The other day I published a blog, “Stickperson-ism is Way Easier & Other Kindergartener Observations,” that included some delightful vignettes between me and my six-year-old daughter, Kat, over the course of the past year. The material doesn’t end there.
Since my daughter’s birth, I’ve been writing her letters every six months. I’ll probably give her these letters when she graduates from college, or perhaps when she gets married. Too often the museum of one’s childhood is filled with nothing more than faded photographs; I wanted my daughter to have full conversations and experiences repeated back as written words.
Another reason I started writing these letters was because I had observed a neurological phenomenon that occurred to a number of my friends who had started their own families. Some very bright individuals—some even bordering on genius—tended to become drooling dolts after their children were born. Their ability to remember anything—even their favorite beer—seemed to disappear after several years of balancing career and child-rearing responsibilities.
Thus, I suspected that maintaining an epistolary relationship with my future daughter was the only way for any of these precious parenting moments to be retained.
The following adventures in words occurred during Kat’s Pre-4 academic year, when she was five. Enjoy!
Kat and I spend a few minutes most days hopping around YouTube watching nature videos, “How it’s Made” videos, etc. …
Papa: What should be watch tonight? Want to watch a “How it’s Made” video?
Kat: Yeah. Let’s watch how chocolate is made.
Kat and Papa find a video showing how M&Ms are made.
Papa: That was neat. What next?
Kat: Let’s watch how people are made. How are people made, Papa?
Papa: Um…oh, look, here’s a Pink Panther cartoon!
Papa: Don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal, Kat.
Kat: You mean like Mercury is much smaller than Earth, which is much smaller than Jupiter, which is much smaller than the sun, which is much smaller than Betelgeuse, which is much smaller than a galaxy?
Papa: Yes, I think you get the picture.
Kat’s teacher shared this with me today…
This week, Kat was given the special opportunity to do the classroom reading time for her classmates. (She’s in preschool, and of course this is usually done by the teacher. But Kat is already reading Level 3 & 4 books, so they gave her a special opportunity.)
Apparently the class was not listening very well. Kat paused in the middle of reading aloud the book about insects and instructed the class to be better listeners. A few of her classmates shot back that she was being bossy and wasn’t supposed to tell them to be quiet.
She said: “I’m not being bossy. But it’s important that you listen to the reading. After all, it’s in your best interest.”
Of course, that evening at supper, Kat was convinced the red bell pepper strips were going to kill her. But most of the time, I am so proud of how mature my lil’ daughter is.
The Letter of the Week is “J”
In class, Kat asked the teacher why there is a dot on a lowercase ‘j.’ This was a fact unknown to her teachers.
Kat asked Papa at the dinner table. Papa explained that the tittle, as the dot is officially known, was originally used as an upper diacritical mark on the ‘i’ and the ‘j’ as a way to distinguish these letters in early printed manuscripts. The tittle was later decreased to a mere dot in handwritten texts.
Papa explained the phrase “jot and tittle,” and attempted to convey that ‘jot’ is the Latinization of the Greek letter ‘iota,’ which was their ‘i’ and which looks quite a bit like an English ‘i.’
Papa then attempted to explain that not all languages use a mark above their ‘i’ and ‘j.’ And, in fact, Latin did not even have a ‘j’ at all—although sometimes that mark was used when ‘i’ appeared multiple times and contiguously in the same word. He stumbled a bit when trying to remember the English origin of the affricate sound, but was positive it had Norse-German origins.
Kat then asked for a marshmallow in her chocolate milk, which Papa felt obliged to provide given that she had listened patiently to his tittling lecture.
Boyfriend, Part I
At dinner, Kat giggles uncontrollably.
Papa: What is it?
Kat: I have two boyfriends. [giggle] J.P. and Connor. [giggle] And Justin Bieber.
Papa: Why are they your boyfriends?
Kat: They’re so cute! [giggle]
Papa: What makes a boy cute?
Kat: Chubby cheeks. [giggle] And if they can make antlers on their head with their hands.
Kat is now giggling so hard she almost falls off the chair.
Papa: Do J.P. and Connor both know they’re your boyfriends?
Kat: I told them they were cute! Yes. [pause] And I called Justin Bieber on the phone and told him he was cute. [more giggling]
Papa: Don’t you think Justin should have called me first to ask if it okay to speak with you?
Kat: Oh, Papa, you need a girlfriend.
Papa: Sorry, Kat, I don’t know any women who can make antlers with their hands.
Boyfriend, Part II
At dinner the next night.
A text arrives. The parent of one of Kat’s classmates wishes for her son to call Kat to apologize for something. Papa replies that it is fine for the boy to call.
Papa: Did J.P. do something bad to you today?
Kat: Yeah, he punched me in the tummy.
Papa: [concerned; eyebrow cocks] Well, he’s about to call to apologize. Please act graciously—that means to accept his apology kindly.
The telephone rings. Papa places the call on speakerphone.
J.P.: Hello, make I speak to J.P.?
Papa: I believe you are actually J.P. Do you mean you would like to speak to “Kat”?
J.P.: Yeah, Kat.
Kat: Hi, J.P.!
J.P.: Kat, will you forgive me for punching you in the tummy?
Kat: I am pleased to accept your apology…[giggles]
J.P.: Okay. Will you still be my boyfriend?
Papa: I think you mean girlfriend.
Giggling giggles beyond giggles ensue.
J.P.: Yeah, I mean girlfriend?
Kat: Yes! You have chubby cheeks! I’m your girlfriend! Papa, can J.P. spend the night?
Papa: Hmm. Perhaps a play date instead.
Kat: J.P., you’re so cute. [giggles]
Papa: [to himself] Perhaps this is how Romeo and Juliet met.
Kat: Chubby cheeks!
In Kat’s annual letter to Santa Claus, she requested two things: a trip to Myrtle Beach and magic powers. Both gifts arrived with letters of reply from St. Nicholas.
The Myrtle Beach trip was a blast. Santa sent us to the Dunes Resort for three days right before Christmas. We have annual winter beach traditions now: feeding the gulls, seeing how long we can go in our bare feet on the cold sand, visiting the Ripley’s Aquarium, and of course hours upon hours in the indoor lazy river.
The request for “magic powers,” however, had me—I mean, St. Nicholas—stumped for a few weeks. But Father Christmas came up with a rather creative response: Kat’s first microscope.
Kat and I have had quite a bit of fun examining things with it, but then Kat told me she was disappointed Santa didn’t give her the ability to conjure ice cream from thin air. I explained, as had Santa, that Santa cannot give away such magic powers, but science is as close to magic as we’ll ever come.
Kat was disappointed to rehear this—and she brought up the subject more than once over the course of several weeks. I consoled her by saying that our imaginations are incredibly powerful and can produce every kind of magic under the sun. Still, I can tell she is saddened to realize the physical limitations of our universe. I am too: if people can envision unicorns and wizards and dragons and the like, what was our Creator thinking to omit them from our world?
Actually, it’s rather comforting to see one’s child come to the same conclusion about a subject that seems so important—yet which one cannot really seriously discuss with most adults.
On the way home from a Christmas Eve party:
Kat: Papa, can’t you go any faster? It’s tomorrow already! I have to get home and go to sleep now. Now!
Papa: Kat, it’s okay. Santa can’t come before midnight. It’s only 8 p.m.
Kat: Papa! Will someone just pass all these cars and put me to sleep!
Kat: He came! He came! Santa came! He left presents and another letter for me! And he ate his cookies! I ate the crumbs, but he ate the rest! O, he came!!!
Papa: Merry Christmas, beautiful child.
Kat woke up early and drew this for me the morning after the divorce became finalized. She had no idea of course of what had happened the day prior. She just wanted to make a drawing for her Papa, and she let me know how much she loved me.
The New Grocery Store
On the way to school each morning, Kat and I have been eagerly watching the construction of a new Whole Foods down the street. Going there today was an adventure—literally, as more than 1,000 other residents of Columbia were eager to browse its wares.
Here is Kat’s shopping list: strawberries, grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, peaches, carrots. Each time we loaded an item onto the cart, Kat checked it off. However, she made an executive decision not to buy broccoli, and unfortunately this Whole Foods does not sell peaches.
Added to the cart impromptu were coconut-rolled dates as well as Atlantic salmon fillets. Kat ordered the fish at the counter, then asked the fish guy if he was also selling “holy mackerel.”
In one aisle, we sat and stuffed our faces with gratis fresh tortilla chips and guacamole, and jumbo grapes, then went home and prepared a delightful feast with our ingredients. Life is grand.
Late for School One Morning
Papa: Kat, we’ve got to get ready! Let’s fly!
Kat: We can’t!
Papa pauses in tracks.
Kat: We don’t have hollow bones!