Four years old. These precious moments with B remind me how he’s growing up. Though mama has less time for him, he finds every opportunity to catch up together, to the point of “moving in” at night and talking a LOT about his “day” (which could mix a few days up) when he didn’t use to before 🙂
B got off his chair and ran over when he saw me return from work:
B: Mama! Hug 20 times! (We totally did). Missed you, mama
M: I missed you too, B. Mama’s not feeling too well unfortunately….
B: Wait, I get you something (Runs off, returns with the thermometer). Here, let’s check
M: Thanks B, so thoughtful. Pray that mama recovers over the weekend, OK?
B: OK. I pray that the germs go away. Mama gets well soon and we can play.
After dinner, we make time for music (violin, sometimes piano), read (alternating between Chinese and English), then wind down for bed. Just when I’m snuggling down in my room, B comes inside, bearing another book, his pillow, blankie, soft toys…
B: Mama, see I brought all my things over. I’m sleeping with you tonight!
M: You know, B, you’ve been sleeping on your own since you were one. Don’t you like your own room? Where’s daddy going to sleep?
B: I like my room but I want to sleep together mama. Maybe until I’m 20 years old (!) (Heads out to find daddy).
B: Daddy, you sleep in my room, ok? I’ll leave the door open for you
At the end, he talks about “his day” while we lie in bed in the dark:
B: The other day at school, N and I came early. We ate something and then biked around. N told me I was going the wrong way. But I was right, he was wrong, and we banged each other.
M: Oh no! Did any of you get hurt?
B: No. Wait, maybe. N fell off a bit and cried.
M: Was he OK? Did you say sorry?
B: Well, I said sorry when we banged. And then he stopped crying and asked me to say sorry again, but I didn’t because I alrady said sorry. Then we played some more.
M: Hmm… It’s good you apologized. Please be careful the next time! (Note to self: Check with N’s mom and teachers). How was lunch?
B: Good. We had pasta. With chicken rice.
M: Pasta and chicken rice? Are you sure?
B: Errm we had pasta, peas, carrots, corn. I like corn. Also, some chicken. I ate all my food.
M: That’s good! Did you eat fast like we’ve been talking about?
B: I ate faster than J! I said “Hurry up, eat faster!” But J doesn’t like corn. So he ate slowly.
M: Besides J, who ate with you?
B: (Tells me who sat exactly where and in which table)
B: Mama, mama! I’m still talking. Are you listening?
M: I’m listening, but I’m quite tired too. Talk more tomorrow, B? Love you, good night.
B: Love you. Good night, mama. (Starts humming while I fall asleep)
Today, I’m thankful that B has handled his “growing up” transitions well: Sleeping through the night, feeding himself, nursery drop-off, potty training, settling quickly for mid-day naps, and now, moving to a junior bed. Sure, there are challenging days, but when I speak to other moms, I feel grateful because our experience has been TOTALLY by grace and luck, and not due to any different or better parenting methods on my end.
Just before B turned 2, he climbed out of his cot, and landed on his bum! We figured if you can’t stop him, teach him how to do it right – so we showed him how to climb out and land safely in the interim. However, after a few more attempts, B lost interest in “escaping” and I delayed any major changes as we were adjusting to nursery drop-off earlier this year. Meanwhile, we’d read and talk about big boys sleeping in big beds, and also show B his friends’ new beds or mattresses. Between 18 months to 2.5 years, most of his buddies had already switched – with mixed results – to make way for a new sibling, prevent bumps and falls, replace a smaller crib, etc.
We left his current convertible cot bed as is (it fits a 70 x 140 cm mattress) … until now! Sometime last month, he kept asking to “lower bed, go out” and would start yelling for “mama, mama” if no one comes fast enough once he woke up. It dawned on me that B is taking the initiative, that he’s able to settle and sleep on his own and to play safely when he’s up. Even hubby noticed it! So this weekend, we dropped one of his cot sides, installed the portable bedrail that we got months ago and let him have fun climbing up and down.
So far, B eagerly gets into his newly converted “junior bed” after we read and pray together at night. He still sleeps well (thankfully!), generally wakes up happy, wishes us a “good morning” and now, gets his milk from the kitchen, sings and plays around the house until we’re all ready to start our day together. His independence is amazing to see and I pray these smooth transitions continue for a long while 🙂
The first term has come and gone better than I expected! In April, B started taking his mid-day nap in school. Before this, I’d usually rush to pick him up on time after my meetings, work or lunch. He’d be too excited to see mama and though he was tired by 1p, he’d often skip naps and end up cranky by evening. Now on weekdays, he naps daily at school (~1.5-2 hours), I pick him up after 3p and we spend the rest of the day together. I’m thankful for the wonderful teachers and friends that’s he’s made, how well they’ve helped him adjust to nursery life, enabling us to have quality time together and apart.
July saw a big leap forward in B’s cognitive, and in particular, speech development. Words started to “click” and it was great to be there with him along the way.
Theme: Animals! It started with us doing an extended craft activity around Margaret Wise Brown’s “Big Red Barn” when we were stuck indoors during the worst of the haze. The rest of the month was spent on tonnes of books, songs, art and craft, puzzles and outings. We even managed to make this bilingual as B’s new Chinese term was all around the 农场 (Farm)
ABC or Art, Books and Craft: Maybe it was a matter of time but I felt like we found a key to unlock his brain by engaging in more kinesthetic learning this month. We expanded upon a few fave books with a big red barn diorama, a zoo numbers and colouring activity based on Eric Carle’s “123 To The Zoo,” and built our own family tree after reading “Who’s Like Me.” Some highlights below:
Music and Movement: I finally brought all 6 kids CDs into the car to play on repeat whenever it’s just B and me. From the classic Old MacDonald (he loves the E-I-E-I-O!) and Incy Wincy Spider actions to his Chinese Playclub’s ditties like “我爱我的” and “母鸭带小鸭” as well as Kindermusik’s Morning Song(with different greetings for animals/people). It was nice to see him not only sing to the words and rhythm but overcome his shyness to move and dance along. Outings: No surprise, we went back to the zoo to check out the Breakfast With Orang Utans with friends (overpriced, not worth it!) and the new Frozen Tundra polar bear exhibit (cool!). Next time, we’ll visit in the afternoon as B is up longer and can catch more live shows. We also went to the Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium (nice, esp. the spider crabs, jellyfish and dolphins). Here’s other animal adventure places we hoped to/will visit as there wasn’t enough time to see them all! Personal: – Hearing B say “I love you” (sounds more like “I low you”) melts my heart 🙂 – I know I’ve said it earlier, but the Big Red Barn opened up a world of language, esp. speech for him. He comes up with 3-word descriptors like “big purple ball” (i.e. my yogilates ball) and “dark blue sky” (the view from his window when he wakes). Loves to make animal and vehicle sounds, say opposites thanks to Dr Seuss (big/small, in/out, up/down, high/low), colours (primary+secondary+some tertiary), numbers (1-10) and family names. His thirst for books seemed to have grown exponentially too. He demands to read “more, more books” every time and delights in finishing up familiar sentences or words. Of course, he repeats interesting new words in English, Malay, Chinese and especially, my in-car swearing :0 – Self feeds when hungry and when he likes his food. Otherwise, he’ll eat with distractions and/or help. Developed a temporary bad habit of throwing down his spoon/fork/food when done or cranky, but that’s stopped now since I told him off with frequent reminders to put it down on the table (practicing les gros yeux!) – Naps are still too short but nights are great so we’re rolling with it. I get my downtime or work done at night, spend quality time with him in the mornings, try to take him out each day with a special/ family outing once a week – Potty training still ongoing, slow and easy. Undies at home, diapers when out – All in, it’s been a pretty awesome though tiring month. Gratifying to see the effort pay off, esp. when I wonder what’s become of me and where I’m headed this year….
Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé was a rather different read from the usual parenting books so far. I was quite surprised that French parenting (in the early years at least) resonated with my own East meets West blend so far. I don’t agree with it all, esp. the non-attachment-friendly actions and a rather socialist approach to do what others do with minimal individual affirmation. YET I do appreciate some elements, mainly:
Help him grow up sage (wise and calm) as well as éveillé (awakened, alert, stimulated). A child in control of himself, absorbed in activities with doucement (gently, carefully), mindful of himself with non’importe quoi acts without regard or consideration for others
Have a cadre (framework) where firm limits are set within which tremendous freedom is given
Focus on the right éducation (upbringing) rather than discipline
Teach him to attend (wait… stop!) by self entertainment/distraction and not be an enfant roi who is constantly at the center of attention. Building patience and delayed gratification will help with the caprices during the tantrum-throwing frustrations
Reinforce FOUR magic words: “Hello, “Bye,” “Please” and “Thank You”
Small acts of foolishness (bêtise) call for moderate responses but major acts require a firm non,les gros yeux (that LOOK of admonishment) and punishment with serious consequences
Equilibre (balance) includes not letting being a parent overwhelm your life. Don’t become a daily maman-taxi (tough one, that)
Goûter (afternoon snack) is the ONLY snack of the day beyond the three square meals, ideally together with family
Allow autonomie, a blend of independence and self-reliance early on, including separation from parents such as école maternelle (free public pre-school) from the year the child turns 3 and colonie de vacances (kids’ summer camps) from four years on
Practice complicité, the mutual understanding that parents and caregivers try to develop with children from birth. Small babies are perceived as rational beings, with whom adults can have reciprocal, respectful relationships. Note: several baby experts would disagree…
… which leads to French “sleep teaching” aka the PAUSE, typically by 4 months. My take on this is not that every newborn parent must sleep train by letting their baby cry. Rather, consider waiting a little before responding to let baby learn to sleep on his own in between cycles, and then enter to determine if it truly is hunger, a dirty diaper, anxiety, et al. This gradual “wait” approach worked for us even though we never liked or resorted to full cry-it-out
Caveat: The lowest grade I got in college was in French, so pardon any errors
June was an exercise in child-led learning. Forget about class or mommy’s “lesson plans,” our theme was on B’s all time favourite things…
(1) Things that go: It started out with us reading Brian Biggs’ excellently illustrated vehicle series, esp. Everything Goes: In The Air for days up till (and after) B’s first flight to Phuket. Shortly after, his Chengzhu holiday program took the Playclub tots on the Duck Tour bus AND boat. Then we ended up flying again (aka the unplanned haze-cation) to Penang. For a boy already crazy about wheels and diggers, it only seemed natural that this ended up as our special monthly theme
(2) Shapes: Learning shapes is fun and easier as B recognises his rainbow colours (he calls indigo “dark bool” 😉 Besides the hand-me-down shape sorters, blocks and a timely Gymnademics home package set, we reinforced shapes through bean bag games, geometric foam pictures and playdough
We used lots of puzzles this month given B’s growing interest (and affinity) for this. Besides the wooden peg puzzles, we took out slightly harder board and magnetised ones. It takes him some time to get the alignment right even if he knows where it should go. But he takes them out from the boxes himself to work at it almost every day. For a boy that can’t stay at a task too long, this is quite a feat! We also used more representative learning to support what B would see in real life, i.e. block building a “duck bus/boat”, drawing the jet pilots and helicopters flying by for National Day rehearsal, browsing through books, transportation art and flashcards with photos and/or illustrated print, role playing with toys and sound effects, etc. We even tried threading with his Good Night construction site set. Speaking of which, B can thread in and occasionally flips it over to thread out but doesn’t quite know? have patience? to keep threading the next sequence.
Art and Craft: So many this month given the special occasions, but no time to complete a big special project (that one’s already WIP for next month). Our faves were:
(1) Fathers’ Day card (done at one of our home playdates)
(2) Garden montage to reinforce shapes and colours
(3) B’s first personalised photobook. To make reading (pages, prints, photos) more personal and fun, and also as an alternative to flicking through photos and videos on my smartphone. He seems to enjoy flipping through it and it grounds him esp. when we are away from home and as we have more periods of separation. Worth continuing and building on…
Outings: June was children’s season and school holidays. So… You guessed it! We went back to the Singapore Art Museum (awesome Enchanted Garden kids exhibit) and Gardens By The Bay (Flight of Fancy’s hot air balloons). We also visited the Philatelic Museum to see geek!mom’s Star Wars exhibit. With the Singapore Duck Tour, Phuket and Penang trips, B is slowly touring his way through Southeast Asia 😉
– Mealtimes are back to normal, even better in fact since our Penang trip. B feeds himself, has a robust appetite, is keen to try new things, and most importantly, happily eats fruits and veggies again! At his 18.5 month check in/jab, B weighed 12.5 kg. He couldn’t stand still to measure the height, but based on his ex-pants shorts and pajamas, he’s definitely over 86 cm!
– Sleeps well overnight (~11 hours straight) but his naps have gotten shorter (~1 hour average) even on days when he’s so tired and nodding off by 1130a! He tends to wake up crying from his nap yet will only sleep longer if we rock and hold him. Another regression? Separation anxiety again? Just roll with it?
– Resumed potty training which I started / stopped earlier this year. This time, we are going the distance i.e. no diapers while at home and playdates. Also bought another, lighter single piece “portette”
– At times, he shows a little stubborn and willful streak so I’ve been more firm with discipline, insisting he continues with the basic home “routine” (incl. helping out, cleaning up), and not giving in to his temper tantrums. So far, nothing unmanageable (yet! yet!)
– Steady progress language and cognition wise. He’s started to fill in missing words from familiar stories and songs, repeat new words that he’s able (willing?) to vocalise and put 2 simple words together like “eat/no more”, “back door.” Oh, and he’s asking “WHY?” 😉 It helps that I’m reading more specific books with big fonts, few words like the Dr Seuss and Margaret Wise Brown classics, in addition to our usual dialogic, fun but variable stories. Besides English, he seems to find Malay/Bahasa easier to pick up but that could be b/c I’ve been quite negligent with Chinese since our holiday break! Of course, if I were honest, for a verbal mom like me who talks, sings and reads to him constantly, I do wish at times that he could say more earlier! But he’s developing at his own pace and all is well
– We STILL haven’t committed to 2014 nursery for B next year …. Talk about kiasu! Yet even with my sporadic homeschooling efforts (longer task/wishlist than actual), I still feel we’re doing ok and giving B a better experience at this age
B is 9 months old! At 39 weeks, he’s officially “outside” mommy longer than he was inside (he arrived early). We just had a regular check up where B got his final pneumoccocal jab, which leaves one more jab for the year i.e. MMRV sometime in November, after his 1st birthday. Reminder to self: feed him eggs (yolk, then white) beforehand to test for allergies
1) Weighs 9.7 kg, 73.5 cm long, 47 cm head circumference, tracking at 90+ percentile among his peers. Still our big headed tall boy 🙂
2) Crawls faster, pulls up to stand, cruises and climbs. Unfortunately, all this newfound mobility doesn’t quite make him sleep more soundly but rather he’s up practicing day AND night! We’ve caught him standing up in his bed and calling for us many times =0 Meanwhile, we continue to find new areas to babyproof as he’s on the go
3) Celebrated our first national day as a fully Singaporean family. B got his first passport and mugshot, and I officially renounced my Malaysian citizenship for Singapore
4) Eating finger foods and mashed (not finely pureed) meals
In addition to tagging along with mommy for errands and weekly home playdates, we’ve also started going to Blue House parent-and-baby discovery programs. Their Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood approach and infant and toddler atelier is quite remarkable, quite a contrast to the dime-a-dozen care centers / indoor playgrounds in Singapore. We may also check out baby signing, Kindermusik or right brain classes like Gymnademics – Glenn Doman, Shichida, Heguru, et al.
Lastly, we kinda had to register B for the June 2013 toddler group intake at a nearby childcare center as he’d already been waitlisted since I left work full-time (unintended!) and this was the latest we could defer till. The other preschools on my shortlist had a 2-3 year waitlist, so for now, if you can’t beat em ….