Sunday, May 17, 2015

Letters to Amaliya - Two and Three Quarters

My love,

This letter is almost a month late, because I've been having too much fun with you to stop and write about you.  Toddlers change at lightspeed, and I see you becoming more and more of a big kid every day.  So much has happened in the past three months - I'll never capture it all, but here are some notes.

Your ability to pretend has flourished, and your fantasy worlds grow more elaborate by the day.  You play "Daycare" constantly, which involves lining all your stuffed animals up and changing their diapers, one by one, and then grouping them all together while you climb into the rocking chair and read them stories.  Your pause every few seconds to remind someone to be quiet, and then you dole out imaginary treats afterwards, but only to the ones who behaved themselves.

I can't help but wonder (a wonder fuel partly by mom-guilt but mostly by objective fascination) how this early experience with institutionalized education will impact you later in life.  Some kids play "house" and call themselves "mommy," but you call yourself "teacher" and play "daycare."  You are kind to your stuffed animals, praising them and caring for their imaginary physical needs, but you don't snuggle them or carry them around in a nurturing way like a mother would.  I am almost positive this will change when you have a sibling (oh, what a shock that will be), but for now, it's very interesting to see how your play manifests.  I am always happy to sit with your class and hear you tell stories, or to receive checkups when you switch gears and want to play doctor (which melts my heart, hearing you ask me to "take a deep breath.  Okay great!  Now it's time for your shot.  See, that didn't hurt a bit!")

You are smart, Amaliya. So smart, it befuddles me most of the time.  You can spell your name and are beginning to recognize words on a page (you can point out 'baby,' 'moo,' and 'Dr. Seuss').  You point at words and ask what they say, and you want me to spell words for you using our fridge magnets. You read along with me now, repeating the words immediately after I say them (you do this even with brand new books that you haven't memorized), forming a perfect echo to my voice; Occasionally you look up from the page and exclaim, "I'm learning to read!"  I can't tell you how proud this makes me.  Words have long been my joy and refuge, so to see you taking such an interest in the written word makes my heart happy.

There are a few Spanish words that are ingrained in your vocabulary now (Empujen!  Abajo!  And the numbers uno through diez; Thank you Dora.), and wait, can we talk about your vocabulary?  You knew 100 words long before your second birthday, so I shouldn't be surprised, and yet.... you are so verbose now.  Your sentences are long and complicated.  You  use words like "proper" and "carbohydrate" and "bacteria" and "stethoscope" frequently and in context.

I am not ready to pigeonhole you yet, but my suspicion is that you will be a verbal or aural learner, much like your dad is.  For me, kinesthetic to the core and unable to absorb a thing unless my physical body is somehow involved, it is strange and impressive to watch you absorb so much through spoken words.  I am in awe of you the way I am in awe of your father, with your brain's ability to take words and make a million far-reaching connections.

You are smart, yes, and I am impressed by you daily, by my admiration goes far beyond what you do and encompasses all of who you are, who you are becoming.  I am still learning you every day, and will for the rest of my life I'm sure.  So many of your inherent personality traits, the nature and not the nurture, have been consistent since the day you were born.  You are still a listener, an observer, a people-pleaser, a law abiding citizen, and you think carefully before any action you take.  You don't like taking risks, and don't appreciate being pushed to try new things before you are ready.  Other kids might climb up the biggest rock at the park and throw themselves off with reckless abandon, causing many booboos and giving their parents gray hairs, but not you.  You want to talk about the rock, ask why the rock is there, have me help you climb up the rock (even though you don't need help), stand on top for a while, discuss how and why you plan to jump off the rock, do a dozen practice flexes, and then finally take an extremely cautious hop onto the ground (while holding hands, of course).

The most amazing thing happened about a month ago.  You - my shy girl who never speaks a word at daycare and clams up under the attention of strangers - woke up one morning and decided that you were a frog.  You insisted that I call you Mr. Frog, and you hopped everywhere you went that week.  As Mr. Frog, oddly enough, you blossomed.  As a frog, you spoke to your teachers (primarily to correct them when they called you Amaliya), you felt free to be loud and silly in public, and you thought nothing of being the center of attention while hopping around on the playground.  Mr. Frog lasted a week - then you woke up asking to be called Apple, and that one has stuck.  Apple has the same silly, charming, brash personality as Mr. Frog (and, of course, as the Amaliya I've always known).  This is the beginning of social awareness for you, and seeing you start to interact with the larger world is thrilling. 

This is long, baby girl, but there's one more thing I have to mention, and that is how happy it makes me when you take interest in the things I do.  The saying, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is spot-on.  I love when you sit on the counter with me for hours while I cook, asking questions about each step and wanting tastes of each ingredient.  I love when you ask questions about my painting, and want to sit in my lap and tell me which colors to mix and where I should touch up the canvas.  I love when you put on my badge, break out your pink toy laptop, and tell me to be quiet because you are working like Mama and need to make some money.  I love most of all when you ask me to go for a run, and we do laps on the sidewalk in front of the house until you are sweaty and out of breath.  Yes, I feel proud and flattered and validated, but most of all, I hope you genuinely learn to love the things I love, and that it fires you up to learn and explore and fall in love with things that are far beyond my own reach.  Life is short indeed, but not that short, and there is plenty of time to do a million amazing things with it.

You're on your way, my love.  But I'll always be there to hold your hand when you jump.


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