“When geeses aren’t honking, they cry,” Boy informed me tonight as he was going to bed.

“Why do they cry?” I asked.

“Because they have to leave the sea.”

Oh.

“I’ll bet they miss it.”

“Miss it. They’re sad.”

How could he know that the geese feel that way? I don’t doubt it. We saw two Canada geese fly overhead today. Maybe he heard them honking to each other and knew what they were saying? Either that, or he misinterpreted his bedtime song tonight; instead of hearing “When I am king, dilly, dilly,/You shall be queen,” perhaps he heard “When I’m honking.” The chances are close to 50/50.

Tomorrow, as I turn 41, I leave the sea of my 30’s even further behind. Maybe I’m a little sad about that – but with such a thoughtful Boy and an equally thoughtful Girl, I guess I’ll choose to spend my time honking instead.

“We walked down those steps,” my daughter said, gesturing to the opposite side of the car.

“And did you cross the street in the crosswalk?”

“Yes. And we had a really short recess.”

Today, she and the other kindergarten-bound preschoolers in her class walked across the street with their preschool teachers for a visit to the elementary school. Each was paired with a kindergarten buddy, played outside, and got to eat in the cafeteria (for $2.25).

For such a short physical journey, it feels like the start of a very long emotional one.

“They paired me with a boy.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t play with me. He was supposed to play with me, but he didn’t. My friend didn’t play with me, either – I said we didn’t just have to play with our partners, but she wouldn’t play with me.”

Ooph. Let the blows to the gut begin. So much of what she’s experienced so far is what we’ve arranged for her – and, since she’s only in preschool three mornings a week, most of what happens in her life is something I experience and witness as well, an observer and frequent participant, protector and guide. When kindergarten begins in the fall, the twelve hours of school will morph into thirty-five. She won’t be the only one transitioning.

“You had chicken nuggets?”

“Yes, but I didn’t have time to eat my broccoli.”

“What?”

“Or my cookie.”

“Oh, no! So you had chicken nuggets and chocolate milk?”

“I didn’t finish my milk, either.”

She’s a bit of a dawdler at meal time – unless she’s eating some salty meat product like bacon – and bolting down your food isn’t really good for you, so we haven’t minded. Kindergarten, apparently, will require more lupine-like behavior – but not on the playground, I hope.

“I heard they only have twenty minutes for lunch.”

“But I got to eat my orange cup,” she said. She sounded slightly satisfied with that admission.

“And he got me a spork.”

I assume and hope this was the not-play-friendly partner doing his duty.

This is probably what we have to expect of the coming years, isn’t it? Times of growing autonomy, of new experiences, of hurt feelings, of being rushed, of gratitude. I hope the years will also be filled with kindness, with hope and anticipation, with satisfaction and pride. With learning, too – and more of the creative, inspirational variety than merely the worksheet-driven sort.

And with this walk across the street, with this toe-dip into kindergartenhood, it (so much to hold, those two letters, i-t ) has begun.

“I get to go in the attic!”

Yup. For her birthday, she got to go into the attic. (It’s right up there with getting gum for her Christmas present when she was two – what terrific, but unlikely, things to anticipate!) That was what she was excited about today. She got to roam around and poke in boxes and bags, standing at full height – unlike us – and looking like Alice in Wonderland, taller than real life. When asked at dinner if it was as exciting as she thought it would be, she said, “No.” We looked at each other, knowing how great anticipation can lead to great disappointment. But she wasn’t done yet. “It was funner!”

Climbing up

Climbing up

Alice - in Wonderland

Alice – in Wonderland

That – and her new fishing pole – might have been the highlights of this, her fifth birthday.

“…in that party dress.
Balloons and cake,
Two kinds of ice cream –
Guess [yes?] you’ll be a mess!

“Share the fun with your [little] brother
As friends go, he’s your best.

“Make a wish; it just might come true –
Blow those candles out.
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I won’t forget the day that you were born
Five years ago
We were happy and excited
and we loved you so
You’re growing up so quickly
Now, I feel a little sad –
That’s to be expected;
after all, I am your daddy [mommy].”

Five years ago

Five years ago

Loudon Wainwright III’s “Five Years Old” – it’s the song for today.

And she DID have two kinds of ice cream – but she said she didn’t like the first, and she didn’t eat much of the second. She did eat her birthday dinner – she’d asked for bacon and hotdogs, and she got bacon-wrapped hotdogs and lima beans. Chocolate cake, white frosting with sprinkles – and a party dress, the kind she’s wanted, with a flouncy under-layer and a sash around the waist. And we did go out and get balloons, like we have every year. It was a full birthday!

Like Alice, she’ll continue to grow – but, we hope, at regular speed; these five years have already sped by, and I am not prepared for it to go by any faster than this. Happy birthday, Girl!

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

“I love you as much as there are fish in the sea!” I told Girl, having been inspired by Prehistoric Monsters Did the Strangest Things, her favorite book of the moment. (We’re going to need to start digging for fossils soon…)

“I love you infinity weeks!” she said. “That means my love for you will never stop.”

“I love you to infinity, too.”

“Everyone loves everyone.”

I like the idea of all this love floating around, all the time – tied to each other but untethered, too; here with us but outlasting us. If you’re feeling a little low, stop for just a moment and feel – that little bit of warmth, that something? That’s love. There’s a lot of it at our house, and we hope you feel it, too.

“I will be two!” Boy said tonight, holding up one finger on each hand.

I gave a sentimental sigh, the kind that whooshes out of you when you look at your child and realize that he is nothing like the baby that once, well, whooshed out of you.

“You are two,” Daddy corrected him, as most of his birthday lay behind him, a montage of meals (he requested noodles for his birthday dinner) and family and outings and napping.

Unconcerned, he hopped on his new ride-on airplane and zoomed away, naked as the day he was born. Maybe he does have more in common with that newborn babe than I thought…

Happy birthday, Boy!

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Isn’t it funny that we write things on checks that we rarely write during the rest of life? Where else would you find yourself writing out “ninety-eight one hundredths” (even if you usually write it as “98/100″)?

And where or when else would you find yourself writing out – or listening to – things like “I’m not a pretzel, I’m just a boy!” than as the parent of a small (soon to be not-so-small) boy or girl?

The feeling of heart-swelling-burstiness has not reduced, and there are so many great lines that Shakespeare or Brecht or Ibsen or SOMEONE should want to come back and be inspired by them.

Auntie Em visited the other week, and she and Girl went to the Post Office, among other places, and returned with two heart-shaped lollipops. These inspire madness and begging, and if someone could find a way to harness the build up of desire in small children when candy is mentioned (shown, offered, hinted at), we wouldn’t need to search for any more alternative energies. We’d fuel the world.

Or just a lot of stickiness. Girl chomped through hers, but Boy lingered over his. When I had had enough of his lollipop, I took it away – roughly when his sister was done, so they were both empty-handed. He took it well, and life went on. Hours later, he began to pretend-cry, and we wondered what he was going to say: “ah-hunh-hunh-hunh…[he continued in his “I’m being funny” voice] I’m so sad – I can’t eat my lollipop anymore!”

The other day, looking outside, he said, in his sweet serious voice, “I don’t see any birdies anywhere!”

At dinner, he dripped water from his water bottle onto his feet and said, “I spilled some water on my piggy wiggy toes!” (Much like with Girl, we laugh about how a two-year-old should be able to use two to four word sentences. Check!)

This is all a far cry from these favorites from just two months ago, when words were often repeated within a sentence and lots of words had “uh” added at the end, like “Daddy-uh”:

1/18: I will get boogie out nose.
1/19: Let me peel baleema self! (baleema=banana, except when baleema = vitamins)
1/20: Daddy sit you us.
Nannie has tiger, too.
Mama turn on light on, Mama!
In response to “What are you doing?”:
1/21:  Just picking nose out boogie-uh.
2/6: I’m busy day. I’m just doing puzzle, Daddy-uh.
I’m just working this, Daddy (about Daddy’s knee scooter, which was a great source of fascination and requests for rides, while it was needed).

But my favorite, one that’s been around a while, is usually said with joy, with a wee-boy head rested on a mama shoulder: “My mama hold-ee B– Boo!” He often asks to be picked up that way, and he says it with great satisfaction and contentment when he’s been picked up.

Lest Boy get all the glory here, Girl has been holding her own, language-wise. The other day, she told me that Boy was “trudging into the living room.” She also told Daddy that Boy was “gazing up at your foot!” when he was, indeed, lying on his back on the floor, looking up at Daddy’s becasted foot which stuck off the aforementioned knee scooter.

And finally, from 1/20, too: “I love you as much as the stars are bright!” My heart blazed extra that day.

It’s too bad there’s no memo line for life. I’m ninety-eight one hundredths sure I’d remember to use it.

He likes blocks – Duplo and wooden – although he doesn’t seem to love them like he some children do. Throwing them, yes. Building with them, only sometimes. But the building blocks of language? He’s totally in love with those.

“I do.”

We heard a lot of this last November or so. Trying out what may have been his earliest sentence, he exuded confidence, determination, and a strong independent streak. Of course, what child doesn’t want to do things himself? Sure, he wanted to feed himself soup, which sure as soup wouldn’t stay on the spoon. Sure, he wanted to run the bath himself, or climb into the tub alone, or put on his own shoes. Sure, he wanted to get into his car seat himself – never mind that he was as likely to just get in and sit down as he was to drive the car. (Now, he says “Own!” when he wants to do something on his own, like stand on the four-wheeled toy to pull the string of the lamp, for example…)

His vocabulary, which has seemed (to us, as the glowing, proud parents) quite large, continued to grow, and so did his repertoire of sentences.

To help soothe him to sleep while he nursed I’d often murmur repetitive sentences: “Boy goes night-night. Girl goes night-night. Daddy goes night-night. Mama goes night-night. Maria goes night-night. Pepper goes night-night.  K-K goes night-night. Autumn goes night-night….Everybody goes night-night.”

This applied to other bodily functions, too: peeing, pooping, burping – lots of things were listed. (There’s a lot that we all do!)

And he began repeating them.

Sometimes, Daddy would drive him around to get him to sleep, and he’d chatter himself to sleep. “Daddy goes night-night. Mama goes night-night. Nannie goes night-night. Pepper goes night-night….Eveh-body goes night-night.”

He’s still a lister. The other day, he did one of his own creation after seeing a small, round, candy-coated chocolate. “M & M! Mama have M & M. Nannie have M & M. Daddy have M & M. Autumn have M & M….”

He’s built on his foundation.

For Christmas, they got a Duplo block base and an animal set – and brother and sister alike have been engrossed by this new way to create, the possibilities before them.

With language, too, the possibilities stretch before him (and her, of course!). What can we say to this, the march of language that pulls a small boy from babyhood to childhood?

I do.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

We’ve arrived here, at New Year’s Eve, just like we’ve done every year of our lives. Of course, when you’re 4 1/2, that means it’s only been (and yet, it’s already been!) five years’ worth of New Year’s Eves. When you’re 1 1/2, there’s only been one other. So much seems new! (And there are so many new words…)

After some party time, they both fell asleep after ten o’clock, Boy snuggled in my arms, Girl snuggled face-to-face with me. “Don’t go, stay here and keep me warm,” she murmured drowsily as I shifted to cover her up. Their warmth still lingers with me, even as I sit here.

We didn’t have time to linger over reading, though. Tonight, we read – but barely! – from Kathryn Jackson’s The Around-the-Year Storybook, with pictures by J.P. Miller. With stories, poems, and songs (covering the seasons, constellations, and holidays, among other things) for each month of the year, it’s a good one to pick up regularly. The animals in the stories, like Mathilda Mouse, Little Bear, and Grandfather Groundhog, are generally charming. It seemed appropriate. The book ends with “And So the Year’s Over -” and goes like this:

The year is like a rolling wheel
That never makes a sound,
But changes seasons as it goes
A-rolling, rolling round.

And when the year has rolled around
The old year ends, and then–
That rolling wheel of changing days
Starts rolling round again.

Tonight, Boy rolled from my arms onto the bed – and onto his belly – and Girl rolled onto her side, a snuggle personified. And, with another hour or so, our year, too, will roll around, and we can roll back to the beginning of the book as we start a year anew. May it be a happy new year!

********************
Jackson, Kathryn. The Around-the-Year Storybook. New York: Golden Press, 1971.

 

The answer is no, nearly all the time.

Will things always be this way?

Will they always wake up at night?
Will bedtime always feel epic and exhausting?
Will Boy always roam (or stand in his chair) while he’s eating instead of sitting at the table?
Will Boy always dump out every puzzle we have?
Will Boy always take his shoes and socks off within moments of getting in the car?
Will Boy always pee on the floor, the couch, and unsuspecting books?
Will Boy always prefer liquid mama to solid food?
Will Girl always want to talk to me when I’m on the phone with someone else?
Will Girl always insist on the other parent at the precise moment you most want to be with her?
Will Girl always want me to snuggle her in order to go to sleep?
Will Girl always talk in the mouse voice, the one that makes me feel annoyed before even hearing what she says?
Will Girl always be upset over scary things in movies and TV shows?

Right now, it’s 9:14. Girl and Daddy went to a Frozen sing-a-long. After beginning the movie once – and stopping partway through because she was afraid of the wolves and other parts, too – she declared, “I’ll watch it when I’m ten.” That’s been her standard for things like Rudolph, at the point when Clarice is in the Abominable Snowman’s grasp. Girl was in tears, and that was the end for her. Until she’s ten.

She loves the music and can sing the songs (there was at least one month in which we heard the soundtrack every day; Boy knows lots of the words, too!), which is why I thought she’d enjoy it and encouraged her to go; I thought she’d leave after Anne met Kristoff – pre-wolf.

I hear the car door, and since the movie started at 7:30, this can only mean one thing: they watched the whole movie. I’m impressed that she’s been brave – what a milestone! It’s another “no” for the list. No, not always. It only seems that way. While I’m impressed, I’m a little sad, too. Isn’t that always the way?

DSC_0102

“Fock,” she said the other day, and looked at me craftily – no, not craftily, but testingly, sideways, just a little.

“Fock,” she said again. She waited.

“Oh,” I said. I didn’t laugh, and I didn’t gasp. I remained calm – it’s what I’m practicing, being patient and calm. (It’s working pretty well, too – now, I sometimes stop myself mid-shout: “Why am I shouting? Tell me to be calm!” My daughter then says, “Be calm, Mama!”) Besides, I was thrown for a loop; I hadn’t expected this line of conversation. I was trying to figure out how to address this. You can’t just say, “Wait a minute honey; I’ll be right back after I go read a parenting book for advice on how to deal with this situation.” There’s a lot of improv, and maybe it’s not the kind that would make Second City hire me, but as a parent, you do your best – without cursing yourself for not thoroughly preparing for whatever particular moment you find yourself in.

“Is that OK to say?” she asked.

“Where did you hear it?” I countered.

“At school.” Of course. Preschool is educational in many, many ways.

“Oh. Who said it?”

“One of the kids.” Naturally. Or “natch,” as my daughter sometimes likes to say.

“Fock.” She waited again. “It is a bad word?”

Earlier this week, she came home from preschool, telling me how someone had said “hate,” and that she told the student that that wasn’t a nice thing to say. She also told me that the student went on playing and didn’t pay attention to her. Someone else said, “Stupid blocks!” and she also said that it isn’t nice to call things stupid. In our house, we try to avoid lots of words – and not just the obvious ones. (Once, I said “crap” in front of her, and she repeated it over and over for about a minute. I knew then and there that slipping wasn’t an option because I’d hear about it – and so would many, many other people – for a long time.) We try to avoid saying “hate,” “stupid,” “dumb,” “idiot,” “ugly,” and my big three classroom no-no words and phrases, “gay,” “retarded,” and “shut up,” among others – really, the words that are most likely used disparagingly. We don’t always succeed (for instance, Sandra Boynton is prone to use “ugly,” and Lucy in Peanuts uses the word “stupid,” so you either have to say it or go with “silly” or something else on the spot), but we do our best. I told her then that I was proud of her for using her words and telling them how she felt about those words.

So here, we had “fock.” What to do?

“You know how you told the other kids this week that they shouldn’t say ‘hate’ and ‘stupid’? That was really good, and I’m proud of you. There are lots of words like those, and some other words that just aren’t nice to say. You have to decide for yourself if you’re going to be the kind of person who uses them or not.”

And that was it. She hasn’t said it again, and she didn’t say anything else about it. We all like to test our limits, and we all have to figure out who we are – or whom we’d like to be.  I’d like to think that “fock” disappeared because she has decided that she’s not the kind of person who uses those kinds of words. At least for now.

 

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