Friday, June 26, 2015

Letter to (Six Year and One Month Old) Ann Peyton

Dear Ann Peyton,

This might be a kind of lengthy letter. I'm way behind and Papa did your letter for April for you birthday but ALOT happened the month prior to your sixth birthday and the month of it and I wanted to share some more specific details from March and April. So here we go! 

March and April were our last two months in New York (we actually moved home the last day of April). We had SO many adventures those two months and experienced even more new things. We went to a Chinese New Year celebration at The Met, we made one last trip to Coney Island once it got (barely) warm enough, we visited the Bronx Zoo for the first time. Birds are a big fascination for you right now and at the zoo you were able to see two bird exhibits, including an impressive birds of prey exhibit which I'm pretty sure is a fairly unique zoo experience (one of the birds happened to be one of yours and Graves's all time favorite creatures, an Andean Condor- something I never imagined getting to show you guys in person). It was an AMAZING day! We ventured out to Long Island to spend the day with friends and made a trip to The Museum of the American Indian since that culture is of huge interest to you. 

We also spent some days inside the apartment just enjoying each other's company. On several cold days that didn't feel much at all like Spring you and Graves made cookies with Papa. It snowed the first day of Spring and we stayed in and read lots of books, did some math lessons, and made our own volcano

Cookie and Conrad visited in March and that was just the best. 

We made several trips to The Met and The Museum of Natural History before our memberships expired. The Met is typically not my favorite museum. Papa always talks to you and Graves about artistic techniques, which is just not my thing. But on one of our last visits you and I were back in Contemporary and Modern today and we started talking about the *meaning* of the pieces. We talked about this bizarre hand and how Surrealists liked to portray irrational things (like a hand with no body attached to it) sometimes. I explained what that meant and asked you to come up with an example you could draw or make with Play Dough. You said "a zebra making pancakes". I showed you a beautiful pastoral paintings and told you about modern artists who were influenced by a desire to escape their chaotic, urban surroundings and I asked you to think of a place where a city girl can run free ("Prospect Park, Momma!") and what a great feeling that is. It was a very special trip. 

Another item on our agenda before moving home was another something off your NYC bucket list. You had let us know many times that you'd like to spend some time riding as many of the trains that go outside as possible. The J is almost totally elevated (as opposed to being below street level in the tunnels) and it was a tri-borough affair. We rode it from Downtown (Manhattan), all across Brooklyn, and into Queens! I enjoyed the bird's eye view of different neighborhoods myself! We also rode several other "outside" trains. 

With the exception of one lesson that required an already packed measuring cup set, we finished math. And just like that Kindergarten (Round 1) was in the books. (We had finished English months ago.) Educating you this past year has been one of the most interesting, fulfilling, and joyful things I've done in my mothering journey so far.

Now that I've told you about some of your magical experiences from the past couple of months, I need to tell you about YOU (which, I always say mothering you and Graves is by far my greatest adventure). 

First of all, I don't think you've ever looked more like a Herrington than you do at six. I know we've been saying from day one that you're yourr papa's twinkie, but it's even more obvious these days. Actually, in my opinion, you look just like a six year old version of Papa's sister, Aunt Elizabeth. I also see Grandpa Randy a bit in yourr sweet face. The funny thing is- and I say this often- while you resemble Papa and Graves looks more like me- the parallels are the exact opposite with your personalities. One of my favorite recent examples: you were telling me about a costume and you didn't want to put part of it on yourself. You said "One is because it's hard for me to reach the back and two is because the velcro pulls my hair". I told you that I loved when you gave me more than one reason because it showed me that you were really thinking. You said "oh, what are some ones not from today?". This is so funny to me I have a friend who teases me all the time because any time she says something about her own personality, a tendency of mine, a characteristic of one of her children, or really an other general reflection or observation she makes she knows I'll demand an example. We are so alike! 

There are some special things I want to remember about you in our last months in Brooklyn. One small thing I think I'll always remember you coming right to the edge of the hall so you'd have enough light to look through your books and then falling asleep there.

You are getting so big and strong. One morning we were trying to catch a bus and you walked/ran HALF A MILE in snow boots. I can't remember what it was, but Papa said your pace was good for a healthy adult. I was so very proud of you. 

You are also getting very stubborn. You did NOT want to have your hair washed in the bath one night and Papa told you that was fine, he'd wake you up right before he went to bed. Right after two in the morning. And he did it. You were all smiles and fell right back asleep. Most painless hair washing in probably four years. We actually did it that way for awhile. 

One thing that drives me NUTS is when adults talk to kids and they ask a million questions and don't give them time to answer. I know their intention is so sweet and I appreciate them acknowledging you guys. And I get that waiting for an answer can feel awkward. Anyway, this woman asked you awhile back what kind of dinosaur your toy was. You said "she's a stegosaurus". Then she asked if she had a name "Is it Jane? Mary? Ellis? Linda?...oh, does he not have a name?" When she FINALLY stopped talking you looked her directly in the eye (something you're not always great about) and said "Yes ma'am, she does have a name. Her name is Steggie". It was so good to see a combination of polite and assertive from you.

It's so very wonderful watching you come into your own. We found a new playground before we left NYC. It was in Central Park and it's themed after "the ancients" as it's right by the Egyptian wing of The Met. I think it's one of the coolest we found. Also: at the playground some older boys asked you and Graves if they wanted to play tag. There was a long pause and then you put your hands on your hips and loudly said "No thank you!". You reminded me of one of those dorky kids in the movies, but it was precious. You talked to Papa after that and decided you did want to play, after all. But you told us "I'll give it a try. But if I don't like it, I don't have to keep playing".

Dinosaurs and (present day) animals are still your favorite. 

One day awhile back you took the end of my nightgown that you were wearing and wrapped it around the leg of your bed and told me it was your prehensile tail.

You also told me another day that "The dinos are using good manners and sitting on their babies- they're incubating them like birds do" (I was thinking "how is this MANNERS?") Then you said "They said 'Come on, I have to sit on you, so I won't take up much room'...that's also good manners for the train". Worlds collide- subway etiquette and Kindergarten zoology combine for the win.

Steggie (the plastic dinosaur) is still just about your absolute favorite thing in the world. You told me recently that "Steggy's grandfather is a Spit Triceratops. He lives in the desert where there's not much rain so he has to drink his own spit."

Steggie also went to "The Pink Hat Store" in our apartment back before we moved. You made her some hats and boots out of play dough. You tried one on her and said "Ahh, that looks AMAZING!" I asked you if her shoes were for the rain because we see dogs here in little rain boots constantly. You looked at me like I was nuts and said "They're just to be fancy!". Then you saw me getting ready to Instagram the picture and I got to a paticular filter and you gasped. You said it looked like a candle was shining on Steggie and oohed and ahhed so I obviously had to use it. You make me laugh.

Birds are your new fascination, though. You were so sad when we finished up the massive section on birds in this big library book we got on animals. (Honestly, I was pretty relieved.) You told me that you just loved birds and how beautiful they are (you're very observant of real ones in nature, too) and that maybe we could get a book about just birds next because they are some of your favorite creatures. Bless yourr heart. A few pages after the end of the bird section, you stopped me mid page and asked if I could save reading about the warblers until tomorrow. [This is also a relatively recent peculiar quirk- you also love to save part of your lunch. Most every day I put a plate with a small slice of cheese, a fourth of a sandwich, or some plantain chips in the fridge and add your dinner to it. You also will ALWAYS only eat half an Oreo and save the rest. I hear things like: "Did you remember my other things-like my cornflakes and my seaweed?" Wish I had your self-control!]

Awhile back we had this conversation: AP: "I can't have a pet bird because the kitties would eat it, right?" Momma: "Yes" AP: "What if it was a pet eagle?" Momma: "It would eat the cats". There was no way to win that one, Girlfriend.

You and Graves are the best buddies, of course. You told me one night right before you fell asleep: "Graves decided he wanted to play in his bed and he let me play with him. Then I realized we needed some rest. He said I could stay and sleep beside him". (Then he started snoring and you left for your bed- you're so not a snuggler.)

One day he was being mischievous and put his underwear in the (wet) bathtub and you told me "I was able to to make sure he didn't get my panties, but I couldn't catch him before he snuck away and got his underwear".)

It's always fascinating to hear your take on things. You asked me "Why does Papa's carmel apple suckers have just one kind and Dum Dums have lots of different flavors?....I think because Dum Dum brand wants kids to have more choices." Well then. 

You crack me up. I've been having more headaches than usual lately, but I had mostly been attributing it to "April Showers" and stress. Then recently, I've started being super tired in the afternoons and taking power naps alot of days. I was kind of getting worried because a lot of times it had been after I got a good night's sleep. I told Papa I was scared something was really wrong with me. He told me he wasn't worried and then one day he was like "hey, does that allergy medicine I got last time not bother you at all- like no drowsiness? That's weird". So that was reassuring. 
Until that evening at church. You were telling someone about yourr day (or really yourr days, it was clear she was talking about her routine in general) and you mentioned naptime. The girl goes "So, did you have a good nap today?" And you says "Oh, I never really nap anymore. Actually, Graves and I both just play. Momma is the only one that sleeps." I was MORTIFIED and hoping you wouldn't mention how I love to doze while y'all watch your two shows and eat breakfast (which I first get up and fix, of course) every morning. Lest the chick think I was like some kind of drug addict or something.

Oh! My first effort in free range parenting: you loved to go up and down the stairs at our apartment. Graves hated to. For the last month in Brooklyn, you went up and down the two flights of stairs by yourself while we took the elevator up or down two floors. I did it (nervously) the first time and told Papa and he was SO proud. [Of both of us. But me mostly.]

The move did bring some Big Feelings to the surface. You had two screaming fits in one day leading up to the move.  You're a child given to a lots of intense emotion, but at this point, that's a bit much even for your. Several of our precious TGC friends told us that very morning that they were praying for the transitions we were experiencing. And we had a GREAT conversation with you about what transitions are and how we can deal with them in a healthy way.

I have, for awhile, watched you use one of your greatest strengths-your imagination- as your most prominent tool for dealing with sadness or anger. Today I watched you use it for dealing with fear and worry. You told me and Pap that "Steggie" (your toy dinosaur) had moved TWICE today (each move occurring within her room) and that she had a special person called a "Checker Becker" who comes and makes sure she didn't leave anything behind at a particular place. It was more than obvious to us that leaving something behind is a fear you were trying to process. And I was so proud of your creativity and intelligence. As an aside, I remember the first time I cried because I was afraid you had anxiety like me- it was the Christmas you were three years old and didn't want to take any of her new Little People on a trip because you were so terrified of loosing them. I am so, so very proud of how far you've come in these three years, Sweetheart. 

You are a tough cookie, though. Papa and I upset you one night with a conversation about how you'll be sharing your clothes with our next child (if we have another one) and it ended up turning into a general conversation about the value our family culture places on sharing. After the conversation, you showed us you were upset by coldly ignoring us. You did a great job of being obedient and responding when it was a safety issue or concerned respect or some other things we require. However, when Papa complemented you and offered you a fist bump or when Graves tried to make conversation, you totally ignored them. You moved your plate across the room and avoided Graves- all very quietly. It seemed weird and not really age appropriate for a six year old. The teenage years are going to be ROUGH with you, I have a feeling. 

Sometimes, I have so many "Share, dammit!" moments, I forget why I'm even trying to teach you guys what I'm trying to teach y'all. Which, most importantly in this case, is thinking of others before themselves. Our last weeks in the city, with such a limited amount of "stuff" (it had mostly all been shipped home), I saw clearly that my muddled efforts haven't been in vain. You were looking around at Target for some candy to spend the last of some birthday money on. You picked up some Oreos and I asked you if that was what you wanted. She got a funny smile on your face and said "They're for you- I was going to suprise you". You and your brother are; like all children; very, very far from being perfect. But you are amazing humans and it's a privilege to know and love y'all. 

I had a sort of tough day with the you and Graves one day (moving is no joke, moving without Mick and Minnie is ROUGH). I overheard you telling Graves "You know no matter what you do, Momma will NEVER ever stop loving you. I mean, she will NEVER." I was simultaneously so happy that you know that and so sad that you felt like she needed to tell it to him.

The last thing- I have to tell you about the actual move, like the drive home. You and Graves were FANTASTIC. We spent fifteen(!!!) hours in the car today without any movies (because dumb momma was dumb and shipped them all ahead to Mississippi), limited snacks when we were actually driving (because we're in a rental), and a pretty small amount of toys (because we purposely didn't keep much in BK when we shipped our other stuff). Very little fussing and complaining and shockingly we didn't hear much from the kitties either. You guys are so much more flexible than I was as a little girl. Honestly, y'all are often more flexible than I am at almost thirty. I'd love to take credit for parenting practices that encourage this, but more than that I think it's your sweet spirits and God's good grace.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your literature tee (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble!) is a 6/7 and your gingham "shorts" are actually a romper that's a 5T. 

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