I remember the days when I could introduce multiple new books to Isabelle in a given day. Now, not so much. Not only does she have her favorites, but she judges books by their covers. It’s frustrating, but I just take deep breaths and remember she is only four.
Isabelle walked into my office as I was cleaning up my desk.
“What’s dis book?” she asked holding Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! in her hand.
“Oh, that’s a great little book! I’ve been using that to help me inspire my writing. It’s called Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! Would you like me to read it to you?”
She examined the cover.
“No,” she said tossing it back onto my desk.
I had a lightbulb moment. I decided it was time to push.
“Do you know who the author and illustrator are of Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!?”
“Who?” she asked.
“It’s written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. It’s the same author and illustrator as Clever Jack Takes the Cake.” I paused. Then I tried to close the deal. “You love Clever Jack, don’t you?”
“Would you like me to read this book to you? Maybe you’ll like it since it’s the same author and illustrator of a book you love.”
“Okay. Read it to me, Mommy.”
And so I did. And oh did she laugh every time she heard the sounds the bunnies made in the garden. I think she’s sold. AND, I was reminded of the fact that I may have to use some of the old “book-selling strategies” I used to use with my students with my own child. (At least it still works!)
Nearly ever one I know has told me four years-old is easier than three. I’d like to hope they’re right since three was a downright challenging year. However, Isabelle’s been four for a little over a week and, so far, she still seems like my feisty three year-old.
Case in Point: Preschool Pickup. Unless I’m working in a school, I pick Isabelle up from preschool a little earlier than her peers since she still naps. Today was one of those days where I arrived before the class’s rest time. As soon as her teacher saw me, she began recounting a story about Isabelle finding the courage to speak in front of her peers (to tell the story of why she’s nicknamed herself the “Cheese Machine”). It was a delightful tale that made my heart happy since she was able to hold her friends’ attention and was able to be understood by her teacher.
As her teacher and I chatted, I noticed a curly-haired girl run out of the room. Yep, you know who it was: my child! She likes to do this to me (i.e., run out of the room for my benefit since she knows it agitates me). I didn’t give chase. But after a minute, she didn’t come back, so I went in search of her. I found her driving towards me in a Little Tykes Cozy Coupes, which operates like the cars on “The Flintstones.” Apparently she decided it would not only be okay to leave her classroom, but she’d join another class who were using indoor bikes and cars in the preschool hallway. Um, no, that was NOT okay.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Driving!” she grinned.
“You’re not supposed to leave the classroom. You don’t run out of the classroom. You didn’t ask your teacher permission.”
“Get up,” I commanded.
“No, I’m driving,” she replied.
I didn’t mince words. “I need you to get up and get out of the car.”
She started to whine. And cry. And yell.
I swiveled the car around and pointed it in the direction where the cars and bikes are stored.
“Go and park your car now.”
“Yes. Drive back, park your car, and come back to your classroom or I will have to pick you up out of your car and carry you out of school.”
“Fine Mommy!” she said with disdain in her voice.
I turned on my heel and walked back to her classroom. 30 seconds later she returned. Good, I thought.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!
You’d think it’d end there. You’d think she’d be compliant and stay by my side. You’d think these things if you were raising one of those compliant four year-olds my friends talk about all of the time. But, no, right after she put on her coat and hugged her friends good-bye she bolted from the room again. But before I could exit the room, one of her little friends took off after her. “Isabelle! You can’t leave the room!”
But then he left the room. Ugh!
And then, to make matters worse, one of other little girls follows both of them out of the room in an effort to lay down the law. At this point, her teacher and I are out the classroom door, ready to collect all three of them. When we arrive in the hallway, the boy who ran after her says, “Isabelle took my truck.”
“Give it back to him,” I said. And she did.
Her teacher retrieved Isabelle’s friends and brought them back to the classroom. I admonished Isabelle for leaving the classroom and told her that she could get her friends into trouble by leaving since they followed her. I told her she had to ask permission before departing the classroom. While she nodded, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that she’d be doing this to me again sometime soon since she knew it didn’t bother me. I sighed. Enough. Let it be for today, I told myself.
Just as I was about to take her hand to lead her out of school, a girl from one of the other classes pedaled by on a tricycle with a passenger seat (or what reminds me of a preschool rickshaw). Isabelle attempted to jump into the passenger seat.
“Oh no!” I cried. “You are not going for a bike ride! We’re going home.”
“But I want to!” she whined.
“It’s not happening. Not now. Put on your mittens. We’re going home.”
* * * * *
I recently polled my Facebook friends asking:
I have a question for anyone who’s ever told me parenting a four year-old is much easier than a three year-old. (And there are quite a few of you out there!) We’re a week and a half into age four and no one has flipped the proverbial switch. I’m wondering… when did your three year-old morph into a more compliant, more mellow person?
NOTE: If you don’t have a happy tale to tell (i.e., four was just as hard, if not harder than three), then please don’t tell me that today. I need some uplifting four year-old stories… please!
I got a variety of answers, links to articles, and promises of hope. Most people reassured me that the change came later-on in the fours. So for now, I’m going to try to stay calm and firm like I did today. And when something ridiculous happens, I will write the stories down so my daughter will know exactly what she was like at this point in her life as she grows up into the amazing, strong-willed adult I know she will be.
One of Isabelle’s new friends at preschool — we’ll call her Daria — approached me twice asking for a play date with Isabelle.
“Have your mom e-mail me,” I told her.
“Can you e-mail him?” four year-old Daria asked me.
“Sure,” I said, and added that to the reasons I should also be considered my daughter’s social secretary.
In reality, I e-mailed Daria’s mom and set up a play date at a local museum for this-coming weekend. Last week, Daria approached me at school and asked, “When is my play date with Isabelle?”
“Next weekend,” I told her.
And that was it. It was on the books. Barring anyone getting sick (G-d forbid!) or a snowstorm (Ugh!), we’re on for this weekend.
But then today, when I picked up Isabelle at preschool, Daria approached me.
“Do we still have a play date this weekend?”
“Yes,” I said. “You and Isabelle still have a play date on Saturday.”
“Isabelle isn’t very excited about it,” Daria confided in me.
“Yes she is! She actually asked me to go to the museum with you, which is why we’re meeting there instead of at one of our houses.”
Daria didn’t seem convinced. “She doesn’t seem excited about it.”
I knew, in my heart of hearts, that Isabelle asked to go to the museum with her. Was it that she was indifferent towards a play date with her friend or was it because she wasn’t able to express how excited she was? My body tensed. What if it’s the latter? What if she can’t get her words out to express her excitement?
I knelt down beside Daria. “Sometimes Isabelle doesn’t say everything that’s on her mind. I know she’s excited to play with you at the museum.”
Daria walked away, but didn’t look any happier. I thought about what I had said. I looked at Isabelle, sitting at a table playing Play Doh quietly beside her friends. She was content, but she wasn’t conversing with them (except for the occasional protest or to ask someone for a Play Doh tool). But I didn’t feel badly for Isabelle since she looked happy. Instead, I felt badly for Daria. She wanted to hear that Isabelle was just as eager to play with her as she was to play with Isabelle. And then, I felt badly for myself. I am the parent of a child who has learned how to talk, but I know she struggles with circles of communication. Social conversation is hard for her because of her motor speech difficulties. She’s made progress, but still has a long way to go in this area. It was hard for me to learn that her lack of conversational skills made another child feel badly.
Five minutes past and it was about time to go home. Isabelle set her creation to dry on a tray. I told her, “Say good-bye to your friends and your teacher.”
She walked over to Daria first. “Bye Daria!” Isabelle wrapped her arms around Daria and hugged her tightly. “I love you.”
Daria hugged back.
I smiled. I smiled because my daughter was affectionate. I smiled because my daughter has a generic way of telling her friends she cares about them. I smiled because my daughter probably made Daria realize she can’t wait to play with her this weekend.
This week I had-a-go with VoiceThread. I put together a digital story in under 30 minutes. (It kinda shows. As you’ll see, it was unscripted and has very few images.) In an effort to try out more digital storytelling tools, I give you my VoiceThread:
Nearly every morning I’m on top of my kiddo to eat breakfast. Every morning’s meal involves constant reminders to eat and a timer. However, yesterday’s first meal of the day was a little different since I decided I didn’t want to harp on her. I was tired from being away for the previous five days in NJ for Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, instead of nagging her, I picked up one of review copies I received while we were away and read it at the table. (Bad form… I know. But it’s better than using a phone at the table, right?!??!)
Isabelle was curious about the book I was reading. “Read it to me,” she requested.
I complied with her request and read Sue Heap’s Mine! to her. She liked it so much that she asked me to read it aloud to her two more times. I capitalized on her interest by requiring her to eat another strawberry, sip her chocolate milk, or eat another bite of cereal every time she wanted me to turn the page. It worked like a charm. She was entertained and well-fed by the end of the third reading.
* * * * *
Later in the day, I walked into Isabelle’s preschool classroom and saw her sitting around a small table with her teacher and three other students. They were playing with a pie that had colorful fruit shapes inside of it. As soon as she saw me, she got loud and started to hog the pie. In fact, once I came over to the table where they were sitting she made a big production of taking the pie away from the group declaring, “Mine! It’s mine!”
I began to say something like, “Isabelle, bring that back here,” but I stopped myself. I turned to her teacher and said, “It’s your classroom. I’ll let you handle it if you’d like.”
I want to see where she’s going with it,” said her teacher. Smart thinking.
We watched her for a moment as Isabelle headed to the play kitchen and one of the other girls, who we’ll call Leah, balked about the disappearing pie. “What are you doing over there?” Isabelle’s teacher asked.
“I’m pretending to eat the pie,” Isabelle declared as she sat down at the play kitchen table.
Makes sense, but it isn’t nice.
Suddenly, Leah jumped up, walked across the room, and grabbed the pie back from Isabelle. (I was pretty glad she did!) Isabelle chased her back to where the rest of us were sitting saying, “I pay-ing wid dat. It’s mine!”
I bit my tongue. Her teacher attempted to negotiate the situation between Isabelle and Leah. But then another kid got hurt and her teacher had to attend to that situation leaving me with two unhappy toddlers, both of whom wanted to play with the pretend pie.
I drew Isabelle closer to me as Leah played with the pie. “Mine! I using dat!”
“I understand you want to play with the pie, but so does Leah. Remember this morning we read that book Mine!?”
“Yes,” Isabelle replied.
“Remember how the little girl realized she could share her toys with Jack, Zak, and the baby? She said ‘yours and mine’ and ‘mine and yours.’ That’s what you can do with Leah. The pie can be a ‘mine and yours’ or a ‘yours and mine.’ You can take turns with it.”
“Okay,” Isabelle said.
I fed her the words to say to Leah to facilitate the sharing situation. Once we practiced a couple of times, she tapped Leah on the shoulder and said, “Want to pay together? The pie can be yours and mine!”
Leah said, “okay,” and just like that, the girls began to sort the berries inside of the pie. Then they took it over to the <> that had been set up in the classroom earlier in the day. They played for a few more minutes before it was time for us to go home.
But before we left, I asked Isabelle if she’d go back to Leah and say, “Thanks for sharing the pie with me.”
She did. And then she gave Leah a hug. And Leah hugged back.
“Bye!” Isabelle said to Leah.
“Bye Isabelle!” Leah said.
Crisis solved. At least for now. That little encounter between Leah and Isabelle was exhausting. What if we hadn’t read Mine! that morning? I have a feeling it wouldn’t have turned out quite as well.
BOTTOM LINE: I don’t know how her preschool teacher manages this stuff all day long. She’s so patient and even-keeled. I can’t imagine dealing with these squabbles, which must happen constantly! (Preschool arguments are certainly more frequent and more intense than upper elementary school ones!)
We have book jacket graveyards all over our house. There’s a large one in Isabelle’s closet. There’s another one in our exercise room’s closet. There are some that live in the classrooms of an elementary school as classroom decor. There are even some book jackets hiding in her playroom atop her shelves. (Let me be honest: There are many that have probably been recycled into other things since the there were too many book jackets to house in our home about a year ago. Yes, I ‘threw away’ book jackets. I can’t tell you how badly I feel about that now.)
Isabelle’s disdain of book jackets goes back to 2012 when she had enough dexterity to remove them from the hardcover books they protected. She didn’t seem to care that they looked nicer with the jackets on. As soon as a new book entered our house, she would immediately remove the jacket in haste and toss it to the side. It irked me to no end, which I suppose is why she kept doing it.
But then Little Elliot, Big City arrived. She removed the book jacket. I groaned.
“It’s not the same,” she remarked. She flipped between the plain blue book cover with a solitary elephant and the book jacket with a NY cityscape and Little Elliot.
“You’re right. They’re not the same. The book jacket has much more detail. Why don’t you put it back on?”
“No,” she dismissed me.
“I’m worried that Little Elliot is going to get cold,” I said, completely b.s.-ing her.
“Oh,” she looked concerned.
Then, ever so slowly she grabbed the book jacket. She placed it on top of the book. “Get warm, Eh-wee-uht!”
“I think you’ll need to put the book jacket back on if you want to keep him warm, Isabelle.”
She tried to wrap the book jacket around the book, but seeing as she’d never done this before, she was unsure of how to get it back on. “I can’t!” she exclaimed.
“You can’t do it yet because you’ve never done it before. Here, let me help you.” I showed her, step-by-step, how to get a book jacket back on to a book.
“Little Eh-wee-uht is warm,” she said.
“Yes, he is warm,” I replied, satisfied.
“Keep your jacket on, Eh-wee-uht!”
“Will you help him keep his jacket on, Isabelle?”
“Yes, I wuv Eh-wee-uht. I keep him warm,” she replied.
“I will keep him warm,” I corrected.
“I will keep him warm,” she parroted back.
“Yes. PLEASE!” I said.
It’s been about five days that Elliott has kept his jacket on. It’s the ONLY book of Isabelle’s that’s wearing it’s book jacket. And that makes me one very happy book-jacket-loving person!
My mom packed me a sandwich (roast beef, turkey, or PB&J) in a lunchbox for most of my elementary school career. I don’t remember what else she threw in, but I know there were sides. Even though one of the boys in my class always got teased because his mother wrote him long notes in his lunch every day, part of me wished my mom would’ve tucked a note or two in my lunchbox. (Not a long missive like that kid had! That was too much!) But honestly, I’m not complaining because my mom drove me to and from school every day. She was always there for me and still is. She may not have packed the most exciting lunches, but I was well-nourished and happy.
Nowadays, there’s a whole lunchbox culture. It seems to live on Pinterest and on blogs (though I’ve seen glimpses of it on Twitter.) If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to Pinterest, type in something like school lunch for kids and you’ll be inundated with intricate lunch boxes filled with cutely designed sandwiches, fruit, and vegetables. I admire the book-themed lunches, the lunches that look like animals, and the lunches that are in the shape of cartoon characters. They’re adorable. Really they are. Heck, I even started my own Pinterest board devoted to school lunches. BUT, I don’t have the desire to spend what little free time I have making a cute school lunch. (Plus, I’m not THAT artistic!) Also, I’ve purchased a cute looking sandwich at a children’s museum before. Its appearance didn’t make her more apt to eat it. (NOTE: We bribed her to eat that adorable sandwich!) So…
I bought a bento style lunchbox for Isabelle and figured I’d do my best. I packed her first school lunch last night. (She’s staying late at preschool today.) I had high hopes for myself, especially after exchanging tweets with Nina from Mamabelly yesterday. In reality, I packed something healthy, but not that cute. See:
This lunch may not be Pinterest-worthy, but since it contains some purple (Isabelle’s favorite color) chocolate gems candies for dessert AND a short note, I think my kiddo will be well-fed and happy.
You would think that 3.5+ years into this parenting thing that I would’ve realized there’s no such thing as a predictable day. Let’s be honest, I know that, but as a believer in self-fulfilling prophecies, I like to think about things the way I want them to go (rather than how they might actually go).
Take my daughter’s daily naps. She was napping two – three hours/day over the summer. There were occasional days when she wouldn’t nap, but it was very rare. I was loving every minute of nap time since it was solid time I counted on to accomplish work daily. Therefore, I figured I’d be gaining an extra three hours on the days she went to preschool, thereby increasing my productivity.
I had the whole thing planned out, too! Drop her off at preschool, write at home OR work in a local school doing my mentor text work with small groups, pick her up at noon, come home for lunch, play with her for a bit, and put her down for a nap and then write. But I must’ve known it wasn’t going to work out quite that way since my first day in a school is next Wednesday, 9/17. I figured this was a good way to ease into things.
And it would’ve been if Isabelle had decided to nap last week. But sure enough, we went three consecutive days without her taking a nap. I was supposed to be gaining time to work, not having it taken away from me! But silly me… I had forgotten that when you have kids rarely do things go as planned!
I’m happy to say Isabelle napped for the past two days. I’m hoping she keeps up this streak today. After all, she spent three hours at preschool and then played outside after lunch. She should be exhausted! But I’m approaching my afternoon with cautious optimism since nothing is ever predictable when you have a toddler around. Nothing.
For those of you who’d like a preschool update, I’m happy to report Isabelle is enjoying school so far! I’m a little fuzzy on the details of her day every day, but I know she’s having fun, likes her teachers, and wants to go every day!
“You’re not going for pizza today,” I said in a matter of fact tone as we walked out of speech therapy.
Isabelle’s body halted. I saw her lower lip tremble as she pulled Teddy closer to her body. “Why?” (Yes, she asks why questions now. And believe it or not, as a mom who waited so long to hear her speak, I LOVE every question she asks.)
“Because you threw your Special K on the floor at breakfast. I gave you a warning and told you to fix your table manners. And then you swung your fork around, which could’ve gotten you hurt. That’s why we’re not going for pizza.”
I felt terrible since she worked so hard at music therapy and speech therapy this morning. However, I was being consistent. Therefore, I felt terrible, yet consistent. So I added, “If you eat properly at breakfast tomorrow and you do your work with Ms. Marie and Ms. Mandy, then I will take you for pizza tomorrow.”
Her eyes lit up. “I behave tomorrow.”
“You know the right thing to do,” I said. “I know you will do it.”
Well, at least I hope she’ll do it.
This conversation repeated itself on our way out of the parking lot when she asked, “Where I going now?” I wanted to say, I JUST TOLD YOU, but instead I said, “you tell me where we’re going now. Think back to what we talked about a few minutes ago.” And she did.
As I made the left turn out of the parking lot I decided it was time to write down ten things about Isabelle right now. She’s about so much more than intensive speech therapy and constant toddler testing.
When I got back home, I looked over the 10 Things Right Now post I wrote in late October 2013. And then I wrote this:
You have an eclectic taste in music. For instance, you like brushing your teeth to James Brown, Frank Sinatra, and Raffi. How much more eclectic can one get?
Your favorite color is purple. You don’t play around when you’re in the mood for an all-purple day. There are days you dress in purple from head to toe: bow, shirt, underwear, shorts, and shoes. My gosh — even your school backpack is purple!
You’re obsessed with “the purple thing” at Hersheypark, which is one of the scariest roller coasters I’ve ever seen. You’re too short to go on it, but you want everyone else to go on it. Whenever you see it from around town you yell, “I see purple thing!”
Speaking of read alouds, you tend to ask the same questions time after time when I read books aloud to you. At first I’d answer you back (with practically the same answer every time). But now I’ve changed my tune. I’m constantly asking you, “What do you think?”
Whenever you finish one of your therapy appointments you always say, “I wanna do somethin’ fun!” I often oblige by taking you to a playground, out for a simple lunch, or to Chocolate World. However, sometimes we have to do errands. You don’t like errands… you prefer “something fun.” On those days when we’re running to the UPS Store, to Giant, and to Target, I have to tell you, “not every day is filled with something fun.” I wish it could be like that, though, since I know you work way harder than the average three year-old since you have to go to OT and speech!
You selectively subscribe to the toddler code. While you are better at sharing and turn-taking than the average toddler, you draw the line when it comes to certain things: like your Little People. Those are off-limits for sharing!
You carry your teddy bear, aptly named Teddy, everywhere. He attended family weddings in North Carolina and Washington, DC this summer. You bring him to appointments. He even came with us the day you got your most recent big girl haircut! You love Teddy, but let me be honest… Teddy needs a bath!
You continue to have firsts that we’re so proud of — like the first time you try a new food or first time you say a word correctly. The other night you attended your first baseball game. Daddy and I LOVE baseball so we were really excited to take you, but you were more interested in the people around us than in the game. Maybe you’ll be ready for another game in a couple of years. Until then, we’re just happy we found out you weren’t quite ready for a game by taking you to a minor league game. (Boy would we have been sour if we spent a lot of money on tickets to a Yankees game.)
You give the best hugs. You squeeze me very close and pat me on the back. Your hugs alone make me feel like I am loved, but when you tell me “I wuv you,” my heart melts — every time.