RIVER AT NEARLY 4 YEARS OLD
I haven't written about River in a while. She's changed so much in the last few months: if I don't pin her personality down now I know I won't remember it properly.
There are phrases and words that are uniquely hers:
-- Measurter (used indiscriminately for thermometers and tape measures and long pieces of ribbon).
-- Last day (referring to something that happened any time from an hour ago to years ago).
-- Tell me (when we ask her something and she doesn't know the answer).
-- Tell me a story about... (when something has happened that she doesn't understand she'll get us to turn it into a story, and later on she'll act out the story in her playing).
-- I'm cross now, really cross! Hmph! (this normally pops up if we show even the slightest displeasure with her).
She spends most of her time with Matt, as I am so often out working or at home but looking after Willow. So it must be Matt's influence that has made her so playful, enthusiastic, cheeky, imaginative, sensitive, empathic, creative, energetic.
When she's wholly absorbed in a game she will sing quietly. Sometimes there are no words, sometimes it's the same song over and over, and sometimes it's a sung narration of her game. Sometimes it even rhymes.
She's started engaging in more 'small world' play recently, where she's like a god, controlling her little characters. The little plastic dinosaurs have swimming lessons in the bath, and fly around on the Matt's old Thunderbird vehicles. Darth Vader and his son, Tom, have adventures in the kitchen. Twig, her cuddly rabbit, leads a very exciting life.
But there's still a lot of role-playing going on too. Disney princess nonsense happens at her friend N's house, but at home she's more likely to be a queen, sheep, dragon, Max (from Where the Wild Things Are), blue fairy, explorer, detective, pirate, and on and on.
Since she was not even a year old she has expected Matt and I to assume various roles/characters at the drop of a hat. I blame Matt for this as he gave a gruff fisherman's voice to a little boat captain during bath times back when we lived at my mum's house. Captain and his sidekick Seagull aren't often heard from these days, sadly.
Instead we are instructed to be:
-- the Shoe Lady (which means I have to pretend to measure her feet before she'll agree to wear shoes)
-- Mrs Berry (a dentist in a library book, who in our house is often required to have an opinion on cakes and biscuits)
-- Mummy Monster (who can send River scurrying up the stairs with one small growl -- so useful!)
-- Daddy Robot (giving voice to any large radio antennae we see on our walks)
-- Data, Picard, Worf, Kirk, Spock, Darth Vader (hmm, I wonder why she likes these particlar characters!)
-- Dr Crusher (called on to observe any minor injuries)
-- Troi (has to witness sad things)
-- Blue Moodles (inspired by mishearing the name of Ludo in Labyrinth, and a blue monster bath toy. Blue Moodles is friendly, big, slow and often confused)
-- the Hairdresser (who must always have a selecion of comics for any other children who are waiting to have their hair done after River's had her turn)
-- Giselle (from Enchanted, required to join in with whatever terrifying adventure she decides to have while wearing her most princessy costume)
-- the Fairy Godmother (lives in the kitchen and sings instead of talking)
-- Calamity Jane (inaccurate American accent and unbridled enthusiasm for everything)
-- Klingon Captain (always delighted to welcome the baby bluebird onto his ship)
-- Elsa, Anna and "Onna" (an extra sister due to not understanding that the people in "Frozen" said "Anna" with an accent)
-- Daddy Viking, Manannan, Fenella (when she wants us to be dramatic and talk in gentle tones)
-- any other character from a book, TV show, or real life friends and family -- as the situation requires
This happens at least once a day, and often it can feel like we haven't been allowed to just be ourselves for hours at a time. Not really complaining about this. It'll be very sad if Willow doesn't develop the same rich imaginative world.
I wrote most of the above last autumn, before River's 4th birthday. She's obviously more articulate now. She has a gift for language and seems able to pick up meanings for new words after only one or two hearings. She makes up rhyming songs all the time.
There's the usual 4-year-old scatalogical humour. And a lot of rage and impatience -- almost like a teenager. I'm guessing it's developmental and that she'll settle down again soon (it's very handy that I have a friend with a daughter only a week older -- we compare notes and reassure ourselves that our screaming, snarling daughters are quite normal).
She's great at finding the good in any situation.
She's learning to write letters and numbers. I find it interesting that the numbers are often backwards. She can write her name in capitals now -- and has practised writing with pens, pencil, crayons, in sand, flour, dust, in the air, by walking and jumping the shapes on the floor, with chopped up flower stalks. Matt has been playing simple addition games with her when they're out in the car.
She and I made a clock last week so that she could start learning about time.
Her favourite role-playing game above everything else is being a detective. But her favourite thing to do in the house is "The Swamp Game", which involves piling all the big sofa cushions up on the rug and pretending that she's:
-- sinking in a swamp
-- dodging through a meteor shower (as Matt hurls the small cushions at her)
-- erupting out of a volcano
-- digging treasure out of a mine
-- exploring a labyrinth
-- camping in a tent
-- crawling through a cave without causing a landslide
-- feeding cushions to the robot to stop him attacking her
We have to keep buying hair clips and hair ties as she uses all hers to make things: hats, Xmas decorations, necklaces, rescue lines for toys, various fancy dress outfits for her and her toys.
After reading "Peter Pan" with Matt at bedtime through the winter she now thinks that Tinkerbell has a habit of sneaking into our house an either leaving gifts or causing mischief.
She's still very sensitive to bright light and loud noise. She still cries when she sees or hears someone else crying, or when she's too caught up in a sad game (oh the tears we had when she and Matt burnt the big paper snowflake after Xmas; she was being a fairy and the burning signified the end of her snow magic). She still wants to be a ballerina and a sea scientist.
She's still quick to show affection.
I love her.