Thursday, April 09, 2009

La-La-Lost in Mommyland

Devyn is reading and printing and doing crafts and dancing and playing piano and playing soccer and going to the gym . . . She has changed so much in the past six months or so. She speaks a mile a minute and she truly doesn't realize that most people cannot sit down at a piano and work out a song within a minute or two. She's loving and caring and very bright.

She loves animals and trees. She wants to protect the homes of animals by having fewer trees cut down. She worries that the neighbourhood cat will bother or harm the caterpillar in the backyard. She says we could reuse little scraps of paper for writing in order to help save the trees.
Actually, she eats like a bird and she takes offence when someone uses that expression to describe her eating.
Molly. We had her tested by a speech pathologist at 19 months and her comprehension level (receptive language) was off the charts at 3.5 to 4.0 years. She then ably identified and labelled the colours purple, red, pink, orange, and blue. She identified letters and numbers, was fluent in English Sign Language. As a result, she attended special, hospital-based playgroups from 16 months until 22 months of age.

Both are girly, but Molly more so and at a much earlier age than her sister was. She dons a pink feather boa (her 'bee-ah') and a pink tutu just about everyday, carries a purple purse, and holds a doll outside the stroller as we walk in order to let her doll walk, too. When let loose in the bedroom shared with Devyn, she runs to her sister's bedside table and winds up the jewellery box in order to dance. Her movements are deliberate, deliberated, and, yet, very fluid. Drama.

At 23 months and two weeks, when she gets upset or frustrated that she isn't being understood, she will put her head in her hands, or put her hands to her head, or put her head down on the nearest surface. More drama.

I sometimes wonder if she should be taking an acting class! But, in September, she'll start ballet and piano classes just as Devyn did and as Devyn still does.

In February at 22 months, Molly started humming, then singing to, first, Ol' MacDonald Had A Farm and then to any song. She can't sleep without her light-and-sing Winnie-the-Pooh doll and her stuffed Blue and her baby Coraline. We can hear her singing and humming as she goes to sleep. If I sing and leave blanks by pausing, she will complete phrases throughout the whole of a song.

Until April, her favourite song was Itsy Bitsy Spider followed closely by Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. She signs along with singing. Now, she requests my renditions of Wheels on the Bus. A lot.

She won't fall asleep until she and I have cuddled in the rocking chair used by her father's mother to rock her father to sleep about four decades ago. I tell her about the past and the future. I tell her that she was once barely bigger than the very hand with which her father used to prop her up in order to feed her. I tell her how she is still very much my baby.

At 18 months, she could fully dress and undress herself, including outdoor clothing and I think this is because she is fiercely independent. Very, very independent. Feisty, even.

From about 7 months, she showed a strong interest in books. By a year, she was thumbing through them to get to her favourite pages. By a year-and-a-half, she was asking nonstop for a story to be read to her or for images of objects on pages to be labelled for her. I didn't want to ever deny a request for a book (she uses both the sign and the word), but how I could possibly clean, cook dinner, etc. was my biggest problem at that point.

At 23.5 months, she is often content to simply 'read' books on her own but if she sees me, she will ask me -- actually, insist -- that I join her in the playroom in order to read.

She signs quickly and fluently in ESL and speaks when she feels like it. She climbs into and onto everything. She understands everything that is said to her, follows compound instructions such as "Go here and do this and then do that . . ." She's been doing these things for many months.

Devyn is a typical older sister and the two share a relationship that stirs long-forgotten memories in me. There's less of an age difference between my girls. I love those moments when I catch sight of them having a tea party or of Devyn gently brushing an unusually-still Molly. They still argue over who gets which side of the easel. One always has a sudden need for the toy that the other has just picked up. One wants Playhouse Disney, the other wants Treehouse. What thing -- and I mean anything, everything -- one has, the other has to have by exactly the same method and in exactly the same measure. I often have seventy pounds of children on my lap, too. But they kiss and hug each other and cuddle and enjoy each other's company in general.

But gone from our home are the special Devyn-ized words such as 'lellow' and 'Plablo' and the space has been filled with increasingly complex questions such as, "What is plasma?" I've taken to writing down her questions on a pad in the living room if they require lengthier explanations than our seconds-before-our-appointment will allow. The awe behind her questions, the reverance for discovery, are aspects of her personality that I promote.

Gone, too, (mostly) are the tantrums for Devyn; it's more talking back and outright refusal than anything else though after-school meltdowns happen a couple of times a month at least. We've had those special locked-in stares that signal a struggle of wills and I've had glimpses into our future about ten years down the road.

And just as quietly as her other tantrum episodes have subsided, her sister's have sneaked up on us. Screaming, down-on-the-floor-kicking is our Molly and at these times I remember the word 'options' from the days when I only had one child full-time and could read an article or two. Yes, let the child think she's in control and she'll be happy. "Would you like to go to sleep with the light on or the light off?" instead of "It's time for bed." That kind of thing. It usually works.

I tend to speak in run-on sentences now because I don't ever know when I'll be interrupted for a snack, a story, a word of approval. Sometimes, it's very obvious that I've gone hours without speaking to another adult which, really, is fine until I catch myself using my Mommy Voice with my trainer or until I find myself enjoying calls from telemarketers.

Ah, yes. Traditionally, stay-at-home mothers of more than one child have precious few moments to devote attention to themselves: I have so much energy focussed on me that I don't realize how much of my own is being used. It takes me a while to recall when I last bathed. I'm less reliable at relaying messages and this annoys others. Getting sick is a luxury I can't indulge (unless I'm so sick that I'm flat on my back, in which case I'm not getting rest so much as I'm simply not vertical). I have a six-year-old whose social life is better than mine. When the opportunity to read appears, I'm often too tired.

But, on a recent solo overnight getaway, I received a call at around 7:30 p.m. from Devyn. She was crying; she and Molly missed me. I missed them, too.

On April 7, Molly proudly started calling us 'Mummy' and 'Daddy' instead of 'Mama' and 'Dada'.

And, really, what is my grammar or my hygiene, I ask, when I get to enjoy a pretend cup of tea poured from a singing teapot by a sweet almost-two-year-old? What is my sleep, really, when I get compliments and I-love-you(s) so often from a precious almost-six-year-old? I'm tired but I'm fortunate and happy.

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