Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 38 Months

Dear Little One,

You are full of surprises these days. You show a remarkable maturity sometimes, and I find myself simply trusting you to do as I say when it comes to not running away from me in a parking lot, not touching my hot coffee, etc. It’s easy to forget that you are three, until you do something seemingly out of character—like draw on your bureau with crayons during Quiet Time. It was just a little scribble, and I could tell that you knew what you’d done was wrong, and frankly I didn’t even really care that much even though of course it was nonwashable crayon—it was my fault, after all, for giving you nonwashable crayons.

But it doesn’t matter, really. None of it does, for this letter, because for all your three-year-old foibles—the occasional screaming tantrums (very rare these days), the mind-boggling stubbornness, the now-and-then moods that have you grabbing anything and everything out of Greta’s hands—you are a precious, beloved little one. You’re too little to understand why Daddy and I are squeezing you and Greta so much these days, and that’s okay. Today at preschool you left me with a jaunty “Bye, Mama!”, while I was the one having a hard time walking out the door.

You love doing I Spy right now, and today we did your I Spy book for so long I felt myself nodding off and going into a kind of I Spy trance. “Green on a plate,” I heard myself say, and then came to. “A green Christmas tree on a plate,” I clarified, and you pointed it out, and on we went. And on and on and on.

You are, so far, doing splendidly at Quiet Time, though by the time Quiet Time is over, your room is a veritable ocean of tiny toys that I then must clean up during bath time. (Getting you to clean up after yourself during Quiet Time is, of course, an ultimate goal…but I don’t want to push it right now.)

You continue to love preschool. You continue to love your Dolly. You are still extremely attached to your Bibi—but lately you’ve been saying that it’s Dolly’s Bibi, and sometimes you put Dolly down for a nap in her crib and leave your Bibi with her for long stretches. There are, on the other hand, days when you lament Bibi before we’re even out of the driveway. “Bye bye, Bibi…I want my Bibi…Biiibiiii…”

Your relationship with Greta fluctuates on a minute/hourly/daily basis. Sometimes you play together, rolling and running and scream-laughing. Sometimes you co-exist peacefully with blocks. Sometimes everything Greta holds or touches or looks at becomes explosive and you wail angrily, “Nooo, Grets…..” (If I happen to be in another room, fixing a snack or, God forbid, trying to go to the bathroom, this is my Bat signal to hurry back—it’s usually followed by a furious howl from Greta.) You like trying to “teach” things to Greta, especially words. “Can you say Dada?” I’ll say sometimes when we’re having lunch or dinner. You then join in, looking around the room for inspiration: “Can you say…pumpkin? Can you say…nesting doll?”

You’ve been coming up with your own nicknames for Greta, riffing on what you hear Daddy and I call her. When you and I went in to get her after her nap this week, you burst into her room with a jovial, “Hi, Banana-Pie! Hi, Banana-Bunny!” You also call her Honey and Sweetie.

You are making rudimentary attempts--hilarious, really--at spelling. Sometimes you say, "I'm going to write my name," and you'll arrange the ABC magnets on the fridge into a long, twenty-letter "word." Small steps...

Every day is a wild ride. You are an amazing creature, little one.

Favorite books: Charlie and Lola books, Morris’s Disappearing Bag (Rosemary Wells), Where’s Prancer? (Syd Hoff), The Night Before Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Little Quack, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, Duck & Goose It's Time for Christmas

Favorite activities: listening to Christmas music, making elaborate structures with blocks, arranging various things in a “setup” on your Bibi, sorting things, reading books, I Spy, arranging your Squinkies into a circle, glitter/glue crafts, watching Ruby & Max, watching Dora, going to the duck pond, sitting in the “big” part of the cart when grocery/Target shopping

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beads & Super-Cool Trees

Greta is growing up so fast. One day she’s nursing and snuggling…The next she’s striding across the living room, straight to the Mardi Gras beads, and looping them around her neck. And wearing them all day. And resisting their being taken off. And, throughout the day, coming up to me, taking my hand, and leading me places. Few things are cuter. (This would be cuter if it weren’t accompanied by demanding screeches, but I’ll let it slide.)

This afternoon was sunny, and though it was cold, I took the girls to a nearby playground just to get some air. Lucia pushed her pink corduroy cat in her doll stroller. Cat hadn’t joined us for a walk for quite a while, and Lucia was excited to show her flowers, leaves, etc., pausing now and then to take Cat out of the stroller and let her “touch” some plants. Lucia was in a very good mood, and she chattered on and on and on in her precise, funny way: “I’m letting Cat touch the flowers! I’m letting her. Mama, I let her touch the flowers. I LET her. Is Greta sleeping? No! She’s awake! She’s AWAKE!” [spotting some crab-apple-type things on the ground, then realizing the tree above her was covered in them] “Ooooooo! Looooook! A berry tree! That’s cooool! Coooool! That is so coooool! Oooh. There’s the playground. I want to do the twisty slide.” [dramatically struggling to push the doll stroller on the grass] "This is haaaaaaard. It's hard to walk on the grass."

The girls rode home together in the double stroller, snacking. Cat is next to Lucia. Greta has Mardi Gras beads on underneath her coat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Moment of Silence

Let’s pause here for a moment of silence, to formally acknowledge the sad reality that Lucia no longer naps. I have been in denial about this for a few months now. Granted, she’d always give me a thread of hope—maybe once a week, maybe every ten days, she’d actually go to sleep when I put her into her crib at naptime. When she wasn’t sleeping, she was singing (or yell/singing), or lassoing her Bibi at the doorknob to pull open the door. It was getting a little ridiculous. Finally, last week, she refused to get into her crib at all, declaring that she’d have her naptime on the floor instead. My veins filled with ice. I gave an inward, Munch-like scream. Calmly, I gathered a pillow for her, told her it was quiet time, and said she had to be quiet and stay in her room.

And so au revoir, Lucia’s Naptime. Lucia was never a spectacular napper even in her younger days; the very best nap-periods we ever had were maybe an hour and a half tops. Still, it was quiet. I could still my mind. I needed—and need—it even more now with two kids. If I don’t have at least one child-free hour during the day, by dinnertime I feel like an egg that has been shaken so violently that it has become solid. I need that hour, for the mental health of me and everyone around me.

And so begins Lucia’s Quiet Time. The first day, she crept several times out of her room, down the hallway, and into my office, where she peered silently around the door until I noticed her and then stage-whispered, “Mama, can I have something else to play with?” When I decided she’d had long enough for one day, I opened my office door—and found her sitting in the hallway outside Greta’s door, her Bibi spread on the floor with an elaborate arrangement of toys on top of it (she calls this a “setup”). Still, she was quiet.

The next couple of days, with a few new Quiet Time toys to engage with, she actually did stay in her room, quiet as a mouse. To discourage her from seeking me out, I went downstairs instead of staying in my office. I heard things spilling out of boxes and baskets, but she did not make noise, and she did not try to come downstairs. After an hour, I retrieved her, praised her elaborately, and gave her a lollipop. (I’ll give her a chocolate sundae if it gets me my hour.)

So. So far, so good. Yesterday and today, she actually asked repeatedly if she could go have her quiet time—she really likes her Quiet Time toys. (Yesterday I gave her an empty egg carton and a bagful of small, soft craft pom-poms I bought at a church sale for pennies. She was thrilled.) Lucia is, at heart, a rule follower, and a lover of rituals. As long as I keep the Quiet Time toys fresh and exciting, which won't be hard since I have bags of stuff in the attic I bought this summer at church and yard sales, I think we’ll make this transition work. Fingers are crossed.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Return to Brooklyn

Last Sunday, we returned to Brooklyn for the first time since our move. Our destination was Park Slope, where we’d planned brunch at our friends’ new apartment. The moment we parked the car and stepped onto the sidewalk, we looked at each other—and the only way to describe our reaction was Oh, no, we really miss it here.

The feeling only intensified. It was wonderful to see our friends, whom we hadn’t seen since this summer; Lucia and her friend reunited like they’d seen each other yesterday, running off to play by themselves (with Greta toddling after). After brunch, we walked up 5th Avenue, passing familiar spots and new arrivals, Lucia and her friend running ahead, hand in hand. We walked past our old apartment—Lucia remembered which brownstone it was, and ran up the stoop steps. Greta fell asleep in the stroller. We stopped at a favorite playground; Andrew bought a dozen bagels to take home; and then it was time to go.

We were home in half an hour, a ridiculously easy drive to an entirely different planet. My feelings that day were, I have to say, hard to define. I miss Park Slope. I love Park Slope. I can see so many great things about life in Park Slope. But at the same time, I just can’t see us living there anymore. We’d spent the previous day buying a Christmas tree and stringing lights around the porch railing—and it was a lovely day, and our house looked beautiful, and you can see the Christmas tree through the window. It’s been a rough few weeks as home owners, but I’m (pretty) certain that this is where we need to be.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dolly’s Daddy

Every day, Lucia’s doll—Dolly—becomes more and more of an actual presence in our household. Lucia is with her doll constantly. She calls it “my baby.” She refers to herself in the third-person as “Mommy,” as in, “Dolly is crying for Mommy.” Dolly takes naps; Dolly gets hungry; when Dolly is fussy, she is given a bottle or taken for a walk in her stroller. And now, Dolly has her very own daddy.

The concept of who, exactly, Dolly’s daddy is has clearly—and hilariously—confounded Lucia. For a couple of days, she tentatively placed Andrew in that role; when he got home from work, Lucia-as-Dolly would exclaim, “Daddy’s home!” But she clearly knew this wasn’t exactly right—after all, Andrew is her own daddy, and it didn’t quite make sense that he was Dolly’s daddy too. You could see the pieces just not lining up in her little mind.

Then, two days ago, Dolly suddenly had her very own daddy. A little while after Andrew left for work, Lucia announced that daddy was home—Dolly’s daddy. And, in fact, Dolly’s daddy had never left, and would never leave, for work, because he works from home every day and is always in our library (which Andrew uses as his office). “Dolly’s daddy stays!” she announced. “He’s home! He’s always here!” We agreed that Dolly was very lucky.

This has gone on and on. When Andrew left this morning, Lucia said to him reproachfully, “Dolly’s daddy stays home.” It’s both cute and sad, because Lucia so desperately loves it when Andrew is home. Dolly is lucky, indeed.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Being Good at Tomorrows

Today, Lucia remarked a few times that we'd do something tomorrow. "Maybe tomorrow," she said when we discussed going to a playground. "Maybe tomorrow," she said when we talked about the library. This afternoon, when we walked to the duck pond, she suddenly declared, "I'm good at tomorrows." I have no idea what she meant. There's a zen koan in there somewhere.

And the Police Will Say...

Over the past month or so, Lucia has occasionally resisted being buckled into her carseat. She asks to sit backwards, or in the middle by Greta, or in the front with me. Or she’ll sit down but say she’ll “be fine” without her seatbelt. In a rush one day, needing her to sit back and let me buckle her in, I said, “You know what will happen if you don’t wear your seatbelt? The police will stop our car and say, ‘Mama, you didn’t buckle in your little girl.’ And I’ll be in big trouble.”

I talk to Lucia constantly during the day, saying all manner of nonsense, but for some reason, this stuck. The next time we got in the car, she made a token resistance against her seatbelt, then prompted me: “And the police will say…” I made an ominous-sounding siren noise and then said in a deep, threatening voice, “Mama, you’re in big trouble.”

Ah, the mind of a three-year-old. Now, whenever I tell her to do anything (put on her shoes, sit down in her chair to eat, wear a sweater), she says, “And the police will say…” For a while, I just went along with it, making the siren noise and threatening myself for not making sure my little girl did whatever it was I needed her to do. But it’s gotten totally out of hand now. Last night, Lucia was huddled in a tiny space beside her crib, a space she calls her “secret hideout,” and she insisted that she would sleep there. After explaining several times that she couldn’t sleep in her hideout, she announced, “And the police will say…” I sighed. I told her the police really didn’t care where she slept, but that she still had to sleep in her crib. She seemed not to hear this. “And the police will say…,” she prompted. And so this new routine goes on.