The best bet to get Jet moving is an opportunity to race. This motivator was discovered by chance after a pre-nap story. Jet didn’t feel like visiting the potty as required before starting her nap. “Let’s get going, I said. Papa will be done in his bathroom before you even get started!”
Jet jumped up as if goosed by a jolt of electricity. “I’m going to WIN!” She raced to the bathroom and then to the bedroom. “Lift me up, lift me up!” I put her in the bed and covered her with her blanket. Soon, Papa arrived. “I beat you Papa! I beat you!”
“Yes, you certainly did,” her Papa assured her.
As we blew the required 4 kisses from our fingertips, Jet smiled broadly, “I like to win.”
Jet does indeed like to win and she has discovered that grandparents can be easy targets. When we work on a puzzle together, Jet tries to find the most pieces. She wants to race Papa to the corner on our walks and always, always she wants to beat him to the bedroom for her nap. “Do you think maybe I might win sometime?” Papa wondered.
Jet appeared to ponder this for a moment. “No! No, I want to win!”
The development of a competitive spirit is just one of the many small changes that remind me every day that Jet is growing up too quickly. When she pretends that she is a Disney Princess from the movie Frozen, she must be the blonde ice queen Elsa. Brown-haired Anna is no longer good enough. When did she develop this affinity for glamor? She begs me to fashion the single, Elsa braid in her hair instead of the double Anna braids that are perfectly suited to an adorable little girl.
“What’s wrong with Anna?”
“I want to be Elsa! Now don’t touch my hands – you can only touch my wrists because my hands are too cold!”
“But, I like Anna. She’s very brave! I like her hair too.”
“Well, I like Elsa.”
Jet is also learning to color inside the lines, an accomplishment that has always made me a little sad because it marks the beginning of the end of freewheeling artistic expression. Her pictures of people are more than colorful blobs: they have legs, heads, eyes, arms and bodies.
The most remarkable new developments however are reading and writing. Although I remain firmly convinced that pre-school children have no need of either, the rest of America seems determined to move children into these activities at an early age. So, we play with crayons and flashcards and I try my best to make it fun — which is easier said than done. Writing requires an adherence to form. An upside down “M” just won’t do unless one is trying to make a “W.” A lower-case “A” with the stick on the left side isn’t really an “A.” Jet wants to make her letters her own way. Helping her to understand that everyone needs to make letters the same way is a slow process. I let Jet choose the words she’d like to learn to write. Her first request was “cat.” Soon she wrote cat on every piece of paper she could find. As her mother’s birthday approached she wanted to make a card and write “mom.” With only two letters to learn, I thought it would be relatively easy, but I didn’t factor in Jet’s need to do her own thing. She didn’t enjoy making straight lines, so her letter “M” looked more like a double “D.” If children are still learning cursive when she gets to grade school, I predict Jet will write with a great deal of flourish.
I tried to inspire her to follow my moving finger, to trace over my letters, to connect the dots. I tried to get her to stop midway through the hump and lift the crayon before making the straight line. “That’s not how I like to do it.”
“I know you like to do it your way, but unless the letters are always the same it is hard for someone else to read them.” So we went back to reading our flashcards, one of which is “mom.” “What does this say?”
“That’s right! How do you know it says mom?”
“Because it is!”
“Yes, you know it says mom because it looks like the word mom. That’s because mom always looks the same. You can’t tell that it says “mom” unless it looks like “mom!” I saw the light dawn in her eyes. We went back to the crayons. Jet’s “M” was much improved. She wrote “mom” until her hand grew tired.
Jet’s flashcard vocabulary continued to grow and although she could read a number of individual words she balked when they were laid out in a straight line. Eventually she broke through her mental block and read “big red cat.” I added another word and she read “a big red cat.” Next, “stop a big red cat.” When we had added two more words, Jet understood that she was reading.
“I read that! I can read that!”
“Yes you can! Shall I make a video to send to Mommy and Daddy?”
I laid the cards on the couch and Jet, appropriately attired in her Belle (Beauty and the Beast) ball gown leaned over and placed her finger on each word as she read, “I can stop a big red cat!”