Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

A Not-So-Perfect Day

We celebrated another milestone today. Both girls slept in their bedroom all night long. Now, this may not sound like a huge deal to some people, but we co-slept from the beginning, and last night was the first night since DD1’s birth that no little person has occupied our bed, crawled into our bed midway through the night, or woken up crying because she discovered that she wasn’t in our bed. I slept six blissfully uninterrupted hours and actually found myself slipping into the girls’ room at daybreak this morning just to make *sure* everything was OK.

By the time the girls’ crawled out of bed, I was wide awake and ready to make today another fun day of celebration. I fed them breakfast, got them dressed, then headed to McDonald’s for a snack and playtime. This was the first time we’d ventured into our local fast food headquarters, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the play area was both clean and virtually empty at 9:30 a.m. on a rainy Friday morning. What I wasn’t as pleased to discover, however, was that the play area boasted a big screen television tuned to Nickeledeon and blaring preschool programming.

“Bubble Guppies!” Little Bear shrieked with delight.

“Looks like it is,” I acknowledged, initially grateful that the programming was appropriate for young children. Then, I watched her edge away from the play area and toward the screen.

“Hey, go play!” I laughed. “If you wanted to watch Bubble Guppies, we could have sat home and watched television for free.”

She took a few steps toward the play area, then turned back, mesmerized by The Screen. Then Baby Bear came over to watch.

“BOTH of you go play,” I said. We did NOT come here to sit around watching TV.”

With much urging, Little Bear finally made it into the play area … where she promptly climbed into a lookout spot, stretched out, and again fixed her gaze on the electronic Pied Piper.

By this time, I was getting perturbed. “If you’re not going to play, then come sit down and eat.” I said. “We’ll finish our food and go.”

… Apparently children who cannot remember to play in the presence of television also cannot remember to chew … or swallow. We ended up moving to the a table tucked away in a corner, out of sight of The Screen, and the girls at last ate a few bites of their snack. I was still pondering how to get them to ignore The Screen and play when aide arrived in the form of five other little tykes — two girls about Little Bear’s age and three little boys about Baby Bear’s size. Bubble Guppies might trump active play (Grrrr!), but active play with new-found friends definitely trumps Bubble Guppies!

The girls played happily for the next hour, long enough for me to feel we’d gotten our money’s worth, with few issues. Then I heard the fateful word:

“Kiss! Kiss!” demanded Baby Bear. I reached her side right after she planted a very wet kiss square on the lips of a very startled little boy.

“No, Baby,” I said, “We don’t kiss our friends.”

“Me kiss!” she insisted. “More kiss!” Then, she was off to share the love and germs with another unsuspecting tyke. That time I manage to intervene before direct mouth-to-mouth contact and tell her again, “No kisses. Kisses are for Mommy, Daddy, and Sister.”

“Me yike kiss!” she whined.

Sigh. What’s a mom to do with a sweet loving little girl who totally does not “get” the concept of personal boundaries? This mom decided it was time to head to the bookstore and let Little Bear shop with her Tooth Fairy money.

As it turned out, Little Bear didn’t actually buy anything. We browsed for close to two hours, but Little Bear kept finding herself drawn to toys that were well beyond her budget and overpriced to boot. Of course, browsing for nearly two hours meant finding several “bargain” books that we wanted to add to our home library, along with some clearance art supplies and floor puzzle. As we approached the checkout stand, Baby Bear approached her limit. I had both hands full of stuff, so Little Bear stepped into the Big Sister role of trying to corral the hurricane and gently steer her past all the gadgets, trinkets, toys, and novelty candies between us and the register. Just as we reached our destination, the lone cashier said, “Do you need to check out?”

“Yes,” I replied. (I wouldn’t have navigated the obstacle course to get to the register otherwise.)

“These registers aren’t working,” she said. “I’ll have to ring you up in the coffee shop.”

And so we began the harrowing journey past fancy pens, shiny rings, and tantalizing sweets to the other side of the store, complete with all sorts of baked goods, chocolates, and beverages. I tried to contain Baby Bear. Little Bear did her best to help distract her. But at the moment I turned to sign our receipt, she spied several long rows of metal cans full of energy drinks.

“Dink!” she said, as she grabbed for the nearest one.

“Ssssssss” came the sound of carbonated beverage spraying out all over the refrigerator case.

I quickly clapped my hand over two tiny holes in the side of the candy and handed the dripping mess to the cashier. “I guess we’ll be paying for one of these as well,” I said.

I’m still not sure what exactly happened. Baby Bear really hadn’t been that rough with the thing. “She just touched it!” Little Bear said in disbelief. But that touch cost us an extra $3 and about 5 minutes of clean-up.

I’d like to say the rest of the day went a little smoother. Unfortunately, we’d been home less than an hour when I heard a blood-curdling scream from Little Bear. I ran to her only to find her holding her bottom lip, which was covered in blood. In the midst of squabbling over a toy, she’d somehow managed to flip over and slam her bottom lip into her steel bed frame. Ouch.

Not to be outdone, Baby Bear fell and conked the back of her head on the concrete porch. And just for good measure, she managed to pull their wooden rocking horse over on top of herself and give herself a coordinating knot on her forehead.

Add in spills, potty accidents, and a broken vacuum cleaner, and today had all the makings of a disaster. But it wasn’t. In fact, Little Bear said it a “great day, the best day I’ve ever had. Except maybe yesterday.” Why? Because she chose to focus on the successes of the day.

The girls got to play and make new friends. We sat in the bookstore reading books and carefully choosing which ones we wanted to add to our library. The girls had fun playing in the house and even got to have some fun outside, thanks to the covered porch that’s a part of our new apartment. Little Bear tackled four pages in her reading book and sailed through all four of them with few issues. We took time to do handiwork — cutting, tracing, coloring, and pasting — for the first time this week. We spent some time in one of our just-for-fun Critical Thinking Company activity books. And we read, read, read. We read before breakfast, read at the bookstore, took several reading breaks throughout the afternoon, and read yet more before bedtime. Sure, we had a few crazy moments, but for most of the day, we had fun. And when all was said and done, that’s what she chose to remember.

As Oscar Hammerstein once wrote,

It’s a very ancient saying,
But a true and honest thought,
That if you become a teacher,
By your pupils you’ll be taught. …


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Another Milestone …

“My teeth hurt too bad to eat!” Little Bear complained Monday. She’s slowly recuperating from a nasty respiratory infection, complete with cold sores, so I assumed she was erroneously ascribing her general mouth pain to her teeth.

… Until I brushed her teeth Tuesday afternoon and discovered that her lower left central incisor was noticeably out of place and standing at almost a 45-degree angle inside her mouth. A quick examination revealed that BOTH of her lower central incisors were loose … to the point that she really was struggling to bit such things as carrot sticks, apple slices, and other crunchy foods.

My first thought was that our calamity-prone child had somehow knocked her own teeth loose, and I immediately began to quiz her.

“Has anything hit you in the mouth recently?” I asked. “Have you fallen on anything? Have you pulled anything over onto yourself? Have you run into anything? Have you dropped a book or the iPad or anything else on your face?” (All of the above have been known to happen.)

Little Bear assured me that she had not injured her mouth in any way and that her teeth had just mysteriously started hurting over the weekend. That’s when we examined her mouth more closely and discovered two new teeth already pushing their way through her gum line.

I was still not mentally prepared, however, to believe that my “little” girl, just 4 1/2 years old, was already losing teeth. So I turned to Dr. Google. With a bit of research, I discovered that most children lose their first teeth between the ages of 5-6, with girls generally loosing teeth a bit earlier than boys. I also confirmed that while 4 1/2 may be a bit younger than average, it’s still within  “normal” range for tooth loss, especially if a child teethed at a young age. Um, yeah, Little Bear’s lower incisors popped through when she was about 10 weeks old. She definitely qualified as “teething at a young age.”

Little Bear does not do well with pain … or the mere thought of anything that might cause pain. We opted to let nature take its course and wait for the teeth to fall out on their own.

The girls were participating in a toddler/preschooler art class at a local museum this morning, so we decided to have a picnic lunch at a nearby outdoor playground. Little Bear had repeatedly climbed to the peak of the highest play structure, slid down a gigantic spiral slide, run around the play structure, climbed back up, and slid again. Baby Bear insisted on following suit, so I was stationed at the top making sure my daring 21-month-old didn’t tumble over the edge and fall nearly two stories to the ground. When I saw Little Bear reach the bottom and deviate from her usual pattern to run over to the picnic table and Daddy Bear, I assumed she needed a drink. Moments later, though, she was back by my side, jumping up and down with excitement.

“Mommy, Mommy! Look in my mouth!”

I looked and saw blood — along with a gaping hole.

“You lost your tooth!” I exclaimed. (Nothing like stating the obvious!)

“Yes!” she replied. “I was wiggling it with my tongue as I went down the slide and it just fell out!”

Now, when a 4 1/2-year-old has just lost her first tooth, life can’t just go on as normal. I wasn’t sure whether to breathe a sigh of relief because the tooth had come out on its own, without tears or distress (and without her accidentally swallowing it!) or whether to cry because my “baby” had just taken an undeniable (albeit involuntary) step toward adulthood. I really wanted to cry. But I didn’t. (At least, not then.) Instead, I pulled her into a tight Mama Bear hug, gave her a kiss, congratulated her, and high-fived her all at the same time. Then I started racking my brain to come up with ideas for celebrating the first lost tooth.

As most things do in this house, The First Tooth Celebration called for stories:

It involved cupcakes (because Little Bear wanted cupcakes).

It involved chatting and daydreaming and wondering what the Tooth Fairy does with all those lost teeth.

It involved a healthy dose of skepticism. “Because, Mommy, Fairies aren’t real. They’re just pretend.”

It involved a little bit of handwriting, as Little Bear put her tooth in an envelope and painstakingly addressed it to the Tooth Fairy. (Gotta slip fine motor work in wherever we can!)

It involved role play with stuffed animals and Snap ‘n Style dolls and magnetic dress-up dolls.

It involved staying up too late, then laying in bed beside a little girl who just couldn’t go to sleep because she wanted to catch a glimpse of the tooth fairy (whose existence she still isn’t sure about).

It involved some creative writing on Mommy’s part, along with temporary defacing of U.S. currency. (I promise, the glittery “fairy dust” I used to edge her $5 bill will wear off in short order!)

It involved an early morning “The Tooth Fairy came! The Tooth Fairy came! And she took my tooth and left me a letter with money on it!” wake-up call.

It involved more skepticism as Little Bear contemplated the letter and said, “I don’t think the Tooth Fairy put this under my pillow. I think you did it after I was sleeping because fairies aren’t real! And I don’t think that’s fairy dust. I think it’s really glitter.”

It involved an ultimate choice to believe — for now — because “the Tooth Fairy is so much fun!”

Sadly, it did not involve pictures, because Mommy discovered late in the day that our camera was on the fritz. Still, we had fun, made memories, and entered the world of “lost teeth” as a family. (Toothless pictures will soon follow!)


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