Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Sam Update - Three and Three Quarters

I've been slacking on the blog so much lately that a lot of great Sam news has piled up.  Then I noticed that today was Sam's 3.75 birthday, and I realized that a Sam Update was in order.  I can't seem to summon any deep thoughts lately, and I know the blog is really suffering, but I want to record this, even if it's just for myself.  I'm also really sad that I don't have any pictures for this update.  I haven't taken a single picture of Sam (except on my phone, which takes crappy photos) in almost two months.  I hope I'm not neglecting her real needs, but I suppose I'm entitled to a little imperfection right now.

It's been exactly two weeks since my last potty training update and it's been the easiest two weeks I've had, potty-wise, since last September when we got rid of the diapers.  Sam is finally, FINALLY, using the potty regularly.  She now has what I would call "accidents:"  occasionally, she'll leave a track or get so excited that something will come out, unbidden.  But she has completely stopped using poo as a weapon against me.  Making her clean herself up did the trick.

The more interesting part is that she has blossomed in many other ways in the past two weeks.  Her teacher says that she suddenly became much more independent at school, we've gotten rid of the booster seat on her dining room chair at home, and she has started working on putting on and taking off her shirt - the last major hurdle in dressing until we get to tying shoelaces.  It's kind of strange how that one issue seemed to be holding her back in many ways.

In a week or two, we're going to try nighttime with no diaper.  If she's not ready, it doesn't matter.  The ability to wake up to urinate is something that is largely physical and out of the child's control, so I don't plan to put any pressure on her.  But at least we're at a point where we can try it.  I am now willing to wash sheets daily if need be, since I'm not washing out thousands of pairs of underwear.

We just returned from a great trip to New Orleans.  Adam and I lived there for a year (and got married there!), and we went back for a reunion of all the clerks of Adam's former employer, a federal judge.  He's been on the bench for 20 years and has had 64 clerks, and I think 47 of them came for the reunion (one from Tokyo), which shows you how deeply this man touched all of their lives.  Do you have any former employers like that?  Adam is really lucky.

We told Sammy all about "The Big Kahuna," as the judge is called.  She seemed very nervous about meeting him and finally admitted she was scared.  With some gentle pressing, I finally found out that she was scared because she thought he was going to be really BIG, like a giant or something.  So cute.  But she met him in her usual shy manner and by the time we had attended the four scheduled events with the judge, Sam had fallen in love with him, and was really sad to leave.  For some reason, this touched me.  Sam definitely responds to some people more than to others.  It's just another instance of her growing personality and values, and it's wonderful.

(Incidentally, this was my first trip back to NOLA since Katrina, and I thought the city looked better than ever.  When we lived there, nothing at all looked new.  Now, there are many brand new homes and a lot of fresh paint.  This says nothing about the health of the city, since much of the restoration came from the federal money which was stolen from others, but I was still glad to see that, at least for now, The Big Easy is doing ok.)

We also ate a lot of good food, went to the Audubon Zoo (we're zoo connoisseurs now, and this is a great one!), walked through Audubon Park, took the streetcar, drove around a lot just looking at our old haunts, walked through Jackson Square in the French Quarter and explored a bit, and swam in the hotel pool a couple of times.  Sam came everywhere with us and I feel like we filled her to the brim with new and exciting life-experiences.  She started out the trip very cranky and I was feeling like we were doomed to horrible vacations, but by Saturday night her mood improved and we ended up having a very nice time. 

A few weeks ago, Samantha got her very first "report card."  Of course, they don't give out real report cards in pre-school, but we had the end-of-year parent-teacher conference and Sam's teacher filled out a form that is supposed to tell us how she is progressing.  I must say, I kind of like the formality of it and I learned a lot from that meeting (including the potty training advice that saved my sanity).

Sam's teacher had been telling me for a month or so that Sam never chooses her work on her own, but always asks a teacher if she may use something.  In Montessori, this is not necessary, so Sam was just doing it on her own for no reason that anybody could discern.  Adam thinks that she might have been confused about it being ok for her to use someone else's property - that she didn't understand the idea that these things that weren't hers were ok to use without asking.  While it's true that Sam has a great sense of "mine and thine" (not a big issue when you eliminate the misplaced "sharing" lessons and don't chastize your child for saying "mine" when it truly is hers), I suspected she was doing it as a way to interact with the teachers more.  When I'm with her, Sam is extremely social and talkative.  She seems to desperately need to tell every stranger about the boo-boo on her foot, the pie she had for dessert, and how Toby rides in the car with us.  When we are out and about, she is constantly talking to people.  And yet, at school, her teachers say she is "shy."  So it made sense to me that Sam might have used the "may I use this?" questions as a way to have more interaction with the teachers, since she didn't know how else to interact with them.  We're not sure what the issue was, but it disappeared after that meeting, according to Sam's teacher.  I really do think that the potty issue might have broken some kind of dependency thing in her, but that's  just a TOOMA.

We also learned much more about what kinds of work Sam is doing in school, and it turns out that the summer activities that I picked were right on the money, as things that are both developmentally appropriate, and which Sam has interest in.  I got quite a few other ideas of activities from her teacher as well, and she is available for the first six weeks of summer if I have any questions.

I learned a few new things.  One is that Sam needs to work more on her fine motor skills.  I had always thought that she was advanced in that area, and slow on the gross motor skills, but her teacher says it is the reverse.  When you only have one child, you just have no way to know these things.  She is also more advanced in math than I had realized, having done many of the early exercises in the Montessori program.  She never talks about math, and only recently showed her interest in numbers to me, so I had no idea!  Of course, she is progressing very quickly with language, but I already knew that.

It's hard to believe that Sam is completing her first year of school.  I know it's pre-school, but Montessori is real school and real work.  There have been times throughout this year that I've thought, "Sam is spending three hours a day away from me doing the most challenging and interesting things, and I don't get to see it."  It would get me down, to think of all that I'm missing out on.  I want to see her write her first letter "P" and to see the look in her eyes when she first grasps that numbers are quantities.  But looking back on the year, and especially since the meeting with her teacher, I feel like it's the best thing in the world that she spends that time apart from me.  She and I are so close, and we spend almost all of our other time together.  She has a needy streak (hence the need to talk to people constantly) and I don't want everything to be about mommy.  The richness of her experiences at school is something I could never replicate at home.  Later, when her learning will be more abstract, it will be a completely different matter (although, of course, I'll rethink it when the time comes).  But right now, I feel that our decision to send Sam to Montessori is one of the best parenting decisions we've ever made.  She is really flourishing.

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