Petra can skip now. She can do up and undo the buttons on her pj’s. She can hop on one foot. She can jump onto the flying fox at the Khandallah playground by herself. She swarms all over the play equipment at the playground, climbing and down-climbing cables, bars, the slide, and a climbing board with big holds all over it.

She makes jokes, is very amused about anything to do with bodily functions, and gets a huge kick out of any dumb things I might do (on purpose or otherwise). She speaks her own language – it’s made up of pretty consistent sounds and phrases and appears to be modelled on Spanish. She also makes up her own verbs to describe what she and her toys are doing – they scrumble and garble and squamble and other things that I can’t even begin to spell. And she’s enormously verbal in plain old English. She has a huge and ever-expanding vocabulary because she soaks up everything she hears and adds it to her repertoire. It’s an odd experience to hear my habitual phrases and turns of speech coming back at me. I had no idea that my language was so colloquial and idiosyncratic, or so repetitive until I heard myself coming out of Petra’s mouth.

And she’s smart – she remembers everything, even off-hand comments I made 6 months ago, and spends a lot of time turning these memories into stories. We tell the small stories in our lives over and over, polishing them until we both know exactly what happens next. If I mess the stories up, or forget anything, Petra corrects me and fills in the gaps. I have to tell her who was present when she was borned. And who came to her birthday parties. And what we did when we were in Costa Rica. And what we’ve left behind at various places. The list includes: a woolly hat at Every Educaid in Dunedin; a small horse at the pharmacy in Johnsonville; Petra’s shoes at the Wellington Library (this is particularly funny because we got half-way out of the cafe with Petra wearing only her socks before we noticed. “We didn’t realise,” Petra yells at this point in the story and collapses in a giggling heap.); and a sun hat at kindy. And each item on the list comes with its own little story, so this one takes some time.

She’s also showing her smarts by learning to game the parental system. I recently told her that mashed potatoes are for eating, not for playing with. So tonight, as she energetically squashed her mashed potatoes into a pancake, Petra informed me that she wasn’t playing with her food, she was helping it cool down so that she could eat it. Can’t argue with that.

It’s no wonder that she’s a more emotional these days and a bit more prone to melt-downs – her brain and body are working so hard, and the world is getting bigger and bigger everyday, and she’s striving so hard for mastery of her environment. It must be exhausting and frustrating.

I’ll try to remind myself of that the next time she collapses on the floor at the library cafe because I won’t buy her a sprinkle-covered, hand-shaped shortbread biscuit. This happened yesterday, marking our very first full-on public meltdown. We got it sorted and went back to the cafe for the cheese scone I thought was a more appropriate choice. All went well until I said no to the Lighthouse playground, and then we had our second ever full-on public meltdown. Poor old Petra – she was hungry and tired and just couldn’t cope with the frustration. Poor old Mama as well – having to deal with all of this in a room full of people silently looking. Fortunately, life got much calmer once we got home and settled in for repeated readings of the new library books.

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