Thursday, March 22, 2007

Name and number

Tuesday Helena came home from daycare and wrote her name on her whiteboard. Repeatedly. It's what she's been doing with her every spare minute since. Her letters are well-formed (mostly) and in the right order.

A few days beforehand, she spontaneously recited her phone number. Correctly, without hesitation.

At age 4 and almost a half, I don't find these developments particularly noteworthy in themselves.

What I find remarkable in them is that they confirm my suspicions regarding her perfectionist personality: something's not worth doing (publicly, at any rate) until you can do it right. (I hope I haven't reinforced this behaviour. I've been known to exercise this tendency myself, and I well know that it's not a very effective way to learn to do anything.)

I've seen it in her approach to new vocabulary, new songs and games, new playground equipment. I rarely see in her the gradual acquisition of a concept or skill; I see lightbulb moments.

For months I've seen Helena's classmates struggle with writing their names, putting "R"s and "E"s backwards, missing a letter here or there, those with 3- and 4-letter names getting them pretty close. All this time, Helena would write simply "H," and leave it at that, seemingly uninterested in pursuing the prospect of writing anything any further.

Similarly, she hasn't shown interest in her phone number. I've occasionally asked her to repeat after me as I divide it into 3- and 4-digit blocks, but she wanders off instead to count things meaningfully, using numbers in their proper order.

But Helena's been paying attention all this time after all. Studying. Maybe practicing in her head or under her breath. But no faltering under eyewitness.

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. I'll be leaving my tax forms out for her perusal.
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