Saturday, September 15, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 35 Months

Dear Little One,

You’re growing up. Over the past month or so we’ve weathered quite a few storms, featuring wall-shaking meltdowns and a terrible dose of sibling rivalry. For weeks, your usual affection for Greta disappeared and was replaced by pushing, hitting, kicking, toy-swiping—all manner of awfulness. It was heartbreaking to see you act that way, so out of character; and heartbreaking to see its effect on Greta, too. Knock on wood, it seems the worst has passed. For the past couple of weeks, you’ve been back to your usual self—fun, giggly, funny, full of chatter and songs, and, most importantly, fond of Greta once more. The meltdowns have been so rare I can count them on one hand.

What flipped the switch? I don’t know for sure. I read a book called Siblings Without Rivalry that gave me some ideas for how to lessen some of the frustrations you understandably feel with this tiny baby who’s crawling through your stuff and then putting all your toys in her mouth. I’ve tried to give you some verbal tools to use instead of acting out against Greta physically, and they seem to have really clicked. Granted, I often hear you saying sternly, “MOVE BACK PLEASE, GRETA,” when she’s just trying to see what you’re up to, but this is much better than pushing her. I’ve tried to give you the power to “protect” the things that are most precious to you, and to have your space when you need it, as long as you pursue these goals gently and verbally.

With less drama between the two of you, some of the old camaraderie has returned: you love making her laugh, and you’ll do lots of giggling together while I keep a close eye from a (short) distance. You’ve started willingly sharing things with her, or making sure she has a toy if we’re going into the kitchen or into the car. You are also quite protective of her, making sure she doesn’t chew on shoes (you officiously carry them all into the hall closet) and shouting if she gets near the stairs. You like to say “Not in your mouth, Greta,” when Greta picks up a leaf or small toy. It’s not flawless: this morning you pushed her for a reason I can’t even remember; but an hour later, while you were sitting with me while I nursed Greta before naptime, you suddenly came up to Greta and said you were sorry for pushing her. Then you kissed her and gave her her Lambie. So the lessons are, I think, sinking in.

I’m glad we’re getting past this (for now), because big changes are upon us—most importantly, preschool. You’ve gone only twice so far, and just once without me there the whole time, and you seem to really like it. You’re unsure about some things, and quiet, but once we get in the car to go home, you love talking about all the things you did “at school.” You’ve done two art projects so far and were bursting with pride over both of them. On Thursday, the art project you did involved a glue stick, and you’ve been gluing up a storm ever since. This is exactly what I hoped for. You are a smart, curious little girl, and we play so much together at home, but your dad and I felt strongly that you really needed something more: new, fun activities, a little different from what we usually do at home; some kids to do them with; a teacher in tune with a three-year-old’s world, with great ideas for how to engage you; and a tiny taste of independence. It’s early, but I believe you’ll thrive in preschool. So far, so good.

We did talk to your teacher during Parents Night this week, making sure she understood that though you are quiet, you will warm up, and though you probably won’t talk much at first, you are of course brilliant. (We really weren’t that annoying. We talked mostly about our concerns over this big step of separation.) She said you really did well the day I left, though you did ask several times for Bibi, which kind of broke my heart. But I peeked through the window at you when I came to pick you up that day, and there you were, right with the other kids, holding hands and doing Ring Around the Rosie; and then you sat with everyone and looked at books until it was time for the parents to go in. My brave little one.

Favorite activities: playing instruments while singing (ABCs, Twinkle, Sesame Street theme); creating “collections” in various bags, usually consisting of an assortment of play food, a Lipsmacker, an egg shaker, a strand of beads, maybe a Little People person or two); caring for your Dolly and engaging her in various activities (Dolly is pushing the stroller! Dolly is drawing with markers! Dolly needs milk!--and you lift up your shirt); building with blocks; Sit n Spin; drawing on your easel

Favorite books: Olivia and the Missing Toy, Olivia Forms a Band, Are You My Mother?, a variety of Sandra Boynton board books I got at a yard sale, including Birthday Monsters

(A sample collection from NH. I tried to get you to call these things your "objets," French-style, but fortunately, you didn't go along with that.)

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