Six Years and The Ninth Leap (aka toddler power struggles)

I’m still not convinced that the Wonder Weeks account for Alina’s fussy periods as well as as teething and illnesses explain our most difficult weeks. However, the book’s description of the ninth mental leap into the World of Principles, starting around 14 months, perfectly accounts for Alina’s currently stubborn disposition. I love my little firecracker (I used to call her Sparkler, didn’t I?), but she is much less easygoing than Peter was at 15 months. I don’t remember Peter complaining much (if any) when I shut myself in the office to study for pharmacy exams, but if Alina knows that I’m home, she makes sure that I’m kept busy nursing her, carrying her, reading books to her, playing outside with her, eating food from her hand, or enabling whatever program she currently has in mind. I’ll admit that I did receive adequate warning: the lactation consultant at the hospital the day after Alina was born told me that she thought Alina would be the type of baby who had to have things “just a certain way.” At this point, I can say that that’s not entirely true; Alina does accept variations from her normal routine without fuss. The lactation consultant could have alternatively said that she thought Alina would be a type A, stubborn little girl who will stomp her feet and cry when she doesn’t immediately get her way, and that’s a very fair description. I also noted soon after  Alina was born that she has a double crown (two hair whorls), and old wives say that double-crowned individuals develop stubborn, hot tempered personalities. I’m not superstitious, but Miss Alina is definitely more fiery than Big Brother Peter.

Now that Alina has grown into a fully fledged toddler (who thinks she’s a preteen), her stubborn side shines in new ways as she pushes her brother off my lap, slaps me in the face for fun, insists that she be allowed to make watercolor paintings out of the ice water provided by a restaurant server, and refuses to take medicine unless she is allowed to draw it up into the syringe herself and self-administer the dose. She systematically removes food that she doesn’t want to eat from her plate and – if possible – feeds it to someone else. She enjoyed riding in the stroller for a couple months, but now she only wants to be held facing forward so that she can be the one pushing the stroller. Always one to keep up with the big folks, Alina never crawled down steps; she went straight from standing at the top of a staircase, unsure how to descend, to walking down steps like a grown up. (Thankfully, she is prudent enough to realize that she must slide off beds and couches on her belly to get down safely.)

The ninth leap has not been all temper tantrums, though. Alina is adorable when she tries to help me clean the floor or screw our new decking into place. She mows the lawn with our toy lawn mower and cooks with our toy dishes. Despite her stubborn streak, she is actually better at following directions than Peter was as a toddler. If I can’t read a book to her immediately, she usually complies with my suggestion to ask Son to read instead. And just as Peter’s love for symbols and trains emerged during toddlerhood, Alina is developing a zeal for animals. Although it’s annoying to watch her throw a temper tantrum when a strange dog does not stop to be greeted/examined/pet by Alina, it is nice to know that I can at least try to put her in a good mood by reading an animal book to her or pointing out a squirrel on a tree.

Things would be significantly easier for us if Alina had a greater vocabulary with which to explain her demands. As with Peter at this age, though, it appears that Alina is reaching her language explosion, so there is hope for the months ahead. She loves to wave hello or good bye to people. We also wave good bye to my toilet water when she follows me into the bathroom as toddlers are wont to do. Discuss animal sounds with varying degrees of accuracy, and though we are not generally interested in symbols the way Peter was, we have a special place in our heart for the letter “f” and coconuts in the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Peter’s expressive language was easier to follow at this age because he used words with more precise context than Alina. Alina will call any round thing (and sometime any solid object) a “ball” just because she thinks it will make me happy. She jabbers and jargons constantly but primarily makes herself understood through gestures and directions. If she wants her diaper changed, she’ll take me over to get a diaper. If she wants me, she gets an article of my clothing and shows it to Son. She used to lift my shirt to indicate that she wants to nurse, but now she has become more polite and instead makes a lifting gesture with her palm opened upwards.

Like Peter, Alina has a great sense of humor. She rocks rocking horses with unadulterated joy. She arches her back while I’m holding her so that she can hang upside down. She screams for fun (but also to express her obstinance). She loves silly antics and she loves her friends at day care.

My little boy turned six today. They had a small celebration at the day care, and he received a Transformers toy that he currently adores. We had salmon, avocado, chips, watermelon, and globe cake at home. The cake was practice for Peter’s birthday party on the 23rd. It will be his first “real” party; he invited his whole kindergarten class (plus Gram). Our theme is The Amazing Race, and I made a globe cake as practice for the party. I an activity planned for each of the seven continents. Even if not every child is not interested in every activity, I hope that I’ve created enough variety to keep all the kids excited without creating chaos. I assume I’ll need the assistance of Son and my mom to keep the activities organized since Alina will presumably be clinging to me the entire time. Or perhaps I’ll be lucky and she will nap through it all??

six years old

Peter is as sweet as ever with hugs and compliments and affirmations that he loves me and his classmates and the staff at the amusement park. He still struggles with following directions, but he has made amazing progress in fine motor skills over the past year. I had always considered his fine motor skills to be mediocre for his age, but I sometimes am no longer convinced that that is true. In reality, I think that it is the strong visualization in his head of what he wants to create that makes his drawings so compelling these days.

I’m struggling a bit again to keep Peter engaged with reading. I feel that he is capable of spending much more time consuming non-fiction and beginner chapter books and even picture books, but he is usually not particularly interested when it is a coice between reading and watching a Youtube video. I suppose this is probably not terrible; I certainly watched my share of PBS and Disney animation when I was his age. But when Peter tells me that he is bored and I tell him to pick up a book, he would agree with me that this is a good solution to his problem. Perhaps I need to take up our “hobby” of completing GeoBee Challenge quizzes again. When I suggested to Peter that he needs a hobby, his idea of a hobby was to study the globe.

I’ll modify my work schedule starting in September so that I can get Peter off the bus and finish my work at home. This will allow him to start an extracurricular activity as he chooses. At this point, I think he’s planning on being a Boy Scout. But even if he just wants to have after-school play dates with someone other than his day care friends, I think we can consider this a healthy step forward in Peter’s life.

My cousin recently brought this article to my attention via social media: http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-manifesto-against-parenting-1467991745

It’s a welcome reminder to not worry so much about turning your child into a reader or a diplomat or a geography bee winner and instead, simply love him, provide a safe environment in which to grow, and allow him to take risks and go on adventures that will help him find his place in the world.

We have had a few adventures so far this summer. We visited the Berkshires for the first time over Memorial Day weekend, and crazy mother that I am, I made everyone go hiking for a couple hours at the top of Mount Greylock. (In my defense, it would not have taken so long if Peter had not been dragging his feet most of the way.) We also visited the Clark Art Institute and walked over a natural white marble bridge. We made our annual pilgrimage to Hartford’s Elizabeth Park rose garden on Father’s Day. We made our first ever trip to Edaville USA and were thoroughly impressed by Dino Land and the new Thomas Land. And Peter, my social butterfly, has participated in 3 birthdays so far with a fourth coming up this Saturday. We all enjoyed last weekend’s birthday party at the Discovery Museums; Alina was not a mobile baby the last time I took her, but now she can join in all the fun. I’m sorry to realize that we’re already halfway through summer… hopefully, we’ll cram in many more fun activities for the three weeks my mom will be visiting (starting next week)!

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