What’s up with Petra?

It’s been kind of a while since I posted much of a “how are my kids doing these days” thing. So here’s what’s new with Petra.

I can’t get over how immature AND mature Petra is. I keep wondering, is she 3 or 30? Last week, on the same day, these two things happened:

  1. Petra’s dance class received their recital costumes. They all put them on and danced the whole class in them. Petra had decided, back in January, that she did not want to do the recital. Not doing the recital, as I explained at the time, means not getting the costume. She said that was okay, and I didn’t push it…but I worried about how she’d feel on the day when all the other kids had their fluffy tulle clouds to dance in and she didn’t. During class, Lynlee asked if I thought Petra would be upset, and I said, “No, even if she is, she knows that she made this choice and she’ll own it. She won’t come to me begging me to fix it.” I was right about that. As we walked to the car, she very calmly said, “I think I will do the recital next year.” That was literally the only thing she said about it. I know people four times her age who would not have handled that so well.
  2. At dinner, Petra took some juice into her mouth and then spat it out on the table. I don’t know why. Spitting is her way of expressing her emotions with her body. Some kids hit, some bite, some spit. Gross. And isn’t five-and-a-half time to be done with that? I told her that she would have to clean the table after dinner, and she broke down in tears.

I just don’t get her responses to…either of those things, really. Maybe she was working so hard to manage her feelings about the dance dress that she didn’t have anything left for managing her feelings about being punished for spitting. Who knows.

One tremendous development with Petra recently is…she has friends! She’s always been slow to make friends. She has a high bar. Last year, when we were in Arizona, I told the kids, “We’re going to the aquarium with some new friends,” by which I meant Natalie’s friend’s kids, who are almost exactly their ages (Connor even shares a birthday with Silas). When we were leaving, Petra said, “They were nice, but they weren’t friends. That takes longer.” She’s not wrong. It’s funny that we do that to kids. I’ve never, in my adult life, been in a situation where someone has said to me, “I’d like you to meet your new friend. She’s the same age and gender as you, and you both like the color green, so I’m sure you’ll hit it off,” and yet we do that to kids all the time. Petra is the first one I’ve known who would point out what BS that is.

So, Petra has been slow to make friends. But a month or so ago, her relationship with Violet suddenly became deep and intense. The two of them spend hours together, setting up complex games. And then, when the kids were given candy at church to give to a friend, she told me she wanted to give it to Ella. And a few weeks after that, she informed me that she and Emmy were planning a playdate. I’m overjoyed, because I see in Petra some of the same high bar for friendship that I had as a kid. It led to me not having very many friends until I was a whole lot older. My friends are so important to me now that I can’t believe I waited so long to figure out what a gift friendship is. I’m glad Petra didn’t take as long as I did to figure it out.


If I may say so, I think this is a benefit of homeschooling. As a kid in a small elementary school, I spent my days with twenty-seven other kids I didn’t pick, a random grouping of age and geography. Some of them were nice, some of them weren’t. But I didn’t pick them. My kids are kind of stuck with my friends’ kids, who luckily are awesome, but beyond that, they hang out with people they choose. We spend more time with the families where they get along well with the kids, because that’s easier for everyone. When I was Silas’ age, I remember feeling like I must not be good at making friends, because everyone in my class had a best friend, and it wasn’t me. It never occurred to me that the problem might not be me. It might be the size of the pool I was swimming in. Petra hasn’t had that feeling. She’s always known that she was just waiting for the right people. And even though she met all three of those girls she’s now calling friends ages ago, she has a high bar for what counts as friendship. Something has shifted in her little heart, and it’s opened up to new possibilities.

Petra and Violet, hiding out

We’ve reached the one-year mark with kitten fostering. By my count, including the four we have right now, she’s rescued 18 kittens. She loves making them treats and toys (Dad and Robyn got her a kit for her birthday). People ask me frequently if she has a hard time passing them on to their forever homes, and it has been a little sad with some of them. We’ve been lucky that her favorites–Fidget, Missy/Rue, Isara/Sandy, and Eeveeon/Briar–have found homes with friends of ours, so she can still see them from time to time. Unfortunately, I think we’re running out of friends who need cats!

Petra rather famously doesn’t like babies. This isn’t about Ely–it’s been true for a long time. When she was one, she adored her baby dolls, but by the time she was three, she was pretty well over that. About a year ago, she told me she was done with Perdita, and I could give her away (I, on the other hand, was NOT done with Perdita, so she’s in my box of sentimental things I can’t bear to part with). She refuses to play with babies or hold them. Once a kid is big enough to talk and play collaboratively, she likes them, but until that point, she is completely not interested and doesn’t want them around. The other day, one of our foster kittens accidentally got in our keeper cat’s way. Lyra hissed at the kitten. Petra was pretty distressed. “I think she just doesn’t like babies,” I said.

“But why not? They’re SO CUTE,” Petra replied.


Petra’s art is very cat-oriented, as well. She loves drawing on index cards, and one thing she does is make a big cat face on one side, and the whiskers and ears on the other side, as if the cat’s face were…folded around the card, sort of. It’s interesting, anyway.

Academically, she’s well past all the Kindergarten SOLs, and has more or less completed first grade reading and math. She always surprises me with what she can put together without much help or instruction. She just thinks hard for a while, and figures stuff out–and she’s right a lot of the time. She is STUBBORN as all get-out. I have about an hour of stuff the kids are required to do on a given day, and while Silas just rolls with it, Petra often tries to weasel out of it or push back. She does seem to be doing just fine, though, so I’m not too concerned about it. I have to manage my expectations and remind myself that she technically is only just old enough for Kindergarten this coming fall.

Petra continues to be a picky eater–and worse, she changes what items are on her “approved” list regularly, and with zero notice. Lots of folks have given us the advice that we should involve her in food prep. And we’ve done this! She loves to help! But, unlike every other kid I’ve ever known, she is no more likely to eat food that she helped to make. So…the struggle continues. As I’ve said for years, she’d be just about perfect if she didn’t need to eat.

Petra is very imaginative, but her imagination is MOSTLY sort of realistic. She sometimes talks about fairies and that sort of thing, but her favorite ways of playing have to do with real animals who behave very much the way they really would (except that she can communicate with them). She always cracks me up when I ask her something that a normal kid would answer in a more fanciful way and she…doesn’t.

For example, one time, we were on the plane at the children’s museum. She informed me that we would be flying to the North Pole. “Oh,” I said, “Are we going to meet someone very special who lives at the North Pole?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “An Arctic fox named Frank.”

Flying to the North Pole.

She still is very interested in paleontology, and has converted our rarely-used upstairs bathroom into her laboratory. It’s a mess, but at least it’s a contained mess…

Hard at work in the lavatory laboratory.

She’s growing, too! She’s finally big enough for a booster seat (although she still uses the carseat in one of our cars, she’s big enough that we can get away with a booster in the other one and not have to be constantly installing and uninstalling it). She is *thrilled* about this development. And so am I, because I can see the light at the end of the carseat tunnel. Carseats are THE WORST.

All in all, Petra is a delight. She’s ornery and frustrating, but also bright and surprising.

Showing off her “stained glass window,” made from a kit Verna gave her.


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