Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Video Games, Princesses and Kittens

Lily started kindergarten on Monday. It's not as big a deal as I thought it would be, because it mirrors the experience she had with pre-K so closely. They had half days the first two days, so she was already back when I called on my lunch break. There's nothing of the baby left in how she speaks. She talks like a little adult. We discussed her day and when she was done talking she said, "I'm going to give the phone back to Mommy now so I can do my homework. Bye! I love you."

We went to a party for her little cousin on Saturday, and we wandered away to a nearby park after a while. I had my t-shirt that says, "You read my t-shirt. That's enough social interaction for one day" and she looked at it and said, "You read," pronouncing it "reed" "my t-shirt," then paused and corrected herself, "No. You read," red, "my t-shirt."

She's very good with context like that. Occasionally she'll read whole sentences in her head before saying them out loud in order to get the correct pronunciation of homophones. So, based on how they're used, she can tell the difference between "live" and "live" and "tomato" and "tomato".

The Miss Piggy blanket was Jen's, not mine
 I snapped a couple pictures of her reading old collections of Peanuts comics. I think these are becoming some of my favorite pictures of her. The books were mine when I was kid. I asked her if she would be interested in them, she accepted one, looked at the back cover, asked of Linus, "Where's his blanket?" and read for more than twenty minutes.

 We had to interrupt her so we could read her some bedtime stories and get her to sleep. This is the first time I've encountered this, but Jen, who drives Lily around more than I do, says that if Lily is enjoying a book on a car ride, she'll get so quiet that Jen will sometimes forget she's back there.

I'd like to take some of the credit for this. (Along with Jen, of course.) We try to be good parents and answer her questions. While we were taking a walk in the park, she asked if it would be possible to drill a hole in the center of the earth and come out the other side. I explained that the center of the earth was very hot and under a great deal of pressure, so it wouldn't be possible to do it. (Despite what the Total Recall remake would have you believe.) She then asked if it would be possible to drill beneath the surface, but go around the core of the earth. I told that we haven't drilled very far into the earth at all, but it might be possible in the future. I also suggested that we take a look at the Illustrated Atlas of the Universe, which has a cross section of the Earth.

We did this when we got home. I'm pleased that I remembered to follow through, because I like it when she looks at those kind of books and it made me feel like a good dad to have remembered.

Later on that day, it made me feel like a bad dad when she threw a fit when we wouldn't give her another hour of cartoons. There was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments and it was very disturbing to hear my five-year-old daughter insisting she "needed" another hour of cartoons. Not wanted. Needed!!! She sounded like nothing so much as an unrepentant heroin addict.

But we got over that. She's a good kid. Mostly. I was mildly mortified to see that she listed her three favorite things for her teacher as video games, princesses and kittens, but Jen thinks that she only listed the first one because we do place time limits and close supervision on her video game time.

We had an initial meeting/orientation with her teacher and the classroom aide. Lily is already making a name for herself. Her spelling is very good for her age. (She spelled "my" for them "M-I", paused, said, "no, that's not right. M-Y", and black. She knows a lot of sight words, which is their term for words that are difficult to spell just by sounding them out.)

I tend to be very binary in my passions. Either I don't care at all or IT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD!! Lily is the same way, but she's five, so hopefully she'll grow out of it. An assignment on Tuesday was for the kids to draw a picture of themselves. Lily started a picture of herself, but gave herself too much hair, and she freaked out. It was ruined! And they told her maybe that she could make the hair into a ponytail, which is something we try to when she makes a mistake, incorporate the mistake into the picture. But, no, it was ruined. If she were at home, she probably would have ripped the picture in half, but I'm pleased she had the wherewithal to control herself in school. (Though if she's capable of such a feat, I'd like her to exercise it at home when she's frustrated at home too.) The word they used to describe her was paralyzed, and I can imagine it. She had tears streaming down her cheeks and just had no idea how to fix this. The teacher wouldn't give her another sheet of paper, which was absolutely the right move, but did allow her to draw a new picture on the other side. Lily worked all the way through free play, getting her picture just so.

And I'm torn. Wanting to do the best job you can do is certainly an admirable trait and one we want to encourage, but perfectionism can be a negative if taken to extremes. I've come to terms with my own issues in that regard, though it took me a lot of effort, but I'm managed to make my foibles work for me. I'm outside my area of expertise, but this excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on perfectionism summarizes my concerns: "Normal perfectionists pursue perfection without compromising their self-esteem, and derive pleasure from their efforts. Neurotic perfectionists strive for unrealistic goals and consistently feel dissatisfied when they cannot reach them."  I'm afraid Lily's perfectionism might be closer to the neurotic kind. I want her to be the best version of herself she can be, but I don't want her to destroy herself by adopting a "perfect or useless" dichotomy.

I was concerned that she would be bored at school. This was going to be her third years being taught her ABCs, and while I don't think she's a prodigy of any kind, I know she's a smart little kid who reads to herself, adds negative numbers and asks questions like "Who was Sun-Tzu?", and, as she missed the the cut off date by about 72 hours, I do remain very unhappy that she's not getting as much as she could from school. I've mentioned this before, but I still have the concern that she'll be bored by school and this will poison her impression of it for years to come. However, I'm somewhat mollified after meeting Lily's teacher and talking about her with a friend who works at the school and who speaks extremely highly of her.

She hasn't made any friends yet, though her friend last year is in the room across the hall and they see each other during the day. That's probably a good thing. She is one of those kids who gravitates towards adults and I'm happy that she's challenged to socialize outside of her comfort zone.


  1. I don't have kids and don't really know anything about them, so I don't usually comment on your Lily posts. And truthfully, I know little about you or your home life. But that being said, the impression I get from reading this blog, and having gamed with you, is that you're very careful to always correct inaccuracies, no matter how small they might be. The term pedantic comes to mind. Don't get me wrong, I can be the same way, so I don't necessarily consider this a bad trait. After all, accuracy is often important.

    But I get the impression from these posts that you do the same thing with Lily. You want her knowledge to be as full and accurate as possible, which is an admirable goal; but you're also teaching her that being _exactly right_ every time is important. If she's starting to show signs of crippling perfectionism, it's pretty obvious where she's learning it from.

    I wonder if it might be helpful to make an effort to more often leave your comments at "That's right!" or "Good job!", and bite back the instinct to follow up with an "except for one detail..." After all, she's five. At this point, an understanding good enough for a five year old is, well, good enough. You have at least 8 years to refine her understanding of things before she stops listening to anything you say.

    Not to be critical, but... well, I'm really good at being critical. I think that's a trait we share, and I know it's a trait that, at times, has been damaging to my relationships with adults. I can only imagine how badly I'll screw up my kids, if I ever have any.


  2. I'll cop to being pedantic. Do you remember the discussion we had once at the old blog? I told the story of how I was watching Kim Possible with my eight year old nephew and he said "I love that back flip she does", and I said immedietly "It's a back hand spring" and my comment about the story "Because kids love pedantic corrections".

    I am less critical than you might think with Lily. When given the choice between being supportive and correcting her, I'll choose supportive every time. Though I do tend to correct her grammar. She blew up the other day when I told her to say well instead of good.

  3. Well, yeah, it's important to use grammar good!

  4. Josh - just read your"terracotta potterriffic" blog and so enjoyed your love of your darling daughter and wife...sounds as though you all have your priorities in place and family is number one...warms my heart! Lily is a gift and will no doubt continue to be! I love the fact that she questions so much and then seems to think through the answers and still comes up with questions...signs of an artistic persona for sure!!! And by the way, please tell Lily that my Grandmother once told me when I was her age, that I should not be digging holes all over my backyard, as one day I will be surprised to meet someone from China coming through from the other side of the world!!!!
    Take care - Mrs. Terra Cotta Pots