Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for April, 2010

School Readiness

Iris and Robyn have both been really excited about “school” these last few months, and each are taking steps in their own way to get ready for it.


Robyn started parent/tot preschool last week – a Friday morning class next door to Iris’, where I stay with her and it feels like she’s at preschool, with playtime, painting and art, outside time, snack time, and circle time.  Most of her friends from playgroup are there too.  Robyn always wanted to stay at “dister’s cool”, so she loves it.  She found an Elmo doll there right away, then a baby doll that she carried all over and people thought we’d brought it.  Good thing the teacher suggested Robyn “put the baby down for nap” before we left, or I’d never have gotten it pried from her hands.


Robyn’s Favorite Things:

She can’t live without Elmo and Zoe dolls (usually one tucked under each arm). Sticker books entertain her for hours, though the stickers often end up more on her clothes than the book.  She loves wearing any kind of necklace, especially Tata’s shiny Mardi Gras beads.  She also asks for either “big dawing” or “wittle dawing” – those magnadoodles are fantastic for car rides and restaurants.  She holds the pen like a pro, even narrating her actions like “dot, dot, dot”.  Robyn sings all the time now, to us, to herself, to Elmo in the crib.  Her favorites are Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the ABC song, Catch a Falling Star, and Wheels on the Bus.


Robyn’s Big Milestones:

  • Counting to 10 (though it sure was cute when she used to say 1, 2, 3, 9, 52)
  • Nursing only 3x per day, and finally no longer a “midnight snack"
  • Starting “preschool”
  • Playing games like Hide and Seek and Zingo with Iris

Robyn’s latest phrases:

  • I did it!
  • I win!
  • Robyn do it.
  • Howbout dis?
  • Where Koka go? (over and over, listing each person who’s currently missing)
  • Daddy, dinner ready!
  • Skype Tata!  Uh, oh, call drop.  Skype uncle Sean?
  • Look mommy!  Diamond, tinkle in the ky!
  •  Dat one Aubin’s (Robyn’s) right dere
  • Help Aubin pease?
  •  Cuse me disder (excuse me sister)
  • Aubin too!
  • A wittle side 2 pease! (her way of coyly asking to nurse)
  •  Iwis (starting to say sister’s name Iris)
  • Quirrel running!
  • Dat Robyn’s hophop wite dere
  • Scoot over widdle bit peas
  • Wook mama, dere’s dister’s cool!
  • Ooh, tickle me
  • Get other book now, kay momma? (and another, and another….)


Iris is growing way too fast for me to keep up.  She has long and deep conversations with us now, and preschool has helped her enter a whole world of friendship and creativity.  She tells us about her “best friend” from school, who is currently Jake, though previously it was Miya, then Olivia, then William, then Gwyn.  “Mommy, want to know how Jake and I became friends?  He smiled at me, then I smiled at him, and then… (shrugs her shoulders, raises her eyebrows, and grins)”. 


Preschool homework projects have become quite complex.  The first ones were things like “bring a cardboard box to school.”  Then suddenly over President’s Day weekend it was “build a small car with wheels and steering wheel that move.  Make a posterboard including photos and quotes from your child.”  Whaa?  A big jump for us parents who have always been terrible at posterboard projects…  It turned out to be a bonding experience for us with Iris though, getting a real sense of how she thinks and figures things out.  She decided to make an Obamacar (with no prompting from us, I swear!) because she and daddy had just gotten a President’s Day packet full of facts, stickers, and stencils.  She even included her little people in egg carton seats, and a presidential seal on the side.


The next homework was to research and make an instrument.  She decided on a guitar and enjoyed a “jam session” with daddy’s electric guitar and her own acoustic one.  But while crafting her guitar out of a cardboard box and rubber bands, she decided the neck was too difficult to attach, and really it was a “lap piano” instead.   


At home Iris loves to pretends she’s 5 and in kindergarten.  Thank goodness her teacher said she’s ready to start kindergarten this fall!  She’s now registered, and will likely be one of the youngest there, since the cutoff date is December 1st and many parents seem to hold their kids back an extra year to give them an edge in this competitive school district.


Iris is suddenly excited about academic stuff like counting and reading.  She proudly counts to 100, and randomly mentions math stats like “mommy, 2+3 is 5!” 


Iris right now soaks in books like a sponge, surprising me as I read to her by jumping in to read for me.  Robyn got a book for Easter called “Happy Easter Mouse”, and after hearing it twice Iris could “read” the entire book word for word.  She mostly takes cues from the pictures, but also combines that with sounding out the first letters.  She can sight recognize small words like “the, and, you, love”.  Reading chapter books is our routine at night (yes, even after the deep emotions of Charlotte’s Web).  We just finished Trumpet of the Swan, where we all couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to sweet Louis. 


Iris’ Favorite Things:

  • Couting, reading, and coloring inside the lines (hmm… mommy still can’t color inside the lines, where did she get that?). 
  • Planting and watering tomatoes and flowers.
  • Creating thank you notes for neighbors
  • Heather Farm Garden, Navlet’s garden store
  • Playing “school” or any game where she is the “teacher” (even playing the piano with her – she preferred being teacher to being student)
  • Digital camera and iphone (she takes photos with our old camera, and manages to “borrow” my iphone for things like the ChirpUSA bird identifier app).  “How can we find out more about the orange bugs?  We could use a bug app, like our bird app!  Or we could ask Shirley (our neighbor).”


Iris’ Big Milestones:

  • Counting to 100
  • Performing in a marching band (at preschool, though she still has stage fright)
  • Dancing barefoot in the grass (she used to be afraid of taking off her shoes even at the beach)
  • Crawling through tunnels (another fear from the last few years that dissipated at dance class)
  • Writing all her capital letters, and some lower case and numbers
  • Drawing elephants from a “how to” page, and painting a bass guitar with Japanese style brush strokes

Performance Anxiety and the Wisdom of Woody Allen

Parenthood is filled an enormous amount of "rites of passage", those moments where you cross over into a new world of experiences that, until you actually experience, you only hear about or watch through comedic moments on TV. I’ll never forget watching the Cosby Show where Vanessa Huxtable had clarinet recital and the parents had to attend. Vanessa was excruciating, but at the end, her mother stands up like she had just heard the Boston Philharmonic after the fourth encore. Indeed, parental pride is a funny thing and with Iris now at the age of stage-bound entertainment, I now have to plan for a schedule that includes random recitals.

Now when I was a child, I didn’t really like my parents attending anything I did. I remember the first game of baseball I played where I stood on the plate when I got ready to bat for the first time, needing the coach to come out and explain that I needed to be beside the plate. I was 7 and wasn’t quite the baseball freak I am now, but I was so embarrassed and never quite got over the fact that my mistake was something that could embarrass anyone else. Mind you, my family wasn’t embarrassed, but I still didn’t like it. For years after, if I ever made an error or struck out, I looked around in shame of someone I loved that might’ve witnessed me fail. As such, for the hundred of baseball, softball, and basketball games that I played, my parents were persona non grata (my brother would be allowed to come, but even that caused more angst than he probably ever knew). As I’ve learned, the worst curse that anyone can have is a fear of failure (no bank jokes, please). It keeps you from so much. Even then, I knew that I was OK with failing as long as only I had to suffer. Therefore, I always looked to fly solo.

Iris doesn’t have the same hang up. Recently, she had a "marching band" recital and kept asking me to come. She was really excited to have me there, even though the previous recital I attended, she was extremely shy and didn’t really sing. She told me "I want you to sit in the front row in the middle". Now in 20 years of attending classes in school, I don’t think I have ever sat front row center. But anything for my daughter, right? Of course, when we were let into the small room, a bunch of parents jumped ahead of us–no doubt in an effort to fulfill their own child’s request to sit front row center. A part of me thought "will she really notice?" Still, I figured I’d do the next best thing–sit in the back row (third row) but stand up and take video. When the performance started and they come marching in (you can see the video above), there’s Iris in front of the middle line. Now this was done by height, so it’s not like she chose this. Still, she was on display with nowhere to hide. Unfortunately, she looked completely tentative and awkward. To make matters worse, an equally nervous girl right behind her accidentally knocked Iris’ hat off and Iris didn’t pick it up because she was worried that she was doing something wrong. Much like her father, she hated the stage and being the center of attention. Will seeing me make her feel more awkward the same way that seeing my parents made me feel awkward as a kid? Is this the last recital I’m going to be able to come to? Then I had that "you idiot!" reminder that this wasn’t Sandy, this was Iris–a child wired very differently. She asked for you to be front and center for a reason. Instead of sitting down, I began gently waving my hand, waiting for her to spot me. You could see her scanning the room, looking for a familiar face and finally spotted me. While it’s hard to tell in the video, she flashed the smile made me melt on the spot. It was that big Iris-patented grin that clearly expressed her glee. Daddy was here! I gently pointed to the floor as if to say "you can pick up your hat". She learned over, grabbed it, and put it back on. It was like she got a shot of confidence and being on stage didn’t bother her so much any more. The performance was short (goes beyond the video above), but she crossed a threshold after she saw me. For all the cool things I’ve done in my life, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as important in my life as in that moment.

I’d like to close the story by saying that Iris was the star of the show and did a triangle solo that brought down the house. I’d like to say that I bust out in shouts of "Bravo" and started looking into American Idol tryouts. But this isn’t the Cosby Show. She still stumbled around a little, sang only parts of the show, and didn’t quite stand out. But when she didn’t do it, but it was less because of fear and almost more out of apathy. Now I’m not a fan of apathy, but I almost feel like I can teach her to overcome apathy more than I can teach her to overcome fear. But at the risk of sounding selfish, this blog post isn’t really about Iris’ performance, but mine. And while I’ve always lived my life by the principle "do unto others as you would have done unto you", that’s not how I should expect to be a father for Iris or Robyn. As long as Iris appreciates my presence, I’ll do everything I can to be there. Woody Allen once said 90% of success is showing up. While I’d like to think that on most days there’s more to parenting than that, I was reminded on this day that sometimes good old Woody is absolutely right. So when the next performance is up, I’ll do everything I can to attend. And if she does end up on American Idol years from now, I imagine I’ll show up for that as well. You can count on two things–I’ll always do everything I can to get my 90% and never give up on the other 10%.

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