Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dear Fern (part XL)

Dear Fern,

We mostly use Roman numerals for these letters; that makes you XL months old. Extra large, indeed: every day you seem taller and bigger, more solid little girl than any kind of baby. You're more lucid and funny and stubborn and just plain more grown up than ever. Even the baby clothes you insist on wearing every few days are getting larger -- you squeeze into the 18-month clothes instead of raiding Claudia's newborn outfits.

40 Months

Monsters have become rather an obsession for you. The giants of preschool literature -- Sesame Street and Frances -- make monsters seem fun and lovable, and so you're totally unclear about why anyone would be scared of them. Scooby Doo is your special bedtime treat, which explains that whenever we play "monsters" you finish up by pulling off your mask and saying "Guess who I really am?" (It's usually the creepy caretaker from the first scene. Who knew?)
As before, you have some pretty testy moments, and they're still nearly always down to a lack of food. The very idea of sitting through an entire meal when it's so much more fun to imagine a napkin ring into life as a guy named Diver Dave who just has to sing one more song before taking a bite -- well, you get the picture. The conventional wisdom is that we should simply make food available at mealtimes and figure you'll eat it when you're hungry. That's great, but any subsequent physical exertion turns you into a starving, seething wreck if we try that, so we have reverted to a little mild cajoling.

So, now, what else happened this month. Oh, right: you started school.

You started SCHOOL!

Your first day, you were a little tentative, probably because we made the logistical error of taking you in at the same moment that every other kid arrived. You were bombarded with well-meaning but overwhelming suggestions of what to do next. At the beginning, you would have been pretty happy just poking through the dollhouse, but one parent would come over and say, "Here, try this!" and another would say, "No, play with my kid!" and on and on until your eyes were spinning. Once the hordes departed, though, you were more or less happy for a couple of hours.

Day two, though, you met a boy who shares your love of Scooby Doo and fast cars. And then a couple of girls who love to bake. And then there were fish to paint and octopuses to stich up and stories to hear, and you sent daddy off for coffee for two hours without even a second look.

So all told, it took you about an hour to warm up to school. It's taking your parents a lot longer to get used to it. We love watching your successes, of course, but all the same it's a little jarring that a whole gaggle of new people are getting to know you, and at first, they don't know you that well.

Your teacher asks if you need the potty a couple of times a day. You've never had trouble with functions: if you need to go, you say so, and if not, you say you don't. Since you didn't use the potty for three hours, teacher seems to worry that you're rejecting the bathroom completely, which, to be fair, is probably a reasonable fear for a preschool teacher. But that's just not you: you go when you need to, and you have for over a year. It's a minor thing to be sure, but it's the beginning of many years of interactions with teachers who will misunderstand you in ways large and small, and we need to accept that as part of your enlarging world.

And that's it, isn't it? For the first time, you'll have direct relationships, unmediated by us, with someone other than your family and a close circle of friends. You'll come home some day soon and tell us all about Susie or Danny or Wilhemina -- and we, your parents, won't have been the ones who introduced you. Which is exactly how it's supposed to work, of course, but you'll forgive us, I hope, for coming along slowly.

Not you, of course: you're still charging forward with all your imaginary and real friends (and crime-fighting Great Danes).

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

If you can't see the pictures below, click this link.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Dear Fern, part XXXIX

Dear Fern,

"Boots beets bats beets toots.
Beets abby do ba dee do
It's very clear to see
Bob the Builder we can do it
Bob the Builder yes we can!"


You turn three and a quarter today, and during the the three months it's taken us to finally write one of these "monthly" letters, you've occupied yourself mostly by composing songs (like that one), adoring your sister, and engaging in a little multiple personality hijinks.

Joey and Dodo, your two most common imaginary visitors, come less frequently these days. In their stead you take on the personalities of "Mimi" or "Petey" (who appear to be the same person). Mimi-Petey, amazingly, is a lot like you, although she's always on her best behavior -- she acts exactly like you do with your grandparents, aunts, and uncles when we're not around.

Notification that you've transformed into Mimi usually comes when you ask something along the lines of "Is Fern coming with us today?" or "Where will Fern sleep?" It doesn't faze us anymore, but it's a little amusing to see people who don't know this game try to come up with a response.

You're terrific with your sister, though you do get frustrated sometimes when Claudia steals the attention that is, after all, rightfully yours. Most of the time, however, you offer hugs and kisses when she's crying and ply her with toys when she's not. We're a little jealous, in fact, at how quickly you can console her -- you're fairly clearly her favorite form of entertainment.

We are constantly amazed with how big you're getting. You're really tall. Your hands are real kid's hands. You've lost all trace of baby fat and straightened out into a big girl. It's jarring sometimes to see you jump easily off a ledge that would have stymied you (or meant a skinned knee) even three months ago.

We recently accomplished a major milestone: the elimination of all tangles from your hair. Despite the professional advice of a purported children's hair specialist, we managed -- through multiple viewings of Mary Poppins as we laboriously picked out every knot -- to return your hair to its original, waist-length, dreadlock-free splendor.

In other news, you've started the next level of tumbling class, the one where you no longer have a parent accompany you. We watch from the bleachers as a coach directs you on the trapeze and trampoline -- your first experience as an independent student. You took to it amazingly well, and that's just one good sign that you'll adapt well to nursery school. That starts in June -- less than a month away! -- and you're apparently pretty ready. Already, you've asked for a computer ("for school!") and a desk ("for school!") and you've taken to washing your face in a novel and particular way ("for school!").

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

If you can't see the pictures below, click this link.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dear Fern, part XXXVI

Dear Fern,

Unbelievably, you turn three years old today. What's most astounding about your birthday is that you've seemed three (or sometimes four, or twelve, or twenty-two) for quite a while already. At least a couple of times a week, a stranger asks you something along the lines of "Are you four and a half yet?" And although it was oh-so-fun to reply smugly "No, she's still two," we're glad that we can say "three" now. The number suits you better.

Looking Up

As Claudia responds more, she's becoming ever more fun for you. You especially love to take care of her, which is gratifying to watch -- and hear, as you repeat oddly modified versions of our own words of comfort. (A recent example was "That's okay, that's okay big sister, honey honey!" Note that you call Claudia your 'big sister' these days, apparently in full awareness of the irony of that.) You do have an uncanny ability to calm her from one of her few crying jags: a certain way with the rattle.

At the same time, you're acting out a fair bit of sibling jealousy. It's not that you're ever mean to your sister -- at worst, you'll occasionally ask us to "put the baby down" when you want to play. Since she was born, though, you've frequently insisted on wearing "baby clothes," which means digging out some infant outfits and squeezing into them. Given a lot of elastic, some nice baby sweatpants have turned into very tight shorts on you, and we're sure you've startled many playground parents with your midriff-baring outfits.

In another unpleasant twist, you've lately begun to insist that you want to throw up -- just like Claudia spits up. You got a book meant to demystify medical problems -- lots of illustrations of happy children having their broken arms set in plaster -- and that got you started. No actual vomit yet, and for a while there you seemed pretty ticked off that we weren't letting you hurl.

You're still somewhat eccentric, even for a three-year old. Much to the consternation of your more compulsive friends, you always put marker caps back on the wrong color marker -- intentionally. (You'll go through a new pack switching them up and cackling.) We even noticed that you'd swapped the kid toothpaste cap with our grown-up toothpaste cap the other day (who even would have thought they'd be compatible?). We're unclear about where this impulse comes from: your daddy, at least, didn't regularly replace the toothpaste top at all until his middle teens.

Since Christmas, your favorite hobby has been wrapping presents. You can now accomplish the entire process -- get toy from room, fold toy in paper, wrap in thirteen yards of Scotch tape, place in gift bag -- with our help only in cutting the paper to size. Once you get that down, I expect that we'll need to order wrapping paper by the case; we already use a roll as a special reward for good cooperation. Everyone needs an artistic outlet, it seems.    

In other big news, we applied to nursery school this month. Sometime by September, if all goes well, you'll be doing two half-days a week at a local co-op. We have no worries about you -- you're incredibly independent and verbal. A couple of weeks ago when we asked if you needed any help with your Play-Doh cookery, you told us, "You just concentrate on your thing. I got it." It's as if Fern the teenager traveled back in time to take over your body.

So it's been a busy month and year, full of challenges, but also loads of fun every day. You're starting your fourth year now and we couldn't be more proud of how far you've come -- or more excited to see how you handle your further adventures in big-girldom.

We love you very, very much,

Mommy & Daddy

If you can't see the pictures below, click this link.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Dear Fern, part XXXV

Dear Fern,


You turn 35 months old today, ostensibly entering the last month of your terrible twos. For most of this year you haven't shown much tendency to the "terrible," though the last few weeks, we'll admit, have brought some challenges.

Not that we're surprised. After all, we've taken a rainy month, added a new baby, filled the days with fun but routine-bending visits by out-of-town relatives and, of course, suffered a seasonal end to most organized activities and play dates. Of course you get confused and cranky; heck, we do too.

And, you know, regression can be cute, within limits. It's charming when you squeeze into pants designed for a 3-month old -- that is, unless we need to get out of the house quickly, or we're going somewhere (like a chilly playground) where that kind of outfit won't work. Then you channel your inner terrible two, and though we're both pretty good at handling a Fern-tantrum, it's not very fun.

You're handling sibling envy pretty well. Claudia has been a decent plaything and you're especially excited at how much she responds to your voice these days. When she's crying or cuddling, though, you are occasionally overcome by a need to cry or cuddle immediately as well. Then again, though Claudia steals your parents' attention, she also attracts a pile of new toys into the house. (You get first playing rights, of course.) Overall, you seem to consider sisterhood a positive thing.

We succumb to that common tendency of parents to worry most about what least needs it. In the case of your third December, it turns out we needn't have been too anxious about the effects of Christmas bloat. You had four Christmas celebrations, all told, and got some pretty darn impressive presents from all corners. And you were almost always gracious and passionately excited about every gift. For a not-quite-three year old: well done.

Despite all the confusion (or maybe because of it?) you've matured quite a bit this month. We've noted before that grandparent visits seem to inspire developmental advances, so maybe that explains why you fairly suddenly shed most of your sleep issues. Most nights now, you fall asleep on your own in your bed like you used to. Daddy comes back every five minutes, but by the first or second return visit, you're asleep. About half the time, you sleep through the night, though you do still ask for midnight help on the potty from time to time. It's maybe only once a week that you have extended wakeful periods at night, which is a great comfort.

Your age acrobatics continue: a couple of days ago, you were playing with a six-year old up at the tire swing playground for something like an hour before she asked how old you are. When she found out you're only two, she told her four-year old sister that she thought you were at least five. Even adults generally guess at least a year or two above your actual age. It's hard to describe why you come across older than you are: you're tall, of course, and pretty verbal, but not like a kindergartner. Put it down to confidence, an inner font of gritty determination that's unusual in the two-year old set.

Yet you are decidedly ambivalent about being a big girl. So we keep your booster seat installed but have an old car seat around for you, too. We shop in the much-anticipated Girls section of Target, but we still stop by Toddlers every once in a while. Because while the world seems intent on thrusting you into big girlhood, it's just fine for you to hold on to "baby" from time to time. Let it go when you're ready, but no sooner, OK?

We love you very, very much,


Mommy & Daddy

Here's this month's slide show. If you can't see the pictures below, click this link.