A quick note before I start this post - if you read me, please could you delurk and say hi in the comments?!
KB - kutti boy - is what I call him in this blog centered mostly around KB and KG. But I feel as if I should be changing the name to older brother and younger sister for the two of them. KB is six! I cannot believe it. I still remember all the moments I had as a first time mother trying to deal with my post delivery issues, nursing issues, getting KB to sleep through the night etc. And all of a sudden now I am able to have conversations with him about so many different things - Calvin & Hobbes, human race evolution, symbiotic relationships and what not. How did time go by so fast?!
KB has given me so much in terms of new experiences as a mother. But the thing that tops it all is this - knowing what it is to love a human being completely, whole heartedly, to wish only the very best without a doubt and feel only joy for that person's every little success. I feel like that feeling is so powerful within me and I don't think I have ever had it that way for any one else before KB and KG came along. Even with a spouse, it is peppered with ego issues that crop up and muddle it. Even with my parents it is sometimes not as clear because of feelings of what they could have done differently. It is only when KB came along that I realized what an exhilarating and liberating feeling it can be to feel sure of the love you feel for someone. I don't know how this might feel later when they grow up and may be then it won't feel so unconditional, I am not sure. But for now I just feel like motherhood is worth it just to experience that kind of pure love.
KB has always been a sort of deep thinker. One can almost see thoughts floating through his head as he sits in his spot or just lies down in one corner of the couch quietly for even 10 or 15 minutes sometimes. Like a cat, sometimes he likes to lie down in the corner of the couch where the sun is shining brightly and think about some random thing or the other. He was always a talker and continues to be that way. He gives lengthy explanations for any question I ask him. Since he is our first child, we had no gauge for how much they talk or not at any particular age. He used to recite big twenty page books verbatim back to me at age two and half and we thought that was normal. It is only when KG came along and I saw how she cannot even recite one page back to me at age four that I realized that he was verbally ahead of his age. He tested as advanced when he did the language testing for non native English speakers before he started Kindergarten.
I think back to the time he started preschool and the struggles he and I went through in getting him to be away from me at preschool. After a month of struggling with his loud crying, the director finally told me that they could not handle it and that I had to train him at home and bring him back. I finally changed him to a city preschool program and then to another small school for pre-K. I was so nervous as to how he would cope with the eating part of it when he started Kindergarten. But he managed the longer hours and the stricter school environment fine. He laughs and plays silly at home all the time with his little sister but I heard from his teacher that he is pretty serious at school. I can't figure out why or if it is just the way he is when she is around. Because he laughs a lot with some of his friends at school when he meets them outside of school. I could see that he had devised his own ways of dealing with the aggressive kids. He either gave them a chance and played along by their rules for a couple of times or just walked away from the game and found others to play with for that period. By the end of the year, he learned to tell the bossy kid, "Hey, you are not my boss. I can do it the way I want to do it". I felt proud of him for that but sometimes my heart aches that he is naturally so gentle and good-natured that he has to learn to be aggressive...and when I see glimpses of that learned behavior, I feel bad he can just be the way he is naturally.
KB was/is the picky eater amongst the two kids. But he eats his meals completely on his own and has been doing so for over a year now. I never thought that day would come and now it seems so the norm. I can't believe it is the same kid I used to spend one hour per meal feeding with a spoon and reading books to distract him and what not. I still have to read books to him when he eats, not something pediatricians approve of, but I just do it.
I faced some amount of peer pressure when he was four to a)put him in a Montessori school where he would have gotten more academic learning b) to put him in Kumon classes for reading and math. I am happy that I went with my instincts and put him in a school where he felt comfortable and secure even though it was not a Montessori school. I am also glad I did not waste my money and time on Kumon lessons for him because the way he learns, he would have gone through the motions of it out of a sense of wanting to please me may be, but he would have been mindlessly bored. As much as he can, he prefers to do all his math problems mentally now and I don't know how he would have coped with pages and pages of drilling. I used to wonder if he would like Math or not because he was so into books and telling us stories and he used to talk so much about how he would be a director and who he would cast as a particular character when he makes his movie etc. We always joked that he was going to go into the movies (which I don't want really). In the last few months though he has shown a natural inclination for Math and seems to enjoy it as well. He is doing all kinds of arithmetic problems and word problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and he does fractions, negative numbers, simple equations, measurement, time and money problems. He is now mostly doing second and third grade and some fourth grade work sheets I print out from the internet. I am sometimes conflicted if I should even give him those kind of worksheets to do at home because when he starts first grade he won't have the fun of challenging problems. And I notice that despite finding simple arithmetic problems very easy at this point, he still makes mistakes on those because he wants to do it all mentally and problems like 10 + 12, he reads quickly as 10 - 12 and writes the answer as -2. He enjoys it most when I read to him but he reads simple books as well as chapter books and great illustrated classics kind of books. I have to wait and see how it goes in first grade. I just hope he does not get too bored because the curriculum here is not very challenging unless the teacher herself notices that a child needs more challenge and puts in some effort in that direction. The times I spend teaching him Math or reading about science to him are so fulfilling because he takes it all in like a sponge. All kids at this age are that way, not to single him out. But as a parent, it is rewarding to see the connections being made and the understanding showing in his face. I have taught courses as a teaching assistant when I was in graduate school but I never felt the kind of joy I feel now teaching KB all kinds of things and learning along with him. Sometimes I feel tempted to become a kindergarten teacher because it is the beginning of their academic career and it is joyful to see them blossom. But I know I don't have the patience for a whole group of kids day after day.
KB seems to prefer non-fiction books to fiction, that's what his teacher also told me. But once he gets started on story books he gets totally into it. Although when it comes to us reading to him, he loves it when we read him stories. He does watch TV every day in the summer during lunch time but he is good about not watching TV later. He is not too much into computer games. His favorite TV shows currently are Magic school bus, Word girl and Wild Kratts. He just loves nature and learning about nature. He started going to basket ball class this summer and is totally into the game. True to his nature he has delved deep into it and plays it often in the backyard. He has been reading all sorts of NBA books about the greatest basketball players and remembers all kinds of stats about players. This year he has moved on from his Diego/Rhinoceres Beetle back pack to a Koby Bryant backpack for school!
KB has made me feel the joy of learning all over again. With him to give me company, I am beginning to appreciate nature in a whole new way. To appreciate the bugs and the lizards as much as the majestic tigers and lions. When I go to the zoo now and see an Echidna or when I happen to see the photo of a Draco lizard, I look at it with so much excitement because I can talk to KB about why the Echidna is a mammal misfit (lays eggs) or what is amazing about the Draco lizard (movable ribs it uses to spread out like wings and glide from tree to tree) . And he talks to me about it with such joy. I feel so thankful for having another opportunity to learn things along with him. When he asks me things like, "Mamma, how does an eraser really wipe off pencil marks?", it makes me pause and think about simple things in front of me. I gave him an answer then but not as precisely as I did after I looked it up later. (BTW - this is the answer from the internet - Erasers pick up graphite particles, thus removing them from the surface of the paper. Basically, the molecules in erasers are 'stickier' than the paper, so when the eraser is rubbed onto the pencil mark, the graphite sticks to the eraser preferentially over the paper.).
KB still struggles with his nightmares but it has become a lot better. He had regressed a lot in his swimming but in the last two and half weeks he has progressed a lot. His swim teacher says he will be ready for participating in swim meets next summer. I think I will be in tears if he did that because he would gotten there from overcoming his anxiety this year (He had no fear of water really and did well last year. Somehow the teacher did not work out for him this year and he became more scared of going to the deep end) and working really hard and learning it. It is not something that comes to him as naturally as it seems to for KG. She has no fear when it comes to swimming and that makes it so much easier for her.
I have written about the things he does and about his personality etc for his sixth birthday post because I am sure I will find it very interesting to read this post next year. I always keep praying for his good health. Sometimes when he cries for ten minutes or so in a half asleep state when he has nightmares, I get the shivers and I feel as if it is only divine grace that made me escape his having any issues that some super intense kids have. I just hope and pray at least this year we escape any ER visits for him (and for KG) from his coughing this year.
KB is moving to a different school for first grade. I hope he settles down easily in the new environment. I am sure it will be very interesting to see him grow and learn and understand the world around him more deeply.
Wish you the very best, my sweet little KB!