I think I am detecting faint stirrings of independence in Ingrid. She has been very attached to me for a long time, almost always choosing me ahead of any alternative. When the choice is between doing something boring with me, and doing something fun with Eric, she chooses me. When the choice is between playing on her own, and waiting for me to finish something I’m doing, she’ll hang by my side and wait. Whether at home or out on a playground, all activities start with “emme tule!” (“mummy come!”).
When I’m not available (when she’s with Eric, or at nursery) she’s perfectly capable of amusing herself. But when I’m there, all independence disappears.
She’s usually more independent just after eating (something to do with blood sugar levels?), and late in the evening. When the choice is between brushing teeth and going to bed with me, or playing on her own, she actually prefers playing!
But in the past few weeks, I’ve seen her play on her own for short stretches of time. Nothing long, maybe 5 minutes at a time, but more frequently than she used to. And out at the playground she’s gone off on her own without dragging me with her. I’m really curious to see whether this is just something I’ve imagined, or if it’s the beginnings of real change.
Ingrid’s also more aware of age and growing up. We’ve been talking a lot about babies and big girls this summer. We talk about how babies come from their mummies’ bellies, how they cannot chew or walk or talk, only sleep and drink milk from their mum’s breasts. We talk about how she used to be a baby, but isn’t any longer.
Sometimes she wants to be carried like a baby (which is hard with a 15 kg kid!). Other times Ingrid says she’s a big girl. She doesn’t know much about what big girls do – I’ve never used “big girls [don’t] do X” to encourage or discourage any behaviour. The only thing she knows about big girls is that they go to school. So she regularly tells me that she’s a big girl and will soon go to school. I try to explain that she’s got several years of nursery ahead of her still, but it’s not registering.
The “I don’t want anything!” episodes from last month are far fewer now. I think it’s Ingrid’s new, more verbal way of expressing general dissatisfaction with life, instead of just crying. By far the strongest trigger for these is hunger / low blood sugar. First thing in the morning before breakfast, her mood is very labile. She desperately needs to eat, but since she’s so anti-everything, it’s hard to get her to eat – she loudly claims she does not want to eat. The same happens if we have too long a gap between meals for some reason, or when she’s overtired.
A stranger would see her act out and think that she’s just trying to get our attention, and then perhaps just ignore her, wait for the mood to pass. But those moods can easily spiral, and if we ignore them, they can go on for a long time. When the cause is hunger, the resolution is usually to soothe her with whatever form of closeness she will accept (cuddle, or let her crowd onto my side of the table, etc) and then coax her to take a bite. Then I can detach myself from the cuddle, and the rest of the meal passes smoothly. When she’s overtired, it’s harder, but we’re quite good at spotting her tired signals so we usually nip it in the bud. There was one evening when she was too tired to want anything, not even sit or lie down, which culminated with her spending a good 15 minutes standing in the bedroom, unable to stop screaming. For all our sakes, we make an effort to avoid a repeat performance.
Speaking of eating, she seems to have learned the concept of portions. It used to be that we’d serve her some amount of food, and she’d eat some of it and leave some. Or she’d eat all and want more, and then leave some of the 2nd serving. Now she’s more likely to stop exactly when her plate is empty, even when she hasn’t decided how much was on the plate to begin with (although she often does). When I offer her more food, she declines. Interesting.
Favourite toys this month: her doctor’s bag, and her play food. We play doctor almost every day. “Emme sina oled haige!” she tells me (mummy you’re ill) and proceeds to listen to my foot with her stethoscope, poke at it, shine her tiny torch on it, take my temperature and give me injections and medicine.
With the toy food we have picnics where she serves me cake and fruit and juice, or cooks soup for me. It’s amazing how many variations on this theme she can perform before she gets bored.
We play word games. We rhyme: Ingrid pingrid! Maja paja! Auto pauto!. And we make up words: Jag tar mina höstskor. Höstskor… grässkor! molnskor! bajsskor! (“I’ll take my autumn shoes. Autumn shoes… grass shoes! cloud shoes! poop shoes!”)
She’s also started making things up.
I: Look mum, I have no hands.
H: Oh, no hands! Where did the hands go?
I: They’re in the cloud.
H: What will the cloud do with your hands?
I: I got my hands back now.
While it was still summer, we spent many afternoons at the beach. Ingrid got to splash and jump and carry buckets of water around, and swim with her arm floats. After a few times our beach outings settled into a fixed pattern, and the process itself was as important to Ingrid as the actual swimming. The picnic food, and the stuff we’d pass when cycling to and from the beach, and of course the ice cream.
The ice cream kiosk at the beach sells nice scoop ice cream, not just the cheap-tasting pre-wrapped kind. We ate some every time we were there. Outside of the beach season we’ve had a rule that we only eat ice cream on weekends. This Saturday Ingrid selected an ice cream for herself at the supermarket, but left most of it – I don’t think she liked the taste much, after having tried the good stuff.
PS: This evening while brushing her teeth I spotted tooth #17 making its way out.