Friday, August 01, 2014

The Days These Days: Six Years Old

She still wakes up early. Our official deal is that she has to be quiet until at least 5:40. Her dad helped her write out the numbers on a slip of paper and they taped it up near her digital clock, but still, my daily alarm clock is a plaintive call, "Is it 5:40 yet?" I have no idea what time this happens, because that cry means one thing to me: roll over and go back to sleep for another hour.

But sometime around then, Cleo does get up, gets herself dressed, and makes her bed. The arrangement is that she makes her bed every day but Sunday, when she gets the day off. Many weeks, she forgets it's Sunday and makes her bed anyway. I try not to reveal how charming and amazing I find all of this. I can't remember making my bed until (maybe) college, and probably not even then. I was a slovenly child.

Once her bed is made and she's dressed (current rules: colorful, stretchy, not too tight, no jeans, no "floppy" pant-legs or sleeves, and never, ever anything corduroy), she often goes upstairs to her dad's office, where he's been working since four. He does this so that he can get some work done early, which lets him quit earlier for family time. He knows how charming and amazing I find all of this. She sometimes draws with him up there, or plays with his collection of plastic monsters. She loves being with him At Work.

At some point, they come downstairs and make breakfast. These days, it's oatmeal or rice and eggs or sometimes eggs and toast, which she swears up and down she will eat if he cooks it, and then eats only her favorite fify-five percent of: the liquid yolk, the buttery middle of the toast, a few thin scraps of white from around the edges. By the time I show up, it'll be a congealing yellow disk next to a crescent moon of nibbled crust.

Once his breakfast is eaten and hers is being picked at more and more slowly, he makes me a coffee and brings it to me in bed. I'm somewhere between partly and mostly awake, and the coffee finishes the job.

I come downstairs a bit before seven and have my ritual First Hug of the Day. Cleo is no longer the endurance snuggler she used to be, but she's still attached to regular brief check-ins, and her absolute favorite thing is the Silly Snuggle, wherein I tickle her, throw her around, and make goofy noises while she laughs hysterically. If it were up to her, we'd do that for a solid hour every morning. Poor thing gets ten minutes every couple days.

I eat my breakfast, which often involves her leavings, and then call her over for a hairdo. Her hair is getting longer (shoulder-length now, with irritatingly nose-length bangs). Her choices include the side/top braid, the side/top ponytail, two bunches, one ponytail, or just two barrettes. She generally picks whichever hair style takes the least brushing, while I encourage her toward something that will stay in for longer than forty minutes, depending on the day's activities.

These days are summer days, which this year means swim lessons. She has a balance of caution and bravery that's served her very well on the playground (cartwheels, monkey bars, rope-climbing), but when it comes to the water, her cautious side wins every time. She would happily swim all day as long as she never had to get wet above her neck, and at least one foot was always safely on solid ground. She's making glacial progress. But certainly better than nothing, and definitely better than me-- I was of the one-foot-on-the bottom school until I was at least eight.

Often, if the day is hot and one or all of us is wiped out, someone will suggest Quiet Time after lunch, which is the vestigial nap time. If it's a weekday, Cleo can have an hour with an audio book in her room, and listens fairly enthusiastically to Pippi Longstocking, Wind in the Willows, Noisy Village, Beatrix Potter, Rabbit Hill, Mrs Piggle-Wiggle or Little House in the Big Woods while she draws or colors. Her vocabulary has really blossomed, thanks to this. Some recent requests for definitions: searchingly, wild-eyed, philodendron, and heedless (I admit it: I am a big nerd and I love this). On the weekend, she can have a (cue dramatic music) Video Quiet Time! This means an hour of Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, or Peppa Pig on the iPad. Not so vocabulary-enriching, but so fun! What a treat!

Cleo recently came home from a play date with the news that, "Sophia is allowed to watch videos Whenever. She. Wants!" A visit to another friend's house resulted in the update, "There were advertisements between all the videos!" Also known as commercial television. I guess she'd never seen it. She can work a touch-screen like a boss, however.

The evening routine is well-established and calm these days, which is a lovely thing to be able to say. We eat dinner at 5:30, and start upstairs at 6:30 for tooth-brushing and a story. Her dad does the brushing and I do the reading. This summer, we've finished two big chapter books that I loved as a little girl-- A Little Princess and A Secret Garden. I love watching her desperate and passionate involvement in the stories, and it's pretty easy for her to talk me into "just a little extra reading tonight!" This sometimes calls for careful handling if I know a particularly traumatic or thrilling event is coming up. We did a lot of extra day-time reading when Sarah Crewe's father died. By bedtime, we had throughly discussed all the ramifications and possibilities and we were safely into reading about charming sparrows and their enjoyment of crumbs.

Our current book is Mary Poppins. I love introducing her to books I loved as a kid, but I realize these stories skew very Privileged British. I may have to do a little broadening research.