were never going to be that kind of kid, but I’m really thrilled to be proven wrong! 

 Along with this new development, you and I have had some discussions about boredom.  Like every other human being on the planet, you dislike and/or fear boredom.  But I am trying to help you understand that your boredom is no one’s responsibility but your own.  You are forever flapping around underfoot asking me, “What can I DO right now?”, so the guideline we’ve come up with is that if there is a job to be done – getting ready for school, eating a meal, brushing teeth, etc – then I will tell you so.  And if not, then it is up to you to figure out how to fill your time.  As I have said several times recently, “I am not in charge of entertaining you.  This is YOUR time.”

An amusing side note to this is on the very last day of your quarantine, you had serious cabin fever and were very tired of entertaining yourself.  Rather than point out all the things you could play with (seriously!  There are so many toys in this house!  HOW CAN YOU BE BORED?), I asked you to open one cupboard and point out every activity/toy/game inside, while I wrote them all down.  Then the next cupboard.  Then the drawer.  Then the shelf.  Then each basket.  And so on.  Until I had a huge list of things like “play a board game”, “do Hello Kitty crafts”, “colour in colouring books”, “do stickers”, etc.  Then I cut up the paper so each activity was on its own slip, and told you to pull one slip out of the jar and do whatever was on that slip.  Because you are externally motivated, this totally worked, because now you were being “told” what to do instead of figuring it out for yourself.  Some activities lasted three minutes, some lasted 25.  But I never had to tell you what to do, and that counts as a win for me!

This past weekend we had your birthday party, with a record-breaking nineteen kids in attendance (counting the birthday girl), ages ranging from almost-three to six-and-a-half.  A great time was had by all with a piƱata, goodie bags, time in the gym to burn off energy, and an amazing Pinkie Pie birthday cake.  I really loved having your many friends from different areas of your life come together to celebrate with you.  It brought me a lot of joy to see all these people who love you gathered together to make your day special.

 Well, that’s it for this month, Gwen.  I love you a million, billion, kajillion and FIVE, and am sure that this year will be the best one ever!



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