Thirty-two Months: The House of Why

Dear Miriam,

You're becoming a 3-year old faster than I can believe. You ask why why why... and why again? You did that continuously for two weeks, but it's eased up a bit lately. I waver between being grateful and worrying that our answers shut down your exploratory impulses. Of course I do.

Starting preschool is the most significant development of late. The second week of school, when I talked about going to preschool and you explained I already went, but now you genuinely seem to look forward to going, you talk about your teachers and have started to talk about classmates, too.

Preschool shook your schedule up, though, and we're only beginning to emerge from those changes. While we bought books and talked it up, in retrospect we should have explained the coming changes to your week, that Mana and Papa and Bubbie would come on different days. With the Labor Day holiday you missed your Mana/Papa day, and you cried inconsolably, head down on the bathroom counter, for ten minutes before you were able to explain that you didn't want to go to preschool, you wanted to see Mana & Papa. When I explained that you would still have your day with them, you were fine, and happily picked out a dress and hairbands and off you went.

Yet the changes clearly had your mind racing. For weeks you'd awake screaming in the night, and throughout the day you'd ask if we were leaving you. There was the landmark night when you insisted that we sit in the chair with two nightlights and a lamp full-on as you fell asleep.

To see you so anxious broke our hearts: Daddy, Mana, Bubbie and Papa and I all worried over you, our good sleeper. Finally you moved back to a place where our presence was a distraction to your sleep, and we've backed down to just two nightlights. We are all so happy to have you sleeping again.

I make your lunch for preschool, something I dread and enjoy in equal parts. I'm not much of a DIYer, certainly not like your clever hooded-towel-and-Halloween-costume-making Mana. But cooking is my creative outlet and I've thought carefully about how to pack a visually pleasing, nutritious and delicious lunch for you. I seem to forget you're still practically a toddler, I can pack your favorites and they come back half-eaten, you subsist on cheese sticks and fruit, and novel for us, chilled milk in your thermos. Your second week of school, I struck out twice, once with homemade salmon onigiri, which you *love* at Ferry Plaza, and the second time with what I thought was a sure-fire hit: orange balls. You gobble up ikura like it's going out of style at restaurants. And soba noodles are a natural accompaniment, right? Some neatly diced melon, a little fork, I'm practically Lunch in a Box here!

But no, the whole thing came back uneaten. I asked you why and you replied, Because I don't like to every day, which is your standard strong response. But a few moments later, as we tooled towards the playground, you piped, The noodles were cold and I don't like them. I don't think anyone with a child older than four can understand how monumental is that sentence. You crossed the chasm from the world of No to the world of Why and you don't seem to be looking back.

The other day on the playground, you and I~ were playing happily when a pack of rabid 8-year-old girls descended on the toddlers on the slide:
MZ: Hey guys, you have to watch out for the little kids
R8YOGs: [Whoosh!]
Round 2
MZ: Hey guys! You have to watch out for the little kids!
8YOG1: Who are the little kids?
MZ: Well, her (pointing to I~ at the bottom), and me!

The girl looked at you for a bit, consideringly, and the group moved off to play elsewhere.

We had a suprise visit from cousin Deborah Freeman (no "d") for Yom Kippur. We told you she would join us for dinner and for services, and as we were getting dressed you announced, I think The Deborahs will like my dress.

These are such leaps in language that we spend a lot of our time looking at each other and nodding in wonder. You are blooming before our eyes, I must admit you are quite a little girl.

And we love you more than we can say,


Ah zen...

When Miriam is telling us a story, or what she wants to do, or reporting on her day, she tells it in bit parts, separated by ah zen... She means and then but like so many of her verbal quirks, we can't stand to correct this one. Ah zen sort of fits her, while she can dig in her heels with the best of us, she's a pretty mellow kid. And she approached her first day of schol with a somewhat unsettling dose of zen.

She didn't shed a tear. She had her Daddy carry her into school, but she walked into her classroom. She seemed nervous for sure, but was willing to be led to a few activities till she found one -- coloring near her old friend Ms. M -- that appealed to her. She seemed most nervous about the other kids who were crying, there were a few of them and they were all on a teacher's lap. I got her settled with paper (pink) and crayons (Just one, Mama, I don't want a yot) while Daddy snapped some photos. At one point, she grabbed my wrist firmly and said quietly, I want you to stay, and my heart broke into a million pieces as I explained in a carefully managed tone that school is for kids and I would see her after lunch. I love you all day long, sweetheart, I said as we stood to exit.

I crammed a lot into those four hours, or at least it seemed like I did because every time I looked at the clock, there was still plenty of time left. I arrived a full quarter of an hour early for pick up. I wasn't the only one, we newbie parents huddled just beyond their windows till we were allowed to go to the classrooms, where we were greeted by kids just as confused as we were about the pick up protocol. MZ was up front, ready to go. She did not smile broadly and run into my arms as she did at Ana's. When they told her to sit down while they got organized, she did so wordlessly and I worried that we had chosen a school that would crush her very spirit. Agh.

The first thing she said to me is These are my new friends, as she waved her hand around the circle, and my heart shattered for the millionth time as I picked her up to go home.

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