Friday, September 30, 2005

Inspiration is Hard to Come By

Sitting at my laptop, trying to think of what to write. The boys are playing in the kitchen with the blocks. I'm taking advantage of the lull caused by their busy-ness. What to write, what to write? The boys thunder by from the kitchen door on my left to the living room on my right, "Let's go to the aparta-ment!" "Yeah! Let's go." They vanish through the living room door. The dust settles. The pictures sit slightly skewed on the wall. I continue my musing. The boys thunder by from right to left, "Let's built an aparta-ment!" "Yeah! Let's build one!" "With balconies!" They disappear into the kitchen. A plastic block falls off the end table, twirls, stops. The monitor on my laptop stops trembling. I resume pondering, scribble on the pad at my left. The boys thunder by from left to right. "We need some books for the aparta-ment!" "Yeah, and a pillow!" I grab my water bottle before it vibrates right off the table, tap my fingers along it gently as I look vaguely upward, seeking inspiration in the middle distance. The boys thunder by from right to left. "You can be the fireman!" "Yeah! And you can be the policeman!" "And I will be the garbageman!" The cat yowls as he's trampled underfoot, then stalks away upstairs, twitching with injured dignity. There's an idea in my mind, if I could only catch it. The boys thunder by from left to right. "We need the tools to fix it!" "Yeah! Let's get the tools!" "And some more books!" The violin on the bench beside me hums softly. A bib slip gently off the high chair tray and rustles onto the floor. The idea is there, it's coming, it's coming... The boys thunder by from right to left. "Maybe the elephant can do it!" "Yeah. Or a giraffe." "My gramma has giraffes on her coffee table!" A pencil rolls off the table, rattles on the floor. I pick it up and the idea slips away. I dunno. I just can't seem to get focussed today. Can't imagine why.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Here Comes the Bride

George strolls around the living room wearing a fireman's hat, a white lacey hand-knitted baby blanket draped around himself. "Darcy! Darcy, you want to see my wedding dress? See: it's white!" George is being a beautiful bride, and very pleased with himself he is. "Yeah, George, it's nice." "You want to have a wedding, Darcy?" Darcy greets this with enthusiasm. "Okay!" He crosses the living room. "You can be the man," George directs him, "and I'll be the lady." "I'm not a man!" Darcy is quite firm on this. Well, we have one child already with some gender confusion. Why not two? George, however, isn't ready to give up the fantasy quite so easily. "Yes, you can be the man. You can wear my hat." It's close to a bribe: the bright red fireman's hat in question has been in George's exclusive possession for close to an hour now. Darcy is unyielding. "No, I'm not a man. I can't be a man, I'm not finished yet." "You're not finished yet?" "Yeah. I'm not growed up yet." Ah. No gender confusion for this lad, then. George tries another tactic. Born to be a negotiator, this boy. "Well, would you like to be another lady, then? You can wear the other dress!" And, after all, this is now legal in Ontario, though I am beginning to reel with the gender-bending going on: two males getting married as two females. Darcy, however, while not a negotiator, sure can hold a position. "No. I will be a man another day, when I'm big." George has shot his last arrow. "Okay. Let's play trains." "Okay!" And off they go to be engineers, the not-finished man, and the would-be bride, the latter still wearing his wedding dress and fireman's hat.

The Asphalt is Coming, The Asphalt is Coming!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Indirect is Good, too

Fastidious George has a cold. Well, he has a drippy nose. Not much of a drip. At all. No great slimey green and yellow strands reaching to chin and beyond - oh, stop that squeamish wincing, you're all parents, you've seen worse, you know you have. Nope. Nothing like that. George has a teeny tiny little barely runny nose. Sometimes you can just barely see a bit of dampness glistening there. If you look very carefully. In a good light. George sees it differently. Dozens of times an hour, I hear his little voice: "Mary, I need a kleenex." He takes the proffered tissue, and dabs, oh so delicately, at his upper lip. Then screws the infinitesimally damp thing into a tiny ball and tosses it out. Given the option, George would repeat this manoeuvre at eighteen-second intervals, elminating all tissue from my house within the hour. This is why the kleenex boxes are all out of the childrens' reach. Well, clearly something has to be done. "Mary, I need a kleenex." I hand it, he dabs, he begins to wad it up. I cringe. "George, stop. You don't need to throw that out yet. You can use it at least once more." See how gentle I'm being with the boy? By my standards, that thing is pristine, completely untouched by snot. He could use the same damn one all day long, at this rate of soilage. His eyes widen. "I can't use it again!! It's all snotty!!" I snort, but I'm still being kind. He is, after all, showing laudable concern with hygiene. This boy could grow up to be the kind of man who sees mess and picks up after himself! Do I want to spoil this for the future Mrs. George? I think not. Still, I can't have him going through a box an hour. "All right, but don't crumple it up. Give it to me, I'll get rid of it." I take the old one, I hand him a new one. Prepare yourself for just how devious Mary can be... Twenty-six seconds later, when he requests his next tissue, I take the "used" one he proffers, and I hand him the previous one. We've been alternating two tissues all morning, and neither of them is used up yet. A brilliant, a simply brilliant win-win solution, and the future Mrs. George gets to have her tidy man. Lord, I'm good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

There's Warts and there's Warts...

I just popped into my Technorati page, to see if I have anybody new linking to me. Found nothing of excitement in the links section. Dooce and Instapundit remain resolutely uninterested in my daily hilarity, and even Blogging Baby and DotMoms haven't yet checked out my words of wisdom. But all is not lost. There is an item of note on the page. Glance to the left, and look at my list of "sponsored links"!! Well, well, well...

Sponsored Links

Genital Warts Treatment
Living with Herpes?
Genital Warts / HPV
Get Rid of Genital Warts
That gives one pause. How on earth does a nice, family-friendly site like mine, a site which, in six months, has used the F-word only once - Once! and I was quoting - get sponsored by all those juicy sites? Sites with such a very specific focus. Heck, they're not even funny! No naughty fun on my sponsored links, no indeed, just unmentionably physical ickiness. Probably complete with pictures. Not that I went looking. My persona is Mary Poppins, for goodness' sake! How the original Mary P would have recoiled. I can hear her disapproving sniff from here. Oh, but wait. She's not sniffing at technorati's vulgarity. Her snort - a small and ladylike, but very telling snort - is directed at me. For it was I who raised the indelicate subject of bodily imperfections. It was I who first used the W-word. Yes, it's true. I am my own culprit. Didn't I proclaim myself - over there to the left in the "About Me" bit, you can see it - to be in the business of wart removal? Oh my. How very foolish. For in the world of seach engines, warts can only be physical, after all, not metaphorical, and of only one particularly nasty physical type. There goes Mary P the 1st, snorting at me once again - only this time she's laughing.

Two Things that Make Me Happy

This is the shelf in my cupboard that houses the daycare stuff. I like its bright, cheerful colours. I like that I can look at this and almost pretend that I'm organized. Almost.
Their stuff is colour coded, too. See those bowls on the left? They're those wee Ikea bowls, each holding 3/4 cup comfortably, but no more. Good for little ones. The pale green on on the bottom is George's; then we have orange for Harry, blue for Darcy, yellow for sunny Mia, red for Alice, and deep green for Zach. Then the sippy cups for the under-twos, and the juice boxes for the threes, when we're out and about. The plastic regular cups on the next shelf over are for those old enough not to spill when we're home. I found these yesterday. Aren't they great? Jumbo crayons. Do they still give jumbo pencils and crayons to the smallest children? It brought back a memory of Miss Lockwood's grade one class in my little village school, and so I had to buy a couple of packs, for nostalgia if nothing else!

Construction goes on. And on.

Darcy confronts The Machine. It's a grader. Is this a sign we're nearing the end? This is one time I'm grateful for the onset of winter: they'll have to be done by then!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Tantrum Monday

Well. Hunter's first day, and I got to put my money where my mouth was in the tantrum department. He was not at all pleased when mom left, and let us all know it. A yelling, screaming, and I do mean toenails-being-plucked-out screaming, flailing, spitting, kicking, head-banging tantrum. Phew. However, I prevailed, and within five minutes of his mother's departure, he was playing trains in the kitchen with the other children. His shoulders still shuddered bytimes with post-sob residue, but calm. It was exciting! It was fascinating. Is it too weird of me to admit that I got a whole lot of satisfaction out of taming this tantrum? Stuff like this is a true professional challenge for someone in my line of work. It's like a puzzle, in which you must balance principles against practicalities, the needs of the various parties to the drama, and come up with the course of action that will attain your goal: happy children playing co-operatively together. And I did it. He did it. We did it. Yay for us! Wonder what next Monday will be like???

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Note of Encouragement

Just a reminder: Sometimes it pays to be a slacker mom!!

Tantrums, part three: Screaming

This post has been surprisingly difficult to write, and it's taken me the better part of three weeks to work out just why. Okay, I confess: I have little experience with tantrums. Shocked you, haven't I? The woman works almost exclusively with toddlers, and yet claims to have little experience with the landmark event of toddlerhood. How can this be? Primarily, I believe, this is because after years of experience with tykes this age, I am extremely well-attuned to the indications that we are entering potential tantrum zone, and take evasive action before we reach full-blown tantrum stage. Additionally, it is because in the power struggles that are inevitable with a very young child, I have repeatedly established my spot in the pecking order, and we haved reached an understanding about the mutual expression of respect. Tantrums are effectively evaded a dozen times a day. By "evaded", I do not mean appeasing, coaxing, bribing or wheedling a recalcitrant child into compliance. I mean dealing with the situation in such a way as to resolve it effectively, without screaming and aggression. (Your cries of frustration and hair-pulling included.) I realize that I should be writing about these episodes, give you an insider's view, an annotated case study, as Mim has done so well a couple of times recently. (Although it isn't titled as such, this post, for example, is a superb example of tantrum evasion.) In part one of this series, I mused on some of the parental attitudes and principles that increase the likelihood that a child will experience tantrums. In part two, I outlined parental attitudes and principles that will reduce the likelihood of tantrums. And now I'm supposed to get "how-to", and I was having a terrible time knowing where to start. I have already written about responding to physical aggression , and about the necessity of expecting respect from your child. In the end, I have decided to focus in this post on a single aspect of tantrums, which probably causes more parental stress and humiliation than any other: screaming. And again, Mim has an extremely well-written post describing a masterful example of scream evasion. She discusses two types of screaming, the justified indignation at being disrespectfully man-handled, and the "fuck you" scream. The latter is my focus. So here you are, presented with a child who is screaming in sheer raging defiance. You have told them, "No screaming" to no avail. They are mad as hell, and they intend you to suffer for it. What do you do? With very young, pre-verbal, children, you physically remove them from the site, put them some place quiet and safe, and give them time to calm down, alone. It is not punishment to leave them alone: it is respect. "I trust you to calm yourself." It is also self-respect: "I will not be screamed at." During the process of removal to quiet place, you take on the role of "benign robot". You do not respond with visible anger, feeding their emotional turmoil, nor do you soothe and reassure, rewarding the behaviour. Instead, you are as expressionless as possible. Your words, uttered in a firm and factual tone, are as simple as possible: "No screaming." This is doubly difficult, if the tantrum is occurring in public. However, be assured that of the other grocery shoppers, many have had their moment in the sun and truly are viewing you with compassion. Of the judgmental ones, well: a) who cares?; and b) they'll be very happy to see you leave asap. It's probably the one thing you can do to earn their approval, assuming you need it. So yes, leave that grocery cart 3/4 full if need be, and take your child someplace calm and quiet. Better to resolve this now so you can shop in peace hereafter, than become a prisoner in your own home, afraid to go anywhere through fear of such outbursts. If the child is verbally competent, in addition to the physical removal, you can use more words. Be aware, however, that too much talk is reinforcing. If you spend long minutes explaining, you are rewarding the behaviour, even if you are obviously angry or upset. Attention is attention, and we are all attention pigs. Just human nature. However, a firm, "You may be angry, but you may not scream," is entirely appropriate. Say it once, calmly, slowly and very firmly. Pause for a moment to give the child time to soak your words in and suck it up. Repeat, in just the same manner and tone, perhaps saying the child's name first. If after two repeats they are still screaming, remove to quiet safe place and walk away. You may choose to add, with the same pause-and-repeat pattern, "When you are quiet, we will talk." And then walk away and give them time and space to calm down. This may be the single most difficult thing for most caring parents to do. This perspective will encourage, I hope: It is not your job to calm your child, it is your child's. No one can control another's emotions. Your job is to teach your child the appropriate expression of his/her emotions. By walking away, you give your child the opportunity to learn. When they are quiet, a quick hug and brief praise suffices. There is no need to launch into a "there, you see?", which is essentially just an "I told you so", and would annoy any self-respecting human being. Instead, a warm "Feel better now? Good for you. I knew you could do it!" is much more constructive. You have made your point, they have learned a lesson. They are reassured of your continued love and affection, and you can move on to the next thing. If screaming jags are responded to in this way consistently, they can be eradicated from the child's behavioural vocabulary in just a few episodes. Bring on that happy day!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Yes, Yes. Sometimes I DO laugh AT the children.

My sweetie sits crossed-legged on the floor, organizing a playlist, playing with various dials and buttons, happily mucking about as he prepares to listen to some music. Harry has been bombarding him with a steady stream of questions and comments about his activities, to which he has responded with his usual gentle grace and patience. (He's definitely the patient one in this partnership!) "Are you going to listen to music now? You have a lot of CD's. I don't gots so many at my house. Is that your music? Why are your CD's onna wall like that? Why are you putting that there? Why are you pushing that button? There are lights on that box. Why are some lights green but those lights are red? There's a hole there. What do you put in that hole? Will you be turning it up? Will it be loud? Do you need to wear your headphones? " Now, however, my Patient Half is reaching for the headphones, and I decide to rescue him from further verbiage. "Well, Harry, he's putting his headphones on now, so he won't be able to hear you. Come over here and read a book with me." Harry is amenable, but he has a concern. "Is he going to keep his headphones on?" "Well, yes he is," I say, and then address his concern, "So he can't hear you right now." I have, however, misunderstood his focus. "He needs to keep the headphones on because that is quiet. I don't like loud." At which point my sweetie puts the lie to my claims of his deafness, and snorts. "Yes," I say warmly for his benefit, while beaming at Harry, "a little pool of silence is our Harry." Another snort. "A veritable sea of tranquility," adds the snorting one. "The king of quiet." Harry beams while the adults convulse into guffaws. It's nice when grown-ups get it, after all.

Craft Time

An architect friend recently gave me a box of scrap paper and cardstock in varying weights, from flimsy right up to foamcore. Another friend gave me a pile of neatly folded, used wrapping papers. I am, as ever, the grateful recipient of the effluvia of my friends' cleaning efforts. Today looked to be rainy and chill, so out came these donations, along with a pair of scissors for me, a box of markers, and a few glue-sticks, all arranged enticingly on the table. "Hey, guys! It's craft time! We're going to make something today!" With a whoop of approval, the children converge on the dining room table, now a cornucopia of colours and textures. Zach, Darcy, Harry, and Mia sit at the table. Alice, who hasn't yet gotten the hang of benches - they have no backs, dammit! - sits in her high chair, drawn up to the table. The children watch with interest as I take a piece of sturdy white cardboard. "I'm going to cut it out like this," I say, scissors slicing decisively through. "It will be flat at the top," I run my finger along the flat edge, "and curved on the sides, see?, with a point at the bottom. There! Anyone know what this is?" We've been reading books and looking at lots of pictures about knights and castles lately, so the concept is familiar. Harry recognizes it. "A shield!" Yes, indeed! So what we're going to do, see, is decorate our shield with the wrapping paper. Not authentic heraldry, true, but attainable individuality. And good fine-motor activity. Plus lots ot sticky glue. The children will tear off bits of paper, rub them with the glue-sticks, and apply them to their shields. They've used glue-sticks before, so only a few reminders are needed: apply the glue to the back side of the paper, hold the paper steady with your other hand while you rub, gently and in the same direction, and turn it over to stick it on. The basics. (More complicated than you realized, huh??) I hand each child a shield. Mia and Alice, too young to do the next bit, are handed a marker apiece. Alice looks at the shield on her tray and the uncapped marker I'm holding out in shocked disbelief. Am I kidding her? She's in a high chair! High chairs are for eating. What's with the inedibles? She draws a deep breath, preparatory to full expression of her outrage. A quick scattering of goldfish (now trans-fat free!) on her tray amidst the craft supplies mollifies her. Chewing, she picks up a marker and happily scribbles away. Tearing the paper bits is the new and tricky bit. I demonstrate the technique. "Just use your thumb and finger from each hand. Put them close together, and make a little rip, like this. That's the hardest part." I repeat this four more times, giving each one a paper with a tiny rip on one edge. "After that, it tears really easily. You try it." Much gleeful tearing among the older four. Alice prefers her food-and-marker combo. Bet you never realized that tearing had to be taught. Bet, in fact, you're reeling in shocked disbelief that I'd do this deliberately! Rare indeed (or obsessively monitored) is the child hasn't torn a few pages from a book or three by the time they're two and three years old. No one had to teach them to do that! True. The brute force clutch, crumple and yank they have down pat. But a controlled tear, to actually create a wee shape in a piece of still-smooth paper? No. And in fact, Harry is the only one who can yet manage the starter tear, and even he prefers that I do the tearing. They work away at this for much longer than I'd expected, a full 4o or more minutes. At the end, we have five wee shields, each a cheerful blaze of seasonal colours: birthday red, Christmas green, baby shower pink and blue, anniversary silver. Shields for every occasion! As the tots sleep, the shields are lined up before me, each labelled with their owner's name and honorific. We have:

Sir Harry the Inquisitive Sir Mia (equal-opportunity knighthood in this realm) the Vocal Sir Alice the Radiant Sir Zach the Joyous and Sir Darcy the Unyielding. (He may be quiet, but he's adamant.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What is this thing called Fair Play?

Two rambunctious toddlers bounce off each other as they pass in my narrow hallway. One is offended, comes to complain. "Mary? Mary, Darcy bumped into me." "So he did, but you bumped into him, too." "Yes, but that's fun!"

Pity the 12-year-old Boy

Emma is complaining to Adam about the boys in the lunchroom. “They keep daring each other to go sit at the girls’ table!” she moans. “That doesn’t sound so bad to me,” observes the momma. “But for a twelve-year-old boy,” Adam explains to his mother, who hasn’t been in a grade seven lunch room for some while, ‘daring’ means pushing, shouting, and throwing him right at the girls’ table.” Oh, that’s right. I remember now. Seems things haven’t changed all that much in the intervening decades. “The problem is,” I observe, “That a twelve-year-old boy expresses his interest to the girls the same way as he would with the other boys.” Adam likes this. “Yeah! Because he hasn’t really figured out that 12-year-old girls are different. He acts as if she’s interested in things a 12-year-old boy is interested in.” “Which is why,” Emma chimes in, “We’re not interested in 12-year-old boys.” A sad catch-22 for the love-stricken 12-year-old boy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Beer Tales

The three-year-olds are chatting. George has a new, bright red hat, which starts this conversation: "I don't have my red hat anymore," says Darcy, a little forlorn. "I lost it with my daddy in the beer store." (Beer stores in Ontario are actually called this: The Beer Store. No point in being subtle.) Darcy did not lose daddy in the beer store. I saw daddy this morning. Just the hat. Harry chimes in. "Hey! I go to the beer store, too! With my daddy, too!" George, it seems, is also familiar with the local purveyor of potables. "I go to the beer store with my daddy. We get the beer for mommy." "Yeah," Harry notes. "My mommy likes beer, too." Mary can't resist this one. "Gee. George's mummy likes beer, and Harry's mummy, too. Does your mummy like beer, Darcy?" "No, she only drinks Corona." (So all the mommies are belting back the brews. *hic* Wonder why?)

I Just Work Here...

Harry: Let's play school! George: Yeah, let's play school! Harry: You can be the teacher. George: Okay. Darcy: And it can be a chocolate school! Harry, George: Yeah, a chocolate school! Darcy: A chocolate pizza school! Harry: Let's drive to the grocery store. George: Okay. Let me get my golf club first. Harry: Now we can go to the grocery store. George: I have my golf club, and the chocolate. Darcy: And I have the pizza. Harry: Hurray! Now we can go to school! Darcy: Chocolate Pizza School!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's All in the Eye of the Beholder

Harry trots into the kitchen where I am changing the head on the sponge mop. "Why are you puttin' a new top on that?" "I bet you can figure that out. Why would I be putting a new sponge on my mop?" "Because the old one is old?" "Yes, and it's dirty. It's not getting my floors clean any more." "Only making them dirty." "Exactly! Now watch, and I'll show you how we clamp it in." As I knew he would be, Harry is intrigued by the mechanism. He watches me slide the sponge into place and latch and release the catch. Then he tries it a few times himself, keeping up a running commentary on his actions the while. Darcy and George, who have been reading in the next room (n.b., everyone: these three year olds have been out of sight!), are attracted by the conversation. "What's goin' on, guys?" Darcy wants to know. "I'm just changing the mop head. Nothing exciting," I say, adult that I am. Harry stares at me for a moment in disbelief. "It's exciting for ME!" Harry declaims. He's right, of course. I stand corrected.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Boredom, a mini-rant

A new child will be joining us each Monday, a three year old boy by name of Hunter. Today I had arranged to meet with Hunter and his mommy at a local park. This is a good strategy on lots of levels. The park is a neutral environment, so the children are less likely to get territorial about toys and space; I get to suss out the play style of the new child; I get a window into how the child and parent interact; and the parent and I have more opportunity to talk while the children cavort in the dirt than we would in my living room with the children directly underfoot. It's a good strategy all round. Various children will interact in different ways, depending on their ages and characters. Three-year-olds generally start off ignoring each other, and will gradually, almost inevitably begin to play together. I had to prevent Hunter's very Earnest Mommy (sigh) from forcing the Very Proper Social Introduction, but once convinced that there was a method to my madness, all proceeded according to expectation. Mine, anyway! By the end of two and a half hours, Darcy and Hunter were charging around in a thrilling game of chase-me, all the while calling out directions and suggestions to each other, true hallmarks of the ongoing morphing that makes a truly great imaginery game. Mommy took the opportunity of their preoccupation to tell me All About Hunter. Hunter is pure delight, though not without his challenges. Hunter shouts a lot. Hunter does not eat vegetables. Hunter does not lie down for naps. (What, he stands?) Hunter still has a bottle. Sometimes Hunter will hit Mommy or shout at her. Hunter screams at strangers in the street. None of these bothered me much at all. I can't imagine I'll have any trouble with these behaviours. Not more than once, anyway. It was the last one she threw at me that told me I had a true project coming my way. Hunter, you see, doesn't tolerate boredom well. All those nasty behaviours? Merely the result of boredom. As long as he is kept occupied, he is no trouble at all. None at all. It is clear that Mommy expects Hunter's days with Mary will be a steady stream of activities and stimulation, just like they've been all his life so far. There are very clearly no expectations that Hunter could in any way be responsible for his own entertainment. Nope. His role is passive recipient, the adult's is constant entertainer. I could feel the headache coming on... Hunter's days with Mary will be spent learning to chill out and amuse himself. My highest priority for this boy: helping him learn that he is his own best resource for entertainment. If not, as a teen Hunter will almost certainly join all those other worthy young people hanging out in the parking lot of your local coffee shop at midnight, indulging in petty vandalism for thrills because he's bored, and lord knows, if a child is bored, he couldn't possibly be expected to come up with something constructive to do with his time, all by his own self... Sigh.

P.S. Terry Fox

For more information on this brave young man, check out this post on Simply Put.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Courage in Small Packages

Today my sweetie and I went for our usual weekend walk downtown. On summer Sundays, one of the two roads that run parallel to the canal is closed to vehicles, and so this is our chosen route. Cyclists, runner, and bladers typically keep to the road; walkers and teeny tot cyclists stay on the paved footpath beside the canal. People of all shapes, sizes, and ages take advantage of this scenic walk, so we're used to it being busy, but today it was especially so. We figured it's because, like us, people are aware that summer is drawing to a close and winter looms. Best get out there and savour. Pedestrians, roller bladers, and cyclists, many towing babies and toddlers in trailers or older children on those detachable trail-a-bikes... people of all ages and sizes take over this road. We've seen people in wheelchairs, and people on those skis with wheels and ski poles. Today we saw something new: a rickshaw, carrying a man and a couple of children. From our position on the footpath, we only got a partial glance at the rickshaw as it passed on the road, but we couldn't help but notice that those who approached it on the road were applauding. Why, we wondered? Cheering on the rickshaw runner, pulling two or three bodies up that long, slow hill? A friendly gesture, but these guys go miles with those things, and this wide smooth road really wasn't all that challenging. Then we approached a refreshment station, and the picture became clearer. Refreshment stations mean a formal run is occuring. There are half a dozen runs for one charity or another that happen over the summer. Usually it's obvious when one is occuring: all runners wear matching race t-shirts, or have numbers pinned to their backs, which we hadn't seen thus far. Only after seeing the refreshment station did we notice that a fair number - though far from all - of the runners were wearing race t-shirts. It was the annual Terry Fox run. For those of you unfamiliar with this Canadian hero, Terry Fox was a young man who suffered through bone cancer. Eventually, one leg was amputated. After he had recovered and learned to walk with his artificial leg, Terry decided to go on a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research. For 143 days, this incredible young man ran a marathon a day. A marathon a day. On one leg. I can still picture his hop-and-skip gait, his mop of curls tossing, his smile seemingly unquenchable, as he lurched on and on and on. And on. Until one day, he stumbled and fell. Could not get up. Was carried away on a stretcher. His cancer had returned, and this time he did not win his fight. He was not quite twenty-three. This was 25 years ago. Every year since then, Terry Fox runs are held across the country, the proceeds going, as did the original run, to cancer research. So why were people clapping and cheering for that rickshaw? When it turned and passed us a second time, we realized. The passengers in the vehicle were four: a young man, and three children, none of the children more than 8 years old. Two of them wore surgical masks. One was bald. They have cancer. And they were participating in the race the only way they could. And all along the way, people, running for their cause, cheered, clapped, and whistled encouragement to them. I cried. It was a good day.

Friday, September 16, 2005

More Why's

Harry, to my sixteen-year-old son, Adam, who is playing a computer game:  Why are you playing that game? Adam:  Because I like it. Harry: (You know this is coming, don't you?) Why do you like it? Adam:  Don't get all philosophical on me, kid. Harry:  Okay!

Sleep, Little Baby

Please. Little Alice is the unhappy recipient of a little sleep training these days. I'm not sure how much success I can expect to have since I only have her two or three days a week. Her sleep patterns are erratic and generally insufficient: 25 - 45 minutes is not enough for a child her age - or for me! I'm aiming for an hour an a half, minimum. Each and every day. Today she made it to an hour without waking. Progress, indeed. I decided I would insist on the extra half hour. At time of writing, she is - intermittently, thankfully - registering her heart-felt indignation, one might well say outrage, at this situation. This is progress. Last week it was not intermittent. At all. And in another 4 minutes I will go rescue her. And me, I sip my tea, I blog a bit, I tidy the kitchen, I hum to myself, because it's Friday, and I am less than two hours from the weekend!!

Let Me Make this one thing Perfectly Clear

Yesterday was one of those "Lord, give me strength" days with Harry. Here's one example of many... I send George and Darcy upstairs for a precautionary pre-park pee. Harry has been recently, so when he informs me, "I don't have to go pee," I respond with a quick, "Okay, Harry, I'll trust you on that." "I won't go upstairs," he expands, "because I don't need to use the toilet." Thinking he perhaps hadn't understood my idiom, I explain myself. "It's all right, Harry. I know you don't need to pee. You don't have to try again." "Because I don't need to pee." "That's right." Phew. Glad we've sorted that one out. "So I'm not going to go upstairs." "No, you're not. We're going to get our shoes on and go to the park." Let's move on to the next thing, think about the park, shall we? As he sits to put on his sandals, he comments, "I already went pee, and I don't have to go use the toilet." I give him a look. We have, as far as I'm concerned, thoroughly wrung every last ounce of entertainment value from this particular subject. I speak slowly and very, very clearly, my words weighted with meaning. "No. You're not going upstairs, because you don't need to pee. It's all right, Harry. I understand." "I don't have to go pee, so I'm not going to go up-" "All right, Harry!" He subsides. Today it's making me laugh!!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

All I Want, redux

Just so you can see how thoroughly tongue-in-cheek that song was, I'm giving you the final two verses:

I want my hand on the wheel of fortune I want my lottery numbers to match Some people out there are screatching and winning-- I just scratch and scratch and scratch. I want the body of an Olympic athlete: the mighty arms and the powerful thighs, flexibility and aerobic fitness without doing any exercise. Chorus. I want a job full or gratification that pays a six-digit salary: something exciting with status and power but no responsibility. I want a mate full of wisdom and beauty a heart of gold and a PHD I want a woman who is total perfection but doesn't notice any faults in me.

Context, please

George: Have you ever seen a rolling stone? Darcy: No, I haven't. George: Neither have I, but they're very loud. . . . . . . (We had a Stones concert in town this summer.)

Dr. Freud, Jr.

A heap of duplo rattles on my livingroom floor as the three boys crouched around it sift and sort through the mass of primary-coloured blocks. Harry, George, and Darcy, each busily stacking the blocks into towers and helicopters, garages and truck, dogs and trees. All their creations look strikingly similar: skyscrapers of varying heights, layers of red, blue, green and yellow. George notices Harry's tower. It is by far the tallest any of them have managed to create thus far. "What is it, Harry?" George's voice is squeaky with interest. "It's an alarm clock." Harry is quite sure of this. "An alarm clock? What for?" "For emergencies. It's on the town hall. The bell will ring for emergencies." George scans the height of it. "It's very tall." Harry considers this a moment. "Yes. Yes, it is very tall. I guess it could be a penis."

The Things You Hear Yourself Saying, Part 2 (3?)

Stop licking your nose, please. We don't kiss strange dogs. Oh, dear. Zach didn't mean to spray his tortilla on your new shirt.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It's all in your Perspective

Thus proving that nothing is all bad. Bibs, formerly viewed with some disfavour by the older children, are now welcomed with great enthusiasm, for no longer are they lowly spill-catchers, symbol of littleness and clumsiness; no, they are now chest-protectors, as worn by mighty baseball catchers, strong and valiant.

Sidewalks, sidewalks!!

Soon, oh so soon, I will be able to push the stroller so smoothly down the street.

All I Want for you to be able to hear the jaunty reggae tune that accompanies the following lyrics by Tom Lips. "All I Want" is the title of the song from his first disk Made of Sky Here's the first verse and chorus:

Look around at the winners and losers: there is no justice under the sun but if the pattern of success is random why shouldn't I be the lucky one? Chorus: All I want is an unfair advantage all I want is to beat the odds all I want is incredible fortune flung to me from the lap of the gods. all I want! oh, that's all, that's all I want!
Your grin for the day.

The Sidewalks are Coming!


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Paradigm Gap

At an interview: Mother: How do you keep the toddlers apart from the babies? Me: I don't. Very pregnant pause. Mum had worked in daycares prior to her maternity leave. In daycare centres, the infants and toddlers are kept separate for the infants' protection. Since I run a daycare, she reasoned, I, too, should keep the toddlers separate. I explained that this is a home daycare, and that therefore it's organized more like a family. My explanation was met with rather stoney silence. I knew these people weren't going to decide to leave their child with me. I knew I didn't want them, anyway. So I damned the torpedoes and got a little pointed with them. "Do you plan on having more children?" "Yes." "And when will you have your next?" "When Jr. is about two and a half or three." "I see. And how will you keep them apart?" An even more pregnant pause. The interview ended shortly thereafter. Byeeee!


Harry: Zach! Zach! Zach! Zach busily preoccupied with an ah-pane, doesn't respond. Harry: Mary, Zach doesn't talk. Mary: Oh yes, he does, Harry. Zach can say a lot of things. Harry: He doesn't talk like me! George: Harry, nobody talks as much as you!

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Silver Lining

You've heard me complain a little about the dust and the noise and the general chaos of the roadwork that's been going on all summer. I just thought I'd show you that there have been compensations. Not so bad to open your door to this at quarter past seven in the morning!

Enunciation comes Later

Zach calls from the stroller, "Bi-iiiwww!! Bi-iiiwww! Look, Mahwee, bi-biiiwww!" Hmmm... "Bear, Zach? Do you see a bear?" We're strolling outdoors; presumably it wouldn't be of the animate variety, but perhaps he's seen a teddy in someone's drive or front window? "No. Bi-iiiwwww!" "Bell? Is there a bell somewhere?" "NO. Look, look, Mahwee. Bi-iiiwwww!" We've progressed a few metres while this conversation was occurring, and now I realize that Zach is pointing to the barricade at the end of the street, beyond which, as we both know, is a

Big Hill!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lifestyle Accessories

The Ottawa Citizen (Saturday, Sept. 10) quotes the Calgary Herald:

In a recent interview, Holt [Renfrew's] president, Caryn Lerner, noted the upscale retailer is back in kids' clothing because, "Kids are becoming accessories, and I don't mean that in a negative way, but they are a reflection of their parents." Children as mere additions to one's lifestyle, like Gucci handbags, or Prada wallets? Good grief. Let's hope not.
The Herald is touching in its naivete. It's been that way for some while now: Holt Renfrew is merely hopping on a very lucrative bandwagon.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Anti-Tantrums, More Philosophy

I know, I know, you're waiting with bated breath for the actual hints on how to avoid and how to deal with your toddler's emotional tsunamis. I had started a post about just that very thing, but then realized I was missing an important foundational layer. I'd talked about the common parental attitudes and presuppositions that foster tantrums. Now I needed to deal with the attitudes and presuppositions that manage and eliminate them. Thus I'm not entirely obliging with the "how's" just yet, but this philosophical background is important. If we know why we do what we do, we'll be more consistent, and we are far less likely to be blindsided by our kids. Last Saturday I outlined the basic assumptions that many new parents make which lay the ground for tantrums. Not, I hasten to add, that your tot won't have tantrums, no matter how brilliant your approach to parenting. Almost without exception, toddlers throw tantrums. Starting sometime in their second year, almost every child begins to try them on for size. However, how you deal with them will determine how frequently they occur and how long they last. In my experience, a child will try it a few times over a few weeks, and after that time frame, they're not in our repertoire. Burton White, whom you already know I quite admire, is much more generous in his timeframe and suggests that they generally continue to two or two and a quarter. We are both agreed that if they haven't been elminated by this time, they will almost inevitably continue to three, four, or over. They need to be nipped in the bud!! What, then, are the attitudes held by a parent whose children weather the tantrum stage smoothly and efficiently? There is one main tenet of these people: they Expect Respect. No, this does not mean they pontificate and bluster, and expect the child to take it mildly, "because I'm your mother/father, that's why". Though that reason is sometimes perfectly sufficient! Rather, they simply do not tolerate aggressions - physical or emotional - against their person. Thus, these parents believe that while tantrums may be perfectly developmentally normal, the behaviour is simply not acceptable. These parents believe that while there may be reasons that their tot was susceptible to the tantrum at this time (fatigue, hunger, illness), these reasons do not excuse the behaviour, or make it tolerable. These parents see the behaviour for what it is: rage. Yes, there may be some genuine misery thrown in there, but primarily, these kids are flippin' outraged!! They're mad as hell, and they're not taking it any more! If these are your presuppositions, then when your child has a meltdown, you will not be shocked or outraged; rather, your underlying attitude will be business-like, or even wryly amused. You'll understand that your child has engaged you in a tussle that it is in everybody's interest that you master. You will not respond in anger, because this behaviour is only to be expected, but neither will you walk away from the challenge that has just been thrown out. This is where the second tenet of effective tantrum managers comes into play: they see themselves as their child's teacher. They will not walk away from the challange because they know this is a critical period: they must teach the child how to manage this. Deal with it now, or be plagued by tantrums for years. When your child screams in your face, you will refuse to speak to them until they stop. If your hungry child melts into a frothing puddle, you will offer him a snack, yes, but you will still expect the frothing to cease. If you understand that the emotion is not sadness but primarily rage, you will be calm, but you will not move in to cuddle and comfort while the raging continues. The cuddle and comfort comes afterwards. These parents have a "healthy selfishness", which enables them to insist on their rights, even as they nurture their child. Your child needs to know - needs to be taught by carefully managed experience - that although he may the centre of your family world, he is not the centre of the universe. Other people have needs, equally important to his. Your child needs to know that someone can help her through her raging emotions. They need to know these overwhelming feelings are, in fact, controllable, and - even more reassuringly - they are within her very own control! Mommy and Daddy will not let them get out of control; Mommy and Daddy can teach me how to keep myself calm and happy. How do Mommy and Daddy express this capability? That will be the focus of next Saturday's installment. I have a lot of sympathy for these poor little munchkins going through their emotional explosion. Their feelings are very, very real. Real and completely overwhelming. How nasty it must be to be in the middle of an overwhelming swirl of negativity, and have no means of escape! Of course I want to help them, to provide them their means of escape. But for too many people "help" is in fact "enabling" - they are, unwittingly, encouraging the behaviour they wish to eliminate. It is our job, whether as a parent or in my role as caregiver, to teach them how to manage these maelstroms in a way that is not merely socially acceptable, but also better for them. Teach them the arts of self-awareness and self-control so that they can be calmer, happier, emotionally balanced people. We do that by parenting from a position of self-respect, which will accept nothing less than being treated respectfully by our child.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'm so Impressed

"We're leaving the park in two minutes, Zach. Two more minutes to play." "Okay!" I wander round the sandbox, giving each child their two minute warning. By the time I get back to Zach, I'm ready to start loading them into the stroller. As I return with Alice on my hip, Zach is there ahead of me, busily tossing sand toys into the basket under the stroller. Completely unasked. Zach, I might remind you, turned two only a month or so ago. And further remind you that he's just returned after a month away. He has remembered that this is our pattern, and is gathering our toys, all on his own. I am sooo impressed. I praise him to the skies. And discreetly return to the sandbox all toys that are not ours.

For Your Amusement

Because it sure amuses me.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rowdy Games

Since we're stuck inside all day, it's essential we burn off some of their boundless energy before something or someone is seriously injured. Let's shove the table to one side of the dining room, and pull out all the gross-motor games I can think of. We play "Move Across the Room", something I made up but which is hardly unique, in which they have to move as a certain animal, vehicle, bug, across the room. (We hop like kangaroos, we buzz like bees, slither like snakes, race like fire engines, we whhoosh like the wind... As many variations as I have imagination.) We play "Popcorn". Know it? All the children squat down on their haunches into teeny balls. They are popcorn kernels. Then you chant,

You put the oil in the pot, And you let it get HOT. You put the popcorn in, And you start to grin. Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle Sizzle, Sizzle.... POP!!!
And then you have five bouncing, thundering, giggling toddler-sized popcorn puffs shaking the foundations. Much fun. With the right group of kids, you can play "Sticky Popcorn", a variation in which they must bounce together whenever they bump into someone, until they're one big giggling popcorn ball. Ring around the Rosey, of course, with the between verse reprieve:
The Cows are in the Meadow, eating buttercups. Along comes a bee, and they all jump UP!
Then there's Sleeping Bunnies. The children lay down and pretend to be asleep, as only toddler do: eyes scrunched tight, every limb quivering with excited tension.
Bunnies sleeping till it's nearly noon. Come, let us wake them with a merry tune. Oh, so still. Are they ill? Then you clap like mad and holler like a banshee, Wake up, Little Bunnies!!! They all leap to their feet, and proceed to bounce, as the adult sings: Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop; Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop; Hop...and...stop.
And at "stop" they all flop to the ground for verse two. And finally, "Smelly Skunk", which doesn't allow for much motion, but makes up for it in outrageous noise levels. The first verse is sung, very, very quietly. Whispered, really. First and only verse:
I'm a little smelly skunk, Sleeping under someone's bunk. Nobody want to sleep with me, I'm as smelly as can be. Peeeeeeeuwwwww! Then, between verses, this is chanted: Second verse, same as the first. A little bit louder, a little bit worse!
Back you go to the verse, a little louder. With each repeat, it gets louder and louder and LOUDER until, with the final verse, they are screaming their wee heards off. Often we have the rhythm instruments out for this last one, and are beating, shaking, and rattling till the windows rattle in response. Way fun, this one! Several more verses, this time in reverse: "A little bit softer, a little bit worse", till they're whispering again. Then a few more quieter games to bring the wildness down, followed by a couple of books and some snuggling on the couch to entirely restore the peace. Stuff some food into them. And then it's naptime!! Not such a bad way to spend a morning...

And the Rain, Rain, Rain came Down, Down, Down

Recognize the tune? You may keep it, and let it run through your minds instead of mine. I am suffering badly enough without it. All right. So yesterday I didn't go out when I could have. But I acknowledged my error, and promised to do right today. I do not deserve to be punished further. Today dawned gloomy. But that's okay. No rain. We can go out. As I bring the stroller round from the back yard, a few drops of rain fall. Light speckles. The children all have raincoats. That won't stop us! Back into the house. Get their shoes on. I hear distant thunder. But it's distant, and I'm determined: We're getting out today! Help them into their jackets. Step out onto the porch. And are greeted by a brilliant flash of lightning. ...Sigh...


Harry and his dad approach my front porch. Sitting on the couch by the open window, I hear dad's voice, calm and weary: "...well, I have things on my mind, things that I need to think about, and you're always saying 'Why, why, why'." Can we empathize? Yes, we can!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Note to Self

I should know this. I should know this. I DO know this. What was I thinking? I had a headache this morning, felt a little droopy. Decided, therefore, that I wasn't up to the effort of getting them ready to go out. They could just play inside today. Am I nuts? So, here I am, a bit tired, a little head-achey, and stuck inside all day long, with six three-and-unders. I am nuts. Note to self: No matter how you feel, you'll feel worse if you don't get out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Oh, Please No!

Across the street there used to live a family of whiners: Mommy whined at Daddy and at the children, Little Toddler Man whined at everyone in his family (though apart from them, he is the sunniest little dude); Princess 6 year old alternatively whined and flounced belligerantly (she's uniformly awful, no matter who's with her); Dad issued ultimatums which were routinely ignored. Ick. Then, praise be, a For Sale sign appeared on their lawn! The SOLD sign followed within two weeks. The new neighbours arrived late last week. They have two blond boys, about 2 and 4 years old, who match blond mummy. Dad I've not yet set eyes on. That is all I know yet about this family. But just now, during naptime, I hear a child crying. Thinking it's the one in the front room upstairs, I hasten to the bottom of the stairs. Not my tot; the sound is coming from outside. It is little blond 2-year-old across the street. He's standing beside the open side door of their van. Seems he doesn't want to get into his carseat. All right. Two-year-olds will do this. So what mom needs to do, right, is bundle him into the seat, whether he likes it or not, SHUT THE DAMNED DOOR, and drive his noise away. Right? Right?!? No. She leans in and starts discussing matters with him. He roars louder. I hear a stirring upstairs. If they wake my sleeping 2-year-old, I will be seriously annoyed. She retreats. His roaring lessens somewhat. She - what is she doing?? - she walks back into the house, leaving angry toddler by the van! She closes the front door. His roaring increases. Then - surprise! - he follows her, still raging, to their front step. Screams at the door. She opens it. They "discuss" some more. They go back to the car. He - glory be! - climbs in. Before my sigh of relief is fully breathed, he changes his mind and climbs out. AND SHE LETS HIM! (I go cold when I notice that he seems to be wearing some kind of a uniform. They don't dress their toddler in a white shirt with a collar and a sweater vest normally, do they? Do pre-schools have uniforms?? Please, please don't let this be something that is connected with pre-school, and will happen every day at this time.) And during this whole pointless episode, she is murmuring to him, and he is roaring, full volume at her, "I DON'T WANT TO!" being the gist of it. They continue this way for another four or five minutes, until finally, finally, she gets his seat buckled and closes the door on his noise, and leaves. To my relief, all my children remain peacefully sleeping. Oh, how I hope this is a one-time deviant behaviour for the kid. A bad day at the end of a difficult week. Please, please, please...

If You Dream it You Can Achieve It. Maybe.

Harry is industriously shoving a doll under his shirt. "I. Ah put..ting this baby uh-, baby uh-nur my shir' so. It. Can. Gu-woe," he declares to the room at large in his peculiar start and stop enunciation. It's an idea that is very well received by the other two three-year-olds. In seconds, all three older boys have similar lumps in their fronts. "We're just waiting for our babies, so they can be borned." George explains to Zach, who watches, intrigued, and pokes the occasional lump. "I'm geh-in fa', because my bay. My bay-be is growin'. And tha', makes me fah-at." "Yeah, he's growing, and soon you will be so fat, and that will mean he's getting ready to be born." George pats Harry's bump. Darcy echoes George, and pats his own bump. "He's getting ready. My baby's still in my tummy. He's sleepin' in my tummy. But sometimes he wakes up and gives me a kick." "MY baby is a girl!" declares Harry. "And you can sing to your baby in there," Darcy declares. "First I will sing," George agrees, "and now I'm resting, because my baby makes me tired." "Yes. Babies make a mommy tired," Harry nods sagely. "You know what, guys?" George observes. "When we grow up, we will be good mommies."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Duct Tape, Use # 253

The phone rings. "I thought I'd give you the heads up on a new behaviour Darcy's developed over the last couple of weeks," his mother tells me, "and I didn't want him overhearing the conversation. He's been having his bowel movement during afternoon nap, and then he's trying to take care of matters himself. He's making the most disgusting messes everywhere, and his dad is ready to slaughter him. We just thought you'd better be forewarned." My words of wisdom are two. "Duct tape," I pronounce. "Really?!" The relief in her voice is palpable. "I dreamt about that only last night, and woke up thinking, 'I can't really do that, can I?'" One of my nicer roles: giving parents permission to do what they want to do. In this case, what they've dreamed of doing!


I step out onto the back porch with a basket of wet laundry on my hip. A wolf-whistle cuts the air, and I look up to see my gay neighbour, Pierre, two doors up, waving at me from his yard. "I know it's a true compliment, coming from you," I call over, "because I know you're completely disinterested!" He roars with laughter.

Do You Have a License for that Child?

Check out this terrific post on Morphing into Mama. It manages to be funny, poignant, clever, and pointed in the space of 500 words or so. I laughed out loud and sighed ruefully within seconds. I particularly like the discussion of parenting instincts towards the end. So well done! Excellent writing, and an excellent point as well. Good stuff.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A Quiz for You

"Is that Mary P?" The voice on the end of the phone is female, and young. Probably in her twenties. "Yes, it is." I know already this is a "daycare call". "Umm, I got your number from a neighbour? She said you lived on Sunshine Steet?" "Yes, I do." "And, like, I was wondering, what you could tell me about your childca - er, babysitting, whatever." All right. I have already decided that I have serious reservations about accepting this woman's child into my care. Most of you have hunted for childcare at one time or another. Now's your chance to put your expertise to use, or to try out the view from the other end of the interview: Anybody want to hazard a guess as to why she's made a bad first impression? I have three reasons already. She confirms this impression in our next exchange. "When do you need to start care?" I ask. "Um, next week?"

My reasons are in the post below.

...And My Reasons

There are a few reasons. 1. She's very young. The young ones generally can't afford me, and I no longer negotiate my wages. They either pay, on time and without a fuss, or they seek other care. However, some young ones can afford me, so this in itself is not a reason to refuse her. And I may be wrong about her age. 2. She talks, um, like a valley girl? With, like, questions all the time? This annoys the shit out of me. I'd have to put up with this, for, like, three years? My skin crawls at the thought. 3a. She called me a "babysitter". Moreover, given her self-correction, she knows there's a difference between caregiver and babysitter, but can't be bothered to work it out. THIS is enough to refuse her. I am a professional. I have a ton of education, even more experience; I approach my job professionally, and expect to be treated that way. A "babysitter" is, as I've said before, the teenager you get of an evening to keep your child from harm, and to eat chips and drink pop in your family room after the child goes to bed. She does not assist in the raising and education of your child. I do. 3b. Or she isn't bright enough to comprehend the difference. Yes, I'm a snob, but I prefer working with people who are at least as smart as me. Dim ones are more work. 4. And finally, she's either incredibly disorganized or entirely oblivious to her surroundings. She's looking for care to start in one week!! I, like every caregiver in our neighbourhood, am booked months in advance. Months. I did ask her how long she'd lived in the area, just in case she wouldn't know this, and she said, "Five years?" Has she not spoken to anyone at all during her pregnancy? What expectant mom doesn't do the neighbourhood networking? I refused her in the end, not because of any of the above, but because I have truly no spaces available before January at the earliest, possibly not till next May. This is entirely normal for this area. She was a little dismayed when I gently told her this. Even if I had had the spaces, I may have interviewed with her, but she'd have had a poor first impression to overcome during it. One of the satisfactions of self-employment: one can screen one's clientele, and almost completely control one's work environment. I love it!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Tantrums: Philosophical background, or, How On Earth Did this Happen??

Tantrums. What parent of a toddler doesn't shudder at the very thought? A fair number of you have talked about, worried over, and been exasperated, embarrassed and overwhelmed by your toddler's tantrums. And some of you have asked me quite directly how I manage to do the things I do, with up to half a dozen of these critters, without streaming chaos and destruction in our wake. It's a good question. One to which I do and do not have the answer. I am quite confident that if left with your three-and-under child for three weeks, they would not be having tantrums with me. Three weeks, tops, in fact. It might only take one or two. I've never cared for a child with a developmental delay, mind you, so I can't speak to that particular challenge, nor a child with a severe behavioural disability. Mild to moderate behavioural issues, yes. However, what I can say is that in the ten years I've been doing this, I have never had a child who could not reliably be taken out in public. I've never had a child who was throwing tantrums after the age of two and a quarter. (With me, that is. With their parents, it's often an entirely different matter!) But for me, never. In ten years. So I know of what I speak. (So you can hate me now, and turn the channel immediately!! Or maybe you can be intrigued and read on. You do what you need to do!) But what exactly am I doing to achieve this? And, of even greater interest, can I teach you to do it? That's much, much harder. I've put a fair amount of thought into it, and here are some intial thoughts. First the easy stuff: Don't try anything ambitious - like a trip to the mall - when your child is tired, hungry, or under the weather. Everybody knows that, though. Not that we don't all end up having to do it once in a while, but we all know we're begging for trouble when we do. That's not all of it by any means, because we all know the little darlin's can throw a lulu of a tantrum when they're rested, fit, and fed. Maybe even more than when they're tired, because they have more stamina! Little beggars... I'll start with some observations I've made of the parents of my daycare kids. I'll describe some of their primary assumptions, assumptions which, in my opinion and considerable experience, make fertile ground for tantrums. My clientele are well-educated professionals. Often these people have deferred having their children until their mid to late thirties, and early forties. They are intelligent, rational people. They have ideals and standards. They often have a philosophy of parenting that incorporates these ideals and standards. However, they generally have next to no real life experience with children, and so they make errors, generally based in mistaken assumptions about the nature and capabilities of children. Generally, these parents' expectations of their children are both too low and too high. Too low in social and behavioural areas, and too high in the cognitive and rational realms. Low social/behavioural expectations cause parents to tolerate tantrums. No, parents don't like or approve of them, but they see them as normal, an inevitable aspect of being a two-, or almost two-year-old. When their child is having tantrums at three, they become less confident of the inevitability or normalcy of the behaviour, but they're still hoping that a little more maturity will magically eliminate it. High cognitive/rational expectations lead parents to believe that if they are reasonable with their toddler, their toddler will be reasonable back. They spend much time explaining, negotiating, coaxing, and often feel exhausted by their child's determined non-cooperation with their efforts, and disheartened by its limited success. And the third mistake is entirely understandable, but counter-productive: they want their child to be happy at all times. They may even view this as a right of childhood. This causes them to be endlessly patient and compassionate with their raging toddler. While their child rants and roars, kicks and cries, they attempt to soothe and comfort, appease and console. All right. I'm going to stop there. I haven't made any analysis of these assumptions. I have deliberately not specified what alterative assumptions exist, nor made any suggestions as to different approaches. It would probably be helpful to take some time to consider and examine this post first. In my experience with my clients over the years, these are the three areas that catch them up, again and again. Three basic premises that arise from careful thought, caring hearts, and principled parenting decisions. Premises that are formed in inexperience, however, and are thus in part simply wrong, or applied incorrectly or with inappropriate emphasis. Next Saturday: An examination of the accuracy and inaccuracy of each assumption, and how to apply them better.

Friday, September 02, 2005

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

...for this competely random little activity. A friend sent it to me a while back. It's quite the mind-bender. Even though I focussed on what I was to do, and had it quite clearly in my mind as I proceeded, I could feel the struggle within my brain! Another two seconds on each screen, and it would have been easy, but almost every time, despite my mental efforts, I wasted a second or two overcoming my first impulse. Fascinating!

The Color Test
Update: With NEW, IMPROVED Link!!!

Long, Long Weekend

Ive managed a freebie day off! Only two children were scheduled to come today. By eight this morning I'd received two calls, one telling me they'd decided to keep their boy home today, the second to let me know their little guy had puked up his breakfast, and wouldn't be coming. The second type of call are the most entertaining for me, assuming it's one the the multitude of normal childhood ailments and nothing dire, of course. While externally I'm full of sympathy, and "I hope he's better soon"'s, internally I'm cheering: "Yes!! A day off!" One of the little conflicts of caregiving. As long as I never let the inner celebration slip out my mouth while I'm talking to the parent, I'll be fine. "Suzie's sick? Oh, that's terrifi--ble..."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

My Reputation is Made

I was toasting tortilla shells. Ever done that? You slice them in half or quarters, depending on their size, and then you put them in the toaster to crisp them up. Let them cool, and then give each piece a sharp rap, and, voila, tortilla crisps, suitable for dipping. Into baba ghanouj. I still have some left. Yes, you might use the grill in the oven, but I only wanted a few. They didn't get quite brown enough the first time, so I popped the toaster down for a second go, and continued my primary task - making dinner for my family. Thank the lord my sweetie is the usual cook in this household... I was distracted. My back was to the toaster. And, like the proverbial frog in a pot of water, I didn't notice the clouds of smoke billowing from the toaster until the smoke detector went off. At exactly the same time my neighbours appeared on my front step. "It's just toast!" I holler, too busy whacking the button on the detector with the broom handle to bother with niceties like opening the door. They wandered off, satisfied that their home (we live in a semi) was not destined for ashes. They call reassurance to the neighbour two houses down - two houses! - who had been alerted to the problem by the billows of smoke coming out my front door. Billows which I, in the kitchen from which they originated, had been blithely oblivious. My sweetie arrived home as I sat on the porch after the crisis, chilled wine in hand. Both neighbours leaped in to tell him the story. I let them. May as well let them have their day, and maybe they'll let me live this one down. But I doubt it. I suspect it will be the fodder of much hilarity at street parties down the years. Outside the house, my sweetie makes comments only about how I burn with passion in all sorts of ways. What a supportive partner!! Inside, I say, "You know, I'm going to be one of those women you have to keep out of a kitchen when they get to be eighty." We laugh, and he adds, "You're a dangerous woman to leave alone in the kitchen right now!" I fear he's right, and though I laugh, it's not without a certain rueful unease. But on the bright side, one more escapade like this, and I may not have to - nay, be allowed to - see the inside of a kitchen ever again!

Men in Motion

While the children were away this month, I did some planning, and had some fun shopping for toys. Among other items, I purchased these two lovely items, a retro blast from the classic past:

(AKA, for the cognoscenti, "a stick wiv an 'orses 'ead 'andle". Not purchased at Woolworth's, more's the pity, where they would have been much cheaper, I'm sure.) I presented them to the two boys who are here today. Showed them how to use them. Then left them to it. As you can see, they're having a great time with these things! My home resounds with "gidd-up", and "woooo", and the galloping of slipper-shod horse hooves. Yeee-haw! I'm back to work!

Did I Miss Them?

My eldest asked me a day or two ago if I'd missed the tots over my month off. I think she was a little taken aback by my unequivocal "No". I'm fond of them, and all, but I've treasured every bit of my time off, and apart from acquiring a few professional items (how fun is it to have to shop for your business in toy stores, I ask you??), they have not been on my mind. But today, when I walked down the street with little George's hand in mine, and listened to Zach's much-increased vocabulary in that adorable toddler voice, I felt a surge of happiness wash over me. I do love these little guys! Yes, I'm glad to be back, and yes, I did miss them!

Feeling Wistful

Feeling wistful today. Not because I go back to work today. Not because my eldest is back to school after a brief visit. Not even because my two younger children go back to school on Monday. Wistful because I picked these up on the three block walk home from the bus stop. The trees are still green, yet there are leaves on the ground. Just a few, here and there. Not all over the ground. Not the crisp, crunchy, crackling carpet that is to come. Which, I admit, I love - it's one of my favourite sounds, that whish and crackle round my feet as I kick through the drifts of leaves. But it's coming. Fall is coming. And, while I love the soft amber light of warm autumn afternoons, though I relish cool, crisp mornings, though I glory in the blaze of colour that is autumn in this part of the world, autumn is also the harbinger of winter. The fading of the light. Long nights, crackling-with-cold days. It's not the loss of warmth that makes me wistful, though, it's the fading of the light. Evenings that start at 3:00 in the afternoon, full dark by 4:00. Sunrise at 8:00. I mourn the fading of the light.