Archive for May 2016

four years

Posted on: 30 May 2016

Dear Ashelyn,

Two months ago you turned four. But you talk with the ten-year-olds, and you have the potty humor of a six-year-old boy. You know words like kaleidoscope and exterminator and Galapagos, although you still insist on calling wordsearches “search-wurch.” New and notable: you can write your name!

imageLately text has seized your interest. “What does this say?” you’ll ask, pointing to a speech bubble from the (French) Akissi comic you very randomly latched onto at the library. You have notebooks in which you ask me to write words and phrases like “I had a good dream” or “poop” for you to copy. Legibility is slowly improving … but you’ve also found a way to bypass that quibble by discovering touchscreen typing. So the third thing you ask of me is to spell words while you hunt for the right letters on a QWERTY. Despite the screen nazi I tend to be, I haven’t tried to discourage this activity because it will inevitably be part of your world, right?

imageI don’t know how we landed here, all fancy and pre-literate, but all of a sudden you’re like, “Balloon starts with b. Buh buh b. Fairy starts with f. Fuh fuh f.” Then again, I’ve also caught you saying, “Duh duh w,” so there’s that.

Three was a roller coaster, the wildest one by far. You were like the girl from that limerick: When she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid. You’ve sparked magnitudes of rage I never even knew I was capable of. Two weeks last summer were particularly rough; there was one day you spent maybe half your waking hours screaming in your room. And then, just as I began thinking I might have royally screwed up somewhere … the ride levelled out.

With you, I feel like much of the grunt labour of parenting is now behind us. You dress yourself, feed yourself, use the toilet. You can play independently, make friends, buckle yourself into the carseat. And it took, oh, 3.5 years, but you’re finally sleeping like a normal human being!

imageInteracting with you has never been more interesting, more complex, more delightful. Your witticisms are whipsmart, old-soul. “Mama, I had FOUR CANDIES! At first daddy said not to tell you, but now I’m telling you. Daddy is not here, so he can’t say anything.” “Let’s play Go-Go-Stop. When you say go I will go, and when you say stop I will go.” “I have two hearts. One is broken, and one is smiling.” You were an early talker – over a hundred words by eighteen months – and you haven’t slowed down since. To be honest, it’s the constant dialogue that I find most exhausting. Broken sleep has nothing on lack of silence. But our conversations are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and how does one explain honour, or optics, or sarcasm to a preschooler, anyway?

My Neighbor Totoro was your first movie, which you watched recently, in three installments because you’re only supposed to have twenty minutes of screentime a day. Besides, you seem to have inherited my pathetically low tolerance of intense movie scenes. So, even though you know all the songs from Frozen, you’ve never actually watched the movie. You probably wouldn’t like it, yet. There were two ice monster stickers in your Frozen-themed stickerbook, and you promptly disappeared both by affixing them to daddy’s side of the bedside table, to “help him sleep.” Anyway, I mention Totoro because there’s a little girl your age in that story and, well, you’re way more mature than she is. At least, you’d never run off in a fit of passion and get yourself lost.

imageYou’re an enthusiastic helper. You actually clamour to rinse the dishes, mix batter, stir the pot, vacuum, fold laundry, help wash the car and mow the grass. There’s nothing more exciting, apparently, except maybe watching daddy gut seafood. And you’re astonishingly tidy; we’ve had to work on not cleaning up toys that someone else is in the middle of playing with, I’m not even kidding. One evening I was angry with you, and you apologized by tidying up the living room! I’ve watched in disbelief as you organized your books by size and your toy kitchen accessories by colour gradients.

I’m so pleased with your quickness to compliment others, your involvement at StrongStart, your wholehearted affection for your brother. The two of you playing together is all kinds of sweet. When Jariel was a newborn you hated for others to hold him; you worried that they’d bring him home. Around this time last year, when he was three months old, you casually rested your foot on his chest and quipped, “If I put my foot here and jump, then Jariel will break. But then I will be sad, because I like him! So I won’t do that.” Thank goodness you haven’t changed your mind.

imageParenthood is everything I’ve never learned. I see the joyful, intuitive, confident, driven person you could be, and I see qualities (like kindness) I’ll need to actively foster because they come to you less naturally. It’s the biggest job I’ve ever undertaken, but I’d rather be the one to do it full-time than anybody else.