The sixth summer of Madeline has probably been the most trying one in recent memory. If I go back farther into the archives of my brain, her very first summer was crazy, of course, but she was brand-new and didn't know any better.
Yesterday, she announced to me that when her sister was having her afternoon nap, I need to come up to her room. Apparently, Madeline decided that I needed some "How to Be a Good Mom" lessons, the focus of which was on ways that I should be making my children happy. From the sounds of this, that means unlimited access to sugar, television, video games, and a certain birthday scooter. I explained that the focus of my parenting was more about ensuring that she was offered healthy foods, a good education, and reinforcement of manners and positive behaviours, but this seemed ludicrous to those little six year-old ears. She'd rather have a stockpile of chewing gum and a Nintendo DS with a battery that never runs out.
It's been a transitional summer, and I know that is at least partly influencing Madeline's super-hyper behaviour. We were without her dad around for about six weeks, she said goodbye to her friends in Thailand, and we are in a new-to-us city and home. That is a lot of stuff to pack into a three-month frame of time.
It's difficult for me, but I try to remain patient and not let my disappointment show too much. I think that the hardest part is seeing how Madeline could not be bothered to practice her reading and writing skills over the summer. I feel very stressed, thinking about how her penmanship will hold her back in the first grade, and wish that I could find some sort of way to convince her to sit down for fifteen minutes with her Handwriting Without Tears photocopies from her old teacher. I have trouble understanding why she doesn't care (won't even exchange a completed worksheet for time to play her beloved Super Mario Bros.!) and I am internally appalled with this manifestation of laziness in my six year-old's body.
School resumes in fourteen days. I think that we are both looking forward to the change of routine.
I'd like to be able to say that I am a master at the art of putting two children to bed by my lonesome. In truth, I have some help on the oft-frequent nights I'm home alone with the two tired kids and bedtime creeps near and their dad is traveling or stuck at the office. While I was awaiting the arrival of Sadie, the thought of being responsible for putting both of the children into bed all my myself was the scariest part of becoming a parent of two children. I was certain that Chris and I were going to have week-long ugly arguments about being home in time for bedtime. I'll be honest – there were some bad nights, nights where poor Madeline waited in her bedroom for over an hour and a half for me to get to her to tuck her in and kiss her sweaty little forehead – but I've become a little smarter about how I manage the putting-the-kids-to-bed process.
And so, bedtime is now officially sponsored by:
- iTunes, where I download Ramona Quimby and Ivy & Bean and Clementine on audiobook for Madeline to listen to on my iPod while I turn my attention to getting Sadie down for the night. After the littlest one is tucked in, I steal back into Madeline's room and we usually read a picture book together.
- Fisher Price and Cloud b, who make the Ocean Wonders Aquarium and Sleep Sheep that provide the orchestal backdrop to my seventeen month-old's dreams.
And I probably should also thank Duracell and Energizer, as I am quite convinced that if we experienced the Great Battery Famine, Sadie would not sleep a wink. She'd just blearily stare at her silent crib aquarium and try to lift a tired arm to point to her mute Sleep Sheep. Ah, who am I kidding? She'd probably just yell, not having the words to tell her parents how crazy they are for expecting her to sleep without her fish and white noise. Goodnight from somewhere in the twenty-first century.
I've written before about how I am always amazed at how my children can wake up one morning and be so much smarter than they were when I tucked them into bed and kissed their damp little temples the very night before. I am always overcome with joyous surprise and wonder to discover that Madeline has developed an understanding of the life cycle of bees overnight or that Sadie suddenly can complete her stacking ring in order. It's harder to see the cognitive development coming, isn't it? I watched my children progress from sitting up on the floor to pulling up on the side of our coffee table, and knew that standing independently on the horizon. Predicting what their little minds will be working on next eludes me, though. I rarely see the "click" coming.
Case in point: Sadie at The Little Gym on Tuesday. She sat on her bottom (after happily bopping to the welcome song for a few bars, of course), shaking her pair of jingle bells very eagerly from the first notes of the guitar to the final ones. She attempted to copy the other toddlers in the class when they greeted their instructor, Pi San, with a wai (which he thought was awesome. I like Pi San). She scooted up a set of soft stairs to reach the balance beam, and trotted to the other side. She stood on her tiny tip-toes to reach the lower of the uneven bars, closed her hands around the polished wood, and showed me once again that she has the fittest abs in the family by pulling-lifting her little legs up to her tummy, so that her teacher could help her spin around the bar. She watched Pi San balance on hands and feet to bear-walk sideways across the parallel bars, twelve inches off of the ground, and then ran over to try to figure out how to get her hands and feet into a similar position, getting herself into quite a fun tangle.
Sadie wasn't successful with that endeavor, nor everything else that she tried to do at The Little Gym, but what was different about this class from the ones before is that she tried to do everything. She watched her instructor and the other toddlers on the equipment and wanted to do what they were doing instead of banging her hands on the window to the foyer or stationing herself on the spring-board to dance the class away. On Tuesday, I was just blown away by how the routine just clicked. She obviously understood the purpose of our visit. There are some days when she's just not interested or co-operative, or frankly, just doesn't have a clue about what we're trying to accomplish.
When Sadie woke up on Tuesday morning, she looked exactly like she did the night before, when I put a fresh diaper on her bottom, fastened the snaps on her purple pajamas, and zipped up her sleepsack with the goldfishies from chin to toes. I think it's absolutely wonderful how she'd changed on the inside.
Sue me, if you will, but I have unabashedly been watching the trailer for the documentary "Babies" on the Apple TV with Sadie. I'm smitten. Spending Sadie's infancy in a foreign country, very much unlike my own, has really made me curious about how other cultures raise their children.
Tomorrow, I'm afraid, will be the last day that Madeline looks forward to visiting the dentist. After Thursday's cavity-fixing (which sounded pretty gruesome, the way the pediatric dentist described it to us), I can't help but think that we'll either be restraining her in the big chair or else looking for a practice with sedation services for our future visits. Darn. I am trying to optimistic that she won't freak out and not make a big deal out of the visit. I'm sort of thinking that it would be worthwhile to dig out our copy of our Dora-the-Explorer-visits-the-dentist (which I normally really like, much as I cringe over the cartoon) because it shows her getting a filling, but I am not sure that the bedside manner of the medical practitioners that we've run into in Thailand are as easy-breezy as Dora's dentist.
Prior to Madeline's appointment, she'll be out for the first half the day to attend a birthday party at the Funarium. I've never taken my kids there yet, but I'm curious about this new-to-Bangkok indoor playground. The reviews that I've heard thus far as quite postive – it's well-maintained and clean.
1. Back in May, I posted a list of various
bribes incentives that we offered Madeline during the potty-training process that were miserable failures. I never did update with what actually worked: underwear with those frivolous Disney princesses on them. But I have to give those silly princesses come respect as I am no longer laundering yucky undies.
2. In November, I blogged about the lovely bed
that we had made to fit the double-sized mattress that Madeline sleeps on. I don't normally have any errands in the same part of town as Mother Goose, but I was there last week, and the shop is completely gone! Whoa!
3. Sadie's seen a different pediatrician twice now, and though he isn't bugging me about her weight, I'm kind of indifferent about him. Probably because he's rather indifferent about my kid. This is the aftermath of my pediatrician woes
The three of us had the most delightful afternoon today. A few days ago, Chris heard about a Christmas Teddy Bear Tea (in support of UNICEF) at the Peninsula Hotel here in BKK. Since he and I like tea, and Madeline is rather fond of teddy bears, we made a reservation. It was a wonderful event with delicious little finger sandwiches, scones with strawberry and mango jam, a dessert buffet, and (finally!) a good cup of chai tea. It was kind of like the time that Chris and I, pre-Madeline, had afternoon tea at the Savoy in London. Except, Madeline was with us this time. She introduced the two teddy bears that she’d brought to the large teddy bear (read: person in a head-to-toe bear costume) who came around to our table. She was initially shy when the gentleman in the Santa costume came to chat with her, but an hour later, she happily chattered away with him, delighted with the chocolates and trinkets that he pulled from his sack. And the magician blew her away with his vanishing red foam balls, his mysteriously-changing deck of cards, and the colouring book where the pictures would appear and disappear when she tapped it with a magic wand …
I nibbled at my scones and sipped my cup of tea, somewhat disbelieving that we were having tea in a hotel reputed to be the world’s best because my three year old was being treated like she was the most important person at our table. I could almost forget that the sun was beating down on the bustling Chao Phraya on the other side of the window to the tune of thirty-eight degrees Celsius in this predominantly Buddhist country because if I looked the other way, I saw a massive and real Christmas tree covered in lights, ornaments and bunting, and hotel staff running around in red-and-white elf outfits. The band was playing holiday music. We’d clearly found a little bit of Christmas spirit, and we had the best time.
Today was probably the most enjoyable day I’ve had with my daughter and husband since arriving here five months ago, and Chris and I have already agreed that we’ll come again for the Teddy Bear Tea a year from now, and the year after that, if we’re still living in Bangkok. In the past, we’ve tried to fit our family-of-three into the Christmas celebrations of our originating families. We each grew up with different traditions, and it’s not always easy to appreciate the differences and have the same feeling of connectedness to practices that we didn’t grow up with. As a threesome, Christmases felt a little untethered.
There was something really comfortable about our tea today. It fit the three of us perfectly. Who knew that we’d find the first Christmas tradition of our own in country where Christmas Day isn’t even a holiday.