Thursday, October 27, 2016

Four years old

Roman's birthdays always kind of sneak up on me. I realize that this sounds totally illogical because I do know that every year, without fail, July 6th will come. This admission sounds even more ridiculous when you consider that I normally start planning his birthday party and thinking about what presents he would like as early as May. Nevertheless, when I wake up on the actual morning of his birthday, I find myself genuinely surprised that he's a year older, overly sentimental to the point of sappiness and terrified that he's growing up MUCH too quickly. If you don't have kids and you're reading this, you probably just think I'm still riding out that postpartum hormonal roller coaster and while that is indeed true, it's also true that for all parents, the fear that time is speeding up is simply a given. That is why on Roman's birthday this year I was a total basket case, hugging him every chance I got, kissing every part of his face, and tearfully reminiscing about the day he was born. Predictably, Roman does not get my sudden affection and will tolerate it only for a few seconds before he says, 'Mommy, you hugged me already'.

So what is our little boy like at 4 years old? Unbiased observers (which we parents can never hope to be), have commented that he is generally well behaved, gentle and calm but he is also playful, sociable, chatty and loves to make people laugh.

Here are some more things about him at four years old.

School:  There has been such a noticeable change in Roman from daycare to preschool. In daycare, he didn't really have any friends. He got along with all of the children and played with whoever wanted to play with him, but he didn't have a favorite friend nor did he really care for anyone's company. However, now that he's in preschool, he has a little clique of three friends that he is always with and they have been described by his teacher as some of the most active children in the class. If you compare that with daycare, when Roman would normally be found playing quietly in the corner by himself, you can see how drastic a change he has undergone. Between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, Roman was actually so calm and introverted that his daycare teacher mentioned that we needed to work on his socialization skills (remember this post?). That's why when Roman began preschool the Professor and I were actually worried that he wouldn't have fun and he wouldn't make any friends. We've never been so glad to be so wrong.

As for the learning part of school, Roman's teacher has said that he is always happy to be there and interested in whatever they're doing. Instruction is in Catalan but most of his classmates speak Spanish so Roman is getting a good mix of Catañol (Catalan + Español). He's learned the numbers, the days of the week, the colors, and the letters. They do arts and crafts, music, dance, sport, story time, etc. I asked his teacher at the end of the school year what Roman's favorite part of school was and whether he had a favorite subject or activity. She answered that what he most enjoys is playing with his friends, it doesn't matter what they're doing, as long as they're there. I thought that was so sweet.

Language: Roman has been a bit late to develop in terms of language skills but we think he's finally catching up. I still remember in May when Roman actually said a full, complete and correct sentence to me. It was so simple like, "Mommy, how about we watch the Lion King?" and I was floored and thrilled and incredibly proud. Only a few days before, he would have said something like, "Mommy I watch Lion King." Since then, he's been talking up a storm and he says the funniest things. His speech is not perfect yet and he makes normal little kid mistakes like saying "Tomorrow I caught a dinosaur." He also has a few pronunciation quirks like he can't pronounce the letter 'r' (so he says his own name is Noman and his sister is Lala). He also adds a 't' to words that end in 'r' (so, tiger is tigot and dinner is dinot) and he doesn't pronounce the 's' before words so sometimes it sounds like he's saying 'cool' but what he means to say is 'school'. However, now even people who don't 'speak Roman' understand what he's saying and that's a big improvement. We've also heard from his teacher that he is expressing himself more in Catalan and Spanish in school and we've seen some glimpses of this whenever Roman is playing with his friends. Little by little, he's starting to digest that English and Spanish and Catalan have their places and their uses and he's sorting out that one thing might have two or three different words associated with it. So sometimes he tells me, with the air of one who has just made an important discovery, "Mommy, ghost and fantasma are the same thing."

Being a big brother: I've mentioned before that when I was pregnant, one of my biggest worries was how Roman would adapt to the role of big brother. I'd heard so many stories from friends about their older child becoming more clingy or moody or acting passive aggressively toward their new sibling. The Professor and I tried to make sure that while I was pregnant, we explained everything we could to Roman about the pregnancy so that he would feel informed and involved. We talked about the new baby, where she would sleep, how she might use his old things, how she would probably sleep and cry a lot, how she wouldn't be able to talk or walk or play at the beginning but that she would grow up to be his best friend. We read books to him, we brought him along to doctor's appointments, and most importantly we tried to assure him that this was a great thing for everyone.

During my pregnancy, Roman surprised and amused us with his questions and matter of fact statements about the baby. If I would wince with pain after the baby kicked me in the ribs, he would ask with concern, `Mama, baby coming now?` He would also try to share his newly acquired knowledge with his friends at school, sometimes lifting up my shirt to show them my big belly or once, trying to pull down my shirt so they could see my breasts (this was following a discussion we had with him about how babies drink milk from their mommy's breasts which Roman found both hilarious and a little revolting).

The day he came to the hospital to meet her, I felt so protective of Roman's feelings that I tried to control the circumstances around their meeting as much as I could. I made sure that Lara was in her bed so that my arms would be free to hug him and the Professor bought some toys that Lara could 'give' him as a thank you for being such a great brother. He was so shy as he looked at her and touched her and I think he felt pretty awkward overall. But once we brought her home, he was so excited to 'show' her all his toys and proceeded to grab them one by one and dump them in her bed so she could play with them.

In the first few months of her life when Lara was so small and fragile, I was scared to leave them alone together because I was worried that Roman might drop her or give her something to eat. I remember the stress of trying to keep them apart to ensure their safety while simultaneously trying to foster a healthy, close relationship between them. It was a little nerve racking but we all made it through unscathed. Now that Lara is bigger and more robust, their interactions have been so sweet to watch. Roman loves his sister and she thinks he's a total hero. He's the only one that can make her really laugh and he loves to be silly around her. When he wakes up in the morning, the first thing he does is hug her and and call her his little baby. In turn, Lara lights up whenever Roman is around and shows her affection by giving him gummy smiles, tugging at his hair and trying to put his face in her mouth.

Temperament: Overall, Roman is a pretty calm kid but he also has moments of rebellion and rambunctiousness like any toddler. Sometimes we have difficulty getting him to stop playing and do the daily things that need to be done like washing his hands, taking a bath or eating his food. This last one is the most annoying of all. After much dedication and perseverance, we finally have a good eater who will eat anything you put in front of him. BUT he will take an hour to eat something that anybody else can eat in 15 minutes and you have to constantly remind him to stop horsing around and EAT. We've tried bribing him with sweets and TV time, we've tried banning toys from the table, we've tried making it into a fun competition where whoever finishes first wins, and we've tried taking his plate away and saying he can't have any more. None of these approaches have worked and we just have to accept the fact that Roman eats at a rate of one grain of rice per minute. The other thing about Roman that's a little exasperating is how sensitive he is to getting scolded or getting in trouble. Most of the time when Roman screws up, he knows it and offers a quick apology. This is mostly when he's done something minor like spilled milk or made some kind of mess. But sometimes when he accidentally or deliberately does something bad and he knows he's going to get yelled at, his reaction is to burst into tears. At the first sign that someone is mad at him, he'll fall to pieces and he's unable to focus on a rational discussion about what he did wrong and how to make it right. First you have to assure him that you love him and that you're not mad anymore and that you're sorry you yelled at him. Sometimes when he comes home from school, he'll tell us that his teacher yelled at him and that he cried and the Professor and I will exchange endearing but exasperated looks. We're trying to get him to focus on not doing wrong things in the first place but obviously this is not going to be an overnight lesson.

Play: Roman's favorite toy is a roaring T-rex he received for his third birthday which he plays with every single day. His other favorite toys are dinosaur figures, robots, superheroes, and all animals. Roman is obsessed with good guys, bad guys and rescuing so his favorite game to play is that one toy is the bad one (normally the T-rex) and the other animals are afraid of this mean colossus and join together to defeat him. Normally this entails lots of roaring and shrieking and smashing of toys before a hero prevails and the T-rex is subdued. The Professor and I have been playing this game with Roman every day for about a year now and it still hasn't gotten old (for Roman that is). Roman also enjoys assigning roles to everyone so we can act out a rescue adventure. He'll start by saying, "Papa, you the dragon, Mommy is the princess, Lala is the king and I the knight". Then the Professor has to stomp around or chase him and breathe fire while Roman runs around, squealing with delight and trying to jab and kick whenever he can get close enough. This game is apparently a hit with all children because whenever the Professor and Roman play this in a park, suddenly every little kid drops whatever they're doing and starts running around while the mean dragon chases them.

Some more favorite things:
Color: Pink
Fruit: Strawberries and melon
Food: French fries, jamón iberico, hard boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, lentils, udon noodle soup
TV Show: Paw Patrol and Octonauts
Movie: Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, How to Train your Dragon
Song: I like to Move it, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Book: The Bear Snores On

And with that, my friends, you have a very (VERY) detailed description of what our little boy is like at four years old. And it only took me a few months to write it :).  Thanks for reading.

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