Sunday, January 29, 2012

To Speck, within sight of 4 years old

I can't believe that it's been nine months since I sat to write one of these! The fact that I haven't found the time has to be credited, at least in part, to how fast we're running all the time to keep up with you, your energy and your ever-increasing grasp of the world. You're still at an interesting intermediate state in many ways: you use scissors like a champ now, gladly take on 100-piece puzzles, and are pround to be a user of Big Girl (fluoride-containing) toothpaste as of the last couple of weeks, but you still resist saying goodbye to your high chair or crib, show no signs of advancing toward overnight potty training, and have reverted to eating only a half-dozen favored foods (and complaining about dinners out). Still, leaps and bounds on many fronts mean you're a radically different girl than when last I wrote.

Speck on the Zoon train at 41 months

Notably over this span, you took on an assortment of behaviors that I've always associated with Kids (without really being aware of the ages at which they might predominate). We're probably 6-8 months into the world of repeated demands such as "hey! watch this!" You like making up imaginative stories, especially about a former/secret/imaginary life in varying degrees of detail (from the vague to the explicit: you lived in Greece, you had different parents, you rescued a sparrow...). You have lately become obsessed with poop jokes and all things scatological or smelly. And you can make an abstract scribble and then describe in detail the things that it shows.

Other pleasant surprises: you have moments of real snuggliness. You no longer require your PB&J cut into tiny pieces, and you sometimes even eat the crusts! (as long as they're not attached.) You worked hard for several months at swinging and jumping until you finally achieved your goal (around 42 months) of successfully navigating a set of monkey bars. Speck near Gammy's pool in water wings Around that same time you took your first true solo potty trip and also managed to get yourself dressed one morning. (Neither of these things are reliable yet, but progress!) You're not only able to spell your name, but you can write at least the first three letters -- and love to do so -- and you know your and Gammy's phone numbers by heart. You can work a computer mouse and no longer even think about doing so as you navigate games and websites. You have developed an interest in board games, which is something of a relief to your parents. And you're a complete water bug, loving to splash in Gammy's pool, and taking your first no-parent swim class at the Y.

Most striking here is your leap in social development. Not only have we seen you play with (as opposed to next to) other kids, first occasionally and now regularly, but you actually made your first real friends in the last two months -- we even swung a playground playdate with one of them. You still have a tendency to adopt little kids and look after them more than to engage real peers, but friendship is a pretty loose construct at this age, and the enthusiasms are mutual, so who cares!

reading with DadHere are a couple of things that I now recognize as toddler behavior, but might in a more naive stage of life have expected I had another 10-12 years before I'd have to master: claims that we're "ruining your life," general anti-parent acting out, and back-seat driving ("keep two hands on the wheel!")... I find that a glass of wine with dinner is a great help in such matters -- that and increased use of morning coffee appear to be your parents' adaptations to life with the challenges of 3.

Here are some distinctive new things that seem very specific to you:
  • You started to have a set of "three questions" that you wanted to ask at bedtime before the last song (what time will I get up, am I wearing a diaper, will you come if I need something) and this has evolved into a pretty long nighttime ritual, including a "sleep tight" call-and-response with whoever is putting you to bed.
  • An innocent game of feeding you macaroni (to speed dinner time) took on a life of its own as each bite had to have an entire narrative context (a bunny running away from a fox, who says, "I'll get him next time!" etc.). We repented too late.
  • Your vocabulary, grammatical structures, and use of idiom continue to be amazing to one and all. You ask the meanings of new words and often incorporate them later.
    Speck explains a map in the car
  • You are interested in maps (especially to playgrounds!), flags, and languages (esp. the bits of Spanish being introduced at school), so we're happy to see that you seem to have some concept of the greater world. However, you've taken to calling the US flag the "Philadelphia flag," so there's still a way to go! hah.
  • Your desire to read has begun to bear fruit, as you now recognize easily 100 words when you see them written, and while you still like to "fake read" books to your family, at other times you also work in the real words that you recognize, such that your takes approximate ever more closely the real story (and, in the case of Pooh stories, often make it all the way there). You've also surprised me by reading a sign or bit of chat from the online games we read together, so this may soon be another skill you apply without thinking about it (although I keep waiting for a moment of amazement when you realize that you are uncovering new content for yourself)...
So I feel that we are poised on the cusp of a whole new world -- of spending time with friends, of exploring new ideas and places through reading, of transitioning more and more into the Big Girl realms of behavior. And yet you still feel very attached to us, like having your flock around you, are in no rush to push off. We're in no rush either. Part of us looks forward to reclaiming more free time, more head space, but part of us can hardly imagine you heading off to kindergarten in another 18 months, or even graduating to the older class in your preschool (in more like 6-9 months). And I suspect that we'll miss your acute desire for our involvement in everything you think and do, however exhausting it can seem right now. But we're excited for what you're seeing and thinking, what's just ahead, and the whole crazy trip. Keep it coming!!

Speck in Christmas finery against a zebra-striped couch

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