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.