Maya: you may have turned three two weeks ago, but you’ve been gearing up for this birthday for several months it seems, with tried-and-true three-year-old behavior.
And yes, we are two weeks behind on this milestone birthday, as is the plague of second-born children.
Despite proclaiming that you are a big girl, you still love to snuggle and be held. You have soared into independent imaginative play, and can constantly be found engaged in elaborate role-playing games with toy dinosaurs and animals, complete with silly, high-pitched voices and a clear distinction between “nice guys” and “scary guys.”
You have a knack for completely destroying any semblance of a clean space, but I know every strange item placement and peculiar toy arrangement was part of a story in your head. You still love playing in water and can entertain yourself in the bath with toy animals for an incredible amount of time. You’ve also really taken to swimming this summer and have become a brave little fish. You enjoy collecting seeds outside, and painting your body, if given the chance.
Some of my favorite Maya-isms are:
Another scoop, please. This is used any time you want more of something, like ice cream, or for us to move further out in the pool to catch you, or when you need more space around you. I’m not sure how a scoop became a standard unit of measurement but it’s adorable.
Oh! We haven’t done [fill in the blank] in a little while! You constantly exclaim that we haven’t done something for a little while, like read a specific book, play a certain game or go to a designated location.
Told ya, I told ya! Any time we discover you were right about something we didn’t initially believe we are reminded quite forcefully.
Come over here quick, you can’t believe this! An exuberant comment when you want us to see something you think will surprise us.
You have an unbelievable vocabulary and speak with the most amazing enthusiasm and inflection. Your thoughts and commentary are a hilarious stream of consciousness at all hours of the day. Right before bed each night, after books, you demand we tell you “a dragon story” which is a made up tale that includes unicorns and a sharp tooth (T-Rex) and dragons and eggs and nests.
You have big feelings. When you’re mad, it is not a secret and can become a full-body reaction that involves you locking yourself in your room. But you’re fairly easy to redirect and are often happier if given a few minutes by yourself.
You are an absolute joy to be around and we are not at all upset to be quarantined at home with you.
These two epitomize everything I’ve read about birth order traits for siblings of the same gender, born within a short span of time. It’s fascinating and maddening to feel like every strategy and trick that worked with Lila completely backfires with Maya. Likewise, it’s a humbling learning experience to parent a child who has the constant opportunity to observe and mimic an older sibling.
Despite truly distinct personalities, watching these two grow and play together is a joy. They understand each other and communicate in a way I’ve only heard attributed to twins, and even on the days I think they may come to blows, one of them will suddenly do something so sweet and protective for the other it makes it all okay.
I am so thankful they have each other and for these sweet moments that make life brighter.
Today Maya: insisted on wearing gloves around the house, took “pictures” with a toy microscope, sang lots of animated songs, poured cups of “tea” in the bath, played Memory by herself, and resisted bedtime for a solid two hours.
You are a bright light and amazing little soul. You are also a mischievous imp who knows exactly how to get what you want.
You love Dada, cereal bars, playing hide and seek, Dada, singing, dramatic play, Dada, slides, swimming and your Dada. Dada is life.
Lila is loving kindergarten and adjusting pretty seamlessly (mom had a harder time). She’s become a fish this summer, swimming independently and begging to go in the pool every day. The dinosaur obsession has transitioned into horses, and other favorite activities include: coloring, legos, puzzles and constructing elaborate animal scenes and habitats. Still an adventurous eater and a kind (albeit often frustrated) big sister.
Maya enjoys commenting and screaming “I naked girl, look-ah my belly” any time she gets undressed, and announcing, “I no wanna take a nap!” when her bedtime routine begins. She walks up to groups of people and casually asks, “Whatchu doing guys? Way-for-meeeee!” and when we recently told her she was getting so big, she was indignant: “I no big, I tiny! You big!” She adores her big sister, daddy, Curious George and her baby doll. She loves coloring, puzzles and water play, and any opportunity to climb and jump off things. To our delight she’s remained a total cuddle bug and boasts the best bed head around.
Happy 5th birthday to my spitfire little soul mate.
You are brave, curious, kind and a complete goofball. I pray your energy, passion and giant heart continue to shape your character, and that every stage of your life brings you new things to explore and more questions to challenge the world with.
I am utterly humbled to learn and grow with you every single day.
This is Lila’s last week at preschool, and no one is surprised that I need to write about my feelings.
The countdown started as a slow rumble months ago; quick conversations among parents about what schools we were touring, comments about how crazy it all felt, and eye rolling over how annoying it was going to be to have multiple drop offs.
But the reality of it didn’t sink in until graduation in May. All of a sudden we entered this maddening time warp where the days seemed to pass more quickly each week. I’m pretty sure five minutes ago I dropped a baby off in the infant room, and now we’re ordering what feels like a nonsensical amount of glue sticks and tissues for a school that’s totally foreign to us.
I can’t wait to see L start kindergarten and soar to new heights — she’s ready for this — but there’s a heavy cloud hanging over the next few days. It’s a mixed bag that’s going to hit me hard when we walk out those familiar doors together on Wednesday.
The way time passes after having children is truly baffling. Last week I attended Meet the Teacher night for Maya, and it just so happened that the 2’s room is now the same room Lila was in as a baby. I hadn’t entered that space in years, and it was a crazy feeling to literally come full circle.
That room is somewhat of a sacred space, because when you drop your baby off to day one at daycare, you’ve never been more vulnerable. Not just in the sense of leaving your little one somewhere new, but because it’s awkward and uncharted territory. I didn’t know where to leave bottles or how long to talk to the teachers, and I was intimidated by every other parent who seemed to have things more together than I did. I wasn’t yet comfortable with the working mom part of my identity and was very focused on trying not to trip in heels while carrying an infant carrier.
If you’d asked me at that very first drop-off what I hoped for from a childcare provider, I probably would have said something about nap schedules and diaper cream. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined what would really matter: the teachers who wore my daughter in a wrap all day because she was colicky. The framed art we’d display made from baby footprints. The email folder full of updates and photos. Over that first year, the classroom came to represent a place of growth and friendships.
After the baby room, we entered the walking toddler room, where all my worrying about napping on cots proved wildly unnecessary. Art projects became more involved and babies started morphing into tiny people who ate with forks and had water play days. Every day was a new adventure that helped toddlers explore and develop.
Then onto the 2’s room, where potty training was this big thing and the kiddos started having birthday parties, themed days and field trips. This helped our parent group come together as a unit, as we started to really understand the magic in the imaginative, child-focused curriculum we’d heard so much about. Our kids were kind of weird, yes, but in the best way.
This was also the room where most of us got pregnant with our second kids, so for the second half of the year the teachers faced regular intervals of displaced, hormonal mom crying. Were the parents higher maintenance than the kids? Very likely. Also, we lost and gained approximately 350 toddler socks this year, and became one with the Moana soundtrack.
Our 3’s room will always make me think about an epic field trip to the science center Pompeii exhibit with 25 kids who had zero problem discussing how bodies were buried and preserved in volcanic ash. They were obsessed with volcanos all freaking year. Also this year the kids really started to play together with intention and learned how to use tools and a sewing machine. The classroom was a perfect depiction of a three-year-old’s mind, where every inch contained something of great significance.
We started love rituals to make goodbyes easier, and saw our small children start to lose their baby chub. This was also the year the kids spent a great deal of time talking about habitats, which segued into raising money to help purchase tents for the homeless.
As we entered the official pre-k room, we saw a continuation of very special friendships. Our teachers have often remarked that the kiddos who were entering their fifth year together truly had a sibling-like relationship. They fight hard but they love even harder. They know each other so well and work through conflict more effectively than most adults I know. The social and emotional development this past year has given us a chance to see these kids grow into themselves and learn to communicate and regulate their feelings.
Daycare and preschool teachers are quick to correct anyone who says they are raising other peoples’ children, but the truth is, they are a huge piece of how we raise our children — one we choose and cherish. They are present for countless pivotal moments in our kids’ lives, and also in our lives as parents. They’re more valuable than any parenting book, well-intentioned relative or answer you can google, and I understand now why my mom still remembers the names of the preschool teachers I had 30+ years ago. I will forever view our teachers as an extension of our family.
Then there are the other families we’ve been so fortunate to have on this journey. Where can I begin? Milestone by milestone we’ve been blessed with extra sets of eyes, helping hands and huge hearts. Other moms and dads who don’t hesitate to love on your kids, text you to let you know what the kids were doing when they dropped off after you, and cover for you when you’re late or away.
Moms who are further down the parenting road and give the most reassuring advice, and who don’t bat an eye when you stroll out of school carrying a filthy child, soiled clothes bag, cereal box full of rocks and seven paper towel rolls. I always knew Lila would make friends at school; what I didn’t expect was for our entire family to create lasting and meaningful friendships.
The hardest part about this transition is seeing these kids move on from such an incredible community. This hasn’t just been a school, it’s been a home away from home for the past five years. It’s forever changed the trajectory of Lila’s life, and no doubt mine as well. It’s been a pretty amazing ride, and I feel so much love and gratitude to everyone who’s been a part of this chapter. And while I’m so sad for what we’re leaving behind, I’m more thankful for everything we’ve gained along the way. And I have to believe we’ve only just begun.
Despite all the fun and adventure, there’s disorganization and challenges when kids are taken out of their normal environment and structure. I’ve thought a lot this week about the balance Jim brings to my default parenting style, and how much that benefits the girls.
Sometimes our differences make things tough (introvert and extrovert extremes over here), but as parents our personalities somehow bring things to a happy medium. I am a worst case scenario master, he is preternaturally positive. As I have heart palpitations considering all the horrible things that might happen in any given situation, he stays steady and present.
Years ago I resented this, but now I often find myself looking to him for cues: when will he tell Lila to step back from toeing too close to something risky, without killing her confidence? When does it really not make sense to eat out with tired kids (my nightmare) vs when can we rally and make it work?
We had an awesome last day in Hawaii that he planned, and did things I never would’ve attempted with kids, but they did great and it made some incredible memories.
Now that we’re back home I’ll go back to being annoyed when he doesn’t put his underwear in the hamper, but felt the need to give this guy a shoutout for being super dad/husband/chauffeur/chef all week.
Pictures tend to show the dreamy parts of vacations, and ultimately, that’s what we remember, but believe me – there were meltdowns and challenges aplenty this week – just as there are for everyone traveling with little ones. That just means you’re doing it right.