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Forty-Nine Months


Dear Persephone,

You are forty-nine months old today. I thought after your fourth birthday you might slow down, but no. You continue to develop at an astonishing rate.

A few weeks ago you drew your first real representational drawing. As a would-be cartoonist and visual artist, I consider this a huge milestone. I know I mentioned something similar last month, but that was a virtual drawing using an iPad app, and I coached you pretty heavily, drawing shapes first and then undoing them and letting you try. This time you drew with marker on paper, and I didn’t touch anything. I only suggested what to draw, “two circles for the eyes,” like that. And the result was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I tried to teach you to draw a cat, but that requires triangles, and you don’t seem interested in mastering that technique yet.

A couple days ago I took you to the doctor for your annual checkup. You were due for a round of vaccinations, the last you’ll need for seven years. A dilemma: to tell you up front about the shots, or to wait until the last moment? The latter would seem to spare you some dread, but perhaps there’s value in confronting fear, facing it down. I kind of hinted that shots were a possibility beforehand, and then when we were waiting we discussed that more explicitly. And you handled it very well. You were brave, and only really cried after the fourth and final needle stick. And you so charmed the nurses neither of them wanted to be the one to administer the shots. But you got over it very quickly. In fact, you were mostly excited about the stack of stickers the nurse gave you.

Speaking of being poked and prodded, we recently had you tested by a couple child psychologists. It’s not something we would have done if left to our own devices. Nope, it’s just an attempt to grapple with the bizarre school system(s) in this city. And here’s where this gets tricky, in terms of knowing what to write here. I have to consider your privacy. So let’s just say we had you tested for smarts, and you came through with flying colors. In the end I’m glad we did it, no matter where you go to school, because it’s assuaged some of the fears I’ve had relating to lead poisoning. I take such tests with a grain of salt, but at the very least it’s an indication that you do well at tests. Perhaps you take after me; I’ve always done well on tests, and it’s made life much easier.

I do have to agree that you’re pretty quick on the uptake. For example, we’re now reading A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett. It’s a bit over your head but you love it all the same. In the first or second chapter we came across the word “pupil,” which I figured you wouldn’t recognize, so I defined it for you. You’ve heard the word again in subsequent chapters, and apparently you’ve learned it, because last night you casually mentioned that “there’s a pupil in my class named Christian.” That led to a discussion of the word “vocabulary,” how each person has their own vocabulary, how it keeps getting bigger each time you learn a new word.

Finally, I wanted to mention that you asked me a question I’ve been anticipating, and also kind of dreading, for quite some time.

“Is the Tooth Fairy real?”

“That depends. What do you mean by real?”

“Real means that something is real.”

“Well, what do you think?”

“Well, I think the Tooth Fairy is not real.”

“I’m so proud of you for thinking about these things and asking these questions. Let me ask you this: Do you like the story of the Tooth Fairy?”


“It’s a fun story, isn’t it? Sometimes that’s what really matters. Did you notice I never actually answered your question?”

“But Dada, will you tell me, is the Tooth Fairy real or not?”

And so forth. I never really gave you a straight answer. Maybe when you’re old enough to read this you’ll understand why.

Published inLetters to Persephone


  1. Robyn Robyn

    Bart–If she’s enjoying A Little Princess (one of my favorites!), I’d like to suggest that you see if you can find a book called Lady Jane, by Mrs. C. V. Jamison. I suspect it’s out of print, but I got a copy at the Maple Street Book Shop when we were in town five years ago.

    In any event, it’s somewhat of a Little Princess set in New Orleans during the 1800s. I read it aloud to my girls the first time they visited the city and they loved it.

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