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May 2017

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'Tis the season of summer holidays. When I was a kid I would have been shocked and horrified at the fact that these poor European kids only get 5-8 weeks of summer holiday each year, compared to my 10-12. Now that I'm a parent, though, and working too, even the five weeks that Sophie got seemed to stretch for an eternity on the calendar. (There is the downside of having started her so promptly in Montessori kindergarten - if we'd kept her in nursery, we would have been able to continue until autumn 2015 in this blissful independence from the school calendar. Alas.)

We are past the high-water tantrum age of Three And A Half by a couple of months now, and the frequency, length, and intensity of the tantrums has been markedly diminishing. They're not totally gone yet, and I don't know how long it will be until they are, but things are not nearly so hard as they were in, say, April. Sophie is still an intense kid with intense feelings and a lot of energy, but it's clear that she is working hard on trying to get a grip on all of those feelings, even if she is still entirely in thrall to all that energy.

The summer holidays have been a little bit of a trial for us all - Mummy and Daddy because there is that much less time in the day (and that much more expense) to spend on our jobs, and Sophie because it is a major disruption to her routine and she is still plenty young enough for that to be a really big deal. It's obvious that she would be happiest if she had me to play with on demand all day every day, and it was pretty clearly confusing and annoying to her to have to go to the child minder (though she likes C very much!) when there was no school and so why should there be work?

We did take a real proper holiday during this time, to France to be with the rest of Mike's family for a week. (Maybe next year we'll extend it to two weeks, even.) Sophie got to spend all that time with her cousins, who are 12, 9, 5, and 1; the dynamics were sometimes good and sometimes bad (as one might expect) but all in all she had a good time there. The owners of the place we were renting also live on site, and have two girls ages 4 and 6, so Sophie sometimes had one or both of them as playmates as well. She is starting to really be of an age when she cares about playing with other kids, much to Mummy's relief. She also got to go bouncing on a trampoline, trying out different bicycles, "swimming" with water wings in the pool, running around inside & out, and basically having all sorts of adventures.

Still, she was fairly clingy for much of the week and has been for much of the summer, really. Her new phrase for looking for us is "I (don't|didn't) want to have to miss you!" How can a parent resist a line like that?

The trip to France also involved a seriously long car journey, which was split over two days on each of the outbound and return. I wasn't present on the outbound trip (which no doubt added to the clinginess) but I was there for the return, and Sophie coped about as well as she possibly could with the indignity of being stuffed in the car for so many hours and not getting nearly as much time as she would have liked running around at rest areas. There was a nasty moment after the first leg of the journey back when, tired and grumpy and mad at ONLY having had SIX rides on a merry-go-round in a strange new town, she decided that the thing to do was to run away...STRAIGHT INTO THE ROAD FROM BETWEEN TWO PARKED CARS. That could have *so* easily been a seriously nasty accident that it still threatens to give me nightmares to think about. At any rate Sophie learned a new pitch at which Mummy can scream.

But she held it together for the rest of the ride. There were a few minor tantrums after we got back, though we seem to be reasonably reliably able to end them after 15-20 minutes or so. At the end of this week we took another shorter overnight trip to visit some friends having their holiday on the Bodensee, with a Brand New Big-Girl car seat since she was obviously on the verge of outgrowing her old one on the trip to France. That involved another swimming adventure, another set of kids to play with, and another unfamiliar room to sleep in and strange people and circumstances, which she alternately loved and hated. There was another tantrum Friday morning, when after having had to stay in bed for nearly an hour past when she wanted to go and play (which she dealt with impatiently but gracefully enough) she was barred from rummaging through the toys kept in another bedroom full of sleeping children. The indignity. At any rate, what with the touchiness and mood fragility, we came home a few hours earlier than we had intended to on Friday, in order to give Sophie some good quality time at home for the weekend.

I have to say, I have never seen a mood improve so dramatically. We've all been home (except for a shopping trip) since midday Friday, and Sophie has been playing her heart out, sometimes intensively with me, sometimes on her own, being generally cheerful and holding her mood together even when she was desperately tired and grumpy and sick of our shit (as it were.) She's also showing alarming signs of understanding and acquiescing to rules and limits, over the last couple of days - things like telling me when a TV show is over when I said it would be the last one she could watch, or asking if quiet time was over yet and going back into her room cheerfully when I say "10 more minutes", or saying she was too tired to help tidy up before bedtime but doing it anyway! I don't know whether to rejoice and celebrate or whether to assume it's some sort of mirage or trick!

There's one more week before school starts again, and I'm actually really looking forward to seeing how the next school year goes. Under normal circumstances (i.e. without the whole "moving across town and not wanting to have a new nursery for 8 months only" thing) Sophie would have been starting Montessori kindergarten now rather than last December, but since she has been there for months, there will be kids both newer and younger than her who she can boss around show the ropes. I think this will have a huge positive effect on her actually obeying the rules herself!
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