Friday, January 24, 2014

Dear Gwen: Month Sixty-Nine

Dear Gwen,
Today you are sixty-nine months old.  YOU ARE SO BIG!  January has been a busy month of “back to normal”: back to school and after-school club, back to piano lessons and karate, back to early mornings and weekly homework.  You have handled all of this quite well, and for the most part are very co-operative with the hectic parts of our routine.  I have had a realization in the past little while, which is that although you would happily tell me your preference for weekends would be to have one playdate after another, with social stimulation from dawn till dusk, that doesn’t actually make you happy when it happens.  This was a happy revelation, as I definitely prefer a quieter life.  Our new rule for weekends is, one thing per day.  This is working out marvellously for us all!

Shortly after heading back to school, we had a meeting with your teacher.  We’d had some concerns about your reports of getting time-outs at school.  While we are certainly not against time-outs, it worried us that we weren’t hearing about them from your teacher and had to rely only on your haphazard report of the situation.  We were also really curious about why you were getting time-outs, especially because your report card stated that ”Gwen finds sitting still and focusing on a task or discussion very difficult (…) She needs to be moving most of the time and finds it difficult to remain in her seat and work independently without interacting with others.”  My worrying questions were, first of all, were you getting time-outs for this inability to sit still?  And how was a sitting-still time-out meant to help improve your behaviour and your inability to sit still?  In any case, it was great to sit down with your teacher and get the straight story.  You are not getting nearly as many time-outs as I’d feared, and your teacher is now letting us know when they happen and why.  And most importantly, she presents these time-outs not as a punishment but just as an opportunity for you to calm your body before rejoining the activity.  She also told us that you are a very very bright child (not news to us, but I’m very happy to know that she knows it)!

One thing your teacher mentioned that surprised me a bit was when she said, “Gwen just loves, loves, loves, LOVES, LOVES to sing.”  I was really not sure where that sentence was going – loves to talk? Loves to count? Loves to dance? Loves storytime? Loves art? – so many possibilities, but it never occurred to me that “loves to sing” would be the result.  I guess you sing a lot more at school than you do at home.  That said, you recently learned a song at school that you sang first for your dad in the car ride home, and then for me when you arrived, and it is AWESOME.  It’s called “Canada in My Pocket” and it’s about the pictures on the different coins we use.  Or, to use the song lyrics:

I’ve got Canada in my pocket, a little bit of history
A penny and a nickel and a quarter and a dime mean a lot to you and me
It’s not just pocket money, they’re the symbols of our land
With pictures of important things for which this country stands.

There are four lengthy verses, one about each coin, with details about the picture and how it relates to Canada’s history.  And in between each verse, that lovely chorus.  AND YOU KNOW EVERY SINGLE WORD.  You can sing the whole thing flawlessly, without faltering, and with a fair bit of vocal style.  It is completely fantastic to witness.  I really hope I can catch your performance on video!

Last week at your piano class, I thought we had a real breakthrough in your ability to concentrate (and, just as importantly, your WILLINGNESS to concentrate).  It began with outright bribery on my part: “If you get through your whole piano class with good behaviour, we will stop at Dairy Queen for ice cream on the way home.”  I even got you to tell me what you thought the parameters were for good behaviour: “I won’t whine or cry, I won’t argue, I will listen to the teacher and to Mom, and I will play EVERY song,” you told me excitedly.  And sure enough, YOU FREAKING WELL DID.  Which made me ecstatic, even while I wondered why you didn’t just do that every damn week (not to mention every damn day at school, but I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself here!).  In the car on the way to Dairy Queen, I asked you how you had managed to pull off this amazing feat, and you were happy to tell me what you had done differently: “I turned my brain ALL THE WAY on, not just a little bit.  Then I woke up my brain every time it wanted to go to sleep.  And I told my brain to ‘zip it’ so it wouldn’t beg me to go to sleep.”  It was pretty neat to have a glimpse into how you view your own cognitive processes – in another example, you often tell us that you have lots of different TVs in your brain and that they do different things. Fascinating! – and, it was really valuable for me to be able to use your own words to remind you of what you needed to do in order to concentrate and have a great piano class.  I’d love to be able to tell you that your following lesson went just as awesomely, but sadly, this is not the case – though on the whole, it was still probably better than your typical behaviour at piano.  You do love piano, but knowing what I know now about your distractibility and attention level, I think a group setting is not right for you.  Next year we will definitely be requesting private lessons instead of group lessons.

Another bit of piano news is that you have just finished your first composition for the annual competition.  It is a very simple but interesting piece that you have decided to call “Driplets” because, you say, it sounds like raindrops falling.  I am very proud of you for composing and playing this piece, and your teacher is too.  Maybe you’ll even play it at the year-end piano recital!

After a few thoughtful questions from you, I did a bit of online research for books on the subject and bought you “It's Not The Stork!”.  What an awesome book!  It covers pretty much every “birds and bees” subject you’d want to know about, with colourful pictures and accessible text.  So, you now know where babies come from – another milestone passed.  The day after reading the book with you, I asked you if you had any questions about anything you’d learned.  I wondered if you would ask about sex, or pregnancy, or birth, or any other reproduction-related topic, but actually, what most stuck in your mind was the fact that boys got to stand up to pee.  “What do boys do if they have to pee AND poop at the same time?  How do they know what to do first?  What does the boys’ bathroom look like?” And, my personal favourite: “What do boys do with their backpacks when they have to pee?  Once again your amazing little mind is full of surprises …!

We had a pretty fun time recently when you decided you wanted to have a sleepover with me.  You often complain of being lonely because you have to sleep all by yourself while Mom and Dad get to share a bed.  I admit, it does seem kind of unfair that grown-ups (who should have a firm grasp on the difference between dreams and reality, the nonexistence of monsters in the closet, and the foolishness of being afraid of the dark) get to have company at night, while little kids, with all their fears and lack of understanding, have to sleep all by themselves.  Be that as it may, we’re not about to take up the habit of family-co-sleeping, but I will certainly give up a few nights a month to have a sleepover with you.  More realistically, it’s your dad who makes the sacrifice, sleeping on the pullout couch downstairs while you take over his spot in our bed.  I’m trying to get you to adopt the idea of a Dad and Gwen sleepover too, so we’ll see if that takes hold.  In any case, you and I had a lovely snuggly evening together, watching a movie you chose while cuddling on the couch before moving up to bed, reading stories together, and falling asleep.  Good girl-time!

Well, I guess that’s all for this month, Gwen.  You are a fiercely awesome kid and your dad and I enjoy you so much.  Rock on, kiddo!



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