Monday, December 14, 2009

Writing by Numbers

My daughter is four and a half.  I remember being four and a half.  Now I know without a doubt that when I make her cry, someday she will recall and truly be scarred for life.  Aagh!

I had always some compunction about letting my children believe in Santa, because Santa confused the heck out of me when I was a kid.  Yes, Santa is real and you never see him.  And God?  The same.  Only God really is real, and my parents were lying about Santa and...  well, am I alone here? 

Tonight I was lying beside Kate as she drifted off to sleep, and she asked, "Mommy, how does God know what we want?"  And I said, "Well, we ask him when we pray.  He can't always give us what we want, but He always tries to do what's best for us because He loves us."  Of course I got the inevitable response: "Why?"  And I said, lamely, "Well, sometimes what we want isn't good for someone else, so God hears our prayers, but He can't answer them the way we want him to."  And Kate chimed in immediately, "Oh!  Like when when we get mad at each other... we both want different things, and we can't both have them."  Now, this coming from a child who thinks she should ALWAYS have what she wants (and is off the charts in such personality traits as intensity, sensitivity, and negative persistence) -- I was just floored that she grasped this concept.

Perhaps I am deluding myself into thinking that Kate has an unusually vivid imagination, but she told me the other day, "Mommy, I love words.  I love to write."  Ah, just what a writer mommy wants to hear!  Like all her friends, she has also recently developed a keen interest in story. 

This week she asked me why the other reindeer didn't want to play with Rudolph.  I said they weren't being very nice because he was different.  She said, "But he was shining his nose on them, and the light probably bothered them."  Hm.  The next day she was asking me about the words to "Frosty, the Snowman" (which for some reason I can never recall).  Specifically, she wanted to know about his "bloody nose."  I said, "Oh, no, honey, it's a BUTTON nose."  She said, "But that doesn't make sense.  Didn't they know about carrot noses?"  She was also very eager to know what we were doing to celebrate Hanukkah.  (I think she was very interested in the gelt.  I almost bought a dreidel but we are, after all, still eating Halloween candy.)  Recently she defined the word "warm" to me as "hottish/coldish."

These glimpses I get into the thought processes of my daughter -- and my son, and their friends -- are fascinating in that they show me:

1) How much most two-year-olds and four-year-olds are alike developmentally.
2) How little most two- and four-year-olds are like temperamentally.

I watch little kids say the same first words, tell the same knock-knock jokes, become entranced with the same catch phrases ("eyeballs" is a favorite fixation of late, among other unmentionables).  The commonality of human nature is awesome.  The difference between a three-year-old and a four-year-old is equally amazing.  Anyone who is writing for children must, at all times, be keenly aware of this dichotomy.

When I met my future husband, he was teaching fourth grade and was deeply involved in the National Writing Project.  As a former psychology major, I wholeheartedly the idea of teacher research and evidence-based methodology, of embracing what works and rejecting what does not.  As a novice teacher, I am also deeply indebted to their website:

If you haven't visited recently, whether you are a teacher or a writer -- or both -- it's a valuable bookmark to add to your collection.

Gingerbread House - Kate & Jim Ford
($10 Wal-Mart Kit; Memories -- priceless)

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa -- and congrats, Esther!!


1 comment:

pamanmat said...

I remember those days when my boys were that age. But they never would ask any questions about God and praying. Your daughter is very prococious.

We did make cookies and build a gingerbread house, but I did most of it. They were more interested in running and jumping on the furniture. (-: Pam Mataar