Wednesday, August 29, 2012

And some people just worry about when kids are "old enough to ask for it"

Lyra mostly isn't nursing in public anymore. She's just big and wriggly, and since she doesn't need it constantly, it's easy to have it be just something we do at home. I remember reaching this same spot with Adriana. Sometimes, though it's just easier to say yes--when I'm having a conversation, or trying to read my book while I watch Adriana's gymnastics class. Today I was talking with some other parents at Adriana's school, and Lyra made her way onto my lap and asked nicely, so I let her. One of the other moms observed with surprise, "Oh, she's still nursing!" In the split second it took me to gauge the tone of the comment and how I should respond (always politely, but sometimes as more of a joke, and other times as more of an off-hand-isn't-everybody? reaction), Lyra pulled away and said to the woman, "My mama makes nice, sweet milky, just for me!"

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kindergarten Eve

When I stopped writing monthly blog posts about Adriana around the time she was two--not a conscious decision by any means, just something that happened--it would occur to me to write something quickly to sum her up. I remember around the time she was two-and-a-half thinking I could simply write, “Adriana likes butterflies, dogs, mermaids, and trucks. She knows her ABCs and how to count to 10.” Now it would be “Adriana likes butterflies, bears, princesses, and bicycles. She is beginning to read and can count to 100.” But I also want something more extensive than that. I’m hate knowing that I will forget so many little details about what she is like now. Tomorrow she starts kindergarten and even if it’s not her birthday, it seems like a good time to stop and think about how she is right now.

At five-and-a-half Adriana is a strange mix of babyishness and teenager. There are certain parts of this age I wish I could capture forever. She is so wonderfully, beautifully, perfectly engaged with the world. She is watching everything, paying attention, but that’s been true for a while now. Now she is really getting it. She’s thinking about things. She’s questioning. Of course, there are certain things about this age I’ll be glad to see go. A five-year-old’s tantrums are truly terrifying.

One night, angry that I told her it was time to head to bed, she ran into her room and slammed the door shut. I heard her lock it behind her, so I went to my room and sat down with my book. It wasn’t two full minutes later that she came out of her room, crying real tears, sobbing, because she wanted me and I wasn’t in her room with her. I resisted the urge to laugh, just pointed out that she had locked me out, and walked her back to her room, cuddled in her bed with her until I felt her breathing change and knew she was asleep. I went back to my book, thinking that those ten minutes were probably a good analogy for parenting.

I really am enjoying watching her grow, though. She is interacting with the world in new ways, or at least interacting with the world in a way where I get to observe more of her thought processes. I remember when we went to London, not too long before she turned three, reading Madeline to our friends’ daughter and being surprised by how many questions she asked about the story. Adriana had never asked anything like that; she listened to books, enjoyed them, but never questioned them. Now I see her deciding more often not to simply observe but to really try to figure things out.

Although she is still difficult to understand--she talks quickly, and still doesn’t have G or K sounds in her repertoire--Adriana talks non-stop when we are at home, and even more so in the car. On the way to speech therapy one day last month she chattered at me constantly from the back seat:

Wanna see how high I can count? How many days has it been since I was born? What makes earthquakes happen? How come not all the countries in Europe use the euro for their money? If Canada is right by the United States, how come they have the same picture on their money that they have in England? Why won't you let us eat marshmallows for dinner? Do you think asparagus looks kind of like bamboo? Can I dip my whole body in paint and make a paint angel instead of a snow angel?

And then on the way to nursery school the next morning it started again:

What is cement made of? It must have water in it because it is wet so they can pour it, but what else is in there? What makes it stop being wet and get hard? Maybe we could put mud in ice cube trays and then when we took them out we could build something with them and it would be super strong. What if you put a flower in the freezer? Would it still give you allergies? Why are you allergic to some kinds of flowers? How do plants know what color their flowers are supposed to be?

I do my best with her questions. I’m not a geologist or a physicist or a genetics expert (although I remember a surprising amount from Mr. Pruitt’s biology class in the 10th grade), but I can usually pull off a decent enough answer to satisfy her, or if I’m truly stumped, we look it up together.

She’s beginning to read now. She has sight words and can sound things out. She hates being wrong, so a lot of the time she’s reluctant to sound things out, wants me to tell her how things are spelled so she can memorize the correct way. It’s a little frightening to see that aspect of myself in her. I want her to understand things, not just memorize them. I want her to work things out for herself, not just expect someone to tell her. But memorization like that works! I tell myself. It’s how some people learn. Right? I also see a certain amount of Brian’s engineering mind in her: she loves tools and machines and knowing how things work. She has a creative streak that is growing--she draws more interesting things now (always with a stripe of blue across the top for sky, which I love), and will get herself and Lyra both in costumes to put on a performance for me. My favorite was a “ballet” set to Josh Ritter’s “Snow Is Gone.” Adriana was a snowflake and Lyra was a bird, and they twirled around and around in the living room.

I watched her through the window at gymnastics one week this spring--the way she moved, how she interacted with the teachers and the other kids, the enormous smile on her face--and told the friend I was texting with (what?) “I love watching Adriana. She’s beautiful and amazing.” I tried to explain it, how it’s different watching her now. I’m more aware of her personality. Her Self. “She’s separate from me now.” My friend asked me if that made me sad, and without even thinking about it I answered no. It’s how it’s supposed to be. Ten, twenty years from now, I’ll probably laugh at myself for thinking she was so big now and thinking we were so separate. But right now it’s this amazing thing: she was my little tiny baby, and now she is this gangly girl who rides a bike and plays with her friends and questions the world around her. But she also folds herself into my lap, pulling at my arm hair the way she used to when she was nursing, and falls asleep while I read her stories.

Tomorrow she starts kindergarten. Amazing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I thought about teaching her the “if wishes were horses” rhyme, but worried that she’d start wishing for an actual horse.

At some point I told Adriana about wishing on stars and taught her the rhyme
Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.
She knows about making wishes when she blows on a dandelion, and making wishes when she throws a penny in a fountain. I used to wonder what she would wish for, and I loved it when she got to the age when she would rush to check the mail to see if the mermaids she’d wished for had arrived. Then she picked up the idea that she was supposed to keep her wishes secret, and I was back to wondering.

Earlier this summer I bought her a new scooter, one with two wheels. She’d been coveting them ever since she saw her friend Abigail’s this spring, and I was wanting to hand down her three-wheeled one to Lyra. As soon as it was ready, she spent the afternoon riding up and down our block on it. It was fun to see her so excited about it. That night as I tucked her into bed, she looked out her window for a star to wish on and told me that she was going to have to think of a new wish since her wish for a scooter had come true.

We spent the day at the beach yesterday, and my normal routine is to keep the kids there until after dinner, then change them into pajamas and let them fall asleep on the way home, so I can just throw them into their beds. Last night Adriana was determined to stay up on the way home, and spent the hour in the car gazing out the window at the sky. Mostly she was quiet, but just as we reached the summit on Highway 17 she told me, "Sometimes I like to imagine that stars aren't really balls of burning gas. Because how could a ball of burning gas understand a person's wish and make it come true? It just doesn't make sense. So I like to imagine that stars are actually tiny fairies in very sparkly dresses, and they hear the wishes that people make and use their magic to grant them."

I love that at five, fairies make logical sense to her. When I told Brian about it, he was amused that I had inadvertantly reinforced her belief in magic and wishes by buying that scooter. And I love that she tells me these things. She does seem to have a better sense of what’s real and what’s pretend than many kids her age, so I don’t know how much of it she actually believe, and how much she just likes the idea of the magic. A part of me hopes she really does believe. And I hope that as she outgrows it she still loves the poetry of the idea.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baby's first nightmare

I normally joke about my kids’ nightmares. Adriana went through a phase about three years ago when she would wake up hollering at us not to take away her eggplant. What kid has nightmares about someone trying to take her eggplant? When Lyra talks in her sleep, her bad dreams seem so fitting for a toddler and a younger sister: “It’s my turn!” she shouts before settling back to sleep, or “No, that’s mine!”

They have each gone through a brief period of night terrors--they awake screaming wordlessly, and nothing I do can wake them or comfort them. Fortunately, the individual terrors and the phase have both passed quickly. In Adriana it seemed to be caused by chocolate desserts before bed. In Lyra we never found any potential triggers.

But then they grow up a bit more and they have bad dreams that don’t seem funny to me at all. It breaks my heart to have them so scared. Last summer Adriana became terribly afraid of house fires. Any loud noise might be a fire alarm, and she woke early one morning and insisted on being taken to peek at Brian asleep in bed, because she didn’t believe me when I told her it was a dream that a fire had “gotten” him.

Lyra had her first break-mom’s-heart nightmare last night. I woke to her screaming from her room, “Don’t touch me! Stop hurting me! Mama, they’re hurting me! Make it stop, Mama!” I ran to her and picked her up, and she continued screaming while I tried to talk to her. I told her it was just a dream, and asked her what was happening. All she could do was beg me to help her and cry. I stopped trying to talk to her, and laid down beside her. She wound her hands through her hair, found my breast, and nursed back to sleep. It didn’t take long before she rolled away from me, sound asleep. I stayed there beside her, trying to calm myself down after the adrenaline rush that her screaming had brought on.

In the morning we spent half an hour cuddling in her bed after we woke up, until she declared that her name was Nom-Nom McEat-a-lot and she needed her breakfast. She devoured a scrambled egg, a bowl of oatmeal, and half a basket of strawberries, washed down with a few ounces of cow’s milk and two oranges worth of juice. I didn’t ask her about her bad dream, and she didn’t mention it. I seem to be the only one with any trauma. I hope she forgot about it. I also hope it doesn’t happen again tonight--I'm not sure I can take it.