One recent evening Elena looked up in the sky and saw a sliver of moon. She pointed at it, like she usually does, and said “moon!” Then she took another look and said “moon broken?” Of course, she’s seen the moon like this many times before, but this was the first time that she noticed the difference. It shows that she’s increasingly fascinated by things that are broken, lost, or otherwise not right.
On a different evening last week, we told Elena to go downstairs and get her blanket as she started to prepare for bedtime. Not long afterward she came into our room with the blanket in tow and a quivering lip. She held it out to us and sadly said “blankey broken.” True enough, it had a substantial L-shaped rip in the shell layer of fabric. It must have caught on something pointy; since it’s been so well loved, it was more susceptible to tearing.
Life goes on–Elena continues to carry the blanket everywhere and usually doesn’t remember that there’s a problem. We’re trying to come up with a strategy for repairing it, but need to take action soon to prevent the damage from spreading. I thought that a simple exterior patch could work, if we could find some similar fabric. Jenny’s mother suggested a more sophisticated approach: ironing on a patch from the inside, then whip stitching around the damaged area to prevent fraying. We’re open to other suggestions, if any seamstresses or parents would like to weigh in with what you did in similar situations.
While it was clear that the blanket was broken, Elena can also recognize when something is missing. We were on a regular grocery trip. Elena and I dropped Jenny off at Wegmans while we went to pick up a few things at Costco. When we finished purchasing our items, we walked over to Wegmans instead of driving.
Elena had been wearing and playing with my watch, which I had almost forgotten, but occasionally I saw it on her wrist and was glad to see she still had it. After helping Jenny get the rest of the items on her list, I chose to take Elena back to the car instead of waiting in the checkout line; I figured that getting the car would take the right amount of time, since it was parked far away.
Before we made our exit Elena wanted to spend some time with the prominent display of summer items, guaranteed to give you a fun summer evening. She and Jenny sat on a pair of adult- and child-sized folding chairs for a minute before I whisked her away, horsey-back style. To make good time I galloped over to our car, making her giggle with each bounce. As I buckled the car seat, I saw that my watch was gone. I asked her about it, and I think she said “inside,” but I didn’t listen.
We drove over to where Jenny had the groceries. I told her the watch was lost, and set about retracing our steps. I reasoned that the bouncy ride had caused the watch to fall off Elena’s wrist, but it wasn’t anywhere outside. Then I remembered what Elena had said, and headed back into the store, scanning the floor as I walked. I saw the folding chairs from a distance and was inspired to walk over to them, where I immediately found my watch, carefully placed in the cupholder pocket on the arm of the chair where Elena had been sitting.
When I returned to the car, I asked Elena for more details about the watch, and I’m pretty sure that she said something about the chair. I didn’t get angry at her, but I did try to explain to her that it was important to take care of things you were holding, especially if they were borrowed. I know that this is a more advanced concept, and don’t expect her to understand right away.
Even the idea of brokenness appeals to Elena. On Sunday, after a long drive home from Grandma’s house, Jenny and I were extremely tired. Elena had napped in the car, so she wanted to play. I laid down on the couch so I would at least be nearby if she needed me, but soon she was up on there with me, bouncing around. I reminded her that she wasn’t supposed to even stand up on the couch, and soon after I heard her speaking rhythmically and realized that she was reciting snippets of “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” She didn’t know all of it, so I sang a few rounds of it to her and she caught right on.
After that, it was non-stop monkeys jumping on beds for a day or two. Elena still didn’t know all the words perfectly, but she understood the idea. Her favorite line to say, and ours to hear, was when the doctor said “no way more monkeys jumping on the bed!” Although it’s died down in the past day, I hope that I can introduce more math through the monkey chant. For starters, maybe more than one monkey will fall off the bed at a time, so we can talk about subtraction. If that goes well, I might risk the infinite song that could result if negative monkeys start jumping on the bed.
On Monday we went for a walk in the evening. The moon, now almost full, was rising and I pointed it out to Elena. She saw it and called out “hi Moon!” I asked her if it was broken, and she said no. I wonder what she makes of that? It’s too bad that the recent lunar eclipse wasn’t visible in our part of the world.