A Snapshot of Life at Three and a Half

Ignoring completely that it’s a long time since I wrote anything at all here, it feels like forever since I wrote to, or for, or about Thomas specifically. That’s partly for the sake of some degree of privacy, and not wanting this space to just be a blow by blow account of his every milestone as it unfolds. It’s also because I’ve preferred to record aspects of our lives as a whole family. And, of course, not least of all it’s because I’ve been rather wrapped up in my own emotional state in the last couple of years. But whatever I want from this blog and my online presence, a reason to document the things I don’t want to forget about my precious only son is still foremost amongst them.

And so here we are, at three-and-a-half-and-a-bit-more.

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And first and foremost: The kid can read. I’m not plonking this here in any attempt to brag about my son, because I only know that not all three year olds can read with the fluency that Thomas can because other people keep banging on about it, but for all I know, perhaps most of them can. However, it would be wrong to say that I’m not a little bit proud of him. He’s the boy who remains completely obsessed with numbers to the point that I was afraid he wouldn’t find the same joy in the written word. So to have him be so utterly determined to decipher the world around him by reading words, and to be so keen to read books to himself and figure out the story from the symbols on the page is absolutely heart warming.

He’s been trying to read for a long while but fear of being seen as a “pushy” mum, never mind not really knowing anything about phonics or how to go about helping him led me to keep pushing the issue aside, hoping to hold him off until he goes to school at the end of next year. But his frustration at being able to read numbers but not letters soon led to some pretty epic tantrums. I couldn’t blame him. The closest thing to knowing how he felt for me was thinking of visiting countries that don’t use a Roman alphabet, and therefore being unable to even guess what so many words around me said. It’s no wonder kids get overwhelmed. Thomas would look heartbroken as he sat on his bed with a book and said “I want to read. I can’t read the words. Please teach me to read.” It seemed cruel to say no to something he wanted to understand so badly.

So, after a quick crash course for myself, off we went. Within two weeks he’d mastered all of the most common phonemes and the art of both blending and segmenting. Since then he’s raced his way through Julia Donaldson’s Songbirds books and many of the Read Write Inc books. Everywhere we go he points out letters and sounds and reads words he recognises. Every conversation is punctuated by him declaring the sounds that the various objects we are discussing begin with, or segmenting a particular word to figure out how it is spelled. Seeing him decoding so many things in the world around him has been an amazing journey for us too.

All I can hope is that this is just the beginning of a life long love affair with the written word, reading and writing.

The love has numbers has not gone, either. He mastered counting to one hundred earlier in the year, and the idea of one more and one less. he can now recognise a group as being a particular number without the need to count them out, which makes playing dice games much, much easier! He’s currently absorbed in basic addition, subtraction and sharing of numbers. His ability to manipulate numbers, however, far outstrips his drawing and writing ability. So many of the paper based number activities involve drawing more of something. For example, he knows that if you have two buttons and add two more you will have four buttons, but he cannot draw two more buttons next to the ones on the page for love nor money! I’m wondering if writing and drawing will be the next big interest in the same way that reading followed counting!

Just in case anyone is worried that I chain Thomas to a desk to practice reading and number puzzles, don’t worry, he’s still very much an over enthusiastic, boisterous handful of a little boy. He’s still as obsessed with trains as ever and still wants to be one at every opportunity. He makes us line up to be tenders or coaches and race along the “rails” on the pavement, stopping to open our doors and let in passengers, or fill up with coal and water at every other lamp post . We visit rooms in the house picking up and dropping off various toys that stand in as passengers. He will tell anyone that will listen about how stream trains work and we still watch plenty of videos of trains on You Tube. In fact “can I have a video?” is one of the most oft heard phrases in our house right now.

His other absolute favourite game right now is hide and seek. Not that he’s any good at it, mind you. He wriggles and giggles to give the game away long before we’re even in the right room, but that joy he gets from both “hiding” and seeking is immense and evident from the face-splitting smiles. He could also play “snap” for hours and “Can I do an app?” is another frequent refrain.

We get plenty of standard pre-school behaviour too, and some that I’m concerned is not so standard. He’s a deeply particular person who wants things exactly so. What Thomas doesn’t realise is that we aren’t capable of reading his mind and we don’t always understand how he is imagining that something will work. He gets so frustrated if we don’t do or say exactly what he wants, even if he has not made it clear what that is. One middle of the night meltdown involved the order in which we went in to his room and left and what exactly we each needed to say to him. At three in the morning on the fourth wake up call of the night, is was easier and faster to try to comply, but even that took a long time and left me back in bed with my mind wondering to how he will ever cope in the world when people don’t do things exactly as he wants. It is as simple as being bossy (although he is that) or wanting to be in control (ditto) but more that he seems to genuinely believe that something terrible might happen if things don’t happen as he envisages.

On a similar vein, he is very ritual led. He doesn’t have particularly rigid overall routines, but there are certain specific sequences that mustt be played out. Lately we have to pretend to race him to do certain things – such as take his clothes off for the bath, turn the television off, go up the stairs – and then pretend to be upset when we “lose” (which is not helping his competitive “me first” streak at all!) We have a very rigid sequence of things which have to be done at bedtime and any deviation means we have to go right back to the beginning.

I’m telling myself this is all normal, and it, too, shall pass.

After all, his sleep is better. He generally actually stays in bed now, and goes off to sleep well more than half of the time. We’re up at some point in the night pretty much every night, but it’s often only once which is a big improvement. He’s still an early riser and we often see 5am, however we did put some renewed effort in to the Gro-Clock and a sticker chart. he got a sticker each day he stayed in his room until the sun came up and these days it’s often 6am until we hear “Mummy and Daddy come and play with meeee! It’s morning”

Ah yes, sticker charts. there are a lot of “incentives” in Thomas’s life right now. I prefer that term to “bribes”. I see it as teaching him that things can be earned with hard work, and effort, and doing things you don’t necessarily want to. After all, the vast majority of adults go to work primarily to get paid! Whilst Thomas will talk to anyone and soon round up a bunch of kids of all ages at the park and have them under his control in a game of “Shops” or “Postmen” or “Trains” he can be quite physically timid – afraid of climbing or new slides and things like that. We’ve used offers of treats to get him to try the things we know he will actually love, like the water slides at Center Parcs. We’ve also had sticker charts for everything from staying in bed, to dressing himself and trying new foods.

Yeah, that. Eating is still a bit hit and miss. Overall he’s more adventurous than he was. He has now earned a total of three new trains for trying fifteen new foods in the last six months, which I think is pretty amazing! They’ve included things like kidney beans, lamb and green beans. In fact, last month he happily ate first one green bean, then nine more with no fuss at all, which a few months ago would have been unthinkable. It brings the vegetable count to peas, carrots, sweet corn, corn on the cob (his favourite) and green beans. I’ll happily take that. (Fruit is going less well. We’re stuck with apples, tinned peaches and anything pureed. Ah well, perhaps eating pureed fruit from pouches will be a future adult craze!)

Other than all of that, he’s just a rally fantastic little boy. He talks non-stop to anyone and everyone. He has a fantastic sense of humour and really gets jokes now. He runs (or now skips, often hand-in-hand with me) everywhere and I’m unsure if he knows how to walk! He still loves his bike and is a balancing pro now. He’s too smart for his own good at times. (Doing “Stranger Danger” at preschool the staff expressed concerns that he was quite happy to keep going off with “strangers” whilst they were acting it out. On the way home he brought the subject up himself told me all about how you should never go with someone you don’t know, or accept things from them and recited the “rules” perfectly. I asked him why, then, he had gone with the “strangers”. He gave me such a withering look and said “Mummy that wasn’t a stranger, that was ” I had to admit he had a point!”)

On the one had he has a great attention to detail and brilliant memory, remembering things from two years ago with clarity I cannot always match. Sometimes he’ll become engaged in an activity for so long that time seems to stand still. And he can be incredibly patient if waiting for something that neither he, nor we, can control, such as the start of a show. On the other hand, he often has a typical short attention span and cloth ears. Often he wants everything “now” especially if that is my attention.

Of course, I don’t begrudge him that. He’s my only one. My special son. His smile brightens my day and stills my heart all at once. I still love him more than I can find the words for. in fact, I’m not sure the words for it will ever come, even if I should live to be one hundred and one.

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