This month, my kid turned four. Today, he went to his first full day of childcare/preschool, and had a wonderful time - he’s still working on learning to share, but he was excited when we dropped him off and excited when we picked him up, and apparently made such good friends with another boy that the teacher assumed they already knew each other, so I’m calling it a win. Tonight at dinner, while I talked him through eating his fish, he gave me a thumbs up to show he understood, and when I returned it, he grinned and held up his hand for a high five. I gave him one, and he exclaimed, “Yay teamwork!”
“That’s a new one,” my husband said. “I wonder where he got that from?”
“No idea,” I said. “But it’s pretty cute.”
Years ago now, I was at a fairly dreadful academic dinner where I ended up being seated across from a woman I’d never met before, whose son had just started primary school. In the course of our conversation, I made what felt to me a fairly benign - not to say obvious - remark about how starting school means getting a life outside your parents; how, for the first time, they’re put in the position of having to ask you how your day was, instead of having been there for all of it or able to ask another adult for a summary, and how it’s the point where you really start to develop your own independence and private inner life. The woman went ramrod-straight and said, affronted and defensive, “My son tells me everything. I know everything about him.”
At the time, it was one small uncomfortable moment in what went on to be a grossly uncomfortable evening for a variety of reasons (but that’s a different story). But it came back to me today when I realised that, even though my kid has technically just reached that point, in a way, he’s already been making progress towards it - not physically, in terms of being out of my sight for hours at a time, but narratively, in terms of the stories he consumes. For a while now, he’s had a hand-me-down iPad with Netflix on it (set to the kids section, obviously), which means he’s been able to choose the shows he watches without reference to our immediate judgement. And he has always, since he first figured out how to operate a touchscreen, demonstrated the ability to learn from what he watches without our direct guidance.
When he first started identifying numbers and shapes, my husband and I were startled, because we’d started by teaching him letters - then we saw he’d fallen in love with an educational kids’ show called Team Umizoomi, which focused exclusively on shapes and numbers. I watched a few episodes with him so I could talk to him about the characters, and quickly realised he was incorporating their names into his play and trying to narrate their adventures to me when he told me about his day. Since then, I’ve always tried to pay attention to what he watches and to discuss it with him: it helps that I have a good memory for character names and theme songs, so that even if I only catch a few minutes here or there, I can usually tell what he’s talking about or figure out how to ask for clarification.
One of his favourite shows is Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood, a cartoon continuation of the legacy of Mr Rogers. The first time I saw it, my adult cynicism had me rolling my eyes, but I cut that right the fuck out the first time my kid started singing the songs he’d learned from it and applying them in (roughly) the right emotional context. There’s a song on the show which has a verse that says “I like you / I like you / just the way you are,” but in my son’s rendition, it becomes, “Love you / for everything you do.” He sings it now as a call and answer: he sings it to me or his dad when he’s happy, and we sing it back to him. Recently he learned a new one about “when something goes bad / turn it around / and find something good,” and sings it whenever he thinks one of us is getting sad or upset - and it works, not least because it’s really goddamn adorable.
So when he did the “Yay teamwork!” high five at dinner tonight, I realised I didn’t know if it was something he’d picked up from school or from a new TV show, and realised also that it didn’t really matter. It’s strange to think of him spending multiple full days a week with other people, but it’s also really exciting: not just to see how his independence develops (and to hope he gets better at sharing - the consequence of being an only child with few small friends is that he’s never really had to play cooperatively if he doesn’t want to), but because it means now that we get to hear about what he’s been doing in his own words. It means we can ask him questions about his day to which we don’t already know the answer, and invariably there’s going to come a point where he keeps more back than he tells us, because part of growing up is developing your own sense of emotional privacy, but as a writer, the significance of the fact that his first steps into independence were facilitated through narrative isn’t lost on me. Which is why stories matter; why they’ve always mattered. And why being parent - for all that it’s hella confusing and stressful a lot of the time - can also be really weirdly satisfying.
speaks so well. I can have full on conversations with her and that’s the craziest thing of all!
is completely potty trained during the day, and about 30% at night – though I’m not rushing that at ALL.
plays soccer and is continuing swim classes.
is completely in love with Nolan. From the minute she saw Nolan in the hospital, she has been nothing but sweet and amazing to him. She truly lights up when she sees him and has been such a big sister/mini mommy to him. I pray this never ends!
LOVES books and to “read” on her own.
has a new talent of crossing her eyes (see picture).
continues to proclaim, at sometimes inappropriate times, that “BOYS HAVE PENISES!” (The fact she understands the singular/plural form of the word is funny too.)
knows the difference between dresses and tunics, and is quick to correct you when you tell her she’s wearing one instead of the other.
currently loves Josh Turner’s “Hometown Girl,” Frozen, Umizoomi, Shimmer & Shine, Bubble Guppies, and Paw Patrol.
I could go on and on… but I’ll sum it up and say:
Ellie, I love watching you grow and can’t wait to see the ways in which you’ll blossom in this next year. There is not a day that goes by that you don’t make me smile. I am so thankful that you are mine.
You singing along to the theme of a children show with your child (GOT7)
Y/S/N: your son’s name
Y/D/N: your daughter’s name
JB: -Pororo is what you guys played for your infant son. He had to say he liked the show too. So when you would start singing the song he would be come in to see which it was. You guys claimed it was for your son but you guys enjoyed it a lot as well- “is it a new one? I’ll join anyways this is a good show for us- I mean Y/S/N”
Mark: -he used to enjoy the show with your children until your twin daughters started to become obsessed with it and watch it over and over again. Soon enough you were singing the Little Einsteins with them. Now he would give you a glare- “why are you encouraging them? It’s sad to hear you sing word for word of the theme”
Jackson: -he’d always hear the Team Umizoomi theme when he was getting ready. But he’d also hear you and your sons voices singing along to it. He found it cute and bonding. And would sometime watch it with you- “I wonder which episode it is? Maybe I watch it with them before I go to practice”
Jr: -it was one of the few DVDs brought with you when you came to Korea. SpongeBob SquarePants. Almost every season, you owned. He didn’t like it because it was all English and not educational . He didn’t want you son watching but then he heard you and him singing it- “no not this again. We can’t have him watching this perversion of a children’s program”
Youngjae: -He liked it and he was the one who usually watched it with your son. Yo Gabba Gabba! was something he enjoyed because of the dancing, singing and bright colors. But for once you were watching it with Y/S/N and Youngjae yelled soon- “Wait pause it! I’ll be out in a second!”
BamBam: -he often teased you about it and talked about how you would watch Korean subbed Phineas and Ferb cartoon with your daughter. He couldn’t say he didn’t watch it too but you were the one who knew the theme to it- “she says it was a show she enjoyed when she was younger. But then again she watches other children shows with Y/D/N. I honestly think she likes the bright colors”
Yugyeom: -he hated the fact you would sit down and watch Pablo the Little Red Fox with your daughter. And when you guys would eat infront of the TV. Y/D/N would ask if you guys could watch it while you ate. He couldn’t say no but he wish he could when he heard both of you sing along with the them- “I wasn’t aware I had 2 children. Why couldn’t we watch something with adventure or something in it”
Person A is a serious acting hopeful who moves to like, LA to pursue their dreams of making it. The only job they can find before they run out of ramen is on a kids show with like puppets and animation where they ask the camera what imaginary number bubble they just blew and stuff. Person B works for the show on purpose because their like, sibling or someone loves it and there in school to be like a kindergarten teacher or something.
And then this is where it gets real cray, I’ve been watching team umizoomi for like…ten minutes while babysitting and I need a stiff drink. Imagine the debauchery on set. Like, drunk sex in the prop room, hastily covering up with a puppet when their incoherently drunk cast mate comes in looking for the bathroom. General shenanigans behind the scenes, characters claiming they can’t get into character unless they’re naked under their costume, dirty lyric versions of stupid kids show songs that get stuck in all of their heads until they feel like they’ll explode.
This is so obnoxious I feel like it just might work…
Hey everyone! I just edited a new animation reel for 2014 and thought I would share. I’ve done a lot of work besides Doctor Puppet! For most of 2013 I also worked full-time as an animator for the Nickelodeon show “Team Umizoomi.” I’m looking for steady animation work again, especially in stop motion, so all leads are appreciated. Thanks!
Silas sighed, looking completely exasperated as he watched a pair of pigtails float into the air, chasing after the little girl who dashed around the living room to fill her backpack. She systematically picked up things as he demanded it, making faces every so often when she decided that she’d been bossed around enough, and stopping once or twice along the way to munch on gummy bears and treats.
“And don’t forget your lunchbox? Wait, wait, Soraya, honey, come back, you left your jacket!”
“Daddy, I don’t need one. It’s August and it’s warm and you gave me this already.” A small hand jutted out, and from it hung a thin cardigan - just in case she got cold, her father had told her, but now he was preparing her for an absolute freeze. Huffing loudly, the little girl wrestled on her backpack and spun in a small circle to fully display the finished look. It was a themed bag, one of many she had convinced him to get - Monday was Bubble Guppies always and forever because Guppies made her happy, Tuesday was Doc McStuffins because Doc McStuffins was very professional, Wednesday was Team Umizoomi because she wanted to ‘zoom’ through the week, Thursday was PowerPuff Girls because old people cartoons were funny, and Friday was Kotoura-San because she liked Daddy’s shows too. She hadn’t gotten around to convincing him to get more yet, but she very well could if she decided to flash her cute little smile and turn up the cute.
At four, she was small for her age, and she’d be just a bit smaller than her mostly five-year-old classmates because of the difference a year made, but she carried herself confidently, thinking and looking like she thought she was bigger than anyone who faced her. It had led to quite a few scraps over the years - there was one incident in particular where she ripped out a tuft of a little boy’s hair because he had told her that she was too small to play with him. Silas had spent hours afterward telling her that she couldn’t approach people with so much venom, but of course she hadn’t listened. She was so angry that all she cared about was the fact that she’d won and sent a bratty little boy home crying loudly to his mother.
“Okay… okay, Rie,” he answered quietly, lowering to his knees as he did and giving the girl a quick once over. She was dressed in a navy blue uniform dress with red trimming and wore a white dress shirt underneath, the collar and sleeves showing up outside of the outfit. Her braided pigtails fell to her shoulders, the ends tied off with a hair tie to help keep her tresses in place. Normally, they fell down her back in thick, unmanageable curls, but he’d struggled through combing them that morning to get them to lay just the way he wanted them too. All except for a single ringlet that popped out at the front of her hair, of course, refusing to be brushed back into the mass no matter how much gel he used.
Jesus, he thought absently, hands coming up to rest on her frail shoulders. He squeezed once, gently, before bringing the girl into an embrace and closing his eyes carefully. She’d been a baby a mere day ago… how did she grow up so quickly? She was still young, sure, but it wasn’t really the fact that she was going to kindergarten that made him reflect like this, it was that this was only one step of many. The next time he blinked, she’d be in middle school. A moment later, she’d be graduating high school, and then she’d finally be married with a kid or two of her own. His little girl was on her way to growing up, and the mere thought made his eyes water.
“Daddy, I don’t want to be late.” Her small voice pulled into a whine and she shifted in place, stomping her little feet and the polished black shoes she wore in place. Silas only held on tighter, causing her to release an exasperated sigh and quickly turn to his cheek. “Two kisses to let go?”
He shook his head, smiling gently. “Three. Mwah, mwah, mwah.” With every kiss she planted, he smacked his lips, and at the last, he gave her a wide grin. “One picture and we’ll go to the car.” In response, the child nodded eagerly and ran to the door, posing quickly once she saw the camera. This, she could take her time to enjoy without a problem - she loved pictures and the attention, even when it was a bit much.
When the last of the pictures had been taken, he glanced through them quickly to make sure they were fine, then picked up her care bag to carry with them. “Let’s go,” he murmured, following after the child as she made her way to the car excitedly. He was a lot less excited, but he locked the door behind himself and slipped the camera into the bag with a small sigh.
The ride itself was uneventful - Soraya insisted on listening to music and sang along for every moment the car was moving while Silas fretted at the wheel. The thing that made him most nervous was not knowing who her teacher was and what kind of environment it would be - he wasn’t sure if his daughter was normal, how well she would get along with the others, whether or not she’d be able to make friends, if the teacher would actually be the kind of person who took care of her instead of just minding her… there were so many reasons to just turn around that he considered it along the way - after all, she was a year early, and it wouldn’t be so awful if he just kept her at home, would it? But the more she sang, the more he realized that he couldn’t do that - she was already so excited and he didn’t want to take that away from her.
When he finally parked, the man got out of the vehicle with a small sigh and moved to the back seat to help Soraya out of her car seat. Once she was on the ground, he took her hand to prevent her from skipping off and walked quietly with the girl. One entrance was labeled for the kindergartners and first-graders, and the smallest walked with their parents, some excitedly chattering while others looked around with wide, fascinated eyes. The most demure of them were still closed off, looking too afraid to speak to anyone around them. They looked like they were ready to go home, but Soraya was completely ready to pull her father along after the row of children, using every bit of weight to pull him inside. Begrudgingly, he followed, looking every bit uncertain and jittery.
“Star, right, Daddy? Star Silver?” She’d only read a bit of her file and hadn’t paid enough attention to really see the whole thing. In response, Silas simply nodded and squeezed her hand as they turned into the classroom with the nameplate ‘Astra Sylverton’. The sound of laughter and excited chatter spilled out to meet him, but it wasn’t enough to put Silas at ease as they made their way inside, walking around children and to a desk with a woman located behind it. “Excuse me? Are your Mrs. Sylverton?”