Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Note to Alex on the eve of your 6 month "demi" birthday

Dear Alex,

What a whirlwind ride! It feels like just yesterday that I was running around trying to close projects before your (planned) arrival, so you obligingly delayed your arrival for a couple of days and came to cheer us up after the dire news of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

It seemed like a trend. From your rocket-speed birth to your remarkable ability to take care of yourself, you have been such a cheerful and delightful bundle. We went for 2 months of yoga classes together, and the teacher commented that she had never heard you cry. You really are the most blissed out baby I know of.

This of course, does not ever stop you from being a cheeky little monkey. Your favorite trick for a really long time was peeing on us every chance you got. I promise that I could hear you laughing after that.

We're probably much more relaxed parents with you, and you reward us with your beautiful smile so often. We probably don't deserve it but only very little children and very large dogs have so much to teach us about such intense and unguarded love that make your parents go weak at the knees at the responsibility of not screwing this all up in the habit of human nature to do so.

You are sitting happily now, and rolling enthusiastically around on your carpet. We are trying to figure out how to balance your need to explore by grabbing random things and shoving them into your mouth, against your sister's desire to play with very small and dangerous little toys.

I had a terrible nightmare last night that you asphyxiated on a small button that had come off my shirt whilst I was nursing you and I had to give you CPR. I woke up completely in tears, and rushed to your room and spent the rest of the night checking that you were still breathing. The next morning when the sun came up, you gave me another one of your huge smiles and I knew that even if I was just being insanely paranoid the thought that I might lose you (even in a hypothetical dream) makes the back-ache that comes sitting next to your bed on the floor all night worth it.

Your mama


Monday, March 09, 2009

So when are we having the test? Duh!!

Some people have been asking me exactly what goes on in a toddler IQ test. Like I repeat it is very inaccurate. But basically I understand that they are testing for a couple of things like how your kid puts sentences and logical thought process together when solving the puzzles, and the length of attention span. Sophie scored higher than her physical age for a few of these things.

As for the details, well, to be honest, I thought those puzzles were there to distract Sophie because she was playing so quietly with them the whole time. I actually asked the doctor "so when are we doing the IQ test?" and was quite surprised when he said "we've already done it - congratulations, your daughter is very bright!"

I didn't pay attention to those puzzles because the doctor was talking to me (he was asking background questions like when Sophie was born, what was her due date, when she passed various developmental milestones etc..) So because I was busy talking to him, I honestly have no idea what Sophie was actually doing, but whatever she was doing was clearly making sense to the doctor, who was also observing and making notes of what she was doing.

I don't think that's earthshaking except that it puts more pressure on me as a parent, trying to strike a balance between creating an interesting and intellectually stimulating environment, and not wanting to put any pressure on Sophie, who is pretty sensitive to these things.

Little things like wondering when I should start teaching her how to read. She shows a great deal of interest in books and words, so I guess I should stop putting it off before she really freaks me out by learning how to read by herself or something equally astounding.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Our visit to the shrink !

Sophie has been kind of acting up at home, like refusing to go to the toilet, and sleeping issues, I phoned our pediatrician because I wanted to rule out any illness or allergy.

The pediatrician agreed that we could see a child psychiatrist for an assessment. So today we had a rudimentary sort of IQ test and personality test for Sophie at a child psychiatrist's office. This was really pretty relaxed. The psychiatrist and I sat on a sofa and had a chat, and he let Sophie loose on the floor with a whole bunch of puzzles and games and he observed as she played, ran back to mommy for confirmation or help, and watched when I spoke to her.

The verdict was partly what I suspected, but needed confirmation of.

First the good news - Sophie is definitely a pretty bright kid. Just how bright is a bit hard to tell because toddler IQ tests are extremely inaccurate, but what they could tell me is that whilst Sophie is unlikely to be profoundly gifted, she is definitely ahead of the bell curve on certain activities like logical reasoning and language.

I learned that it's not so much early talking which gets these doctors excited however, it is what your child actually says. What you need to look out for is your child verbalising complex logical reasoning or early mathematical thinking - as a trait of the gifted or highly intelligent child, these skills are usually self taught.

Actually anyone who knows me will know that any math that Sophie has is DEFINITELY self taught simply because I am one of those math-illiterate people who need a calculator to leave a tip in restaurants because I cannot calculate 20% of a bill. Creative playing with words and language (e.g. calling her bear "camembert") is actually one of the signs of linguistic giftedness.

Now for the bad news - Children who are intellectually advanced or bright can be deeply affected by a new sibling. Strong emotions such as jealousy are probably closer to their physical than mental age. Parents who are used to an otherwise smart child with whom they are used to reasoning regularly with, are at a loss to deal with what is essentially a toddler-level emotional reaction. If the reaction is not managed appropriately, then you get behavioural problems and a great deal of emotional angst.

The psychiatrist also thinks that Sophie appears introverted but unlikely to be shy. This means that there is nothing we can or should do to make her speak more to strangers or interact with people that she does not want to.

Apparently shyness is when the kid WANTS to play and interact but is scared to do so. This is a behavioural problem which will leave the kid unhappy if this is not corrected. Introversion is when the kid is perfectly happy in his own company and not feel desire to interact more with other people. Play therapy helps a shy kid overcome his/her fears, and be happy playing with other kids. But trying to change an introverted kid into an extrovert will cause them a lot of unnecessary stress.

What is difficult for Sophie is that by nature her mommy is an extrovert, and enjoys going out to different people and different situations. Also, Alexandra has a more sunny and outgoing personality than Sophie, and Sophie is stressed that her mother seems to "prefer" Baby Alex. If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would say that Alex is a better personality fit for me than Sophie. And Sophie unfortunately is astute enough to see that.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

To see the world in a grain of sand

Sophie missed some of school last week because she had croup. For the first time since school begun she has actually missed anything due to illness. It's pretty cool actually, because all my friends were warning me to be careful of pestilence and disease when kids start school that I was prepared for quite a lot of sick days, but one week of absence *(touch wood) out of a full school year is pretty good.

Anyways, this is her back in school at the weekly show and tell. She is showing her friends her birthday present from last year. A kaleidescope from our friend and neighbor- Claire. We've known Claire and Katie (and their parents) since we moved to Beijing, and I cannot believe that our kiddies are growing up so fast!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Of Course

Sophie's favourite game is "Happy Birthday" where she makes a playdough cake, puts imaginary candles, sings the song and blows them out. Then she gives out slices of playdough cake to everyone. (Papa, Mama, Alex, Grandma etc..)

She always remembers to give cake to her nanny (whom we call "ayi"). I am actually really glad that we've found at least 2 people whom I am happy to leave our kids with all day. I want to have some photos of these very important people in Sophie's and Alex's lives.

This is a photo of Xiao Lu ayi. She went with us to Singapore and Phuket. Our other ayi is Xiao Dou ayi and she went with us to ChangChun, and will come skiing with us this month.

One of my German friends thinks that it is crazy that our ayi goes with us on holiday.

I think it's wonderful that our 2 ayi has over the 2 years that we have been here become so close to us that they have become our friends.