Felicity has begun to have strong opinions about what she wears, to put it lightly. Last Friday when she woke up from her nap, she went into hysterics when I tried to get her into the leggings that she had been wearing that morning. "I just don't think they match!" she wailed. Her dress was navy and white; the leggings were pink. I assured her that navy and white are neutrals, so they go with everything, and after further cajoling she deigned to wear the pants. (Her general preference is "no pants!" which of course is a non-starter in the current season.)
Then last night, I asked her if she would like to wear the red-and-pink heart-bedecked pajamas she got for Valentine's Day, instead of the pilly, threadbare pink fleece ones that she has been wearing every night since about Christmas (we do wash them every few days, of course). She consented at first, but then she looked in her drawer again, burst into tears, and sobbed, "But the pink ones are so CUTE!"
Typically, I give her two choices, in compliance with the Limit a Young Child's Choices rule, but she blows right through that and REFUSES to look at the two perfectly acceptable things I've picked out, and instead she will start riffling through her drawer and closet in search of whatever outfit she is conjuring up in her wee head. Being contrarian by nature, these days it is ALWAYS "You want to wear a short sneeve shirt!" and then a lengthy grapple over the donning of legwear. "No pants. NO PANTS!" "Honey, it is ten degrees outside. You must wear pants." "Only the PINK pants." It's not that she wants to wear only skirts and dresses; she simply wants to parade around with nothing on her bottom half but undies (and then only the plain pink THIN ones, or the bunny ones -- sigh). She really should have been born to a nice family in the South Pacific.
One thing that never ceases to fascinate me is how she responds to new situations and people. In many cases, she acts with total confidence; but other times, she is aggressively reticent (it's a thing, paradoxical though it sounds).
On a recent frigid Saturday morning, I took her to a place across town that has a little indoor petting zoo. Children can feed bunnies and pet chincillas and play with lizards -- it's a great concept, and since Felicity loves anything relating to animals, I was sure it would be a hit with her.
Indeed, it was. She touched every animal, held a guinea pig in her lap, tried to accost the bunnies for hugs, and chatted with the kid-wranglers/zoo-keepers. The place was empty when we got there, but by the time we were ready to leave it was wall-to-wall people. Even then, when someone brought out another animal, she was right there, right at the front of the pack -- not in a shoving, jostling kind of way, but in a curious, self-assured way. Some kids cried or shrank away from the animals or the crowds, but she was up in the grill of every breathing thing on the premises.
In contrast, a few weeks ago she started a new session of gymnastics at the place she's been taking baby-gym since she was 14 months old. The coach was one she's had for at least a year, and the setting is exactly the same as it has been for ages. The format of the class, however, is different; it's with older kids (3-5 year olds), so the routine and pace of the class were new to her. Well, she didn't want the coach to even look at her, let alone spot her on an apparatus, and she wanted to stand back and watch instead of participating in a lot of the class. The next week, however, she did great. This is a pattern she often follows -- it takes her one, maybe two, tries at something new (swimming class was another where she howled the whole first class and by the next one was asking to swim all by herself), and then she's completely fine.
This is pretty standard kid stuff, so none of it alarms me in the slightest. I was VERY much a slow-to-warm kid, and I preferred to observe things many times before I felt comfortable enough to join in. In fact, to this day, I like to watch other people do something before I attempt it for the first time, and I prefer to be given clearly delineated tasks rather than being asked to come up with something entirely on my own. I remember as a kid, I sometimes watched "Bewitched" reruns, and the recurring theme of hapless Darren having to come up with some catchy slogan for a new product by a rapidly looming deadline stressed me right the heck out. Clearly, I was never meant to rule the advertising world -- or any highly creative world, really, because I'm happy to ride on the coattails of others' inventive genius while puttering away in my corner of the world doing whatever I've been told to do.
But I digress.
Let us turn to the way that Felicity typically reacts to new people -- or even people she knows, but not very well: she shouts, "NO!" and sometimes she will even swipe at the person (really turning on the charm). Then she'll either keep shouting, "NO!" as they talk to her, or she'll cry and say, "I don't want them to talk to you." (Yes, she is evenly split between first- and second-person now, ack!)
This is particularly awkward in our elevator or at our church or at her school, because it becomes difficult to act like, "Well, she's two, after all!" when she's seen the person lots of times and it keeps happening. It's one thing if she's hesitant toward someone she's never met, but we encounter lots of neighbors and acquaintances all the time, and she still pulls this routine on them.
I am trying to teach her other ways to express how she's feeling, such as saying, "I'm feeling a little shy right now" (though, on the other hand, I don't want to drill into her that she's shy, because I don't think she actually is, and I don't want her to label herself that way and then become it, you know?) or just responding to people with, "Hello, how are you?" instead of "NO!"
We've talked for DAYS about how when people talk to you, you don't just say, "NO!"; you answer their questions or at least say hi, or whatever. I KNOW she is not yet even three, but one issue is that she LOOKS four, at least, so I always have to be all, "She's two! She's being VERY TWO right now" so the person will stop giving me that odd look -- but I also know she IS mature and verbal enough to talk like a normal person. I assure you, I am not setting my expectations sky-high here. I really would just like her to either remain silent or say something minimal, and most of all to refrain from trying to assault our neighbors and friends.
(By the way, I am afraid I sound like I'm all up-in-arms about this, but I promise, I'm not. It's on my mind, and you people are always so receptive and helpful when I've got something buzzing on the ol' brain. I only talk about it with her very gently, never berating her about it or anything remotely like that, and most importantly, she WANTS to talk about how to behave in various situations all the time -- it's something that very much interests her, and she's quite serious about it; so what I want is to give her tools that she can use so that she feels good about how she's interacting with people and has positive experiences with passing social encounters. And with any hope, she will never be the awkward wallflower I was for lo, those many years...)
On the bright side, she's terrific about manners with people she knows; she will spontaneously say, "Thank you for the delicious lunch, Mommy!" after her meal, or she'll thank J for washing her clothes (Felicity helps; laundry is one of her favorite things). She'll refer out of the blue to something she got for Christmas and say, "That was such a special gift!" She says "please" and "may I please have" and "oh, thank you" and so on. She has the basic etiquette tools. (And she's too young to have gotten into the whole stranger danger thing, so it's not that she is fearful of new people, by the way.)
She is also VERY warm and affectionate with her teachers, classmates, us, friends, bigger kids (she is OBSESSED with bigger girls), etc. Obviously, I don't expect her to be handing out hugs to everyone we pass on the street (please no). I just wish I could figure out how to get her past that initial bad reaction to lesser-known folks and into an age-appropriate basic conversational mode. Because she IS 100% capable of conversation! She can ask and answer questions and talk til the cows come home -- if she were less verbal, I would brush this off as being not developmentally able to engage, or something; but that isn't the case, so I don't entirely know what it is other than a thing that she's going to grow out of, so why am I burning up headspace worrying about it, right? RIGHT. I know.
I've said this 500 times by now about the myriad things I've fretted about publicly: now that I've said this, we all know that tomorrow she will suddenly turn into Ms. Chatterbox with everyone in the world, because EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I put my concerns out into the ether, she grows out of whatever it is and moves onto the next thing.
Hopefully that will also be the case with the getting-out-of-bed phase that we are enduring at the moment. I have commenced bribing her with stickers, and that has worked so far to reduce the number of bed-exits (the other morning, I was getting her dressed and she quipped, "You got out of bed a million times last night"), so I am hopeful on that front.
I am not feeling hopeful, however, that we will get to sleep past 5:30am once spring comes; every day, she wakes up a few minutes earlier due to the encroaching sun -- and that is with blackout blinds AND shades; she has the strongest light-attuned circadian clock I've ever seen -- and I weep for the days when she would stay in bed until 7:30 or even have to be WOKEN UP on a weekday to get up in time for school. Wah.
So, in closing, if you've got any tips on social skills for the preschool set, I'm all ears.