The biggest news of the past month is, of course preschool. “Bye Mama! I’m going to school!” Liam says jauntily in the morning, and heads down the stairs to the car with HRH. Sometimes I even get a “See you later!” or “Have a good day!” as he waves up at the living room window and then climbs into the car. His teacher called me after
his first two weeks and gave me the update: they love him, he plays enthusiastically with everyone but has one special girl he absolutely adores ( “I’ve seen love affairs begin this quickly before, but not often,” she said!), his language skills blah blah blah, has a wonderful imagination, eats well, has adjusted well to the structure and directed play as opposed to the completely free play he was used to, is very sensitive and picks up on emotional states very quickly, helps set things up and clean them away, falls asleep at rest time within ten minutes and sleeps well, and so forth. If there’s one thing he has to work on it’s dressing and undressing himself. (Yes, we know, trust us. And we find it odd that out of all the things he could choose to rebel against, it’s pulling pants up and down and taking shoes off.) It took a week or so (and a new pair of shoes one size larger so that he can slip his feet in and out more easily) but he now puts them on and takes them off by himself, and even puts them away tidily by the door. I am always particularly amused when he carefully hangs his cap on the handle of his bedroom door.
He brought home ‘art’ his third day there: a piece of paper with bits of coloured construction paper from the scrap box glued all over it. “I made art!” he said, bursting through the front door. “Put it on my fridge!”
He sang selections from The Sound of Music in bed to me the other night, then patted my face and said “Sing with me, Mama!” So we sang ‘Do Re Mi,’ and ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ (I must learn all the proper words), and ‘Eidelweiss’. Singing in general has increased in frequency, accuracy, and volume. He’ll even sing for other people instead of clamming up when they notice. He tends to sing to himself when we’ve finished a story and our cuddle at bedtime, kissed him, tucked him in, and closed the door behind us. Putting him to bed at home has become much easier, and his midnight wakings have vanished. On average he wakes between six and six-thirty, which is right on time for school mornings.
He has lately been introduced to a 1996 BBC animation of The Wind in the Willows, and absolutely loves it. He has dubbed ‘Concerning Hobbits’ (of The Fellowship of the Ring score) “the Wind in the Willows music”. Sometimes he has an ice cream cone for dessert on the back porch after dinner, and he often brings a book out with him and asks one of us to read aloud while he sits on the deck and eats his treat. One night he asked if we’d read to him and I said that I had something new to share. I brought out my Ernest Shepard-illustrated copy of The Wind in the Willows and read the first half of the first chapter to him. He was spellbound. He has to be in a very quiet mood to listen to a chapter book like this, but we’ve managed to do it once or twice for a few pages so far.
The other film he is obsessed with is Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. We watched it in three or four sittings to make sure he didn’t get overwhelmed by the appearance and behaviour of the various spirits, and he has been asking lots of questions about spirits in general since. “Can you tell me about river spirits?” he asked me in bed one night. “Lots of things?” He plays at being a river spirit in the bath and listens to the soundtrack at night while falling asleep.
When we got the laptop back up and running he went into my office and pulled my chair over to the writing desk. “I’m working, Mama,” he called. I came in to the office to see him confidently tapping away on the keyboard. “What are you working on?” I asked. “I’m writing a message to you!” he said. So I opened Word for him, enlarged the font to something huge he could see very easily, and let him go to town.
Overall I see him growing into a confident and enthusiastic boy, wearing size nine shoes (size nine!), who converses clearly and plays complicated little games, who is ever more capable of handling increasingly complex tasks. The odd whiny/resistant period has almost vanished. I think we timed the preschool thing perfectly; he needed more structure and social-oriented activity than I could provide for him. When we were out shopping one day I heard him say, “quatre, cinq… quatre, cinq,” and I stood there in the middle of the grocery store aisle, staring down at him. “Are you… counting?” I said. “Yes, but there are no more,” he said, waving his hand at the empty space after the sequence of air fresheners he’d been counting. It’s like a miracle: we send him to school, and he comes home counting in French and singing songs I never taught him. It’s just incredible, after being the ones to teach him everything for a while. We love it. And so does he.