Petra felt that she needed to tell everybody at her party that she was not six yet because her birthday was a couple of days later. She was very concerned that people might feel misled, wishing her a happy birthday too early.
On her actual birthday, JC worked from home, so we did her presents and cake in the afternoon, and dinner was homemade pasta (at her request).
She was very excited about the presents that fell into the category of I will never buy that on purpose–most especially, a Hatchimals nursery from my Granny (I have to admit, it is actually kind of cool…). She’s lucky to have relatives who are more indulgent than I am…
She also was super excited about a number of other gifts from relatives far and near, including some SUPER SPARKLY leggings from Logan and Natalie, and a really cool window art kit from Heather and Sam (she wanted to immediately stop unwrapping presents and start arting).
Because her birthday and Silas’ are close to each other, Petra’s birthday gifts are a bit more spread out–she got some cool dinosaurs, a couple comics, and an original painting from Alex and Tiara on Silas’ birthday. Marmee and Poppy got her some Calico Critters, and gave them to her a week early. So for her, it’s more like several weeks of little delights rather than a big bang. I think she likes it that way.
Grandpa Walter called right in the middle of all this to wish her a happy birthday. She was a little distracted (sorry!)
Silas had a hard time waiting for her to get off the phone. 🙂
I had two really special gifts for her this year. One was this ammonite necklace. She dug the ammonite out of her first fossil kit last year. Our friend Gretchen has an ammonite necklace, and Petra has admired it for ages. With a little help from ZN Stained Glass, I had it necklaced for her.
The other big deal gift was my Kirsten doll from when I was a kid. I saved for a whole year to buy myself that doll, because there was no universe in which my parents were ever going to do that. My grandparents made clothes and a doll bed that looked just like the ones in the catalog. This was a very special Big Deal doll to me, and one of the very few toys that I had saved from my childhood.
I’m not a fan of the direction the American Girl line has taken since being purchased by Mattel, minimizing the focus on the historical nerdy nature of the original product and instead pushing this narcissistic idea of a doll that matches the child. Because of this, Petra has never seen an AG catalog. She didn’t know what one was. And let’s be honest, a great deal of the appeal is the desiring.
So I started a couple months back kind of casually mentioning this story about saving up for this doll. “I wonder if Grammy still has it. Have you seen it at her house?” We read all of the little books that went with it. I claimed that I was going to call my dad to see if he had it at his house, but I thought they’d probably gotten rid of it at some point.
All of this while I was up late nights, detangling 30-year-old doll hair and sewing patches on the one mouse-nibbled garment (only one! a miracle!).
Petra was oddly coy about the whole thing. I think she didn’t want to get her hopes up.
It’s fun to surprise her every now and then. But parenting this kid is already like playing multidimensional chess. You always have to be three moves ahead and faking the other direction to get anywhere with her.
I think the biggest development this year is that Petra suddenly has very committed and intense friendships. I think that’s a wonderful development! I didn’t have many close friends as a kid, and so I’m always a little nervous that my kids will also have those kinds of challenges. I haven’t worried as much about this with Silas, who has always been gregarious and quick to connect with people, but Petra can take months or even years to finally warm up to people.
I hope that this is the year she learns to be polite even when she doesn’t particularly like somebody. She can be downright rude to children who are younger than she is. The other day at church, she made a mean face and stuck her tongue out at a baby who was sitting behind us. I laughed out loud when the baby squealed, giggled, and stuck his tongue right back at her! He thought she was playing. She wasn’t, but at least his feelings weren’t hurt. We’re still working every day on “do unto otters.” It’s a lifelong challenge, I know.
One other thing I’m hoping she’ll outgrow is kind of funny, but also super annoying–whenever she says something that she’s embarrassed by, whether it’s something silly when she doesn’t mean to be, or something unkind, or a lie, she insists “the ceiling said it.” I have no idea where this came from, and it’s…just weird, right? But I tell you, I am so tired of that ceiling! (and in case you were wondering, it follows us wherever we go–the ceilings in the car, church, the grocery store, the theater lobby, and also the clouds outside are quite unpleasant characters).
Petra’s persistent interested in paleontology is fascinating. She has a dozen or more massive books about dinosaurs and regularly spends hours perusing them. I know most kids outgrow their dino phase, and maybe she will, but in the meantime, she’s learning so many things about biology, geology, time, careful exploration, how to ask good questions, how discoveries lead to discoveries. If and when she leaves this current obsession behind, she will take so much with her.
Petra is such a Big Kid already, I keep forgetting she’s only just turning six. Her best friends are a good deal older than her; right now, I’d say she’s the most excited to play with Violet and Emmy, who is are both a good bit older. They don’t treat her like a little kid at all, which is wonderful. Petra would not tolerate that. She demands to be taken seriously. Much as I wish she would learn to have some care for others’ feelings, I’m also a little bit gratified when she puts an adult in their place for talking to her like a baby.
Example (also my favorite Petra story of this year, I think):
We were in a long line at Costco. A well-meaning lady behind us started to make conversation with Petra. She told her that she used to work with kindergarteners.
Lady: What’s your name?
Lady: Oh, what a beautiful name! Do you know what letter that starts with?
Lady: Very good! Do you know any other words that start with P?
Lady: Oh. Yes, pteranodon does start with P. Is that your favorite dinosaur?
P: Pteranodons aren’t dinosaurs, they’re pterosaurs.
I don’t have many worries that Petra will grow up to be the kind of person who takes anyone’s nonsense or gets pressured into doing anything she is not completely down with. That may change over the years to come, but right now, she is a solid rock. She knows what she wants in life, she knows who she is, and she is absolutely not here for your garbage attitude. She’s also very strict with herself about certain things. When she’s upset and she knows that it’s not reasonable to be, she won’t let anyone see it (like when Silas wins at a game, she’ll quietly excuse herself to go sob about it for a little bit). On the one hand, I feel awful that such a small child feels like she needs to hide her feelings. On the other, I feel sort of proud of her for knowing when she’s being unfair and not asking the rest of us to take responsibility for her feelings. I asked her about this one time, and she said, “There are some things it’s better to cry about alone.” She doesn’t hide her feelings from us when she feels justified in being angry or sad. But when she know she’s a little out of line, she deals with it. It feels so strange to see this in such a young child, but Petra has always been a bit of an unusual kid.
She’s very determined. Even though she’s two years younger than Silas, she decided they should do the same math, and so they do (it was also a little bit of a step backward for Silas to make sure he has a solid grounding in the basics, but not a big step backward). She asked me to read her The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, and in that moment, I said I wasn’t available for it right then. She didn’t say anything else about it and a couple of weeks later, I saw her reading it. In our official “school ish” reading time, she had still been doing some very basic BOB books or Ten Apples Up On Top. But she was running her finger along the text and legitimately reading every word of this Beatrix Potter book. “I didn’t know you could read that,” I said, casually.
“I asked you to read it to me and you didn’t, so I decided I would learn to read it myself,” she said. Well then.
I might be a little jealous of Petra, honestly, because she is such an integrated person. She does things that are very little-kid and things that are practically adult, and she doesn’t have any problem shifting between those modes or being any less committed to one kind of activity than the other. I don’t know many people who are so grounded in who they are, especially not so young. Maybe it’s actually normal for kids this little; I honestly don’t spend much time with them. Maybe self-censorship and questioning and generally feeling like a faker comes later.
But she’s just taking up the space she requires, in the way she needs to, unapologetically and unquestioning. It’s a beautiful way of being. My wish for her is that she will continue with this implacable, unbending presence, while also learning to respect other people’s presence.