I went downstairs to put stuff in the car (there’s cupcakes and goodie bags for her class, after all), and when I came in, she was coming down the stairs. “Are we leaving yet?” she asked. Clearly, she was excited to get started.
Three years goes by in the blink of an eye, and it is easy to lose the little moments in the over all wave of passing time. But, as I’ve done for both kids, I jot down milestones in Evernote, as they happen. I was reviewing the milestones for the Little Miss this morning, and here are a few of them from the last 3 years.
My note reads: [The Little Miss] crawled forward about 2 paces this evening on the carpet in the office.
She was about 9 months old at this time.
Not one for being satisfied with simple, crawling, a week later, I noted (with a photograph) that she was pulling herself up into a standing position.
The Little Miss said, “Mama” deliberately for the first time.
6/5/2012, Big brother
The Little Miss said her brother’s name, deliberately, twice in the same evening.
Just shy of a year old, the Little Miss is taking 5-6 steps at a time before plopping back down to the floor.
The Little Miss is sleeping through the night in her crib. Both of her parents are greatly relieved, and are also (finally) sleeping through the night.
2/25/2013, ABCs, and potty
The Little Miss sings (adorably) the ABC song, as well as “Bah Bah Black Sheep.” She’s 18 months old. She also used the potty for the first time on this day.
The Little Miss had her first day at preschool today.
10/25/2013, Bunk Beds
Never one for wanting to sleep in her own room, the Little Miss and Little Man spent their first night in their new (at the time) bunk beds, and loved it. They’ve been sleeping there ever since.
The Little Miss went to see her first movie in the theater, Frozen. She hasn’t stopped singing since.
The Little Miss (and Little Man) went ice skating for the first time today.
The Little Miss will have yet another milestone in the next 2 weeks, when she moves into the “senior” classroom at her school. In the meantime, it was wonderful to see her so happy and excited about her birthday this morning. She will be celebrating with her classmates today, her family this evening, and her friends (at her party) this weekend.
Happy birthday, Little Miss!
1. It is okay to make mistakes, get things wrong, and occasionally fail at something, so long as you try to learn from those mistakes.
The Little Man in particular gets frustrated when he makes a mistake, or when he doesn’t win at a game. I’m not sure where this comes from because I’m of the opinion that mistakes are how we learn. Natural geniuses aside, learning is rarely easy. I can remember how halting I read when I first learned to read. I had to sound out every word, mangling half of them. It seemed to take forever to get through one page. But one day, I no longer noticed the words. Instead, I noticed the story that they told. It took practice (a lot of practice!) but I got there.
Even failing at some things shouldn’t get you down. We can’t be expert at everything. In college, I took a macro economics class. I attended every lecture. I did all of the assigned reading and homework. I ended up with D in the class. To this day, macro economics stumps me. In many respects, the earlier you learn your trouble-spot, the better you are.
The most important thing is to try to learn from the mistakes you make, in school work, and socially as well.
2. Write in your books!
I wish I had done this more. Write in your books! When you are reading, write your thoughts in the margins as you go. Include your opinions (“This passage is wonderful!”, “Was Doyle on crack when he wrote this?”). This will say you work when it comes time to talk about what you’ve read. But by writing in your books, you also make the book uniquely your own.
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Winston Churchill are just three people who wrote in the margins of the books that they read. You will be in very good company.
3. It is okay to have an opinion about things; it is okay not to like something you have read for school.
Through about 7th grade, I went through school thinking that every book I was assigned to read had to be good, because otherwise, why would it be assigned. (The notion of learning what not to do by reading a bad book was foreign to me.) Sometime in 8th grade, however, we had to read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I read it, and loathed it. Looking back on it, I just think I’m not a fan of the loquacious Victorian style. What bothers me most, in retrospect, was that I was afraid to express my opinion of the book in class out of fear that I’d get in trouble for not liking the book.
At some point (probably in 10th or 11th grade) I did express my opinions about books in class. What I found was that my teachers seemed to like this. Looking back on it, I think it is because it was clear that I read the book and formed an opinion about it.
There will be things that you read that you won’t like. Read them anyway, learn what you can from them, but don’t hesitate to express your opinion about them. It is part of the joy of reading.
4. It is okay to go beyond what you are learning, if you find it interesting.
If you find yourself interested in something you learned in class, or read about for class, by all means, pursue it. Don’t feel like you have to be hemmed in by what you are given in class. If you read about Soviet-era Russia in a social studies book, and want to learn more, go to the library and check out a history book. If your science book spends a few paragraphs on black holes and you want more, go to the library (or online) and learn more.
It is okay to go beyond what you are learning in class if you find it interesting. You can also use what you learn later, and if you are entertained while learning, that is all the better.
The main problem with advice like this is that it usually has be learned from experience. That may be so, but this is the advice I would pass along to the Little Man and the Little Miss as they begin their journey through school.
1. Sockpants. Instead of stockings–the kind she would wear with a dress, that pull all the way up–the Little Miss insists on referring to this item of apparel as “sockpants.” Which, when you think about it, is a perfectly concise and accurate description of what they are.
2. Rainbrella. It makes absolutely no sense, at least to the Little Miss, calling that thing that keeps you dry when it is raining an umbrella. What the heck does “um” mean, anyway1? She calls it, completely of her own accord, a “rainbella.” Once again, it is simplicity itself.
3. Babysuit. In the winter, the Little Miss would wear white tanktops underneath her other clothes. She took to calling these garments “babysuits,” possibly because, without arms, they have some resemblance to bathing suits that she wears when she goes swimming.
Like the Little Man, the Little Miss seems to have inherited my ear for song lyrics. She learns them remarkably fast, and that means that our evenings often ring with the dulcet tones of the Little Miss singing “Let It Go” or “For the First Time in Forever” or “Do You want to Build a Snowman.” For the latter, I’ve noticed that the Little Miss hasn’t quite misinterpreted the lyrics of one verse. Instead, I’d say she’s reinterpreted them based on her own experience. Instead of singing:
We used to be best buddies, but now we’re not, I wish you would tell me why….
The Little Miss sings,
We used to be best bunnies, but now we’re not, I wish you would tell me why…
And no amount of correction will convince her that her interpretation is wrong. Because in her world, it isn’t.
At the very least, I think that both “sockpants” and “rainbrella” are worth of serious consideration for extended use. It will be interesting to see what other portmanteau words the Little Miss manages to invent as her vocabulary continues to grow.
- Apparently, it comes down from the Latin “umbra” meaning dark spot, or shade, which I suppose makes sense, but the Little Miss has never used an umbrella for shade, only for rain, and I think therefore her term makes far more sense. ↩
The morning routine involves the Little Miss using the potty before she comes into our room. We both lay there, waiting for the call, “Mommy, Little Miss needs to go potty!” But it didn’t come. We lay there and listened in wonder as the Little Man took charge.
“Do you to go potty, Little Miss?” he said.
“Okay, let’s go. You want me to help with your pajamas?”
“I can do it,” the Little Miss said.
We could hear her unzip her feetie pajamas and sit on the potty. We could hear her start to go. What we heard next was one of those things that, as a parent, melts your heart. The Little Man said, “Little Miss, I’m very proud of you for going potty.”
He helped her back into her pajamas and then walked her into our room and into our bed, where the four of us lazed around for a little while longer. The Little Man might have been proud of the Little Miss, but we simply beamed with pride at what a good big brother he has become.
- I’ve found, as I’ve gotten older, that “sleeping in” is a relative term. Anything after 6 am feel like sleeping in, even on a Saturday. Anything past 7 am feels almost lazy. We slept past 7 this morning. ↩
The Little Man has inherited my ear for lyrics and music. He remembers all of the songs I sing, and I sometimes find him singing them to himself. I’m not talking about children’s lullabies, either. I’m talking things like R.E.M.’s “Superman” or Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong’s “Gone Fishin'”.
The Little Miss has inherited another of these traits. I have this strange ability to quote from any episode of M*A*S*H, and do so frequently when in the company of willing conspirators, much to Kelly’s chagrin. Sometimes, when an episode of M*A*S*H is on TV, I’ll often say the lines just before the actors, which I know can be very annoying–but I just can’t help myself. The Little Miss seems to have inherited a version of this peculiar talent. Except, instead of M*A*S*H, she quotes lines from Caillou–often immediately before the character says the line. I noticed this for the first time a few nights ago and it was slightly disconcerting. She has done it more than once, since, but I think she does it now because she knows how proud it makes me. She will be a very good TV episode quoter, just like her dad.
The Little Miss then points to the beanbag chair on the floor next the Little Man’s bed and said, quite firmly, “You sit, daddy!”
I drop into the beanbag chair and she crawls in beside me with her entourage of stuffed animals and baby dolls. We turn off the lights, I turn on the rain music, and the three of us lay there in the darkness, listening to the sound of rain and the occasional gentle rumble of thunder.
Sometime, the Little Man wants to hold my hand while we do this. So there I am with both of my kids, holding the Little Man’s hand and with the Little Miss nestled in the crook of my left shoulder and it is just wonderful. I’m not sure there is anything that acts as quickly as a stress reliever than laying there for 10 minutes with the kids falling asleep around me.
As a doting father, it is incumbent upon me to say that she is utterly adorable. And so she is. Mostly. She seems to catch onto things with a quickness that is as scary as it is impressive. She is currently going through a Mommy phase, where Mommy has to do absolutely everything and I am not allowed to do anything, unless, of course, she is desperate and there appears to be no alternative but to ask Daddy for help.
She has been speaking in complete sentences for some time now, but she has an older brother, to say nothing of native intelligence, to help her in this respect. She communicates very clearly, actually, often being very specific about what she wants to tell us, or how she wants things to be.
She dotes on her big brother. She likes watching the shows he watches, and she can name all of the super heroes on sight because the Little Man can do this, and she has learned it from him. She wants to do everything that he does, and is the perfect little emulator.
Mostly, she is just a little bundle of joy.
Happy birthday, Little Miss! I hope you have a fun day today!
Take the other night, for instance. We have a pretty solid bedtime routine. It usually ends with Kelly getting the Little Miss into her sleep sack, and then the Little Miss stands on our bed and shouts to me (she shouts because I am usually writing and wearing my noise-cancelling headset), “Daddy, I’m ready!” But on this night, when Kelly said it was time for bed, the Little miss replied, calmly but firmly, “No.”
Various things were tried, various bribes were made, but to no avail. The Little Miss had taken a position and she was not going to give up the high ground. More warnings were given. More bribes were made. Quid pro quo was in full force. Eventually, satisfied she’d gotten what she wanted, the Little Miss acquiesced and I put her in her bed.
Usually, as our routine goes, I lie down next to the Little Miss and we listen to “rain music” on my iPhone for the 10 minutes or so it takes for her to fall asleep. The one significant variation to this routine comes when we listen to rain music for 30 or 40 minutes, not because the Little Miss won’t sleep, but because I have fallen asleep. But this seemed to be an ordinary night. We had figured out some way of getting her into bed quietly, mostly by distracting her from the fact that she was going to bed, and now, we both laid quietly in her room, the Little Miss in her bed, me on the floor, listening to rain music.
I was drowsy, but I kept watching her. Sometimes, I watch her as she falls asleep. On this particularly evening, she lay on her back looking at the ceiling, and I could actually see her mind working. It was eerie. But she didn’t stir. She simply stared at the ceiling, quiet, while the rain music continued to play.
My eyes had closed and I had nearly fallen asleep when I heard her speak suddenly. She didn’t shout or howl. She said, as if in sudden realization, “I am in my bed.” She paused and then followed it up with a vehement, “Oh man!“
I am not a mind-reader so I cannot say this with certainty, but I believe that in that moment, the Little Miss realized that, despite her protest, she ended in her bed anyway, and by her own acquiescence, and was expressing her own utter frustration.
I brought her home. Kelly and the Little Man were already home. The Little Miss had brought a rose for Kelly for Mother’s Day.
“Happy mommy’s day,” the Little Miss said, running into the house to give the rose to Kelly.
“Oh, thank you!” Kelly said. There was a pause. “What happened to–”
“She got a bloody nose at school,” I said.
The Little Man perked up. At nearly four years old, he is fascinated by blood.
I explained what happened. “When so-and-so’s dad came to pick him up, all of the kids suddenly wanted to play with the same toy, or something. I think they said it was a dinosaur. Anyway, in the commotion, whosits threw the dinosaur and it bobbed the Little Miss squarely in the nose.”
“Aww, my poor little girl!” Kelly said. The Little Miss did not seem bothered by this in the least.
The Little Man seemed to consider the story carefully and then asked what he deemed to be the most significant question.
“What kind of dinosaur was it?”
Step 1. Begin nonchalantly. Stand up on your mom and dad’s bed.
Step 2. Release your stored up energy. Jump around on mom and dad’s bed, until mom says, “It’s time to relax, no jumping.”
Step 3. Demonstrate your independence. Continue to jump anyway until mom say, “If you don’t listen you’ll have to go into your own bed.”
Step 4. Call the bluff. Live for the moment. Do it again.
Step 5. Marvel at how quickly your are transported to your own bed.
Step 6. Play along. Lay down quietly, feigning sleep.
Step 7. Wait five minutes.
Step 8. Start yelling for mommy. Throw in a few screams. Turn on the waterworks.
Step 9. When daddy asks why you are crying, say, “I want mommy pick me up.”
Step 10. Surprise your opponent. When daddy says, “You can’t sleep in our bed, you have to sleep in here,” you say in your charming, voluble, 21-month-old voice, “I be good girl!”
Step 11. Puppy-eyes for effect.
Step 12. Marvel at how quickly you are transported to mommy and daddy’s bed.
Game. Set. Match.
The nightly routine
We go upstairs. The kids play for a little while, while Kelly and I do various tasks in preparation for the next day. Lay out clothes. Pack bags and backpacks. Then it’s time for a bath or shower. When that is over we read a book. Sometimes, we read two, one for the Little Man and another for the Little Miss. When the book-reading is done, the kids usually climb onto our bed. They each get to watch a show. The Little Miss generally watches Caillou, while the Little Man, obsessed with superheroes as he is1, watches The Avengers cartoon. They both drink their milk.
It is during this brief respite that I squeeze in the my daily fiction-writing. I can generally get as much as 500 words done before the shows are over. At some point, Kelly gets the Little Miss into her sleep-sack, usually with only minor protest. Not long after that, the Little Miss will say, “Daddy, I ready!” Usually she has to yell this, as I wear my noise-canceling headset as I write. Usually, I respond (once I hear her), with “Okay, I just need two minutes.” This is because the Little Miss has chosen the exact wrong moment in my writing to “be ready.” I finish my thoughts, typing feverishly. Then I stand.
“Okay,” I say, taking out my iPhone and holding it up, “should we go listen to rain music?”
The Little Miss waddles across the bed in her sleep sack, a big grin on her face. She practically leaps into my arms.
“Goo-night, mommy,” she says. “Goo-night, Little Man.”
“Goodnight,” Kelly says.
The Little Man generally says nothing, absorbed as he is in what is going on with the Avengers. We prod him and without taking his eyes off the TV he says, “Goodnight!”
“I love you!” the Little Miss says.
“I love you,” Kelly says. “Sweet dreams.”
We start to walk out of the room and this is where the Little Miss channels the Terminator, every night, without fail.
“I be back,” she announces.
And before morning, she almost always is.
- I wonder where he gets that from? ↩