Every little thing she does is magic. That has been the theme song of my past half-year with Samantha.
I visited a friend a couple of weeks ago who has a two-month-old baby – her first. Of course, we talked about all the usual suspects – breastfeeding, getting out of the house, the difference between gas and a giggle, etc. I found myself saying things like, “Oh, yeah, I had forgotten about that!” and “Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of that soon.” But when the baby made some gurgling noises and my friend said, “You’re so cute! Everything you do is the cutest thing ever!” I said, “That part never changes.”
It’s almost unbearable – how much I love Sam right now. I spend a lot of time just looking at her. I’m finding her to be more and more beautiful as she grows older. I wonder, is that because she really is beautiful, or because she looks like me, or because she looks like Adam, or just because she’s my daughter and I’ve raised her since she was born? I suppose, as another friend wisely told me, it’s all of the above.
When Adam puts Sam down for bed at night, sometimes she’ll run back out of her room to turn off the hall light, and she’ll come into my room (I lie in bed every chance I get right now) to sneak in one last goodnight. For some reason, this is when I see her the most objectively. I’m wrapped up in a TV show or a book and suddenly there is this adorable little person in my doorway blowing me a kiss. Oh my god – is that really her? Is she really that tall, her hair that long, her voice that sweet, her manner that grown up? Then she runs back to her room – because she seems to have forgotten how to walk – and I hear her tiny voice through the wall, talking and singing with Adam. I feel it so strongly at those moments that I have to say it out loud: “God, I love that girl.”
The past six months have been a period of extraordinary growth for Sam. First, she turned an important corner in school. Last year, she fell into the role of “the baby” of the classroom. She allowed the older girls to treat her like a baby (she was the smallest), and she did not act independently. At home, she showed a great deal of independence, taking care of herself and her needs to a great degree, choosing her own clothes and activities, and playing by herself a great deal. But at school, she would not choose a piece of work without first asking the teacher if it was okay. She would not have her snack without asking. She didn’t show interest in learning new things and needed someone to guide her through her day. Sometime early this school year, that all changed. She is finally acting like a Montessori kid at school. She still gravitates towards work that she knows and can do well (this is the personality trait of hers that concerns me so much), but she is making her own choices. She tells me that she actually skips her snack most days because she would rather “choose another piece of work.”
Academically (if you can call anything done at this age academic), Sam has been struggling with her fine motor skills. It’s something of a problem because she hasn’t been able to write her letters or numbers well, and a lot of the school work she is ready for in every other way requires writing. We’ve been working on it a bit at home, and I know her teacher nudges her to focus on those skills. (I like a Montessori teacher who nudges instead of leaving it wholly up to the child.) Just in the past month or so, I’ve seen a huge leap in her writing abilities. Her drawings of faces have become, not only more realistic and “organized” (which I take as a sign of her learning to organize her visual perceptions into something akin to visual concepts), but more precise and neat (which is more about controlling the pen). I think she was a bit slow on both the organization of input and control of output, but both seem to be improving together. As I mentioned recently, she can finally write her name somewhat legibly. And now, she seems to be quickly learning how to write more and more letters and numbers. A few days ago, she was able to write this note in a birthday card. (“Too Natalee From asee Sammee” – asee was her first mixed up attempt at her name.) I guided her hand for the letters “r” and “N” and I helped her sound out “Natalee” but she did the rest by herself:
Sam has gone through a long and intense numbers phase recently, and moved quickly from the early Montessori numbers work up to the stamp game, which involves writing the numerals. I’m not sure if the teachers are helping her with the writing part, but she is doing the stamp game regularly. At home, it shows. We’ve always played games like counting the M&M’s of each color and then adding them to find out how many M&M’s there are altogether. She was hit or miss with this six months ago, but now she seems to really get the concept. She even did a little subtraction a few days ago when one of her butterflies died. She said, “There were five butterflies and then one died, so now there are only four. And when the other four die, there will be zero butterflies. That means none.” Wow!
Intellectually, Sammy has entered some kind of creative period. She is taking ideas and rearranging them now. She can actually make up original stories, which is new. She’s always been big on role-playing with her dolls. She has had them talking to each other and going to the playground and going to sleep and acting out all kinds of situations since she was two. But all of the dialog and the actions had always come straight from her real life, or sometimes from a TV show or movie. And she has never, ever, told a story to me beyond, “Once upon a time, Little Bear went to the water park and went swimming. The end.” And she would only tell that story because I had just told it to her, but with more detail. Basically, she could sum up. Now, she tells me about movies – but they are movies that she has made up in her head. ”Mommy, you know what? There is this movie about a prince. And he goes into the ice and slips and falls. And there is a dragon who comes to save him. And the dragon takes him to the princess and they make cookies and get married and live happily ever after.” At first I thought she saw a movie at a friend’s house that I missed, but she’s told me about a few other movies, and some of them are obviously too kooky to be real. It’s not much of a story, I know, but it’s the first time she has done this.
Her creativity shows in other ways. She has made a few real jokes. I wish I could have captured them, but I lost them in the disorganized mess that is my mind right now. She loves to make up silly rhymes, and some of them are quite clever. I enjoy this a lot, because Adam and I are big on making up songs, and now all three of us can do it together. Even her roughhousing time with her dad is different now. The two of them do a lot of wrestling and tickling and physical goofing around. Adam plays the Big Bad Wolf and eats up Sammy’s belly button, or gobbles up her back saying, “I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs. NEEDS MORE SAUCE.” You know, all that stuff that dads do. The other night, Adam was crawling into the room in a scary way to get Sam and I yelled out, “Look out – the zombie is coming to get you!” After he attacked her and was munching on her belly, she cried out, “Daddy stop! Zombies don’t eat Sammies!” In the past, she might have mimicked something like that, but she didn’t have the creativity to make it up. Now she does stuff like that all the time.
Unfortunately, Sam is less and less cuddly. I’m always touching her and she has to tell me to knock it off. She rarely likes to be in a helpless position, like lying on my chest. She’d rather sit next to me than on my lap. But, she makes up for this by giving me unprompted hugs and kisses and telling me that she loves me. She also says things like, “You are a very, very very, very nice mommy” and “I really, really, really like you, Mommy.” She genuinely thanks me when I do something she appreciates. Her affection is real, and the older she gets, the more that means to me. Maybe she even thinks that every little thing I do is magic, too.