Friday, April 24, 2015

Dear Gwen: Month Eighty-Four

Dear Gwen,

Today, you are seven years old. Where does the time go?

Life with you continues to be mostly fun, with a few frustrations. Recently, you learned the song “Little Rabbit Frou Frou” at school. You sang it for me that afternoon in the car, and took great pleasure in the punchline: “Hare today, goon tomorrow!” I sang a silly little ba-dum-da-dum melody to add a flourish to your performance, and with perfect timing and intonation came the rimshot “tsssshhhh” from the backseat. It was hilarious! I burst out laughing, which made you laugh, and then you wanted to do it all over again. You are so fun!

Another day, you were discussing ponies, unicorns, and pegasi with your dad. “According to my research,” you told him, “Pegasus can fly, but unicorns have to stay on the ground.” We are very proud of you for doing such diligent research, and citing it appropriately.

All kids have charming little mispronunciations that they slowly grow out of, to their parents’ chagrin. You, at seven, still have a few that I’m reluctant to correct you on. Breakfast is still “breffikt”, and roast beef – which one of the piggies has, while another goes to market – is “marf beef”. But we recently discovered a new one, much to our delight – the object a detective uses to search out clues, or a scientist uses to see things more closely, is called a “magna-find glass”. Now doesn’t that make perfect sense?

We’ve been very busy packing and painting and cleaning and organizing and putting a great many things from our house into our new storage locker. The first time you heard me talking about the storage locker, you were very curious and wanted to come with me to see what it was like, so I brought you along. You were excited and animated and enthusiastic about helping me, and when we got there you were quick to tell me that it was a little different from what you expected: you thought it would be like “the ones at the swimming pool”, silver with a yellow key. Our locker is not only a different colour, but, you know, substantially bigger. You remain fascinated by the locker and are always happy to help us with our trips there.

One day over breakfast, you raised your middle finger and asked me what it meant. Hmmm. Where did you see that gesture, I wonder? I told you that it meant a lot of rude, mean things, like “Go away” or “I hate you” or “You’re stupid”. Then we talked about how people would feel if they were shown that middle finger – for example, how would your teacher respond if you showed it to her? “But what if I didn’t know?” you asked. “But now you DO know,” I told you. So, you know, don’t do it!

We had a run of very frustrating and upsetting school days recently, after the Easter break. You returned to school on Tuesday, and mid-afternoon I got an email from your teacher letting me know that “Gwen had multiple moments of frustration throughout the day. I will outline two examples: I had to remind Gwen to use her words instead of grabbing things from people. [A classmate] wanted to put the pencil crayons/pencils away but Gwen didn’t like how she was doing it so she grabbed them from [her] hands and an argument blew up. The other example was during planners. I had to take down the planner message off the board because it was close to the bell time so Gwen threw her pencil and hid in a corner. I had to finish the message for her.  I reminded her to talk less and work more. I hope you will have the time today to remind Gwen of class expectations and also to use her words to explain herself. “ We chalked most of this behaviour up to “holiday hangover”, the return to school after four days off, but we did talk to you about using your words and keeping your hands to yourself.

Then on Wednesday, when you unpacked your backpack at home, you handed Dad and I some flowers you had picked for us. They were not wildflowers or weeds, but planted flowers. When I started to question where you had gotten them, you told us that it had been “Free Garden Day” at school that day. Further questioning revealed that “a kid in a bigger class” had told you about this supposed Free Garden Day, that it was for the whole school (but only a few kids had participated, and no teachers or adults), and that it was the first time ever for this event. Um. It was obvious to me that you had just stolen these flowers from someone’s garden, after being manipulated by another kid. We had a big talk about thinking carefully before doing things that other people tell you to do, asking questions like “Why isn’t the whole school here, if it’s for everybody?” or “Why aren’t there any teachers here?”

On Thursday, I got a text from your teacher that you had “flashed the class and said, ‘Look at my boobies!’” I was completely thrown. I KNOW that you know about privacy and private parts, and also, WE DON’T CALL THEM BOOBIES. I’ve never heard you use that word in your life! I immediately wondered if you had, again, been talked into this by another kid, especially in light of the unusual word usage. When we talked about it that night, this was confirmed: a boy in the class who according to you “hates girls” was hitting, scratching, kicking, and pestering you to lift your shirt. “Higher,” he’d say when you lifted it a bit, “higher,” again and again. So we talked again about not letting people talk you into things you know are wrong, and then we talked about how to protect yourself: get away physically, and use your words, in a LOUD voice. I told you that if you had yelled, “No, get away, stop touching me!”, then the teacher would have looked over to see why you were yelling, and seen the boy bothering you. Then he would have been in trouble instead of you! I emailed the teacher to fill her in, and hoped and prayed that Friday would pass without incident. Somehow, miraculously, it did.

“Mom, can we have a block party?” You asked one morning. I imagined the block parties I’ve heard about (but never attended), where a bunch of neighbours get together for a communal barbecue and social event. But my first instinct is always to ask you what you mean, because sometimes you have a totally different thing in mind, and that was the case here. It turned out you wanted to invite a whole bunch of friends over, and everyone would bring their blocks, and you would all work together to build the biggest tower ever. This sounds super fun, except I can’t figure out how to make sure that everyone gets their own blocks back at the end. Once we find a solution for that, I will totally throw you a block party!
We are, it seems, constantly in a hurry, rushing to school and work and activities and bed without a lot of time to relax and enjoy each other. You are often in your own little world throughout all this rushing, which leads to a lot of frustration on our part, but sometimes makes us laugh as well. Last week when Dad was trying to coax you out of the car so you could go to before-school club, while you just gazed blankly at the handle above the window, you told him in an awed voice, “Dad, I never noticed these handles are so vibrational!” No idea what you meant by that, because I’ve never noticed that either.

This being your birthday, there are grand plans afoot for the weekend. We had your annual birthday photo shoot at Bowen Park last weekend, and today I am picking you up after school and the two of us are going to get manicures together for the first time. You are always asking me to paint your nails, but since I’m no expert and certainly couldn’t do a good job on your tiny fingernails, I figured we should go and get pampered together. Pretty sure that is going to blow your mind, being treated like a big grown-up girl like that. Tomorrow, we are having your birthday party at Boston Pizza, where all the kids will get to wear chef hats and aprons and all the parents will squeal to themselves about how adorable that is, and then you kids will make your own pizzas from start to finish. The next day, your grandparents are taking us all out to lunch at Earl’s. So, it’s a busy weekend with lots of fun, to celebrate how wonderful you are and how much we all love you!

Love you a million, billion, kajillion, and SEVEN!


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