Suddenly, you can read numbers. This came about suddenly and dramatically — one day you couldn’t tell a 1 from a 0 and the next you could identify the scrawliest, upside-down 7 for what it was. At first I thought you were just on a lucky guessing streak, but then, you never missed. This hasn’t been something we’ve been trying to teach you; you just picked it up on your own, and it’s kind of miraculous to watch. And it’s clear this new ability excites you as much as it does us. “That’s a five!” you said, super proud that you’ve finally connected the synapses that had previous been ever so slightly out of sync.
Letters, on the other hand, remain a mystery. You know your alphabet song, more or less (it starts with “A, B, B, B…” but then settles in), but recognizing their shapes is a whole different ball of wax. At one point this month you seemed to know how to spell your name — Papa asked for a letter, to which you said “E”, then “Z”, then “R” (then “E” again), but it’s a feat you’ve never been able to repeat, so I fear it was either a lucky shot or something buried in your subconscious that rose for a quick moment and then burrowed back down.
That actually happens a lot. Things you’ve been exposed to — melodies, lyrics, or lines from books — will seem to have no impression for weeks, and then suddenly one day we’ll hear you in the back seat saying them out loud to yourself.
On a cold Christmas Eve, when the whole city was shut down, we took a trip down to the Museum of Science and Industry. We expected you to bliss out on all the trains, and we were not disappointed. You seemed idly interested in the decommissioned actual trains, but it was the expansive model train layout that really melted your heart. Once your eyes latched onto that, there was no peeling you away. You could have stayed there for hours. You did stay there for hours. We tried pulling you into the colorful, whimsical Dr. Seuss exhibit, and you lasted all of 10 minutes before you began wondering, “What the heck am I doing NOT LOOKING AT TRAINS?!” So in other words, we’ll be going back.
Your other obsession: Magna-tiles. You first encountered them at a party where some big kids were playing with them. They let you into their circle and taught you how they worked, and you were hooked. A week later cousin Caroline generously gave you a set. In one week of playing, you must have advanced three grade levels in geometry, color, shape and architecture. You say things like “Look at me! I’m making a sailboat.” Or “This is a house for the horses!” You are almost scarily smart with them, and it makes me so excited to see what you will do with Legos, once we’re past the choking hazard phase and can bring them into the house.
There was one more star toy this month: the big box. When a co-worker got something delivered in a 3’x 3’ x 3’ box, I had a hunch it would be a big hit at home. I was more right than I knew. That thing enraptured both you and your sister for hours over the course of a few weeks. It was basically a cardboard babysitter. You hid in it, you threw your guys in it, you drew on it, you poked holes in it, you may have travelled through time in it for all I know.
It hasn’t been all smiles and roses, though. We’ve encountered a side of you that, frankly, is more confusing than anything, and leaves us at a loss. You have this tendency to push your sister over and crush her. It appears to be an act of love, not aggression, but despite our pleadings — and her wailing — you aren’t getting the message that it ain’t right. It doesn’t seem to be borne of a lack of attention, as you’ll do it even while we’re interacting with you. This is the first real test we’ve had about bad behavior that has left us totally confused. I’m sure it won’t be the last. In the meanwhile, Z is getting a crash course in younger-sister-hood.
The other big drama was my fault. We went sledding in Galena, and it was great. You showed no fear, eventually choosing to head down the hill on the wobbliest sled, the boogie board. You sat on your butt, and held on tight as it skidded down the hill, spinning you around. You ended up turned around facing the hill, very proud. In celebration I ran excitedly toward you, pulling up just short by intentionally falling down on my butt. There was more momentum than I expected, which caused me to instinctively plant my feet and — here’s where it gets tragic — spraying you with a wall of snow. It covered your face and went down your shirt and pants and triggered a well-warranted wail. That was it for sledding. What I worry is: has it ruined sledding forever? Or will you forgive and forget? I know I’m being overly sensitive here, but snow and sledding are two of my all-time favorite things, and I would hate to see you fearful of them. Dada can get a little excitable sometimes, that’s all. Next time I promise to keep my shit together, and stay atop the hill.