The birthday girl, out for a birthday pizza dinner.
My child has progressed from baby to toddler to preschooler to kindergartner to what I am looking at today: a full-fledged little kid. I am acutely aware of this kid stage, more so than I was of baby or toddler or preschooler. The line Dick Van Dyke sings in Mary Poppins, “though childhood slips like sand through a sieve” makes me cry. It’s a scene that didn’t even register with me when I was a kid and now I get it. I really do. Put down your work and your screens and pay attention for a few minutes. Make some memories because what else do we have?
Like any expectant parent, I wanted certain things for my child. For example, I wanted her to have her father’s thick, lustrous hair. That did not happen. Instead, she got my thin, electro-staticky mess. I wanted her to be smart, and somehow that seemed like a given. What did not seem like a given, however, was musicality.
There are so many ways in which we want our children to be like us, or to share our interests. You think, before becoming a parent, that you’ll get a little mini-me, and you don’t. My daughter doesn’t even look like me. (Except for the hair.) But while her interests and activities are being formed, I’m taking advantage of the opportunities I have to shape her way of thinking.
I really wanted my kid to be musical. I actually tried to sign her up for piano lessons in utero, but I was turned away. No phalanges yet, they said. Although I am musical now, it was a hard row to hoe for me, albeit an enjoyable one. I wanted my child to have all of the fun I had with less of a struggle.
Ask my kid to sing you a song. I dare you. There’s no struggle there. No struggle at all. Just an innate sense of pitch. Her accuracy is overwhelming. I tell her she’s going to be the next Julie Andrews and I mean it. She’s taking piano lessons and is enjoying it more and more as she learns how to play some of her favorite songs. She’s still working on reading music but she can memorize a song. I show her how to play it and she goes about practicing. Inevitably, she’ll forget and hit some wrong notes, which she immediately realizes. She’ll go back and peck out the section, note by note, by ear, until she’s got it right. It absolutely floors me. I couldn’t do that when I was her age, I’m not sure I could do it now. It is all very exciting and I look forward to many years of being piano mom or voice mom or band mom or whatever. All of the fun, none of the struggle.
In addition to music, we’ve just finished what I like to call the summer of media literacy. It began by my mentioning that Tom Hanks was the voice of Woody in Toy Story. We must’ve been watching something else with Tom Hanks, and I called attention to it. I put an actor’s name to a character. Then we watched several more Tom Hanks movies, to further cement our love for him. We watched the original Jurassic Park because dinosaurs, and because Mom wanted to see the new one. The new ones have Chris Pratt, who she knows from Parks and Rec because we watched that together last year. Sonja now proclaims that she likes Chris Pratt, because she thinks he is a good actor. It carried on like this all summer. Thank God, after all that, she still likes to read. I suspect, like her mother, she just likes stories.
Imitating the cat
So with an ear for music and a head for story, we move on to age seven. There are still vestiges of babyhood. Children’s birthday parties and Halloween are nightmares because whatever cake or candy other people have is not the kind she likes, because she doesn’t like either of those things. But instead of thinking, “oh that’s okay, I’ll have a cookie when I get home,” which is what I want her to think, she stops whatever she’s doing and screams her head off like she’s just lost a limb. She just wants to join in on the fun, I know. She sees that this is a food obsessed culture, but what she doesn’t see is that she is not food obsessed. She barely tolerates food. I’ve seen kids who are gluten and lactose-free, whose dinners probably consist of a chiclet and a plate of dust, who are heavier than she is. It’s frustrating to me as a parent, but not because I don’t understand it. I do. I was never big on candy and I was a picky eater. But I learned how to deal with it and I want her to, too. It’s not like I’m insisting she eat kale at home for every meal and sending her to bed without dessert. I’m overly generous with sweets. The grandmas even more so. There’s no deprivation, except the deprivation of the joy the other kids are getting from eating sugar for sugar’s sake. She can’t do that. She wants to but she can’t. She won’t. She sees some candy and looks at it with large, hungry eyes and says she’s going to devour the whole bag. It’s in the very script of childhood and she can recite it with conviction. But whereas if her friends were left alone in a room with a tub full of Smarties (a candy she professes to like), the entire bag would be gone in a matter of minutes. I leave her unattended with candy all the time only to find half a dum-dum stuck back in its wrapper or three gummy bears missing from an entire pack. The only time food is devoured is when she leaves it at a height that the dog can reach. Oh, she’ll scream and cry about that too, but inside, I know she’s just happy she doesn’t have to actually finish it.
Over the past quarter, we went to Disneyland, Seattle and Spokane and Leavenworth. We went to Vancouver a couple of times, and had lots of playdates.
She did the library summer reading program and her school’s. She did a quick and forgettable 6-week ballet class at the local rec center.
Say hey, it’s the first day of ballet!
She took swim lessons at a cool and, because this is Washington state, sometimes very cold, outdoor pool, and finally made some progress with learning how to swim.
Last day of swim lessons.
She lost two teeth, and another is on the brink.
Second lost tooth.
We went to the state fair for a few hours one Friday night, which was enough.
State fair antics
And after a brief teacher’s strike, we got back to the business of being educated.
It was three days late, but some schools in the state are still striking.
She’ll have a party in a few days and then it’s back to work for me as we settle in to the fall schedule. I hope we’re able to find a nice groove and enjoy the routine, so that we might slow this sieve a little bit.