Thursday, August 21, 2014

Letter to (Five Year and Four Month Old) Ann Peyton

Dear Ann Peyton,

It's been such a big month up here. We've done lots of fun things. We visited the Lefferts House, which is an old house/museum in Brooklyn and you learned about growing potatoes and making textiles and all sorts of things from years past. We saw Olivia at Union Square Park and we went to a fashion exhibit featuring the dresses of Charles James at the Met twice, because you loved it so. You have fallen in love with Coney Island and your beloved babysitter from home, Claire, came to stay with us for a week. You got to see the Statue of Liberty up close while she was here and I think you found you adored her more than ever. 

 You are so funny, of course without meaning to be. And sometimes it's not even that what you say is funny, it's just the context of a five year old saying it. I had to let my nose piercing grow back because of a keloid and Annie asked me "Momma, where your stud?". Minnie freaked out when she heard about your concern for the "stud".

You have found another way to baby wear. Harness animals (you know, the backpack things with leashes your crazy momma bought before the cross country move) are perfect for five year olds who like to practice attachment parenting with their "babies". You love strapping bunny to your chest and whispering in her ear.

You wore nail polish for the first time that was anything other than pink or red. It was called "Mellow Yellow" and you looked a little hipster, if I'm being frank. I think that's part of it. I think you're going to look a little hipster at times. As long as you still wear smocked things and big bows some. 

A couple of weeks ago Papa asked you if you wanted to stay in Brooklyn. You replied after a few follow up questions that you wanted to stay and continue living here. Your main reason was that Jackson doesn't have the Q-Train (a subway line that passes over and gives a great scenic view of lower Manhattan's waterfront area and the Brooklyn Bridge). Later in the conversation you stated that in several ways this would be easier in "silly world" (where we could of course work things out easier).

Awhile back you were standing in front of a fan with her dress hiked up and the air blowing up it and you asked casually "Do you think when I'm grown people will still call me Annie or is that like sort of a little kid's name?". First of all, for some reason, I think I'll always remember you doing that thing with the fan. It seems a little Old South but also a little Old Brooklyn. Like city people in the 60s or 70s who lived in a big tall building like us without normal air. Mostly I hate not having central air here, but sometimes it's really fun because things like that happen and I can sort of transport myself to a different time. By the way, that whole conversation came about because the Little People call you "Little Girl" and you had finally asked them to call you by your name.

Also, regarding the heat...we were on a SUPER crowded train a few weeks ago and Graves says "put me down, I'm so sweaty". I said "Bud, everyone on this train is sweaty." And this you (extremely dainty chick that you are) go "Am I sweaty?? Sniff my hair, Momma." It was HYSTERICAL. 
  • A different day, this: "Please turn that bath water down. I do not like loud noise in this house when I'm trying to play with Little People." Life with a HSP. I get it, Sweetie. I really, really get it. 

  • Another funny quirk about you is that when you finish a puzzle you absolutely have to take it back apart meticulously, piece by piece. 

The other night I found you asleep under Graves's bed. I'm about ninety percent sure this was y'all pretending they have bunk beds. I'm about a hundred percent sure that if you guys actually did, you'd do everything in her power to get dibs on the bottom bunk. You are getting much braver these days, though. 

A lot of times when we go to the park, you like to stroll Graves yourself in the umbrella stroller. As you say so often "I'm fine with that".

Just a sidenote, but I love having two petite kids. You guys ride all over Brooklyn in the cheap Graco stroller we've had since you were born five years ago. The double is such a hassle on the subway, but you both fit in the single that we bought as part of a travel system when you were an infant. 

Watching you guys play together is always such a wonderful part of my day and I really do try not to take it for granted. The other day at church you had your arms around Graves and you said "I'm farmer Annie and he's my cow that got away".

Another day y'all were playing and you told me"We're doing this thing where just we kick each other really softly. And I'm fine with that." Okay, then. 

You guys were playing "bride and groom" and you let me know that "If this was a real wedding, I wouldn't marry Bud. You can't marry a brother or a sister. You didn't marry Cookie. And, OF COURSE you can't marry your dog".

One of my favorite things in the world is sending you to wake up Graves when his nap is getting too late- "Wake up, little Gravesy Graves". You say it every time and in the sweetest voice. I really need to get a video. I truly think that if a stranger was watching you and had never before seen you two interact, he would know just from this little scenario how much you love him, how well cared for he is by you, and what tenderness you so often evoke in your interactions with your "baby" brother. 

Big, BIG news- you are reading now, piecing together lots of little words and even two and three word phases. It's been one of my very favorite things in my journey as a mother-- teaching you to read. I've loved being there for this and knowing I'm the one who helped her take you initial steps to what I hope will be a lifelong love of words. I so often hear stay at home mothers say that it meant so much for them to see their child's first steps or hear them say their first words. Honestly, and maybe it's that I have a teacher's heart still, this has meant more. It's such a big, big milestone to me and as I said I hope it's the foundation for something much bigger than you can now imagine. 

We've gotten you in the habit of, when you want to ask a question about something (which is very, very often) pointing you toward a book on the subject. Recently you informed me that you'd like me to look at the library for a book about how bananas "work" (i.e. why they turn brown) and about the way your throat feels when you're about to cry.

As has been the case for awhile, you love to spend chunks of naptime working on "art" and "projects". You pictures are getting more and more detailed. You told me the other day, upon presenting a piece of construction paper to me, that "This is a picture of a man thinking about a mouse. And that's a cat chasing a mouse. Did you know that CATS CHASE MOUSES?"

Sometimes you also like to photograph the cat and then edit in hair and jewelry on the iPad. Obviously. 

Recently, Graves peeled a bunch of (cheap) paint off the wall (it happened over multiple instances, don't even get me started). So we put up some of your creations to camouflage it. One large sign (two pieces of construction paper) said "Welcome Miss Claire" and depicted all of the things you wanted to show her- the Q train, the pirate playground, the Children's Museum, the fountain, MonkMonk, and the library. Good thing she's stayed a whole week!

We actually got most of that knocked out. It was interesting to see Claire's perception of you and how you've changed. She, like many others, knew you when you were very tentetive and truthfully, even pretty passive. You were compliant to the extreme. I honestly hoped (and prayed a little) that you'd grow into a bigger personality with stronger opinions and more confidence. Weeeell, I got my wish. You are so stubborn and so bullheaded and sometimes so hard to reason with because you are so sure you are right. But I'm still glad for it. I know it will be much harder for a boy to take advantage of you or for a girlfriend to convince you to sneak out and meet the boys or even for a teacher or other authority figure to exercise control over you in an inappropriate way. 

As I always say, I love watching you grow and mature spiritually. I recently read you a book that is part of a series on the attributes of God. It is called "God is All-Knowing" and after I read it I asked you what you learned. You told me that God knows everything that will happen and I asked you if you could give me an example. You said "Well, God knows right now if me and Bud are going to have a night party tonight. He knows if we'll have enough energy or if we'll be too tired for one." I said "Does that mean God decides if you'll have a night party?" And you said "No, me and Bud get to decide if we will or not, but God knows what we'll choose." I was very proud of those connections. 

A few weekends back, Papa was feeling really under the weather and we were running late. We almost skipped church that night and you cried. I asked you later why you were so upset and you said "Our friends at Calvary-Saint George's would have missed us." At first I laughed to myself and thought it was sort of egotistical. But then I realized it shows two things: 1) You really have a very empathetic spirit and it upsets you think you might be responsible for other people feeling sad or lonely and 2) Our friends there have made you feel loved, welcomed, and valuable. So much so that you know you would be missed if you weren't there. I can't stop thinking about that. Because it's exactly how I feel.

We were reading the Jesus Storybook Bible (which I think you are growing to love as much as I do) and I told you that Jesus is with us during the "storms" of life and explained to you that that means the hard things.
"What are some hard things, Momma?" you asked.

"Well, when you had that parking garage incident and were so upset for several weeks. That was hard and I asked Jesus to help you with those feelings."
"Anything else hard?" you pressed.
"Well, sometimes I really miss Mickey and Minnie a lot."
"Oh....because they *your* momma and papa?" you replied and looked at me so knowingly. 

Sometimes it amazes me because I can SEE how deeply you are processing things. 

Graves was talking about using his tools to help God and you said "Well, Graves ..(you say "Well, Graves..." about fifty times a day and you say it in this very gentle but "hey listen, I'm about to tell ya how it really is" voice). Anyway, "Well, Graves, Jesus was SCREWED to the cross". You then argued with me that it *could* have been screws, not nails. That is you in a nutshell. And it was me in a nutshell at five. 

You are smart and funny and hard headed and exasperating and every day it's a delight to be around you.

I love you,
Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your dress is a 4T and it's one of your favorites. And you were pretending to be a lion. Really it looks more like a "howl" than a "roar", though.

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