Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dear Moe (47th Month)

Hello, my sweet little puppy dog.  It is getting challenging to keep up with these letters every month, so I think I’ll write to you every second month, and we’ll go by calendar month rather than your age. Your next letter will come to you at the end of March, and will talk about all the things we did together in February and March. (I will likely also write you a letter on your fourth birthday, but like last year it will be less about what we have done and more about who you are.)

I didn’t write to you about Christmas in my last letter. You brought the joy to our Christmas this year, my love. It was wonderful to watch your anticipation build – you eagerly opened a new box on your advent calendar every day, and we read stories about Christmas (Mater Saves Christmas, and Olivia Helps with Christmas were two popular ones). You came home from Robin’s with great Christmas-themed crafts and a gorgeous homemade gingerbread house! She baked one for each of you. Noah was home from school that day, and asked if he could help you with yours. You both did an amazing job.

You were a big help with wrapping gifts – you enjoyed stepping on the wrapping paper to hold it in place while I cut it, and putting your finger over the paper folds while I got the tape ready. You selected the paper and gift tags for each gift.

You also gave your own gifts this year. We worked together to make some lovely Christmas ornaments that featured your white handprint on a glass ball, and I used markers to turn the fingers into little snowmen. I think people really liked them. I know we’ll treasure ours for many years until it’s time to give it to you for your own tree.

You managed a huge achievement at Christmas, my love, and left all your soothers in a little bowl for Santa Claus to bring to other babies. In exchange, he left you a second gift. I was so impressed with you. You picked the bowl yourself, and put the soothers in, and chose where you wanted to leave it (on the stairs, so he’d see them as soon as he came in the door). The best part is that you have not asked for a soother since. (You did actually ask twice, out of habit, but as soon as we reminded you, you laughed and said, “Right! I forgot!” and said no more about it.) As a celebration (and commemoration), I gave you a tiny little bunny rabbit stuffie and we named it Soother. I am so proud of you. The fact that you were actually sick at the time makes it an even bigger achievement.

We have reaped the benefits of you giving up your soothers. For one thing, it is so much easier to understand you without that plug in your mouth. For another, I think you sleep better because you can breathe better. And finally, you have been forced to learn other ways to settle yourself down.

Yes, we were sick at Christmas. You and I both had bronchitis and it was brutal. We tried antibiotics, but the infection was viral, so we had to just ride it out. We went through a lot of honey and watched a lot of TV. You only really got back to full energy and appetite in the last week or so. Robin was also sick with bronchial pneumonia, which meant that we spent a lot of time at home together.

Christmas, the excitement and gifts (of which you received many – such lovely things!), the lack of structure, and the bronchitis (yours and mine) all worked together to form a perfect storm that resulted in a terrible holiday hangover, in terms of your behaviour. The dilly-dallying, the badgering, and the whining were becoming pretty unbearable, especially at bedtime. You took dilly-dallying and emotional manipulation to whole new levels, small sir. We have worked hard (all three of us) over the past few weeks, and things are greatly improved. Our home is a much more pleasant place to be. Thank you for all the work you have done – I know you have worked hard, too.

Another big milestone for you was that we finally stopped the weekend afternoon nap. We dropped it in January during the period when bedtime was becoming exhausting, figuring that if you were more tired, you would fuss less. It has helped, for sure. It has also opened up all kinds of wonderful possibilities for playdates and outings. You attended an afternoon birthday party this month (Koen’s, and Monkey Around – you had a wonderful time), which would have been unheard of before.

We are still working on finding a routine for the day that helps you manage your energy. I tried the system my mom used for me - a designated quiet time in your room, where you have one or two toys and any number of books to look through. You play on your bed on your own for at least 30 minutes. I like the idea, but I don’t think this is for us. You don’t excel at playing independently when forced to, and it becomes a power struggle that defeats the point of quiet time. So I tried something new last weekend. We snuggled on the couch for an hour, watching Octonauts. We both got to rest, we enjoyed a really fantastic snuggle, and we both felt refreshed and ready to move on to the next activity. 

Finding a delicate balance with screen time can be challenging. We don’t want you to constantly have your face in the tablet or staring at the TV. Having you healthy has helped immensely. We have gradually reduced the amount of TV you watch, and are more strict about how often you can use the tablet. Some evenings, you elect to skip watching a TV show and instead have what I named a “reading extravaganza” where instead of the usual two or three bedtime stories, we read a crazy number like six or seven! I love these and am so glad you do, too. 

Another thing we are trying to reduce is our use of time out. We got some great advice from Robin, and we have been trying other discipline approaches with good results. We will still use time outs occasionally as a last resort, and we will count-to-consequence as a last resort, too, but we are working on less punishment and more dialogue, and for the most part, it has worked well. 

I have also tried hard to get out of the habit of constantly multi-tasking when I’m with you. I’m trying to be more present, focused on the moment at hand and on fostering moments of connection between us. Constantly multi-tasking - both physically and mentally - has been exhausting, and I didn’t realize how much I was doing it and how much it was draining me. I’m pleased to say that I have more energy, which I’m able to use to actually get things done at appropriate times. 

We have had a lot of fun over the past few weeks, Bean. Our adventures have included a sled-ride (you rode, I pulled) to O’Grady’s with a cab ride home, a playdate with Mistlegoo and Proon Joos (PJ's yarn winder was a huge hit), a morning of swimming at Bambi and Simon’s, a plasma-car obstacle-course adventure in Mark and Janine’s new (empty) house, and visits to the Canada Science and Technology Museum. 

You inherited the Cariboo board game from Mistlegoo, and we have greatly enjoyed it playing it with you. It has helped you with taking turns and understanding that you can’t win every time. It has inspired us to look for other board games for you. 

You have been so snuggly lately. One thing you love to do is pretend you are “a little puppy dog” and you make these adorable little puppy whining noises (much cuter than your actual
whining noises) and snuggle up to us and frisk around. It’s so sweet. At one point, you even lay on the floor and asked me to rub your tummy! You just want hugs and cuddles, and it’s wonderful that you are so affectionate with us. You are also finally able to lie down on one of us when we’re stretched out on the couch and stay there for a while, which has been really lovely. 

One of the reasons that we are treasuring the snuggly moments is that you are growing so fast. You hit some big milestones this month, my love. You graduated out of your car seat and into a booster during the same week that I attended Kindergarten Information Night. I’ll be registering you for full-day Junior Kindergarten in a couple of days. The information night was really helpful and I am confident that you are going to love school. 

You said something the other day that I wanted to record because I was so delighted by it. We have often spoken to you about chosen family and extended family. You were colouring at Mark and Janine’s during their “Come See Our Empty New House” get together (which we greatly enjoyed), and you suddenly looked up and realized that pretty much all the other guests were in another room. 

“We’re kind of far away from our team, Mommy,” you said. 

I love that you see all these adult friends who play such an important role in our lives as “our team.” I didn’t realize it, but that’s how I see them, too. 

Moe, I am amazed at your ability to express how you feel, to call me out on things, and to discuss solutions to problems. For an almost-four-year-old, you are incredibly patient, flexible, and understanding. You are generous, caring, affectionate and loving. Thank you for teaching me so much about myself. It’s an honour to work with you to do the same. 

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