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.