Saturday, December 2, 2006

"Teaching" Punkin

I remember when SweetP was 25 months old. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that I easily read fifteen books a day to her, all cuddly on the couch. With Shug only nine months old at the time and napping two long naps each day, SweetP had so much of my undivided attention. Sometimes the idea of a large family intimidates me - if only for the weight of wanting to give each of my dear children that precious one on one time with Mama. It won't be like it was with SweetP, though. Each new little one will have a completely 'different' family than the one before. Punkin has two big sisters to love on her all day, teach her wonderful little games, read to her, hug her, dress her up. My oldest never had that. And, of course, Punkin still has time with me. Admittedly, it's far less individual time than SweetP had as a toddler. Necessarily so. I have to be purposeful about making those sweet moments happen with Punkin.

Every weekday morning, sometime around 10:30 or 11am, Punkin goes up to her crib for "cribtime". She sleeps in a toddler bed in a room with the older girls, but her crib is still useful for this planned playtime. She has a few board books, puzzles, a babydoll, a Leap Frog ABC ball, etc. All safe and not too much to crowd her. I do reading lessons with SweetP and Shug downstairs during this time. Before Punkin heads upstairs, though, I make a point of sitting down with just her (the older two know not to interrupt us) and I take my time reading two or three little books with her. Sometimes I read each one more than once. Mornings can be busy with chores and teaching the older two, even though it's just Pre-K and Kindergarten. It's a sweet time with just my 'baby' and me.

I had noticed a few months ago that Punkin didn't seem to be developing relationships with particular books like her sisters had at her age. I came to the conclusion that there was simply too much variety in what I read to her. All you mothers of toddlers know how much they adore repetition. She wasn't hearing any single book read often enough, even though she heard me reading aloud to all of them often each day. So, I put just a few - five or six - board books in a basket in the living room. These select books have been the only thing we've read during our alone time for almost three weeks now. Now, with the same books each day, I'm hearing familiar talk from her like "Baa Baa Back Seep - pees, Mama?" She's filling in missing words, pointing out details in pictures, even quoting short lines. She's not only having an intimate moment with me, these are now books she is really getting to know. I love that.

Here's a little confession: I rocked Punkin to sleep for the first ten months of her life :) I've always been fond of a routine, a flexible schedule, and babies learning to sleep on their own. But, I wanted to rock my baby. So I did. A lot. I have nothing but the fondest memories of those times - she made it so easy! None of that waking as soon as she was in the crib business. She'd fall asleep after about ten minutes of rocking, then I'd rock her for as long as I wanted. I laid her down and she was peacefully sleeping til morning. I know the next baby may not be like that - but I'm glad she was :)

She has learned her shapes by doing puzzles with me, and her colors are coming along from reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear together each morning. Her vocabulary and language ability are growing by leaps and bounds just from talking to me and the girls so much. I try to have a ready, patient ear for her. It can take a while to get things out sometimes ;) Today we made pretend muffins together, counted to twelve as we walked up the stairs (what an easy way to help them learn to recite their numbers!), read books, sang 'I'm a Little Teapot', and basically just shared time. She enjoys being with me, whether she has me all to herself or not ;) I enjoy being with her more than I can say.

My little Punkin may not be my youngest child for much longer, but each of my children will always be my baby.