Oh my god, I have a four-year-old! It never ceases to amaze me, this thing called “growing up.” After a brief hiatus early in the terrible threes, I’m back to thinking that every age is the best age ever. Four-year-olds rule!
I’ll write about Sam's birthday party (parties) later, along with photos. But I’ll include this picture for now, since it captures an expression on Sam’s face that seems to be typical of this age for her: a combination of shyness and excitement:
Back in March, I wrote about how Sam fell in love with tap dancing. I was ready to sign her up for lessons during the summer, but there wasn’t anything available so we did the Tumbles thing instead, which worked out very well. After seeing how she behaved at Tumbles in the beginning, I’m relieved we didn’t commit to a series of dance lessons back then. Sam was completely unable to follow instructions in a class like that. She would have stood still and watched and learned nothing. But now, after Tumbles, and being just a few months older, she is ready. She starts ballet and tap lessons on Monday. She tried on her tights and leotard last night and I think she might actually put up with wearing them in order to look pretty and learn how to dance.
Yesterday was the first day of her second year of Montessori. I remember when she started last year, how intimidated I was by the older kids. I wonder if she felt the same way. This year, she’s a middle kid. (Montessori primary classes are made up of 3-6 year olds.) She definitely made a lot of academic progress over the summer in her language and numbers (no thanks to our lazy Mossoff Montessori, but simply due to her own initiative). She’s reading words on street signs and billboards when we go out and about now. I teased her that she "snuck behind my back and learned how to read" one day, because the progress was so sudden. She loves that, and it makes her try to read every word she sees. She read “water” and “waste” the other day, with only a bit of help from me with the silent “e” and long “a” in waste.
We did a few counting games over the summer, and I can see that numbers are finally something of interest to her. At the beginning of summer, she could count objects, but she’d get lost at around 8, or she would lose track with her finger or drop the object being counted and lose track of where she was. Now, she can drop an object and pick it back up and continue counting, and she can keep track up to the mid-teens.
Sam’s observational skills continue to amaze me. One thing that has not changed since she was about 20 months old is her awareness of the moon. I don’t think I’ve noticed the moon once in that entire time without her pointing it out to me. She sees it whenever it is out during daylight, and the few times we have her out at night, she always points it out to us. I have no idea if this is common, or a particular interest of hers, but I sure do enjoy it.
But it’s not just her vision that amazes me. Just yesterday, we were driving through an unfamiliar part of town and we stopped at a red light. After she finished counting the red and green lights and giving me a lecture on how I should wait until my light turned green, she sniffed and said, MOMMY, I SMELL SOMETHING. “What do you smell, Sammy?” I SMELL A CAR WASH. “Really? I don’t smell anything. Maybe there is a car wash around here.” I looked around and sure enough, there was a car wash a few doors up the block. When I pointed it out to her she couldn't see it from her view in the backseat. She had identified it totally based on smell, from half a block away. She is also sensitive to the smell of gasoline, freshly cut grass, and farts.
Oh, yeah, she's really into the bodily function humor right now, too. So it turns out that is not exclusively a little-boy phenomenon.
Another big thing that has developed over the past few months is whining. I mean, Sam has whined for a while now, but this is her parental-torture-of-choice at the moment. We work so hard at not interacting with her when she does it (and I really think we succeed most of the time) but she still does it a lot. I say, “I hear a whining voice” or “I can’t understand you when you whine” or “Please use your normal voice” about a hundred times a day. It’s only a phase; it’s only a phase; it’s only a phase.
Emotionally, it’s hard to judge Sam right now. She can say things like, “I’m going to my room to calm down,” and actually do it. This makes me so proud since we very explicitly taught her how, and modeled it ourselves. It’s very rare that Sammy totally loses control of herself and lashes out for more than a moment. It still happens, but it's so much less often. And seeing her get angry and spit, but then deliberately stop herself is so gratifying. On the downside, I think I’m seeing more "manipulation" from Sam. (I put that word in scare quotes because I don't like its connotation of malice, but I don't have a better word.) She tends to use things like, “I miss my daddy” or “Ouch, that hurts” along with tears to get attention. I’m sure that’s somewhat normal, but it’s tough to deal with. I want to respect and honor her true emotions, but I don’t want to fuel a drama queen.
Of course, her conceptual development is the most joyous thing, but it’s also the hardest to describe. I usually notice it by means of the integrations I see Sam making. I’ve posted a bunch of Little Things that give clues to what is going on in her head, but I know they don’t capture the big picture that well. She is definitely developing her sense of place and time, and that is new. Recently she has been asking “how long will it take to get there?” when we go someplace new in the car, and she’s been more deliberate about her use of “later,” “tomorrow,” “earlier,” and “five minutes.”
I guess the way to capture what is going on in Sam's head is to say that she is constantly working on Conceptual Common Denominators. For instance, we watched The Sound of Music and we told her the Nazis were bad guys. But then we had to convince her that not every person in a uniform was a bad guy. Or, her friend next door went on vacation a few weeks ago and now every time her car is not in the driveway, Sam asks if she went on a trip. Some of her errors make for the funniest stories, but I've been working hard at not laughing. And when I do, I'm always sure to tell her that I'm laughing because I enjoy the connections she is making. Not only is that true, but it's the understatement of the year!
Happy Fourth Birthday, Samantha!