It's been a long year, three. A year of growth and of shrinking back, of testing and pushing, of coming back together and sharing love, a year of the ups and downs of learning to be friends, a year of genderification, of telling tales and singing songs, of bossing and being bossed. It's been a long year of crucial development, and plenty of the growing pains that attend it.
It was a year marked by more struggles, more intense struggles, than we ever had over the year of two. Two was, in fact, easy, while three has been a battle waged over and over, a few weeks long, repeated every few months. A time of pushing and trying things out, of refusals to listen, of removing of privileges, of occasional threats or bribes. It has been tough at times, as she fights to establish an independence that she is not truly ready for yet, and we insist on retaining parental standards and authority. Still, the in between times have been sweet and fascinating to watch, as you become ever smarter and more girl-like, moving away from the toddler you were.
There were growing pains - like the "not your friend" epidemic that went around the class, with even her best friends telling her that at times, and her trying it out on me, much like she tried to bite me once after being bitten herself back around the 2-year mark. Equally painful for her, too, I imagine, especially when you are young, as she is. I explained to her that really, probably that friend just didn't want to play right then, but didn't know how to say that in a better way. That phase seems to have died down for now, but will no doubt rear its head again in school time and time again. Still, friend have become a big part of her life, and one morning not long ago, she counted them off to me on her fingers like jewels.
Along with this sort of testing of social bullying manoeuvres has come the bossing and the rules. Lord, the bossing. The kids boss each other, they complain about each other's bossing, they try to boss us parents, too. Which hasn't gone over well, as you might imagine. so she is learning more of the social niceties - askign nicely, waiting your turn to talk, and so on, though it is a work in progress, as children are.
There was the separation of girls and boys - she now claims to like to play with both, but most certainly she doesn't like the "big boys" in the playground, the ones who run too fast and occasionally knock over a smaller child like herself, though she is growing taller and faster and learning to hold her own better. She is also not fond of loud noises (except those of her own making, apparently), and they are, without a doubt, rowdier than she likes.
With this has come some sudden, osmotic knowledge of Disney princesses, something she never saw at home. Suddenly, she knew about them, their names, the colour of their hair, the type of dress they wear. When she started to ask me for princess stories, I would tell her my own made-up versions of the standards, sticking pretty close to the norm, but with some small tweaks here and there. Eventually, though, I began bringing home versions that I didn't mind. For Christmas, a friend got her a Disney princess tin and a calendar, which she pores over, begging me to tell her the stories of her princesses. Luckily, I know them well enough to oblige at the drop of a load of laundry. I still hold out on the movies, the Disney books, and the merchandise, but she is firmly planted in girly land these days.
She has turned, this year, into such a preschooler, a real kid with real social interaction and playdates without interventions. Often enough, we parents can let them play without much interference, sending them off when they seek an ear for tattling. They can solve it themselves, we tell them, and mostly, they can now. So mostly, it works. We've even had drop-off playtimes with a few kids from her daycare circle, capable as they are all becoming of working things out. It's a lovely thing to see them, playing together, running off hand in hand.
She has at time taken great pride in her growing - riding a two-wheeler (well, 4 with the training wheels, but a Big Girl Bike nonetheless), choosing her own clothes, and keeping dry pullups overnight until we finally pulled the pullups altogether. She still resists growing up in some areas, hangs back for the closeness of having me help her dress, the ease of using fingers, not forks, the comfort of classmates she knows well. She wasn't thrilled to give up the pullups, proud as she was of their arid state each morning, but she was ready, and we try to push a bit here and there. I will need to push her more on the dressing, but hurried mornings make it tough to fight that fight every day, and I deep down don't mind the chance to hug her close as I slip her shirt over her head. For now, we have a sort of truce at her pulling on bottoms, me helping with tops. This summer, when Misterpie has time to go over it each morning, we may move to the next step, because I know that she can.
As she has grown this year, her already impressive speech and memory have grown to where she tells me stories word for word from her storybooks, correct a word out of place in my own reading, and makes up her own tales from a notebook of scribbles. She loves to rhyme words, as I do, and the storytelling and the song-making enchant me. I am thrilled to see her loving language and playing with it as a toy and a tool. I think it might be a bit like watching myself as a child, for I was notoriously language-happy myself.
It has been, as I've said many a time, tougher than two, tougher by a long shot, and yet it is amazing to see her now, a child, not a toddler, not my baby, but growing into a child who could run in a schoolyard, ride a bicycle, and gallop off with a friend without looking out of place. A picture sits on my desk at work from last summer, a picture that now looks babyish to me, with its softer, chubbier cheeks, its shyer smile, pudgier fingers, and shorter hair. She is growing longer of limb and body, leaner of face. Her longer hair makes her look older, and her expression, often as not, earnest.
It's been a harder year often enough, to be sure, one I am in some ways happy to see the close of in hopes of less struggling, and yet it has wrought changes that catch me off guard still, at times. I know the next year will separate her even further from my sweet, pliable toddler girl, make her even more herself. I welcome it, look forward to seeing her grow and learn and become, but the gap is growing wider, and now I find myself wistful for her tiny feet, softer, pinker limbs, and sweet miniature dresses in a way that I was not this time last year.
Tomorrow, my girl turns four.
Labels: parenting dilemmas, Pumpkinpie