Dirk Knemeyer

Elena 3.10; Soren 1.7.5

I haven’t written an update about my youngest children in four months. It has been a matter of not having the energy to reach back in my memory and document. They have, as always, been a joy so I’m not sure where that lack of initiative is coming from.

Soren began walking within a week of my last update (end of July). At first toddling slowly and uncertainly, now today toddling with speed and confidence, Soren has gone from being relatively static and easy to watch to being an always-mobile handful. When I am gone he is drawn to my office like a magnet, making a mess and disrupting the electronics. When out with his mother he always needs to be watched. He is fearless and – so long as mom is in the approximate vicinity – races out and among people and everything that is going on. Whereas his sister would stay off to the side and be more observant, Soren throws himself right in the middle of everything. He also loves to be tickled, cackling away in glee.

That fearlessness extends to play with me. He loves to be swung and tossed around. While Elena also enjoys this, when she was smaller for me to swing without any limitation, it would reach the point where it was too high or too fast or too much. She would become scared and request a more moderate swing. (Of course now she is too heavy so I can’t necessarily swing her to the point of fear, needing instead to focus on keeping her wrists/ankles/body in my hands and not losing my grasp!) With Soren I went slowly because he didn’t initially have great control of his head and neck but – as that gets ever-better – I’m swinging him more and more. So far, there is no too much. He laughs and giggles and is thrilled by it. When we do swings and I alternate between the two children Soren is so delighted that he barrels toward me without any thought to where he is or his safety, sometimes nearly hurtling himself off the edge of the bed and to a nasty fall.

Speaking of laughing and giggling, that is Soren’s modus operandi. He is remarkably easy-going, happy and friendly. He’s still a little wimpy when he’s sick or not right but otherwise he is such a jovial fellow. Babysitters find him joyous to watch. He is a friendly, seemingly uncomplicated guy. It’s nice. He’s going to have a lovely sense of humour.

When reading his books, Soren likes to make gestures that mimic what is happening in the book. While he must have learned these things based on the pictures the words are the actual trigger: as he pats his head, bounces around, claps his hands or otherwise manifests the physicality of what is happening on the page. It’s certainly cute, and remarkably different from his sister’s approach of memorizing all the words.

Soren’s talking is starting to increase. Other than a couple of words, most of his noises have been – while clear in their intent – more noises than words. Every day they are getting more and more “word-like”. Some of this is from time and repetition but in other cases is even with newer words.

Speaking of talking, Elena talks non-stop. NON-STOP. Not so much in public where she tends to remain subdued, but at home she has oh-so-much to say. Most of it is repetitive, going over the same things again and again. When I was younger I used to tell myself that I was on a “feedback loop” as I obsessed or couldn’t stop thinking about some particular thing. Elena has that.

At 18 months Soren was 34 inches tall (90th percentile) and 27 pounds (75th percentile). As recently as the spring he was very doughy, but he has thinned out and despite being taller actually still fits into the same clothes from the start of the year. Elena remains long and lean, checking in at 34.5 points when at the doctor at 3 years and 9 months. Her height wasn’t measured but she is a lot taller than Soren at this point. She feels significantly heavier when I haul her around so her height must really be influencing that somehow.

Elena’s love of clothing and appearance continues to deepen. She likes to pick her clothing and loves going through her mother’s shoes. We’re convinced that it is nature not nurture even though a genetic predisposition for high heels wouldn’t even vaguely seem a possibility. A funny example: for her violin recital coming up, she and all of the performers need to wear matching red polo shirts with the program’s logo on the breast. She doesn’t like it, and regularly talks about wanting to wear something else! Also, she will frequently put on fairy or princess costumes over her other clothes as she goes around the house. I will take her with me on errands wearing things like this; she loves it, why not?

Speaking of violin, thanks to her mother Elena practices diligently each morning and has developed real enjoyment of and comfort with her violin, “Violet”. This Saturday she has a recital, which her grandmother is coming down to see as well. It is funny to see her playing alongside much older people – not nearly as well, of course. But the visual contrast is amusing.

Elena is a big complainer. Big. Complainer. Tonight, for example, she had eaten all of her lunch and dinner so was entitled to a dessert. Her mom gave her a piece of pie. Elena lifted it off the plate, complaining that her dinner was on the same plate so the pie could not go on it as well. Whereas I would have told her to get her own new plate her mother dutifully got up and got her a new plate. That kind of particularity is common. As another example, she was given a sandwich for lunch because she doesn’t like the (super delicious) turkey pot pie that Sigrid made. Despite getting the sandwich, she found it necessary to tell us more than once that she doesn’t like the pot pie. This child knows what she likes, knows what she doesn’t, and is particular about getting what she likes.

Elena is also very particular about what she is called. She is a “big girl” and any of “silly”, “funny” or “goofy” will be met with disagreement. One of my mindless pet names for her is “baby” and she is quick to remind me that Soren is the baby.

Our routine of swinging-tickling-reading has been going on for many months, but for quite a while now she cuts off the tickles with an indignant “stop!” almost as soon as they begin. Now tonight, with no real explanation, she announced that she isn’t going to stay stop any more and just let me tickle her endlessly, pretend to bite her legs, arms and feet (which she typically recoils from) and just basically let it all happen with no pushback. Is it that she sees the fun her brother has and – as she does display jealousy toward him at times – wants the same thing? Or were the “stop’s” part of her keeping a nexus of control that either thru general maturity or comfort goofing around with me are no longer? Or, was this just a one-night change and not something more persistent? We’ll see.

As much as Elena is not naturally a cuddler she is very loving. She daily shows me love and affection in very thoughtful and kind ways. While some of it is clearly just copying what she sees her mother and I do toward each other and the children there is a genuineness to it. When she says she loves me so much, she really means it. It’s sweet.

We get along incredibly well as a family. Sigrid makes everything very nice for us all, and we are generally just happy and content together. Given the way I grew up and in my first marriage, sometimes it feels really foreign and almost surreal. But I surely have a great appreciation for it.

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