Another year is all but over and like everyone, I've been feeling reflective lately. This year, it seems that I have watched my children transform before my very eyes. Children will do that, of course. So I'm writing them a letter each as a way of recording these reflections before we launch into a whole new year. The first one is for Doots... Warning: long, rambling post ahead!
At the beginning of the year, things were not easy for you and me. You were three-and-a-half and causing your mama so much stress. You seemed so unhappy, so unsettled. We were out of synch, and things got ugly for a while.
You were just not inclined to do anything you were asked. Getting dressed often took hours, and was often only achieved by using bribes, distraction and elaborate make believe stories and games.
Once you were a baby who'd happily eat anything, but now your palate would reject anything that was soft or mushy or 'wet'. You needed your food to be crunchy, cold and dry. So raw veggies, crackers, dry toast, plain pasta were the only things you'd allow past your lips. Oh how I longed to nourish you with soup, braised dishes and custard!
Your behaviour was awful. We started to spend more time at home as the thought another melt-down at the supermarket became too much for me to bear. And your fears - of lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, bees, lions, pirates, dinosaurs, dragons, etc. - meant that any accidental encounter with any of these things led to you freezing in fear, refusing to move. Of course, encounters with pirates, dinosaurs and dragons were rare, but they did happen. Usually during storytime at the local library where the child's librarian had rather gruesome taste. We soon gave up on that.
And then half way through the year you turned four. Everything changed. Our fierce three-year-old was replaced with a milder, more even-tempered and more reasonable four-year-old. Incredible. I began to sleep better. This is you with your birthday crown and your birthday cake.
You started to enjoy contributing and having responsibilities around the house.
You sought out new challenges. You loved riding Tambo on our farmstay holiday.
And best of all, you discovered the joy of friendship. Of shared jokes, playmates, someone you know who's there with you at preschool, or swimming, or music class. I love these girls, and I am so grateful to have them in our lives - in your life Doots. They lift you up and teach you about yourself and about humanity.
Yes, 2010 was the year of friendship. Bless your mates little one, and may there be a couple of new special friends waiting for you at kindergarten next year.
It seems you've barely been without a crayon, pastel, pencil or marker in your hand all year. That grip is now a consistent tripod (you'll never believe how many hours I spent worrying about that - was I really concerned you'd grow into an adult who held their pen with a clenched fist?)
You still haven't decided if you're a lefty...
...or a righty. But you'll figure it out. I don't worry about it anymore, even if 'the books' think I should.
This year we saw your first figurative paintings. You were drawing faces and people last year, but using paint and paintbrushes to make representations of things was new. And so exciting to watch. This one is now in a frame on our dining room wall.
You never stop creating, making patterns and things of unexpected beauty with whatever is at hand. Actually you've always done this - and I love it so please don't stop!
And your imagination gives life to everything around you. You add magic to all our days and help us to see beauty in the plain, which is a very special quality. My dear friend Sarah McC has this quality too and it was the first thing I noticed about her. I love her for it.
You started to read a little bit this year. You can recognise a few words like the, as, my, this, for, is, in, and, dad, mum, cat. So exciting - I know you're going to love reading when it all starts to fall into place. I'm really looking forward to watching you learn a skill that will keep you company your whole life.
And writing! You surprised me with this Santa letter. I was amazed!
You've overcame lots of your fears. Early in the year year I couldn't turn on the vacuum cleaner (I took that as a fair excuse not to use it very much!) Just last week you were begging me to let you vacuum your room. And you chose this ride at the show - I was surprised. It goes up up up so high. You used to be scared to climb up to the top of a slide. You hopped in the plane, held on. You were determined to endure enjoy it. Well done Doots. I love seeing you challenge yourself. It's what makes us grow.
You played at the beach and loved the water. But you detested swimming lessons till the very last. I'm impressed that you participated, with only a few poolside tantrums.
But I think we'll give swimming lessons a miss next year. You'll have enough on your plate with kinder and I want us to focus on fun next year. So I'm going to listen harder: to you, and to my own instincts. So, more salt, less choline.
More smiles, more creating.
And this year, you fell in love with your brother. Oesch's first year was so difficult for you - I really underestimated the impact of a new baby sibling in your life and although we thought we'd prepared you - I realise now that nothing could have prepared you. It was your experience and you had to go through it your own way. Sometimes, you do things the hard way (funny, I remember my dad saying the same thing to me once or twice).
But this year Oesch became your buddy, your partner in crime, your student, your teacher, your friend. He makes you brave, he makes you laugh and he shows you how to be exuberant sometimes. You teach him gentleness, respect for all creatures and lots of new words. I couldn't be happier about how our year turned out.
I love you Doots. How much? So so so so so so so so so so so so much (as you would say).