We walked out of the building. It was dark outside. And slippery, because of the ice on the ground, turned from the melted snow.
“I got something in my (Valentines) bag that can help us.” Randall started searching in the paper bag.
“What do you have? A cane?”
“No. A flashlight!”
Back when the kid had been even younger, there had always been a mix of unbearably adorable moments and even more unbearably bad meltdowns. I’d think the meltdowns would last forever, as well as the cuteness. Yet at this point I came to realize that this cuteness and sweetness of a 7-year-old is going to drift away. Soon.
From a few feet behind, I was watching him go down the sidewalk, holding the flashlight. The beam was going about everywhere. For whatever it might be shining at, it clearly did not light up the ground in front of him. But it lit up his mood, as well as mine. It was freezing and normally I wouldn’t want to stay out any longer than I had to, but somehow at this moment I wish I could freeze time, freeze the sweetness in this cold air.
Randall borrowed this book from the library about a hispanic boy who cherished a dream of becoming an astronaut finally made his dream come true despite his previous applications to NASA being rejected 11 times. After reading this book, Randall decided he would not give up on his dream of becoming a jet engineer no matter how many times it would take him to try.
Then mom added, “To be a jet engineer, you first need to be good at maths”.
“No, I first need to know how to make paper airplanes!” denied Randall, “So you need to buy me that paper airplane book, otherwise I can’t become a jet engineer.”
Next year I’m going to kindergarten.
Only teachers can talk. The kids cannot talk.
Otherwise they’ll distract the teachers.
The only thing I can do at the kindergarten is listen, but I cannot listen a lot.
This is now what Randall starts his morning and ends his day with: the vehicle puzzles, or as he calls it, “puzzle car”. He would cheerfully go to bed only if he has finished all 4 puzzles in the box, in a fixed sequence every time, of race car, school bus, train, and fire truck. I didn’t expect him to be ready for this 12-piece set at this time yet, for he couldn’t even do the 8-piece farm puzzle. And indeed in the beginning, he almost had no clue of what pieces match and what don’t. But he is SO obsessed with cars. Unlike with the old farm puzzles which I could hardly get him interested in, he asked us to sit down with him once or twice a day to work on the vehicle puzzle together. Now, after one week’s time, he has become pretty good at it. He can put them together all on his own and put them back in separate compartments. He can even figure out which pieces belong to which puzzle.
This reminds me of how I once struggled with the choice of toys. But in the end I just gave up the idea of trying to catch him up with the so-called average skills of his age. He didn’t appear very interested in drawing (esp. on paper). Nor was he verbal. “Forget about it! Just spoil him”, I decided. And by saying “spoil him”, I meant getting him toys he would most likely be interested in and saving myself from worrying about the development chart all the time. Now our apartment has become more like a garage, parked with toy vehicles of all sorts and all sizes. Besides Randall has an entire storage box dedicated to his train tracks. And like many other boys of his age, he just spends a whole of lot time doing nothing but line up or “drive” these vehicles. But now I see my way of “spoiling him” seems to have worked out. He has found something interesting for himself and keeps working on it till he gets there. Still, of course, I am always ready to help him explore new areas and new possibilities, like I get him new books every so often, check out toddler swimming classes, and give him a set of chalks in addition to the crayons.
Randall finally started to do shape sorting yesterday evening when I presented him a fun game with his nesting box tower — you put one shape through the hole and take it out from the bottom in a luck draw style. We had never really got him working on shape sorters before because he had been so easily frustrated. It wouldn’t take him more than a couple of tries before he got upset and threw the shapes away. And this happens almost everyday when things don’t go his way. Other kids might have just done it in the beginning with their parents prompting them where each shape goes, but he wouldn’t. We don’t get to tell him what to do and what not. Almost everything he does should be based on his own will and his own understanding. Once he’s ready, he is happy. He is very determined over what he’s going to do, what he’d like to achieve and how he’s gonna do it, even when he’s asking for our help. Like if knows the battery cover of his toy can be opened and he wants it opened by us, we can’t tell him that we need a screwdriver to do this. And lately he has picked up this preference over what he wears and would protest strongly if we try to put on him clothes he doesn’t like.
This is called inflexibility. I have secretly wondered if it’s something that we have neglected or have done wrong that has made him like that, but more likely than not, it’s just him, his born temperament. We should definitely work on that with him together, to help him understand and adjust himself, deal with his frustrations and be more flexible and persistent. But where has it come from? me or daddy, or someone else in the family? I know I’m kind of a person who falls apart when things get out of control, and I’m definitely not the persistent style in things I’m not a master of. But somehow I was an easy kid, or maybe it’s because I just knew how to walk away from challenges I didn’t like?
Aug 1st, 2:40am, Randall woke up in the middle of the night. The ear thermo read 39.5°C! I got anxious. And that marked the start of two days at the emergency, three sleepless nights, and many unfinished meals. No other symptoms and the fever went up to 40.5°C the other morning after the medicine wore off. But all of a sudden the fever was gone, even more dramatically than the way it came. The doctors at the pediatrics emergency had tried to convince us that it was most likely some viral infection that we didn’t have to worry about. Now they proved to be absolutely right: red spots came out on his face and his neck and then spread to his tummy – it was Roseola, a common viral infection in young kids under 2 years.
Aside from the information about Roseola, we got another printout from Dr. Burke, the child’s pediatrician, which was the scientific facts about fever. It was a good one, to beat all the myths we had once had or had once been told by our own parents. However the best part of all these days is something I remember from the emergency room, a doctor saying to us (though sounding a little tired and impatient): “You can’t protect your child from virus. He’ll go to school. He’ll play with other kids…” That’s so true about everything, not only virus.
So, before something we’ve been desperately looking forward to happens, we are bound to do some more work – fill out the enrollment forms. I had never bothered to take a look before getting started and thought it would only be providing some immunization records and a bunch of signatures for authorization. But, I was wrong! One of the forms turned out be three pages of questions asking about my child’s personality, daily routines, food preferences, sleeping habits, etc, etc. I swear I haven’t written so many words by hand for a whole decade! At first I thought I wouldn’t have much to say about any item listed there. My kid is just an ordinary kid with a slightly (well, let’s put it this way) bad temper. Then it turned out that all blanks ended up running out of space for my rambling answers. Now I have to ask my husband to reprint the form and I’ll have to do it all over again.
Or maybe I should look at it differently – it can also be a good record to keep:) Read more…
Randall started to dance to the music even before he started walking, but it’s always been hard to catch him dancing on camera. He has become more aware of the camera and turns shy when he notices that I am trying to shoot a video. I have read a few articles on baby development and I know it’s common for baby to start dancing at this age. It’s also true that we adults love music too, and it often helps to put on some nice music when we are feeling bad. However, it still amazes me what a magical effect music has on such little kids.
At around six months, Randall learned to press the button of his crib toy so that he could watch his animal friends spinning over his head and listen to its music, which would then put him to a sound sleep. About the same time, he started to resist diaper changing with his worst cries (well, he still does), so we had to distract him with all kinds of toys we could find. But sometimes he would still get impatient or frustrated, until later we found that singing to him was the best way to keep him happy on the changing table. When he turned 12 months, he had his first dance by moving his hips up and down to the rhythm. Later on he picked up some more sophisticated movements such as shaking his head and turning around in circles. One of the things he enjoyed most before getting obsessed with the nursery-song videos was turning on the music of his toys and dancing to it.
You gave birth to a new life, and now he is giving back, a whole different life, to you. This summer has been such an unusual one. The long hours I spend with the baby, along with the effort I make to avoid his tantrum, always leave me exhausted and with a bunch of work undone at the end of the day. Neither has the humid weather nor the busily working dad made things any easier.
But every once in a while, maybe when you finally get to feel a nice breeze in your face after a couple of gloomy drizzling days, you start to look at the bright side of the story. It’s this little guy who gets you to slow down, to enjoy the sunshine every afternoon, to squat and look at the world from a different angle in a different way.
Saw two kids with their mom in the park today. Didn’t know their exact ages, the boy was probably 5 or 6, and the girl was like two years younger. The mother seemed to be criticizing his son for some misbehavior when I first noticed them, but it didn’t impress me until the mother started talking even more impatiently to the girl. I tried not to pay much attention, although I was a little shocked by both her words and her tone and I am generally interested in how other parents communicate with their kids. Now in retrospect I realize it’s just me expecting that everyone else is a more loving understanding patient parent. Then at the next crossroad that mother caught my attention again by yelling at her daughter, who immediately started to cry. One thing led to another. The mother became more irritated and reached out to her daughter, not sure what she actually did, but just heard her saying to her son “I’m not gonna hurt her.” The next moment, when I turned to look at them again, the girl was already in her mum’s arms, crying more furiously and stuggling to get down. Apparently it was not a loving grab. Read more…