Saturday, January 27, 2007

I was going to write this and immediately after post pictures, all “nothing to see here! No blow hard list making parents around our house!” but last night Simon decided to practice not throwing up into a receptacle, so nobody’s taking pictures of anything around here. Damn, I am so sick of stomach viruses. If some of you weren’t actual members of the clergy I would be using a lot of much more colorful language than “damn” right now.

But some of you are, and we’re not going anywhere today, so I can write the state of Claire Helen, 30 months. Technically she’s still a toddler, but she’s well on her way to little kid status. Most of her development is now in concepts she’s getting rather than new things she’s doing.

At the end of last year, Mat worked a lot of late nights. When Claire Helen would get a little blue about that, I’d say we could “have a party with the kitty cats,” which meant pajamas for everybody, hot chocolate,* and pillow forts with flashlights. They caught on, and now Kitty Cat Parties are something we do on rainy afternoons, dark nights, and boring Tuesdays. Recently she’s added “Turtle Parties” to her celebratory repertoire, which are just like Kitty Cat Parties, only with basketball instead of forts.

I probably should have noticed when she started using modifiers like “actually” and “probably,” but I didn’t, and now she does. The other day I asked her to get a diaper for Simon**, and she said “Um, actually, I’m reading right now.” Ha! I’m so proud of my little lawyer’s child, crafting relevant arguments and knowing her audience’s points of persuasion. Her grammatical structure is mostly adult now, and she uses all the parts of speech as well as every kind of sentence structure (subjunctive clauses, quotations in fantasy dialogue, proper question formation, etc). She’s got a big vocabulary, especially when engaged in pretend play, and is very specific in her language. Yesterday when we got home from the park she was whining and holding her hands, and I asked her if her hands were cold. “No, dey are FWEEZING mommy! My hands are FWEEZING!”

She really likes to talk about what’s “the same” and what is “different,” and I am always interested to see what catches her eye. The grass outside is the same as somebody’s shaggy carpet; the print on a shirt is the same as the birds on the electric wires. She’s also very clued in to who has “more” and “less.” God forbid she get 3 raisins when Simon got 4.

She can count to 14 and knows all her letters(and they sometimes make appearances in her fantasy play, with their only spoken lines being the sounds they make. “An L scampered into the room, and said in her outside voice “LLLLL!” so her teacher banished*** her to the playground”), though not on cue. If you ask her what letter you are holding, she will only say “A,” but if you try to hand her an O when she asked for the S, she makes fairly clear that she is just nobody’s trained monkey. Yesterday her class at preschool hosted All School Shabbat with the other 2-3’s class. The idea was for the kids to stand up behind a table, sing some songs with motions, and pass out the bread. It was the stuff of Kodak commercials, 22 tiny little heads peeking over the butcher paper covered table, “knocking” on the door and blinking their pudgy hands like stars in time. 21 off them, anyway. Number 22 stared imperviously out at Mat and I, refusing to move her hands away from her sides for even a second or make the vaguest pretense of singing any of the songs she's known for over a year. Occasionally she would leeeeeeeean into Claire Jane, and the two of them would burst into fits of giggles when they’d fall a little, and when the time came to pass out challah, she tried her very hardest to stuff the entire loaf into her mouth before it got to be her turn to hand some out. Nobody’s trained monkey.

Other than for actual performances, she is excellent at following directions and is almost always the first in her class to line up, clean up, and put her dishes back after snack. She’s not a ringleader in the traditional sense, but if we are at a park with friends, and the kids are out of view, 99 times out of a hundred, Claire Helen is leading some kind of nature walk off in the woods or pulling somebody up some far stairs. She’s an explorer. I think it’s going to be great fun to go camping with her, so long as I install one of those microchips with a GPS system in her neck. Though she and Simon have very different responses to social situations, the both of them, when confronted with an open space to walk in, just take off. No looking back, no pausing to play, just walking walking walking. I’ve let them go for minutes at a time, and have not yet reached the point when they might pause or change course unless faced with an immovable object. When people see Simon do this they tend to make some crack about it being a “boy thing” which pushes 98% of my hot buttons,**** but mostly it’s that Claire Helen is the original wanderer. It’s the funniest trait, and it seems to be almost specific to Mat’s and my children, the total absorption and degree to which all other developmental attributes fall away when they go to wander. Going through separation anxiety and usually won’t let me get more than 10 feet away? Not a problem, I’m wandering. Really interested in fish and going over a stream stocked with them? Eh, I’m wandering.

She is still, though I can hardly believe our luck, extremely gentle with her friends. She doesn’t push or shove or steal toys, and her only response to the rampant toy thievery of 2 year olds is to eventually cry and want to sit in my lap if there’s been a particular lot of it. This is not to say she doesn’t wig out entirely if somebody else gets on the airplane rocker at the playground(her version of wigging out being coming up to my knees and saying “I was USING that. I NEED it. I was USING that.” ad nauseum until the other child gives her a turn), and we’ve had to try several approaches to stop the “I am playing with whatever Simon picked up 2 seconds ago” pattern that emerged for a little while, but out in the world she is the most gentle soul I’ve ever seen. She’s also extremely stoic, and a couple weeks ago when she twisted her ankle, her doctor was coming up with all sorts of wild diagnoses because he couldn’t believe a toddler wouldn’t be hysterical at someone touching an ankle that had been twisted. But she has very stringent rules about public conduct, and if she can keep it together, she will.

I still feel like we have been so lucky with both the kids’ temperaments. I am sure Claire Helen’s stoicism and extremely subtle mood changes would be a challenge for some people, and Simon’s separation anxiety and weird showing-affecting-by-head-butting habit would be crazy making in the wrong house. But they’re such a good fit for me. The stuff they need help with(strangers are scary; why are you all looking at me? MOMMY DON'T GO!) is the stuff that’s easiest for me to give, and they’ve taken a pass on the loud, attention hogging behavior I have the hardest time dealing with. Their generally mild dispositions and even tempered way of being make for a generally serene, harmonious house, and even just the fact that they yell less than any of the other kids we know is enough to make any other challenges easy as pie. Except for regurgitated pie. Man I hate stomach viruses.

*Which for Claire Helen means heated up milk plus 2 drops of vanilla. Don’t tell her.
**Not because I’m trying to make her into a “little mommy” or anything creepy like that, just because you know, little people like to be helpful. Except when they are busy reading.
*** Yeah, I know. Banished? Very medieval “classroom” she had going there.
****I went to the neatest lecture on gender and education the other day, and came out with the most coolest factoid: though there are some – far fewer than most people think, but some - generalizations you can make about the two different sex’s brains, only 75% of each sex has that type of brain. The other 25% has the type generally assigned to the opposite sex.

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