On Tuesday, you turned four years old. Wow.
This year, you’ve grown and changed immeasurably. Man, I forget how hard it is to write these letters to you. Three things I want to discuss are your individuality, giving you opportunities to learn, and learning how to connect.
When I had you, I thought there was a formula to this whole child rearing thing. But, sadly, there isn’t. The older you and your brother get, the better I see this. The two of you have exhibited many differences, and those differences start to give me a picture of the wide range of personalities of children. For example, he’s always been a good, uncomplicated napper. You, on the other hand, required more work to get to sleep. And if you woke up, even just a little bit, you were awake.
I recently read a parenting book called “Raising Your Spirited Child” that helped me consider who you are more objectively, and that helped me appreciate you even more. The book discussed a list of personality traits, and it was the first time I considered where you fall on the scale of traits like introversion/extroversion. Because you are lively around those we are close to, I never considered that you might have introverted tendencies. Yet, when I consider how you enter a new place (cautiously, holding back while scanning the premises) and your reaction to going to school and making new friends (not overly interested), I realized that indeed you are different from me (extrovert all the way!). While I don’t think of you as an extreme introvert, I now have more compassion and understanding when I don’t understand your reactions in social situations and when you aren’t ready to discuss an event or activity.
You are an individual. You like to wear different shoes on each feet (when you happen to wear shoes). You have strong feelings about your clothes, and you have been picking out your own since your brother was born. You used to wear leggings every day, but now you’ve moved on to “wiggly pants” because they feel nicer. You love going to dance class, your first-ever drop-off activity, but you require a TIGHT hug before you enter. The teacher told me that you’re doing very well and was surprised to hear that you don’t go to school since you are so attentive. You are enjoying church more and are willing to sit through more things like that (weddings, church services, etc.). I will be a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding next spring, and you told me that you want to sit in the front rows so you can see me standing at the front. It was very upsetting for you to sit 2/3rds of the way back while daddy was a groomsman this fall. You like bugs and let them crawl on you and say, “No, X, you can’t hold the millipede because you will freak out.” You went trick-or-treating for the first time this year, and you knew exactly what you wanted to be: a peacock. I’m delighted by your decisiveness. For your birthday party, you wanted a fire truck party. I have no idea why. I double-checked the fire truck theme with you several times and then ordered themed decor items to be brought in by Nana and Grandpa. A few days before the party, you wanted a princess party instead. Sorry.
I could go on and on about what makes you funny and special and dear, but I will move on to thoughts about helping you learn. KLC, you’re no slow learner. You are a sponge, and you pick up on everything people say. I haven’t taught you any lower case letters intentionally, but you hold your fingers up and say, “Look, Mommy–a lower case d!”
You have learned and you will learn much in this life, and I pray that you will love learning like your daddy does. But right now, I want to protect your childhood. I want you to have time to swim and play and be imaginative. I’m not the best parent for facilitating these things, but I am trying. Almost all of our friends here in Nassau have their kids in school at your age or younger, but we have chosen to keep you home for now.
Once again, I have looked for a formula to tell me what is right for your schooling. Is the resistance that arises over the particular options in front of us an issue that I need to confront or is it my mommy instinct on what is right for you? There is certainly no perfect school. For now, I have enjoyed these four years with you at home. Wow, that just struck me. I have literally been with you for four years since you emerged in that Houston hospital despite your best efforts to stay in the womb. (13 days past due, 2.5 hrs of pushing after being induced) Four years of naps, four years of bedtimes, four years of snacks, four years of meals. Four years of stories, four years of play, four years of snuggles.
School is still a question mark for us. As we explore different ideas, I have been learning how to do more with you at home. Realizing that I could up my mom game by doing more crafts and activities, I decided to embark on an experiment in June. I googled “daily crafts and activities for kids” and found a calendar with a different activity for each day of the month. Then, to add some accountability I documented our activities on Instagram along with my review of them.
I was surprised how quickly you glommed onto the “project” idea and wanted to know what each day’s project was. I did get frustrated with projects for being either too difficult to execute with readily available materials in Nassau or for not engaging long enough. The month was a success, though, and I gained more insight into it thanks to a book I’m reading called “Listen.”
The premise of “Listen” is that a child’s well-being is related to a strong connection with his or her parent, and their feelings of upset stem from a lack of connection. This is an oversimplification, but it helped me think about our projects in a new way. Before, I thought of them first as a learning opportunity for you (scissor skills, science experiments, fine or gross motor skills, etc.) and second as a way to keep you occupied/out of my hair. Considering them through the lens of connection, I now realize that any little thing I might plan or draw you into in a special way is building your sense of being connected with and cared for by me.
KLC, I pray that your next year will be one of learning about the world, of growth into more of who God made you to be, and of warm, loving connection with God and your family.