Monday, January 27, 2014

The Big Kids

I've noticed that when I say "the kids" I mean "Landon and Claire" and not Cora. And the other day when I heard a woman in barre class say she had 3 kids, my first thought was, "wow, that's a lot!" before I remembered that wait, I also have 3 kids. In my mind, it's just 2 kids and a baby and that doesn't seem like so much. The big kids are easy and the tiny one is only awake for 25% of the day- right now, life is pretty easy and we have a good rhythm going. So of course we're going to screw it up and drive to Colorado next week for our much anticipated ski vacation and then I'll go back to work the day after we return.

But we'll ignore that for now and check in with the big kids.

Landon is 6.5 and very much his own self- Claire is still an extension of us to some extent, but Landon is his own man. He loves to be outside (in the blurry picture below we were exploring a secret hiking trail off the side of one of our favorite parks), loves to run, ride his bike, play basketball, and run some more, LOVES to write, loves to read, and continues to love other kids in a social ringleader butterfly way that baffles and amuses JP and me. If we're at a playground, Landon will start a game (usually a convoluted form of tag) and before you know it, everyone is playing. He explains the rules to kids as they join and we often hear him tacking on, "and this is my sister Claire. She doesn't usually follow the rules, but that's okay, we just keep playing."

Below is an example of one of his writings. When he's not outside, holding Cora, or creating marble runs, he's sitting in the playroom writing stories. He won't show them to us until they're finished and then he just drops them unceremoniously on the kitchen counter before going back to write more. We try to go back over them with him and write corrected spellings under some of the words, but you can always figure out what he's trying to say and we love getting a little glimpse into his creative 6-year-old mind.

He's quite prolific. These are the stories he wrote last Wednesday evening after I picked him up from after-school care and before we ate dinner. All of his stories involve animals and most have their birthday at some point in the narrative.

He remains one of baby Cora's biggest fans and is always looking to help. He also requested additional boy babies as soon as possible, which is not happening, though he would be an excellent eldest child of a large gaggle of siblings. On Saturday, I was passing through the living room and looked down at Cora in her monkey bouncer (it's growing on her) and wondered, what's that thing sticking out of Cora's head? I paused to investigate and saw that it was Landon's beloved seal lovey and fuzzy blanket. "See! She's so happy!" he exclaimed when I looked around for an explanation.

I think she mostly looked confused at why there was a seal growing out of her head, but it was very thoughtful.

Six has been an interesting age for us. On the one hand, he's still very much his sweet, generous self, particularly with Claire and Cora, and the transition to Kindergarten has been no transition at all. But on the other, in the last few months we've seen him get worked up over things that he previously probably wouldn't have even noticed and certainly wouldn't have cared about. And when he gets worked up, it's hard to bring him back down. I admit this is in part because JP and I just don't really know how- ages 1 through 5 were so blissfully easy for us with him. He was the mellowest of toddlers and kids and tantrums were rare and over clear things we could often simply explain to him, and then if that failed, sending him to his room to calm down always worked quickly. We just didn't have to work very hard with him- in our mental list of things to do, his name just always had a check by it, allowing me to focus on the next household item or that good book I'd just downloaded, and now when he gets upset over something that so greatly surprises me and nothing I say or do makes much of an impact I worry that I/we didn't expend enough effort getting to know him up until now. He made it easy, so we took it easy, and now when he flips out because I say he can't have a snack before dinner, even though he's never allowed to have a snack before dinner and he stomps his foot and bars his teeth and yells indecipherable sounds, I kind of just stare at him like I've never seen him before, because I feel like I haven't, and then I'll send him to his room to calm down because I'm in the middle of cooking dinner and he doesn't calm down on his own- I still hear him making random yelling noises and saying "I'm just SO BAD" and I think, where on earth is this coming from? We've never called him bad- he isn't bad, like ever, except kind of right now, but I didn't say that, and what the hell? And later, when he's back to his normal self and we try to talk about it, I feel like I can't reach him. Or I don't know how, because I never had to learn before so I didn't try and I let him and Claire be very much their own little unit while I did my own thing and now he's 6.5 and I worry about that. And then later, when we're reading books together or playing games or on a bike ride, that all seems so ridiculous I wonder how I could have thought it. But sometimes, I do. So like I said, six has been interesting. Mostly so very good, with the super fun reading and writing and general big kidness, but also a bit confusing, for us all perhaps.

~ ~ ~

Clairebear is 3.5 and remains everything I've ever written about her before- funny, smart, FIERCELY affectionate, fierce generally, fast and physical, loving and lovable.

She kicked my butt in memory the other night, but she is the most gracious of losers during our new nightly Uno games ("Oh good job Daddy! You are the winner!" then "Good job Yandon! You are the SECOND winner!" and then "Good job Mommy! You are the NEXT winner! Oh, and I am not the winner this time."). She loves playing board games and card games before bed, loves reading stories together on the couch, loves sharing the stroller with Cora on our long family walks- loves anything and everything the whole family does together. She loves her Yandon and will play with him for hours, but there is nothing Claire loves more than doing something that involves all 5 of us together in a small space. 14 hour car ride to Colorado next week? Pure bliss as far as the Bear is concerned.

She is very into the fact that she's a big sister. She has started calling Landon "brother," something she'd never done before, and anytime she does anything remotely impressive (and it's a low bar) she announces loudly, "I can do ___ because I'M A BIG SISTER NOW!!!". Putting on her shoes? Big sister now. Brushing her hair? Big sister now. Getting dressed in the morning? Big sister. Never mind that she did every one of things before Cora's momentous arrival, she is all about her big sister status.

She has a bit of deviltry in her. She pokes at Landon because she can and she will often maintain eye contact with one of us and do the exact thing we just told her not to do, but she takes her timeouts and other punishments in stride, at least when she knows she deserves it. If you punish her when she thinks she was acting properly she drops to the floor like her heart is broken and will never be fixed. Until 2 minutes later when it is and she wants to know what we're having for dinner. She is so many things, but she is almost always making us laugh, even if we're holding it in because we're trying to be stern.

At 3 Claire's world is still quite simple- she's got all her basic skills well mastered and she can just focus on the delights around her every corner. She announces everything that she sees, experiences, or knows is about to happen in a voice nearly breathless with excitement. This morning, she snuck into our room while JP was trying to get the kids out the door for school, walked over to my side of the bed where I was half hiding under the covers in a cloud of Nyquil and she said in a soft and reverent voice, "Mom, did you know that today is Monday and I am wearing my pink shoes?!!" Like her whole day was made, right there. Then I got six kisses, several questions about why I was still in bed and what we were having for dinner, and then, as she heard JP yelling for her, she shot her eyebrows up and said "Oopsies! Gotta go mom, love you SO MUCH!" and raced out, closing the door again behind her. And I stayed in bed in my haze of cold medicine and thought, I adore age 3.


  1. About Landon. I'm going thru the same thing with my 13 year old twins. My daughter is more challenging. Of course, my experience is called teen angst. Yippee. Landon has more freedom than he did in his toddlerhood especially when he's at school, even with it's structured setting and the playground. Perhaps he's testing limits? I'm sorry I have no solid advice to give. But sometimes it helps to know that what you're experiencing isn't so unusual. Hugs momma!

  2. Wow, Landon's writing is fantastic! I have a 6 year-old Kindergartner (turned six this month), and she is also writing a lot, and is at the top of her class, but he far surpasses her skills. The one thing that her teacher told me that I pass on (and is just one philosophy, so do what you want with it), is to not correct her spellings, but to just let her build her confidence in writing. For my daughter, this was paramount; like me, she's a perfectionist, and if we try to correct her spelling she burst into tears and shuts down. If she asks if it is right, we're supposed to say, "It's perfect Kindergarten spelling... your wrote it exactly like it sounds."

    Also, she got this for her birthday, and loves it... seems like it would be a perfect gift idea for Landon...

    And seriously, I've said it before, but I'll say it again... can we do an arranged marriage of the two? ;)

  3. Great post about the big kids! Not sure if you were seeking advice (I'll guess not, but when did that every stop anyone...;) ), but one book that I've heard recommended over and over again is How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It might be a good resource to get you through this new stage with a big kid. I'll definitely turn to it when needed, but for now, we're all doing really well with the lessons we learn from Daniel the Tiger: "When you're feeling mad, and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to 4." I love 2.

  4. I kinda fell in love with Claire after this post especially. Her reaction to losing makes me want to give her a Nobel Peace Prize. You know, if I had that kind of power :)

  5. Landon sounds exactly on schedule for a six and a half year old. That half part is important. I can't recommend too highly the books by Ames and Ilg, in this case "Your Six Year Old; Loving and Defiant". They really got me through my kids changes and they stress that half year (especially in the even years) when kids start flailing as they enter the next stage. Some of the social stuff is very dated but its so relieving to see that your kids are just normal and so are you. You didn't miss something in Landon.

  6. Omg I have missed so much! Got some major catching up to do :)

  7. You adore age 3! LOL.
    I LOVE Landon's writing. So awesome.
    Ever read "Happiest Toddler on the Block"? It has this weird caveman analogy but the basic point is, when your kid has a tantrum, restate what they're saying and how they're feeling with exactly the same emotional intensity that they're showing. "YOU ARE SO ANGRY. It's NOT FAIR that you can't watch TV." I think this works well with just about anybody -- when I did lots of mediation in law school, this is basically what we did to defuse angry grown-ups too.

  8. Just wanted to echo "You adore age 3! LOL." It's been utterly terrible for us so far. It wasn't with Becca. What can you do.

  9. You are getting alot of advice here, but I just want to pile on anyway...because of course I think I have the magic answer...kidding....

    OK - #1 I would highly recommend buying some "rainbow loom" rubber bands for your road trip and teaching the kids how to make the 2 kinds of bracelets you can make easily on your fingers. I'd bet they could master it, and from personal experience, this is an excellent passer of the time and something I'd bet your kids would love because it involves making things that you can give away to your friends.

    #2 It sounds to me like Landon is dealing with being a perfectionist. This is a common thing, especially in kids who are accustomed to being ahead of their peers. Maybe his wild over-reaction to being told "no" has some elements of feeling like he made a mistake by even asking (as clearly this rule is something he knew before) and then is beating himself up for the percieved failure. I am willing to bet that this sounds really far fetched to you as you are reading it, but give it some time and look at each little fit in the light of "is he mad at me, or just really mad at himself and taking it out me because I'm here?" See how he responds to to other mistakes...specifically in areas that he thinks he should have mastered vs things he is just learning. That feeling of messing up can quickly turn into feeling out of control, which is scary at his age, of course, especially if he can tell that you feel a little out of control too.

  10. Yay board games are some of my happiest memories. I know they will be for your little ones too!

  11. Is it possible Landon is hungry? I'm asking because you mentioned the snack thing. My 8 year is a BEAR when he is hungry. Can he have bigger snack when he gets home from school or an hour before dinner? Just a thought.

  12. I was also about to go look up Ames and Ilg, because we bought those books for EACH year. Their theory of balanced and unbalanced half-years was dead on. It is so reassuring, too, when hour kid sudden!y does something weird or unexpected (like suddenly objecting to having her hair parted on the left, even though it's always been that way, and going into meltdown
    mode if you remind her of that-- you are WRONG and probably evil, too. This actually happened to a friend of mine!) Our beloved pediatrician suggested this series and it was very useful. Of course, this was before the internet and you couldn't find someone to ask about night terrors in the middle of the night!

    Lisa M.