Glowing with Pride: The Boy’s first Review

There are reasons why creative people are creative. We want to express ourselves, we want to share something with the world, we want to touch other people’s lives – and we love the satisfaction of standing next to what we have made and being proud of it. Positive feedback motivates us to carry on and do even better.

Yes, that is what I felt like standing next to my son – who I had some hand in shaping – as his keyworker at pre-school praised his awe inspiring academic abilities.

The Boy has been at pre-school for a term and a half now and last week was my first ‘review’ meeting with the teacher assigned to keep an eye on him. The idea was to share what they had observed of him and talk about what he could work on next.

I was prepared to hear that he was above average in his mathematical abilities. His teacher was amazed that he could tell you which number came before and after another number, that he could recognise at a glance that there were five objects on a table (2 or 3 is normal for his age, apparently) and that he recognises shapes and numbers in the world around him.

You barely know the half of it, I wanted to say.

I have bragged about this before and I am sure you are all rolling your eyes now, but even since my last post on the topic he has done more amazing things. He has started adding up, telling me at random moments (on the toilet) that 2 and 3 make 5 and that 6 and 3 make 9. Then the other day at about 6am we were playing with the Duplo, which somehow turned into a multiplication lesson. Before I knew where I was he was making towers of equal height, counting the number of towers and how many blocks that made in total. Also, on a trip into town with Daddy he pointed at the interestingly shaped paving and said: “It’s a hexagon! It has six corners and six sides!”

The teacher also reported he was well ahead on reading skills: he knows most of the sounds the letters make as well as the names of the letters.20140516-161442.jpg

Again, I could add more amazing feats: The Boy recognises all of the names of the other children in his class as well as his own when he sees them written down on labels around the school, as well as the names of all our favourite supermarkets on pots of jam and freezer bags. He has started recognising words in books and wanting to copy them with his letter puzzle.

Besides all this the teacher said the Boy was very musical, had amazing recall and picked things up very quickly.

What I wasn’t prepared for was his top astounding skill.

Apparently, most 3 or even 4 year olds don’t cut around things, just through them. Who knew? That same morning the Boy had been crying because he couldn’t perfectly cut around each petal of a flower and asked me to do the tricky bits where the scissors turn the corner. After the review I made sure the Boy knew how clever he was to even follow the petals at all.

So what does he need to work on? You’ll all be pleased to hear that socially and behaviourally the Boy is just your average 3 year old, who does as he is told for five seconds before testing out if the embargo on running indoors has been lifted yet. He has plenty to learn still at pre-school about being part of a group, respecting the rules and doing as he is asked.

While we talked, the Boy was helpfully stacking up all the little chairs, obviously getting straight on his action plan.

I looked at my bright little boy, bursting with pride. “Look what I made!” I was thinking. “Isn’t he great?”

 

Obviously, I am Loud n Proud… If you are too, link up! It’s not too late.

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3 Children and It

 

Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper were 3 once

The Boy has once again snatched one of his sister’s toys. He was very happy playing with the Duplo, building a house that would not stand up, until he heard the tell-tale sounds of his sister having fun. He came to see what she was playing with and took it off her so he could play with it instead.

When I take the toy piano away from him and return it to The Girl, telling him she had it first and it is not kind to snatch, he grabs it back and says: “But I want it.” His tone implies: now that you know this, surely you will back down from your ridiculous position and let me have the toy.

A few moments later, the Boy is wailing in time out for trying to hit Mummy and not listening, the Girl has abandoned the piano in favour of smashing up the one-walled Duplo house, and I am in the kitchen nursing a headache. Amidst the pain and the screaming, I have an epiphany: this is the time in his life when the Boy learns not to be a sociopath.

All the seeds for a life of narcissism or crime are there in the three year old mind. The snatching incident demonstrates an “I want it, therefore I should have it” attitude, but there is more evidence that a three year old is a budding psychopath, depending on you and only you to stop him before it is too late.

I did a little test once, to see if I was a psychopath. You can do it too, here:

You are at a funeral. At this funeral, the daughter/son (pick preferred gender) of the deceased catches your eye. You have a wonderful day with them. You have great conversations and really click, and you are starting to think you might be falling in love. Afterwards you keep thinking about them. You want to see them again. How do you go about arranging this?

I’ll give you a moment to think.

.

.

.

What was your answer? If it was: I’d phone them the very next day, you’re fine. If you had I’d phone them every day until they agreed to come on a date, that too is fine, you are perfectly normal. Was it: I’d find out everything I could about them on the Internet and get involved in all their weekly activities? Don’t worry, I did the same when I met my husband. Stalking is absolutely fine.

So what’s the wrong answer then? If your first thought was: I would kill his/her sister, then you are a psychopath. Your sick brain seems to think that your best chance of seeing this wonderful person again is by replicating the circumstances of your first, successful encounter, and so you think the best way to orchestrate that is by killing another relative.

Nobody thinks like this, you say?

Just the other day, my son had a friend to lunch. The last time this little boy came to visit was maybe three months ago. I had the kids sitting at the table and was about to bring in the scrambled eggs on toast, when our perfectly behaved guest said very calmly: “I am ready for my pancakes.” I suddenly remembered that pancakes was what I had served up three months ago at his last visit. The poor little boy had been looking forward to more pancakes ever since the play date was set up. I decided to play it cool and breezy.

“I’m sorry, but it’s eggs today,” I said as I brought in the plates.

“I don’t like eggs,” he said quietly, struggling to contain his disappointment.

I felt terrible and gave him an extra yoghurt.

My son does the same thing. When I tell him he is going for a play date at his friend N’s house, he will excitedly start to tell me what they will do: “Yes! I go to N’s house, and we play with Cuddly Milly and Cuddly Bot and we watch Team Umizoomi and then we play with trains!”

It makes perfect sense to the three year old mind. This is what we did last time and we had fun. Why mess with a good thing? Let’s have the same play date over and over!

Other worrying trends I have noticed are his overenthusiastic affection.

“I just giving N a hug!” he insists when I intervene.

“That is very nice, but you were squishing her, and she didn’t like it any more. You can tell, because she was saying stop and trying to push you away.”

‘No means no’ starts earlier than you think.

And then there is the classic walking in the Grey Area of the Law. I tell my son he can’t swing the red blanket around or he’ll knock something over or hurt someone. So, watching me out of the corner of his eyes, he will swing the blanket – a little bit.

“What are you doing?” I demand.

“I just gently swinging the blanket,” he says.

When I confiscate the blanket there are outraged tears. He wasn’t doing anything wrong! I am starting to feel like he is a genie in a lamp or worse, a lawyer, and I have to word my prohibitions and instructions with extreme care, excluding any other options, limiting and delineating precisely what behaviour is okay and what will incur penalties, or else he will be through those loopholes like a shot.

So, this is where the magic happens. This is where we teach empathy, respect for other people’s feelings, bodies and possessions, delayed gratification, respect for authority and altruism.

This is where we teach them to subjugate their desires to their will and their will to their conscience.

This is where they learn that collecting little keepsakes from your friends is not cute, it’s creepy, and that playing the violin on your own in your room ultimately leads to a sad and lonely life.

violin with sheet music

Apologies

The Toddler has now reached an age when the rules of social behaviour become more meaningful and important: saying please and thank you, sharing your snacks and toys and, of course, saying sorry when you have done something wrong. Please and thank you have so far been very easy to implement. He loves using these phrases, perhaps as they get him drinks and food, and he will repeat: “Thank-oo, Daddy” like a broken record until he gets a satisfying response, like “You’re welcome”. We are having a little more of an interesting time with the concept of “sorry”, however.

We started off teaching him to say sorry by stroking the injured party’s head, back when his speech was a lot less well-developed. This worked quite well and my husband and I would proudly report to each other the lovely, heart-melting moments when he would employ this gesture to apologise for his misdemeanours.

Then I started to hear him say sorry. He would push past me and say “sossy, Mummy.” However, when he had done something wrong and was asked to apologised, he still used the headstroking method instead of the word. I then realised he had picked up one of my little idiosyncracies. One of my persistent mistakes in English is that I will say “sorry” instead of “excuse me” when I want to pass someone. I thought initially that this was a language issue, but while writing this I realised that it was in fact a personality one instead: I seem to feel it is unconscionably rude of me to ask people to move aside. Now, I am passing this on to my toddler, who now thinks that sorry = headstroking and excuse me = sorry. Woops.

His use of the word has developed from there and the jury is still out on whether it is going in a healthy direction. I have noticed that, in addition to using ‘sorry’ for ‘excuse me’, he now apologizes to me when he bumps into something. Again, this is cute but not quite right. Then a few days ago, the Toddler and I were playing with his new alphabet stamps. He was in extremely high spirits and crazily excited about the letters he could recognise: “X! E! M! S!” So excited, that he knocked several stamps on the floor. When the X stamp fell for the umpteenth time, I wearily bent down to pick it up.

“X! lond! [floor] Gotit X?” he asked anxiously.

I returned the stamp and he carried on with his alphabetting. A few minutes later he suddenly said: “Sossy mummy. Sossy mummy,” and stroked my head at the same time. Clearly, this was an apology and not an ‘excuse me’.

“Geeft niet,[That’s okay]” I said, unsure what he was apologising for.

Apparently, my uncertainty showed, as he went on to explain what he was sorry for: “Tempels lond.[Stamps floor]”

He was apologising for dropping things on the floor by accident. Not bad.

Then yesterday he showed things were definitely moving in the right direction. He was waving his arms around enthusiastically and accidentally bumped his sister’s head in the process. I wasn’t even sure he’d noticed, but he stopped what he was doing, stroked her head very gently and said: “Sossy, baby.”