Tuesday, May 31, 2005

It must be Fate

Oh, what a spectacular day it was today! Sky a clear, pale blue, interrupted only occasionally by the wispiest of brilliant white clouds. Temperatures a balmy twenty degrees. All the leaves are out on the trees, the grass is green, dandelions abound, and baby ducks bob in peeping clusters after their mothers on the river. Where else would we go but to the park on a day such as this? Well, actually, we might go to Tim Horton's. Somehow Thomas had decided that this might be a potential destination of our outing today, so when asked whether we should go to the park this morning, he answered “No.” I was shocked! Here I was, thinking I was asking an entirely rhetorical question, and I'm completely blind-sided by a two-year-old. This particular two-year-old, you must understand, loves going to the park. He never wants to go anywhere but. Ask him one bitter, minus-30 January day what he wants to do, and he'll want to go to the park, never mind that it's buried under a metre of snow... But today he wants to go to Tim Horton's, aka “The Doughnut Store”. (For my non-Canadian readers, Tim Horton's is a country-wide chain of coffee and doughnut stores, named for its hockey player originator. It's hugely popular in rural Canada, and holds its own well in most urban centres, despite urban competition from more upscale joints with their high-falutin' cappucinos, lattes and suchlike.) Well, it may have come as a surprise, but we can walk along the river almost the whole way there, get some sun, watch the ducks, romp along the path. It's not such a silly notion. And besides, I'd like a coffee, now that he suggests it! It takes us a solid forty-five minutes to walk the kilometre or so to the place. We run in the fields, we pick dandelions, we find glittering bits of quartz that must be pocketed. We dance on the stumps by the river, sneak up on a couple of sun-bathing ducks, pet a dog or two. We find a puddle that must be stomped in, a bridge to peek under, some pigeons to startle into flight. When we approach the “busy street” upon which the store is located, Zach goes into the stroller, with Thomas and Darcy in their usual outrigger roles. All this in the interests of safety, of course. The shop has two entry doors, set at right angles to each other. You walk alongside the store to the first door, then immediately turn to your left to enter the shop. This is far more trouble than it might appear from the description. I need one hand to steer the stroller, another to hold the door open for us. With slightly older/heavier children, I could set one to act as door stopper, leaning their bottom against the glass of the door while we pass. But these guys are too light for that, and are merely swept inexorably forward as the door shuts upon them. So, having opened the door with my one hand, I prop it open with my own bottom, and manoeuvre the stroller round the 90 degree corner in front of me. Remember that the two older boys are still hanging on. Inevitably one ends up compressed between the stroller and the wall, or the stroller and my legs, such that he cannot pass - not if he stills hangs on to the stroller, and obedient little tykes that they are, they rarely let go unless told. So while trying to push the stroller forward, it is being held back on one side by a stuck child, and now it's not going forward, it's going into the wall, and now the other child is being run over, and I have to dislodge their hands from the stroller, and I can't get ahead of it because that would mean moving my bum and having the door shut on us, and... You see the difficulty. I'm anticipating my coffee, well-earned by now! However, we do successfully, if awkwardly, achieve the inside of the shop. I order my coffee (large decaf, two cream, no sugar), and a small box of Timbits. (“Timbits”, called by Americans “donut holes”, are round doughnut balls, a couple of cm in diameter.) Now, I've always simply asked for half plain and half chocolate, but this morning I can't remember why I do that, and so let the nice lady give us an assortment of all their flavours. We sit down. I savour my first sip of coffee. Once they dive in to their treat, I am given three graphic demonstrations of why I never, ever order jam-filled timbits. We will definitely have to make a trip to the bathroom before we leave! Jam-sticky hands and faces collect icing sugar, grit and grass bits appear from nowhere and attach themselves to necks and arms. They're adorable, and they're filthy. Ah, well. Let me just finish my coffee, then we'll clean them up. One more luscious sip. And then Zach, sitting happily on my knee, sneezes. Of course his mouth was full when he did this. Of course. Bit of jam-filled soggy timbit chunks spatter all over my arm. All right, boys, we're hitting the bathroom now. More double-door manoeuvring, because of course the doors to the toilets are set up in the same was as the entry doors! Thankfully, some nice man holds the door for us. Altruism, or merely his own need to get to the men's? I didn't ask, because truthfully, I didn't care! We wash up. We have our pees. We head out. I make sure Darcy and Thomas have their shiny rocks, and Zach his “ah-poon”(airplane) from the counter by the sink. We navigate through the double doors to the store, and then through the other double doors to the sidewalk. Phew. It's not till I'm settling each of their matching hats on their little heads that I realize the awful truth: I've left my coffee in the bathroom! Some things were just not meant to be.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

No Pressure, of course

A certain affluent neighbourhood in my city has a garage sale every May, a percentage of the proceeds from all participating homes going to the local Food Bank. While strolling and idly scanning the good on offer, I happened across a high chair. Nothing unusual in that, of course. I get a lot of good daycare supplies from this particular sale. Lots of "comfortable", indulgent mommies and daddies with only one precious child mean lots of good quality, lightly used toys and supplies, at very good prices. This high chair, however, was in a class of its own. The child who sat in it is obviously intended to Achieve Great Things. Sumptuously padded, upholstered in black leather, it was the chair of a mini Chairman of the Board. Senior Partner, at the very least. Originally $300, yours for only $150!! Could your little one make the grade?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Holiday Hassles, part two, or, WTF???

Ooooo, but I am steamed... So you know, if you've been reading this for long, that a month ago I let "my parents" (aka my clients) know that I'd be taking the entire month of August off. I certainly have the seniority - I've been doing this for over ten years - plus, I have a very busy and demanding family life: I need the break! My contract stipulates my holiday times. For this career, I'm at the very top of the perks and benefits, and rightfully so, given my education and experience. I am not so foolish, however, as to think that I can get any more, no matter how good I am. In my contract, I'm allowed two weeks paid holiday in August. My clients know that when they sign on. However, this year I finally managed to save enough that I could take the entire month off, the latter two and a half weeks being unpaid days off. I informed my clients of this a few weeks ago, giving them all four months notice. I also supplied them with the names of a couple of other caregivers willing to take on an extra tot or two for the month. One client didn't like this. It was "inconvenient". They wouldn't be taking their holidays till September. Now, why would they do that, when they knew 15 months ago (they signed on in May, 2004) that August is my holiday month? I took August holidays last year, as well. They were here for that. But we had a chat about it - a stiff little chat, but civil - and I held firm. Dad, who was voicing the complaints, said he'd leave it to Mom to deal with it. That was a month ago. Today I tell them that for some reason, I have no postdated cheques from them for May to July, as I should. I need three more to cover the end of the contract. He uses this opportunity to tell me that they will be taking two weeks' holiday in September. Which would be just fine, except that he's expecting it to be without pay, to "make up for the inconvenience of [my] August holiday". WTF??? I didn't answer right away. I'm sure he could tell by the expression on my face I wasn't pleased, for he immediately offered to "meet me for coffee and talk it over". I demurred in some nebulous way. Mostly, I just wanted to say "No! What's to discuss? And just piss off, will ya??" But I am A Professional. I don't say stuff like that to clients. Much as I might wish to. Much as they might deserve it. I did write them an email, very firm but civil, which I haven't sent yet. First I want to be paid, at least for this month! I am self-employed. If I want these days off, I won't be paid. That's what it is, when you're self-employed: you don't work, you don't get paid. Fine. I've saved the money, so that I can have the extra time off. I have arranged care for the children, if they need it. What more can I do? Why on earth should I agree to give them free childcare in September, when they don't have to pay for my extra time off in August? What makes this reasonable? I am supposed to compensate them for taking time off without pay??? Why is it my fault that they forgot I always take two weeks in August? (Which they did.) If they're inconvenienced, it's because they refuse to take advantage of the backup care I've arranged. How is this my responsibility? Argh!!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bo-bo

Darcy stumbles during our walk. We pick him up, dust him off, offer a hug and comfort. "Do you have a bo-bo?" I ask. (For me, growing up in central Ontario, this would've been a "boo-boo" at his age. Here, in francophone influenced Eastern Ontario, it's a "bo-bo". Long "oh".) "Yes. I got a bo-bo", and he pulls up the leg of his pants to display his scraped-up knee. Scraped up, yes, but two or three days ago, I'd say. I guess I didn't tell him the bo-bo had to be fresh.

Just like home?

George is driving a small ride-on car down the sidewalk. Suddenly he stops, says to Thomas: "Oh. I have to go back - I forgot my keys!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Boy is Brilliant

Upon entering the house from the brilliantly sunny outdoors, George exclaims on the dimness of the living room. I explain this is because it is so bright outside; our eyes are used to the sunshine, and so the inside seems very dark. In fact it's not, and in a minute or two our eyes will get used to the light in the house, and we'll be able to see just fine. “Just like the swimming pool,” he observes. I'm not quite sure what he means, though I know he swims at a local indoor pool each week. “Is it dark at the pool?” I've missed the direction of his thought, which becomes apparent when he clarifies. “No, cold.” Do you catch what's just been expressed? Read it over again, remembering this lad is only three, and be thoroughly impressed. I certainly was! George is making a parallel comparison: Just as the livingroom seems dim until your eyes adjust, so the pool seems cold until your body adjusts. This is very sophisticated thinking for a three year old. As if that weren't enough, there's more! He is taking two quite discrete physical experiences and is distilling an abstract concept from them. Abstract thinking in a three year old. Amazing. An abstract concept which he can then apply to either of those, or perhaps to still another experience at some other time. Wow. I have a toddler genius on my hands! Way to go, George!

Half-Day

I took a half-day off this morning to see my lawyer. "Officially" it was a doctor visit, not so that I can take it as a sick day, because I am allowed a certain number of discretionary days per year, but simply for my own right to privacy. A small child support matter, dealt with effectively by my wondrously kind and supportive lawyer. She has yet to charge me for a consultation; when I offered to pay her today, she waved the notion aside, saying it's a pleasure to deal with someone so nice, and reasonable. She's very kind: she knows my income! I understand through a friend of mine, whose father is a judge, that she's a killer lawyer in court, if I ever need that. Fervently hoping I never do, but nice to know just the same! The consultation took half an hour. I had three hours to kill, so I walked home instead of taking the bus, a lovely 45 minute meandre along the canal. The trees are fully green, the tulips are resplendent everywhere, and the sky was a perfect, uninterrupted blue from horizon to horizon. Amazing! The tots will be arriving shortly, and I am refreshed and eager to see them. Solitude and nature: so restorative!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Adoration

Walking home from the library, a routine and normally uneventful stroll. Thomas is holding onto the left side of Mia's stroller, Darcy on the right. Suddenly musical Thomas bursts into song. Every line Thomas sings is echoed by Darcy: "I wuv Georgie!" carols Thomas. "I love Georgie," echoes Darcy. "He's my best boy." "He's my best boy." "Best in the world." "Best in the world." "I miss Georgie." "I miss Georgie." "Best boy inna world." etc. A paean! And antiphonal, to boot! Talk about Culture.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Blessed Solitude

Holiday Monday. I am a happy woman. My kids are with their dad, my daycare tots are with their parents, and my husband has just departed to return his children to their mother. Phew! It's a lovely, lovely day. Grey skies, light drizzle for the past 48 hours, a mere 9 degrees. (Which is...multiply by 9 over 5...ah...add 32...52 degrees farenheit? Oh, nuts to that... That small percentage of the world which doesn't understand celcius can do their own conversions from here on in!) As I was saying before I interrupted myself: grey skies, endless drizzle, and chilly, makes for a lovely, lovely day, because I AM ON MY OWN!!!! Off I go now to read a book. And I will lounge on the couch, taking up All The Seats, because I don't have to share -- for at least two hours! Happy, happy me.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Philosophy of Childcare

This is my philosophy of childcare, mission statement if you will, and is included as an appendix in my contract.


Philosophy of Childcare

I love caring for children. Small children are full of life, boundless in their energy, in their desire to learn, endearing in their innocence. They challenge me, they make me think, and most of all, they make me laugh. I take great satisfaction in being part of the village that raises a child. I am an unapologetic optimist. I believe that: Each interaction with a child is an opportunity. A conflict is an opportunity to teach negotiation and listening. An injury to another child is an opportunity to practice empathy. Mealtimes are an opportunity for conversation and manners. Strengths are to be built upon; weaknesses are to be learned from, and grown beyond. Children live up - or down - to our expectations of them Therefore I keep my expectations high. Not so high that child is frustrated and retreats into sullenness or despair; but just high enough that the child can take genuine pleasure in his/her achievements. Every person, regardless of age, deserves to be treated with respect. As I treat the children respectfully, I also expect respect from them. Each of us has unique strength and particular needs. Each child will have something to offer the group in my home. Each of us has something to gain from the company of others. Young children thrive in a stable, predictable environment. So, while I strive to remain flexible to each one's varying needs each day, our days will follow a consistent pattern. The particulars may change, but the pattern remains reliable. I am part of the team that works to see this child develop happily and fully. I view myself as an experienced, expert resource to the parents, however, I am not the child's primary caregiver. Whenever possible, parent and child need time together to be building that relationship. The parents are their child's most important relationship. Raising a child is probably the single most challenging enterprise most adults ever take on. At times it can be joyful and exhilarating; at times it can be positively unnerving! At all times it is incredibly significant, valuable, and worth while. Bon voyage!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Interview

I have a space opening up shortly, and have thus been seeking replacements. I've had several calls, some more probing and promising than others, but nothing beyond that until last week, when I set up an interview with a woman who is seeking care for her three-year-old son. I liked the sound of her on the phone; we agreed to meet. Now, when parents come for an interview, they know their agenda. They want to make sure I am capable of providing safe, stimulating, and loving care to their babe. They also want to get a “feel” for me, see if my parenting style is comparable to their own. They think they know my agenda, and so they provide me with lots and lots of information about their baby. In fact, they're wrong. At this point, I am only secondarily interested in their baby. A shocking thought for Earnest Parents. I have been caring for kids, as a parent, an elementary school teacher, and now a daycare provider, for the better part of twenty years. The baby doesn't worry me: There are very few babies I can't manage. The parents, however, are another matter altogether. Much harder to train!! A parent can quite successfully make my life a misery. Their child might try betimes, but without success: we always manage to come to a meeting of minds - or wills, as the case may be! This mother decided to bring her son with her. This is generally a dreadful idea for the first interview, particularly with a toddler. Mom is distracted, the child is disruptive, and the interview takes half again as long as it should. I am exasperated, because I am quite helpless. As long as a parent is there, they are the authority, and I won't intrude upon that: it would be unspeakably rude; besides, it would be completely ineffective and thus self-defeating. So I paste my Mary Poppins patient and gentle smile on my face, and wait for them to sort it out. In this case, though, the child was a delight. A favourable impression is being made. Here's what I saw that I liked: -she arrived on time; -her son was well-behaved; -she was in control of the child; -she was polite; -she has a sense of humour, even about her child; (meaning, she is not an Earnest Mommy!) -she didn't quibble about my fees; -she acknowledged my professionalism; -thus, she didn't quibble about my professional perks (paid holiday, stats, sick days); -she discussed the issues intelligently; -she asked sensible questions; -she smiled and made eye contact; -she responded to my questions sensibly; -she was soft-spoken. So, all went well. When she returned a few days later, it was to introduce her husband to me and sign the contract. The only downside? Well, Mary Poppins I may be, but Martha Stewart I ain't. This place sees half a dozen and more children every single day, and I have neither the inclination nor the energy to maintain Better Homes and Garden standards. (Housework with children around, says a quote in a journal I was once given, is like putting beads on a string with no knot at the end.) However, I did give the bathroom a quick scouring, just in case, and Mom did make a quick trip there part way though. After they left, I was mortified to see that the damned cat had been up there after my scrubbing, and had left muddy pawprints all over the sink! And still they agreed to sign on. Not fastidious: yet another point in their favour!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Who's on First?

Talking to Thomas can be a dizzifying experience. We have stopped at a downtown corner to investigate the raised relief map on the concrete pedestal. You know the sort - it shows brass models of historically and touristically significant structures in the few blocks around you. I hold the boys up so they can touch the figures on the map, and try to relate these representations to the real landmarks around them. One of these is the War Memorial (aka "the statue"), only a few blocks up the street. We decide we will walk up to see it. Thomas: Where we going? Me: To see the statue. Thomas: We're going to see the statue? Me: Yes. Thomas: Where is it? Me: We can't see it quite yet... Wait a bit. You'll see it soon. (Repeat the above ten to twelve times as we walk two blocks at toddler pace.) Me: There it is! See it? George: Yes! I see it! Thomas: Where is the statue? Me: Right ahead of us. See it? Thomas: No, I can't. (Now, the War Memorial is a large-to-huge structure, dominating the confluence of three streets, right at the top of a hill, and we are by now right across the street from it...) Thomas: I can't see a statue!! Me: stopping, squatting beside him, and aligning his head so that the memorial must entirely fill his field of vision: "There! Right in front of you." Thomas: Where? I can't see a statue! (He's upset now, knowing he's missing out on what everyone else is enjoying. I have a sudden insight.) Me: Thomas, do you know what a statue is? Thomas: No.

A Matter of Respect

Remember that catch-phrase, "Expect Respect"? It was part of a campaign addressing violence against women. Many women in abusive situations, we are told, have become so acclimatized to the violence that they simply don't see that they are in that situation. You know, I think this is a slogan that parents of two-year-olds should adopt, and for much the same reasons! I can't think the number of times - at a park, a school, in a store - I have seen a child aggress against a parent, seen the parent respond, and then seen the child simply wallop the parent again. And again. It doesn't matter how often I see that, I am shocked. The first attempt is not shocking. Toddlers, as we all know, do try that from time to time. They're emotionally-driven, impulsive little critters, still very egocentric. They are frustrated and have trouble expressing it in more socially acceptable ways, so they express it in the most expedient way possible - with a blow, or a shriek, or a bite. (A shriek can be an aggression, if done right in a person's face.) The first aggression is not really the issue, though of course it needs to be addressed. The issue is the second and subsequent aggressions, perpetrated in direct defiance of the parents' objections. A child who will do this has no respect for their parent. The parent who allows this to continue happening has not established themselves as worthy of respect. In my experience, it is those earnest and loving parents who try to raise their children by well-thought-out principles who are most often flummoxed by this behaviour. A child hits mom in the face. Mom, whose principles require her always to be rational, gentle, and calm with her child, demurs, "Now, Simon, you know mommy doesn't like that." Whap!! "Simon!" this in tones of distress. "Mommy doesn't like that." Whap! Simon knows mommy doesn't like that. For Simon, that's the point. After all, Mommy is trying to make him do something he doesn't like (put on his winter boots when it's twenty below, say). And it's not just mommies. I've seen daddies in the same position, though, I admit, less often. Me, I'm always shocked that the blows are received entirely passively. The toddler needs to understand that their anger is acceptable, but its expression must be controlled. They need to understand that their parent has enough self-respect not to tolerate abuse. They need to know that when they are having trouble controlling themselves, you can provide the safe harbour for their raging emotions. And they need to know that when they do get angry, they are still loveable. None of this, however, means that a parent needs to accept abuse! Rather the reverse. So, what should a parent do? Expect Respect. The child swings a punch. If possible, it's best if the parent can intercept the blow before it arrives. Grip the wrist firmly and stop the blow. If it has already landed, take the wrist and pull it away from you. Then, rationally, calmly, and very firmly say to the child: "You can be angry, but you can't hit." Speak slowly and deliberately. Hold the wrist and maintain eye contact as you say this, and stay like that until the child relaxes. You may need to repeat this after a few moments. Stay firm, though, and they'll relax. Once they have relaxed, they get a warm and reassuring hug. At this stage, I will also remind them that "Hands are not for hitting, remember? Hands are for hugging." There. You've been calm and rational, but you've also managed to insist on being respected. And it ends with a reassuring snuggle for everyone. A win-win -- when a parent Expects Respect.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Completely Irrelevant

Ever heard of Goose Mother rhymes? I heard these years ago, and they seem to have lodged in my mind. If they have a written source, I don't know it: they were recited to me by someone who had them memorized from some uncertain source. (Not to worry: I would never share these with the tots in my care.) Georgie Porgie, puddin'and pie Kissed the girls and made them cry. When the boys came out to play He kissed them too. He's funny that way. Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet Eating her curds and whey. Along came a spider, and sat down beside her, So she beat the crap out of it with her spoon. Hickory, Dickory dock. The mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, And the rest escaped with minor injuries. Jack and Jill went up the hill. They each had a buck and a quarter. Jill came down with two and a half: Do you think they went for water? Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn. The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn. Where is the boy who looks after the sheep? He's under the haystack with Little Bo Peep. There are more, but this will suffice...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Foiled!

Only three boys this morning: Zach, Thomas, and Darcy. We're off to the park, but as a special treat, I decide to hit the Second Cup first: a chiller for me and blueberry muffin - one is big enough for three - for the boys. They have their drinks with them, and with a few library books strewn about, we look to be settling in for a comfortable outing. Between sips of my drink, I dole out chunks of muffin, one bite each, round the table. Darcy is a slow and methodical eater. He's not reluctant at all; the boy likes his food, he merely savours every bite. Thomas and Zach, however, are of the more typical toddler school of food appreciation: If you like it, cram it in and get more, fast!! Thus, if I simply give as each child is ready for their next bite, poor Darcy ends up with only half what the others get. Besides, I am in the business of civilizing them: I want to discourage wolfing and encourage savouring. Therefore, when Zach crams, chews once or twice, and then somehow manages to squeeze "Mah, pee" out past the wads of muffin still in there, I tell him he'll have to wait. Clever me, I've thought of a brilliant and simple way to make Darcy our Good Example. By uttering one simple sentence, the other two will have to pace themselves, and Darcy won't be short-changed: "When Darcy is finished, we'll all have more." Masterful, huh?? All eyes lock on Darcy. He chews peaceably for another moment or two, then suddenly becomes aware of the attention. He stops mid-chew, stares back, and then, clearly feeling the pressure, stuffs the rest of his piece in his mouth. His cheeks - and eyes - bulge under the strain. His eyes water a bit as he tries to swallow a portion of his mammoth mouthful. Tiny drops of muffin-laced drool trickles from between his lips, which can't quite close when he smiles triumphantly. He's done his part, and he knows it! Brilliant and simple, indeed, and masterfully undermined!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ambivalence

1. A child is brought to my home. He is clinging to his parent, and his wails precede him into the house. Parent and I exchange needful information over the uproar, and then the parent leaves, clearly in distress. It's hard. It's hard to leave your child when he is crying and needs you. 2. One of my tots is dropped off. "Bye!" she crows, cheerfully, and toddles off. Parent lingers, then leaves reluctantly, dispirited, saying something like "She doesn't care!" (Or "Don't miss me too much", or, speaking for their child, "Yeah, yeah, mom/dad, you can leave now.") It's hard. It's hard to leave your child and have them so obviously not need you. I feel for my parents. It is hard. But of course, your child always needs you, happy or sad. Your child needs you whether you're present or not. Your child needs you in his/her life, needs your love, needs your nurturing, your guidance, your unrivalled concern. However, your child does not need your physical presence every second of the day. It is good for the child to have a circle of adults who love him/her, a circle of people s/he can trust. So, if your child cries when you leave, that's okay. They love you. Just trust them enough to believe that they will cope just fine. And they will - it generally takes about 36 seconds after your departure for those tears to dry and the child to begin to play. And if your child doesn't cry, that's okay, too. They're happy and secure in the place you've chosen for them. Good job! So, don't worry, mommy and daddy: Your baby will do just fine, and so will you!

Sharing?

Zach holds out his bread and butter to Alice. Alice reaches for it. Awww, he's sharing! Seems straightforward doesn't it? Maybe, maybe not. I've seen this too many times not to offer Zach the observation: "Do you want Alice to eat that bread? Because it you hold it out to her like that, she will eat it." All this said in a positive, cheery tone of voice. Sharing is good, and I'm all for it. Perhaps he does want to share it with her. Or perhaps not. Zach looks up at me, looks at the bread, and then at Alice, quickly withdraws his hand and stuffs the slice into his mouth. It's the not-quite-twos who do this most frequently. I suspect they are simply happy to have whatever it is, and only want to show it off a bit. "Look what I've got!" So they show it, and then are absolutely horrified to see their treat vanish into the voracious maw of their friend. Hey!!! The adult equivalent would be to bring your neighbour in to see the new painting you bought and hung over the fireplace, and have them take it off the wall and walk out the door. What the hell??

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Choosing Childcare: two interview questions

Parents often worry over how their child is being treated at daycare, especially at the beginning. How do they know how the provider acts behind closed doors? When your child can't talk, this concern is particularly acute. Here are a couple of tips: 1. During the interview, ask about turnover. How long do clients typically stay with the caregiver? With very few exceptions, mine have stayed with me from the time mom's maternity leave ended until the child went off to school - three or four years. I've even had two couples opt to keep their child with me through the junior kindergarten year. If the caregiver has a steady turnover, losing children after a few months, this should be a warning sign. Find out more! 2. Does the provider have an Open Door policy? Are parents allowed to drop in unannounced? The answer to this question should be "yes"! Now, I will confess that I don't really like it when parents drop in. It's disruptive for the children, it makes me feel self-conscious, and, if the parent isn't taking the child with them when they leave, I'll almost certainly have an unhappy child on my hands for a while after mommy or daddy's departure. So, all in all, it's a nuisance and a bother! However, this isn't about my convenience. I have an open door policy, because it's only right that a parent have free access to their child. And in fact, once parents knows they may drop in, they very often don't feel the need to actually do it. Those that have dropped in have only ever done it once or twice. I hope this is because the idyllic scene they survey as they enter provides them with all the reassurace they need, but it may well be the fear of a repeat of the almighty fuss their child made at their departure! If the daycare has a high turnover rate and/or a closed door policy, think carefully about sending your child there.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Yes, Yes, Thanks for Noticing

Thomas and George are peering out my livingroom window. I am outside. Thomas: Hey, there she is!! George: She brought the stroller outta the backa yard. Thomas (to me): Good job, man!! George: No, she's not a man. She's a woman.

A Matter of Balance

Picture this: A child stands, feet wide, arms stretched toward you, palms up. Recognize this? It's the Ready to Catch the Ball pose. The adult involved gently lobs the ball into the waiting arms. Perhaps one time in ten, the arms actually react in time as the ball bounces off the child's tummy, and the ball is successfully caught. Great celebration of this event follows, of course! One time in, oh, fifty or so, this is what happens: After bouncing off the child's tummy, the ball dribbles between the child's feet. The child bends to catch it. Misses. The ball continues to wobble on its way, now well behind the child. The child continues to reach for the ball, two little hands straining, bottom high in the air, further, further, further... ...and completely topples over, landing solidly on the top of his head. N.B. It is advised that this manoeuvre be attempted only on a soft surface.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Nasty or Nice?

I'm having trouble sorting through my reactions to a particular family. They are lovely folk, I think. I think. I cared for their middle son for a year and a half, ending two years ago. Mom and dad are both doctors, cheerful, easy-going people with a great approach to their children and lots of support for me. As clients, they were terrific. Which is why, when their son had finished his time with me to move on to kindergarten, I agreed to hold his part time space for five months, awaiting their third child's first birthday. Foolish woman that I am, I didn't even ask a holding fee. The baby girl had been with me only five weeks when mom decided she'd rather stay home with this, her last child, and pulled her from my care. Foolish me, yet again: Because this was a family I trusted, and with whom I had a good rapport, I hadn't made sure the contract was signed before the child started! In fact, it was when I asked if they could sign the contract and return it to me that I was informed, on a Thursday, that their child would not be attending as of Monday! Had the contract been signed, I'd have been assured of another month's pay, plus they'd have forfeited their security deposit (one month's fees), so I'd have had the income through Christmas. Yes, they did this to me in November. As it was, they graciously didn't request their deposit back, but I was out the second month's fee. It took me four months to fill that space. (Far more people are looking for childcare in September, when I was keeping the space open and refusing interviews for it, than they are at Christmas when I suddenly found myself scrambling for a child.) Phew. Lessons learned: 1. Always get the contract signed first. 2. Charge a non-refundable holding fee. Additionally, my contract now has a clause stipulating that if someone bails within four months, their deposit is forfeit even if they do give the required 60 days notice. I figured that, as a double-doctor home, they simply couldn't see that a drop of over $500 in my monthly income would have a huge impact on my family finances. Self-absorbed perhaps, but not malicious. So, nice people, still, if a bit oblivious. Last week, I get an email from the mom. It's been two years, and she's now looking for part time care. Do I have a space? I figure I'm safe, right? This is her last child, and she's going back to work after two years. This is minimal risk. I agree to meet with her an afternoon later in the week. The morning of that day, I get an email: she's been offered full-time work, would need to start sooner, and so found herself a space in a daycare centre close to work! All this in three days since we last communicated! She did it again! I am astounded. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Yeowch!! (2)

One of our favourite parks is known to the children as "Sophie's Park", because we always meet my caregiver friend Sophie there. It's a great spot: the play structure is suitably challenging without being frustrating or dangerous, there are swings, a lot of sand for the non-climbers, rocks and benches for adults to sit upon, lawns to romp on, and, in the summer a large and well-supervised wading pool. And, best of all, it is conveniently close to my favourite coffee shop (Second Cup)! To one side of the play structure is a stand of spruce trees, happily placed for the littler ones to deal with the call of nature. It's cool and shaded, reasonably well-screened from the playground, grassy at the edges and smoothly carpeted with fallen spruce needles in the innermost section. On this particular day, my eleven year old, Emma, was with us, and so when Darcy declared his need to visit the trees right when I was changing a diaper, I sent her along to supervise. A pause, and then: "Mummy! Darcy's crying! I don't know why!" Darcy is a quiet little guy. He doesn't fuss much, but when he does, it can be quite a challenge to determine exactly why, as he just stands, quietly whimpering, with his head hanging, tears dripping from his sad little face. This is what I discovered when I ducked under the branches. I kneel in front of him as he stands, his pants still down around his ankles. "He won't let me pull his pants up, mummy. He just stood up and started to cry, but won't let me help him!" Emma too is distressed, tears in her eyes, her soft heart aching to be of assistance, her assistance refused. Clearly mum better act quickly, or there will be two of them in tears. An assessment is required. "Are you hurt, Darcy?" Whimper. "Did something frighten you?" Whimper. I reach to pull his pants up: that gets a vehement response - he swats my hand away and yelps. I have a flash of intuition, and turn the boy around. I've mentioned before that I have all children, girls and boys, sit to pee? Darcy had gone a little further under the trees than I normally encourage, and instead of sitting on grass, he'd sit on the carpet of needles - last year's yellow, dry, and incredibly sharp needles - needles which are currently protruding from between his chubby cheeks in a nasty arc of brittle spikes! Apparently, when he stood up, he'd managed to take on some cargo. Yeowch!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Silly Questions

I don't know a single caregiver who doesn't start to froth at the mouth when considering some of the questions, the pointless, silly, trouble-making questions, parents ask of their child. Consider this true-life example. One wet spring day, when rain is coming down in absolute sheets, this dialogue occurs in my entry way. "Tammy" is three; "Mom" is old enough to know better. Mom: Would you like to put your splash pants on? (For those of you unfamiliar with parent lingo, "splash pants" are, not surprisingly, waterproof pants one wears over one's regular clothing.) Tammy: (very calmly, because she is, after all, simply answering a question) No. Mom: (in tones of great surprise) Why not?? It's pouring out there!! And the battle commences. What possesses someone to present as a choice something which is manifestly not a choice?? Of course wee Tammy is in battle mode: Mom offered her a choice, and then told her she couldn't have it! Why shouldn't she object with all the volume and passion a three-year-old possesses? I've heard all these ridiculous questions: Would you like to put your boots on? (When it's twenty below.) Are you ready to come with daddy? (When the parent is already late collecting the child.) Can I put your seat belt on you? (When it's the law!) Argh!!! I know, I know, they're only trying to be polite. It seems never to have occurred that one can be polite and not completely abdicate their authority. How about: Okay, love, time to put those boots on! Let's go, we're late. Let's get that seat belt on you now! All said in calm, cheerful, polite tones, and with all due parental authority. No coaxing, wheedling, or negotiating required. Should the child balk, the parent need only repeat the expectation and assist in its completion. (And remember to thank your offspring for their compliance, no matter how ungraciously given it was!) Generally speaking, however, if a parent says something with calm confidence, the child will go along with it. Give a tot a choice, though, and what two-year-old worth their salt won't try to create a ruckus??

Monday, May 09, 2005

Children are so Observant!!

So George says, "the big green garbage truck". And I think to myself: the garbage truck is green? I picture it in my head, and, what do you know, the kid is right! The garbage truck is green! This is the sort of child observation that has adults cooing “Children are so observant!!" Adults who don't have much to do with children, at any rate. The rest of us know better. Children do not observe the toy that has fallen just to the left of their foot, because they're looking for it to their right. Children do not notice that they have spilled milk all over the table until it pours into their lap. The milk was spilled in the first place because a child did not notice the cup that you pointed out to them when you placed it there. Children do not observe the step until they trip over it, the doorknob until they run into it, the baby until they sit on him - and then only because he yowls... You can send an older child to look for an object, and they will return, unable to find it. When you look yourself, it will be RIGHT ON TOP of wherever you told them to look. Children, observant? What they are is highly idiosyncratic. Children notice odd and quirky things, things that adults don't notice. They notice the colour of the garbage truck because garbage trucks are fascinating when you're three. They notice the ants in the cracks of the sidewalk, the pattern of gravy on their mashed potatoes, the smiles on the bottom of their rain boots, the sound of an airplane, the way the mud spatters the curb, the fluff stuck in the branches of the bush. They notice these things because they have all that spare memory space in their sponge-like minds, space that is available precisely because they aren't noticing "normal" stuff that gums up an adult's mind! That's another reason to love my work, of course: while my mind is necessarily filled with all the mundane things I note and take for granted, I get to be reminded of all the quirky and interesting bits that would otherwise go unnoticed by this "observant" adult!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Reactions

Oh, what an amazing, glorious, sun-filled spring day! It wouldn't be humanly possible to stay indoors on such a day, would it? I push the stroller, the long, four-seated stroller that always garners so very much attention, down the street. On some days, my more extroverted days, I enjoy the attention and return laugh for laugh and smile for smile. On other, more introverted days, I feel a bit of a spectacle, and find all that attention a little much. My return smiles are weaker on those days! Yesterday, an extroverted day for me, thank goodness, because there were a LOT of people out, I heard all of the following as we strolled along: "Oh, how cute!" "Have you ever seen anything so adorable??" "Look at those hats!" (They're identical and garish, the better to find them in the playground.) "Are they all yours?" (You'd be amazed how often I get asked.) "Mommy! Look at all the babies!" "Holy sh*t!" "Oh, my god, she's got four in there!" "Why does she gots so many babies, daddy?" "Where did you get that stroller?" "Look at that. So sweet!" "God, you must be so patient!" "Bet that keeps you busy!" "You've got your hands full!" "The second one is asleep." "Two boys and two girls?" "God bless you!" "Busy lady!" "You are one lucky woman!" But by far my favourite was that uttered by a young, very pregnant woman who was pushing a toddler in a stroller, to her husband: "Oh, look! My worst nightmare come to life!"

|W|P|111713426854957808|W|P|Just like home?|W|P|5/27/2005 03:32:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Anonymous|W|P|LOL5/27/2005 05:11:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Simon Peter|W|P|Actually, it's usually my wife who loses her keys and I have to lend her my spare one for her car until she finds it again. :-)5/27/2005 06:50:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Mary P.|W|P|I forgot to ask which parent he was reflecting: I suspect they'd each tell me it was the other! It's certainly true to life, whichever it is... In our house, it'd be me, I admit it.5/25/2005 08:36:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Upon entering the house from the brilliantly sunny outdoors, George exclaims on the dimness of the living room. I explain this is because it is so bright outside; our eyes are used to the sunshine, and so the inside seems very dark. In fact it's not, and in a minute or two our eyes will get used to the light in the house, and we'll be able to see just fine. “Just like the swimming pool,” he observes. I'm not quite sure what he means, though I know he swims at a local indoor pool each week. “Is it dark at the pool?” I've missed the direction of his thought, which becomes apparent when he clarifies. “No, cold.” Do you catch what's just been expressed? Read it over again, remembering this lad is only three, and be thoroughly impressed. I certainly was! George is making a parallel comparison: Just as the livingroom seems dim until your eyes adjust, so the pool seems cold until your body adjusts. This is very sophisticated thinking for a three year old. As if that weren't enough, there's more! He is taking two quite discrete physical experiences and is distilling an abstract concept from them. Abstract thinking in a three year old. Amazing. An abstract concept which he can then apply to either of those, or perhaps to still another experience at some other time. Wow. I have a toddler genius on my hands! Way to go, George!|W|P|111706833617292212|W|P|The Boy is Brilliant|W|P|5/28/2005 07:17:00 AM|W|P|Blogger aaron|W|P|Thanks for sharing -- it is impressive once you've explained just what it is George did to those of us not entirely familiar with a child's thought processes.5/28/2005 01:29:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Mary P.|W|P|It was only when I wrote it down that I realized I'd have to explain it a bit. Suddenly it looked like a non sequiter, even to me, who has tons of experience with childrens' thought processes.5/25/2005 11:18:00 AM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|I took a half-day off this morning to see my lawyer. "Officially" it was a doctor visit, not so that I can take it as a sick day, because I am allowed a certain number of discretionary days per year, but simply for my own right to privacy. A small child support matter, dealt with effectively by my wondrously kind and supportive lawyer. She has yet to charge me for a consultation; when I offered to pay her today, she waved the notion aside, saying it's a pleasure to deal with someone so nice, and reasonable. She's very kind: she knows my income! I understand through a friend of mine, whose father is a judge, that she's a killer lawyer in court, if I ever need that. Fervently hoping I never do, but nice to know just the same! The consultation took half an hour. I had three hours to kill, so I walked home instead of taking the bus, a lovely 45 minute meandre along the canal. The trees are fully green, the tulips are resplendent everywhere, and the sky was a perfect, uninterrupted blue from horizon to horizon. Amazing! The tots will be arriving shortly, and I am refreshed and eager to see them. Solitude and nature: so restorative!|W|P|111703543852528895|W|P|Half-Day|W|P|5/26/2005 07:14:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous keldar|W|P|Kind and supportive lawyer? Is this a fairy tail :-)5/26/2005 08:16:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Mary P.|W|P|My very own true life fairy tale! (Or my good fairy, perhaps?) Lovely woman, she.5/24/2005 12:07:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Walking home from the library, a routine and normally uneventful stroll. Thomas is holding onto the left side of Mia's stroller, Darcy on the right. Suddenly musical Thomas bursts into song. Every line Thomas sings is echoed by Darcy: "I wuv Georgie!" carols Thomas. "I love Georgie," echoes Darcy. "He's my best boy." "He's my best boy." "Best in the world." "Best in the world." "I miss Georgie." "I miss Georgie." "Best boy inna world." etc. A paean! And antiphonal, to boot! Talk about Culture.|W|P|111695091425645620|W|P|Adoration|W|P|5/23/2005 12:03:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Holiday Monday. I am a happy woman. My kids are with their dad, my daycare tots are with their parents, and my husband has just departed to return his children to their mother. Phew! It's a lovely, lovely day. Grey skies, light drizzle for the past 48 hours, a mere 9 degrees. (Which is...multiply by 9 over 5...ah...add 32...52 degrees farenheit? Oh, nuts to that... That small percentage of the world which doesn't understand celcius can do their own conversions from here on in!) As I was saying before I interrupted myself: grey skies, endless drizzle, and chilly, makes for a lovely, lovely day, because I AM ON MY OWN!!!! Off I go now to read a book. And I will lounge on the couch, taking up All The Seats, because I don't have to share -- for at least two hours! Happy, happy me.|W|P|111686485842877128|W|P|Blessed Solitude|W|P|5/24/2005 07:29:00 AM|W|P|Blogger treppenwitz|W|P|Enjoy!5/21/2005 05:32:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|This is my philosophy of childcare, mission statement if you will, and is included as an appendix in my contract.

Philosophy of Childcare

I love caring for children. Small children are full of life, boundless in their energy, in their desire to learn, endearing in their innocence. They challenge me, they make me think, and most of all, they make me laugh. I take great satisfaction in being part of the village that raises a child. I am an unapologetic optimist. I believe that: Each interaction with a child is an opportunity. A conflict is an opportunity to teach negotiation and listening. An injury to another child is an opportunity to practice empathy. Mealtimes are an opportunity for conversation and manners. Strengths are to be built upon; weaknesses are to be learned from, and grown beyond. Children live up - or down - to our expectations of them Therefore I keep my expectations high. Not so high that child is frustrated and retreats into sullenness or despair; but just high enough that the child can take genuine pleasure in his/her achievements. Every person, regardless of age, deserves to be treated with respect. As I treat the children respectfully, I also expect respect from them. Each of us has unique strength and particular needs. Each child will have something to offer the group in my home. Each of us has something to gain from the company of others. Young children thrive in a stable, predictable environment. So, while I strive to remain flexible to each one's varying needs each day, our days will follow a consistent pattern. The particulars may change, but the pattern remains reliable. I am part of the team that works to see this child develop happily and fully. I view myself as an experienced, expert resource to the parents, however, I am not the child's primary caregiver. Whenever possible, parent and child need time together to be building that relationship. The parents are their child's most important relationship. Raising a child is probably the single most challenging enterprise most adults ever take on. At times it can be joyful and exhilarating; at times it can be positively unnerving! At all times it is incredibly significant, valuable, and worth while. Bon voyage!|W|P|111662488258753615|W|P|Philosophy of Childcare|W|P|5/21/2005 10:24:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Stephen (aka Q)|W|P|It's a superb document. It really is.
Q5/20/2005 02:01:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|I have a space opening up shortly, and have thus been seeking replacements. I've had several calls, some more probing and promising than others, but nothing beyond that until last week, when I set up an interview with a woman who is seeking care for her three-year-old son. I liked the sound of her on the phone; we agreed to meet. Now, when parents come for an interview, they know their agenda. They want to make sure I am capable of providing safe, stimulating, and loving care to their babe. They also want to get a “feel” for me, see if my parenting style is comparable to their own. They think they know my agenda, and so they provide me with lots and lots of information about their baby. In fact, they're wrong. At this point, I am only secondarily interested in their baby. A shocking thought for Earnest Parents. I have been caring for kids, as a parent, an elementary school teacher, and now a daycare provider, for the better part of twenty years. The baby doesn't worry me: There are very few babies I can't manage. The parents, however, are another matter altogether. Much harder to train!! A parent can quite successfully make my life a misery. Their child might try betimes, but without success: we always manage to come to a meeting of minds - or wills, as the case may be! This mother decided to bring her son with her. This is generally a dreadful idea for the first interview, particularly with a toddler. Mom is distracted, the child is disruptive, and the interview takes half again as long as it should. I am exasperated, because I am quite helpless. As long as a parent is there, they are the authority, and I won't intrude upon that: it would be unspeakably rude; besides, it would be completely ineffective and thus self-defeating. So I paste my Mary Poppins patient and gentle smile on my face, and wait for them to sort it out. In this case, though, the child was a delight. A favourable impression is being made. Here's what I saw that I liked: -she arrived on time; -her son was well-behaved; -she was in control of the child; -she was polite; -she has a sense of humour, even about her child; (meaning, she is not an Earnest Mommy!) -she didn't quibble about my fees; -she acknowledged my professionalism; -thus, she didn't quibble about my professional perks (paid holiday, stats, sick days); -she discussed the issues intelligently; -she asked sensible questions; -she smiled and made eye contact; -she responded to my questions sensibly; -she was soft-spoken. So, all went well. When she returned a few days later, it was to introduce her husband to me and sign the contract. The only downside? Well, Mary Poppins I may be, but Martha Stewart I ain't. This place sees half a dozen and more children every single day, and I have neither the inclination nor the energy to maintain Better Homes and Garden standards. (Housework with children around, says a quote in a journal I was once given, is like putting beads on a string with no knot at the end.) However, I did give the bathroom a quick scouring, just in case, and Mom did make a quick trip there part way though. After they left, I was mortified to see that the damned cat had been up there after my scrubbing, and had left muddy pawprints all over the sink! And still they agreed to sign on. Not fastidious: yet another point in their favour!|W|P|111661241712917806|W|P|Interview|W|P|5/19/2005 07:03:00 AM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Talking to Thomas can be a dizzifying experience. We have stopped at a downtown corner to investigate the raised relief map on the concrete pedestal. You know the sort - it shows brass models of historically and touristically significant structures in the few blocks around you. I hold the boys up so they can touch the figures on the map, and try to relate these representations to the real landmarks around them. One of these is the War Memorial (aka "the statue"), only a few blocks up the street. We decide we will walk up to see it. Thomas: Where we going? Me: To see the statue. Thomas: We're going to see the statue? Me: Yes. Thomas: Where is it? Me: We can't see it quite yet... Wait a bit. You'll see it soon. (Repeat the above ten to twelve times as we walk two blocks at toddler pace.) Me: There it is! See it? George: Yes! I see it! Thomas: Where is the statue? Me: Right ahead of us. See it? Thomas: No, I can't. (Now, the War Memorial is a large-to-huge structure, dominating the confluence of three streets, right at the top of a hill, and we are by now right across the street from it...) Thomas: I can't see a statue!! Me: stopping, squatting beside him, and aligning his head so that the memorial must entirely fill his field of vision: "There! Right in front of you." Thomas: Where? I can't see a statue! (He's upset now, knowing he's missing out on what everyone else is enjoying. I have a sudden insight.) Me: Thomas, do you know what a statue is? Thomas: No.|W|P|111650086721260232|W|P|Who's on First?|W|P|5/20/2005 04:50:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous keldar|W|P|Classic :-)5/23/2005 10:06:00 AM|W|P|Blogger ifuncused|W|P|Funny!!!
Even more so is when we tell the kids to look out the window to see something and they want to know "which window"5/19/2005 05:12:00 AM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Remember that catch-phrase, "Expect Respect"? It was part of a campaign addressing violence against women. Many women in abusive situations, we are told, have become so acclimatized to the violence that they simply don't see that they are in that situation. You know, I think this is a slogan that parents of two-year-olds should adopt, and for much the same reasons! I can't think the number of times - at a park, a school, in a store - I have seen a child aggress against a parent, seen the parent respond, and then seen the child simply wallop the parent again. And again. It doesn't matter how often I see that, I am shocked. The first attempt is not shocking. Toddlers, as we all know, do try that from time to time. They're emotionally-driven, impulsive little critters, still very egocentric. They are frustrated and have trouble expressing it in more socially acceptable ways, so they express it in the most expedient way possible - with a blow, or a shriek, or a bite. (A shriek can be an aggression, if done right in a person's face.) The first aggression is not really the issue, though of course it needs to be addressed. The issue is the second and subsequent aggressions, perpetrated in direct defiance of the parents' objections. A child who will do this has no respect for their parent. The parent who allows this to continue happening has not established themselves as worthy of respect. In my experience, it is those earnest and loving parents who try to raise their children by well-thought-out principles who are most often flummoxed by this behaviour. A child hits mom in the face. Mom, whose principles require her always to be rational, gentle, and calm with her child, demurs, "Now, Simon, you know mommy doesn't like that." Whap!! "Simon!" this in tones of distress. "Mommy doesn't like that." Whap! Simon knows mommy doesn't like that. For Simon, that's the point. After all, Mommy is trying to make him do something he doesn't like (put on his winter boots when it's twenty below, say). And it's not just mommies. I've seen daddies in the same position, though, I admit, less often. Me, I'm always shocked that the blows are received entirely passively. The toddler needs to understand that their anger is acceptable, but its expression must be controlled. They need to understand that their parent has enough self-respect not to tolerate abuse. They need to know that when they are having trouble controlling themselves, you can provide the safe harbour for their raging emotions. And they need to know that when they do get angry, they are still loveable. None of this, however, means that a parent needs to accept abuse! Rather the reverse. So, what should a parent do? Expect Respect. The child swings a punch. If possible, it's best if the parent can intercept the blow before it arrives. Grip the wrist firmly and stop the blow. If it has already landed, take the wrist and pull it away from you. Then, rationally, calmly, and very firmly say to the child: "You can be angry, but you can't hit." Speak slowly and deliberately. Hold the wrist and maintain eye contact as you say this, and stay like that until the child relaxes. You may need to repeat this after a few moments. Stay firm, though, and they'll relax. Once they have relaxed, they get a warm and reassuring hug. At this stage, I will also remind them that "Hands are not for hitting, remember? Hands are for hugging." There. You've been calm and rational, but you've also managed to insist on being respected. And it ends with a reassuring snuggle for everyone. A win-win -- when a parent Expects Respect.|W|P|112634370570627035|W|P|A Matter of Respect|W|P|5/18/2005 09:50:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Ever heard of Goose Mother rhymes? I heard these years ago, and they seem to have lodged in my mind. If they have a written source, I don't know it: they were recited to me by someone who had them memorized from some uncertain source. (Not to worry: I would never share these with the tots in my care.) Georgie Porgie, puddin'and pie Kissed the girls and made them cry. When the boys came out to play He kissed them too. He's funny that way. Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet Eating her curds and whey. Along came a spider, and sat down beside her, So she beat the crap out of it with her spoon. Hickory, Dickory dock. The mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, And the rest escaped with minor injuries. Jack and Jill went up the hill. They each had a buck and a quarter. Jill came down with two and a half: Do you think they went for water? Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn. The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn. Where is the boy who looks after the sheep? He's under the haystack with Little Bo Peep. There are more, but this will suffice...|W|P|111646796525440885|W|P|Completely Irrelevant|W|P|5/19/2005 03:29:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous Ron|W|P|Mary had a brand new bike
she rode it back to front
every time the wheel turned round
the spoke shot up her... front.

A bit bad perhaps, but made me laugh when I first heard it :-)5/19/2005 07:02:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Mary P.|W|P|That's a new one on me, and very, ah, delicately expressed. Now I'm considering who I might recite it to: I'll have to save it for people who can handle the c-word...5/21/2005 11:02:00 AM|W|P|Blogger erinberry|W|P|Haha!!5/17/2005 03:15:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Only three boys this morning: Zach, Thomas, and Darcy. We're off to the park, but as a special treat, I decide to hit the Second Cup first: a chiller for me and blueberry muffin - one is big enough for three - for the boys. They have their drinks with them, and with a few library books strewn about, we look to be settling in for a comfortable outing. Between sips of my drink, I dole out chunks of muffin, one bite each, round the table. Darcy is a slow and methodical eater. He's not reluctant at all; the boy likes his food, he merely savours every bite. Thomas and Zach, however, are of the more typical toddler school of food appreciation: If you like it, cram it in and get more, fast!! Thus, if I simply give as each child is ready for their next bite, poor Darcy ends up with only half what the others get. Besides, I am in the business of civilizing them: I want to discourage wolfing and encourage savouring. Therefore, when Zach crams, chews once or twice, and then somehow manages to squeeze "Mah, pee" out past the wads of muffin still in there, I tell him he'll have to wait. Clever me, I've thought of a brilliant and simple way to make Darcy our Good Example. By uttering one simple sentence, the other two will have to pace themselves, and Darcy won't be short-changed: "When Darcy is finished, we'll all have more." Masterful, huh?? All eyes lock on Darcy. He chews peaceably for another moment or two, then suddenly becomes aware of the attention. He stops mid-chew, stares back, and then, clearly feeling the pressure, stuffs the rest of his piece in his mouth. His cheeks - and eyes - bulge under the strain. His eyes water a bit as he tries to swallow a portion of his mammoth mouthful. Tiny drops of muffin-laced drool trickles from between his lips, which can't quite close when he smiles triumphantly. He's done his part, and he knows it! Brilliant and simple, indeed, and masterfully undermined!|W|P|111635737636856494|W|P|Foiled!|W|P|5/16/2005 02:16:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|1. A child is brought to my home. He is clinging to his parent, and his wails precede him into the house. Parent and I exchange needful information over the uproar, and then the parent leaves, clearly in distress. It's hard. It's hard to leave your child when he is crying and needs you. 2. One of my tots is dropped off. "Bye!" she crows, cheerfully, and toddles off. Parent lingers, then leaves reluctantly, dispirited, saying something like "She doesn't care!" (Or "Don't miss me too much", or, speaking for their child, "Yeah, yeah, mom/dad, you can leave now.") It's hard. It's hard to leave your child and have them so obviously not need you. I feel for my parents. It is hard. But of course, your child always needs you, happy or sad. Your child needs you whether you're present or not. Your child needs you in his/her life, needs your love, needs your nurturing, your guidance, your unrivalled concern. However, your child does not need your physical presence every second of the day. It is good for the child to have a circle of adults who love him/her, a circle of people s/he can trust. So, if your child cries when you leave, that's okay. They love you. Just trust them enough to believe that they will cope just fine. And they will - it generally takes about 36 seconds after your departure for those tears to dry and the child to begin to play. And if your child doesn't cry, that's okay, too. They're happy and secure in the place you've chosen for them. Good job! So, don't worry, mommy and daddy: Your baby will do just fine, and so will you!|W|P|111626816915147003|W|P|Ambivalence|W|P|5/17/2005 04:13:00 AM|W|P|Anonymous keldar|W|P|When dropping the little ones of at school it amazes me how many parents stand gawping through the window waving to their children. Ive always thought it must distress the child more.5/17/2005 07:43:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Mary P.|W|P|You're absolutely right, of course. I've produced a handout that I give all parents new to my daycare dealing with this, because so many of them were driving me mad with their dawdling at the door, while their child got more and more upset. The main message of the paper: "Keep it short, sweet, and upbeat."

The longer you linger, the worse it gets!5/17/2005 10:28:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Stephen (aka Q)|W|P|The trouble is, we parents learn from experience just like our children do. They reach a new stage of independence and then, after we've experienced it, we adjust.

It's a parent's role to prepare a child to be independent. But it happens so soon! — too soon, even though we're eager for it at the same time.

"Ambivalence" is the right heading for the post.
Q5/17/2005 03:28:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Mary P.|W|P|Child-rearing is indeed a "learn as you go" proposition. I am quite sympathetic to the plight of the parent. I hope that showed in the post!

This plight becomes a problem only when the parent projects their ambivalence onto their child, and either creates an anxious child where one didn't exist, or makes an anxious child exponentially worse.

Sadly, some parents are reassured by their child's anxiety. At some level, generally unconscious, they foster the poor tyke's misery and undermine his expressions of confidence, in order to get another example of their supreme importance to their child.

Most parents are not so oblivious to their child's best interests, of course! Mostly, we all just blunder about with varying degrees of skill and self-awareness, doing our best, getting better with experience, and generally turning out pretty decent members of society.5/16/2005 02:02:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Zach holds out his bread and butter to Alice. Alice reaches for it. Awww, he's sharing! Seems straightforward doesn't it? Maybe, maybe not. I've seen this too many times not to offer Zach the observation: "Do you want Alice to eat that bread? Because it you hold it out to her like that, she will eat it." All this said in a positive, cheery tone of voice. Sharing is good, and I'm all for it. Perhaps he does want to share it with her. Or perhaps not. Zach looks up at me, looks at the bread, and then at Alice, quickly withdraws his hand and stuffs the slice into his mouth. It's the not-quite-twos who do this most frequently. I suspect they are simply happy to have whatever it is, and only want to show it off a bit. "Look what I've got!" So they show it, and then are absolutely horrified to see their treat vanish into the voracious maw of their friend. Hey!!! The adult equivalent would be to bring your neighbour in to see the new painting you bought and hung over the fireplace, and have them take it off the wall and walk out the door. What the hell??|W|P|111626720113867511|W|P|Sharing?|W|P|5/14/2005 09:55:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Parents often worry over how their child is being treated at daycare, especially at the beginning. How do they know how the provider acts behind closed doors? When your child can't talk, this concern is particularly acute. Here are a couple of tips: 1. During the interview, ask about turnover. How long do clients typically stay with the caregiver? With very few exceptions, mine have stayed with me from the time mom's maternity leave ended until the child went off to school - three or four years. I've even had two couples opt to keep their child with me through the junior kindergarten year. If the caregiver has a steady turnover, losing children after a few months, this should be a warning sign. Find out more! 2. Does the provider have an Open Door policy? Are parents allowed to drop in unannounced? The answer to this question should be "yes"! Now, I will confess that I don't really like it when parents drop in. It's disruptive for the children, it makes me feel self-conscious, and, if the parent isn't taking the child with them when they leave, I'll almost certainly have an unhappy child on my hands for a while after mommy or daddy's departure. So, all in all, it's a nuisance and a bother! However, this isn't about my convenience. I have an open door policy, because it's only right that a parent have free access to their child. And in fact, once parents knows they may drop in, they very often don't feel the need to actually do it. Those that have dropped in have only ever done it once or twice. I hope this is because the idyllic scene they survey as they enter provides them with all the reassurace they need, but it may well be the fear of a repeat of the almighty fuss their child made at their departure! If the daycare has a high turnover rate and/or a closed door policy, think carefully about sending your child there.|W|P|111612309609073851|W|P|Choosing Childcare: two interview questions|W|P|5/13/2005 06:02:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Thomas and George are peering out my livingroom window. I am outside. Thomas: Hey, there she is!! George: She brought the stroller outta the backa yard. Thomas (to me): Good job, man!! George: No, she's not a man. She's a woman.|W|P|111601105747506420|W|P|Yes, Yes, Thanks for Noticing|W|P|5/13/2005 05:57:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Picture this: A child stands, feet wide, arms stretched toward you, palms up. Recognize this? It's the Ready to Catch the Ball pose. The adult involved gently lobs the ball into the waiting arms. Perhaps one time in ten, the arms actually react in time as the ball bounces off the child's tummy, and the ball is successfully caught. Great celebration of this event follows, of course! One time in, oh, fifty or so, this is what happens: After bouncing off the child's tummy, the ball dribbles between the child's feet. The child bends to catch it. Misses. The ball continues to wobble on its way, now well behind the child. The child continues to reach for the ball, two little hands straining, bottom high in the air, further, further, further... ...and completely topples over, landing solidly on the top of his head. N.B. It is advised that this manoeuvre be attempted only on a soft surface. |W|P|111601069077306322|W|P|A Matter of Balance|W|P|5/12/2005 01:43:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|I'm having trouble sorting through my reactions to a particular family. They are lovely folk, I think. I think. I cared for their middle son for a year and a half, ending two years ago. Mom and dad are both doctors, cheerful, easy-going people with a great approach to their children and lots of support for me. As clients, they were terrific. Which is why, when their son had finished his time with me to move on to kindergarten, I agreed to hold his part time space for five months, awaiting their third child's first birthday. Foolish woman that I am, I didn't even ask a holding fee. The baby girl had been with me only five weeks when mom decided she'd rather stay home with this, her last child, and pulled her from my care. Foolish me, yet again: Because this was a family I trusted, and with whom I had a good rapport, I hadn't made sure the contract was signed before the child started! In fact, it was when I asked if they could sign the contract and return it to me that I was informed, on a Thursday, that their child would not be attending as of Monday! Had the contract been signed, I'd have been assured of another month's pay, plus they'd have forfeited their security deposit (one month's fees), so I'd have had the income through Christmas. Yes, they did this to me in November. As it was, they graciously didn't request their deposit back, but I was out the second month's fee. It took me four months to fill that space. (Far more people are looking for childcare in September, when I was keeping the space open and refusing interviews for it, than they are at Christmas when I suddenly found myself scrambling for a child.) Phew. Lessons learned: 1. Always get the contract signed first. 2. Charge a non-refundable holding fee. Additionally, my contract now has a clause stipulating that if someone bails within four months, their deposit is forfeit even if they do give the required 60 days notice. I figured that, as a double-doctor home, they simply couldn't see that a drop of over $500 in my monthly income would have a huge impact on my family finances. Self-absorbed perhaps, but not malicious. So, nice people, still, if a bit oblivious. Last week, I get an email from the mom. It's been two years, and she's now looking for part time care. Do I have a space? I figure I'm safe, right? This is her last child, and she's going back to work after two years. This is minimal risk. I agree to meet with her an afternoon later in the week. The morning of that day, I get an email: she's been offered full-time work, would need to start sooner, and so found herself a space in a daycare centre close to work! All this in three days since we last communicated! She did it again! I am astounded. The more things change, the more they stay the same!|W|P|111592092582221060|W|P|Nasty or Nice?|W|P|5/11/2005 01:38:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|One of our favourite parks is known to the children as "Sophie's Park", because we always meet my caregiver friend Sophie there. It's a great spot: the play structure is suitably challenging without being frustrating or dangerous, there are swings, a lot of sand for the non-climbers, rocks and benches for adults to sit upon, lawns to romp on, and, in the summer a large and well-supervised wading pool. And, best of all, it is conveniently close to my favourite coffee shop (Second Cup)! To one side of the play structure is a stand of spruce trees, happily placed for the littler ones to deal with the call of nature. It's cool and shaded, reasonably well-screened from the playground, grassy at the edges and smoothly carpeted with fallen spruce needles in the innermost section. On this particular day, my eleven year old, Emma, was with us, and so when Darcy declared his need to visit the trees right when I was changing a diaper, I sent her along to supervise. A pause, and then: "Mummy! Darcy's crying! I don't know why!" Darcy is a quiet little guy. He doesn't fuss much, but when he does, it can be quite a challenge to determine exactly why, as he just stands, quietly whimpering, with his head hanging, tears dripping from his sad little face. This is what I discovered when I ducked under the branches. I kneel in front of him as he stands, his pants still down around his ankles. "He won't let me pull his pants up, mummy. He just stood up and started to cry, but won't let me help him!" Emma too is distressed, tears in her eyes, her soft heart aching to be of assistance, her assistance refused. Clearly mum better act quickly, or there will be two of them in tears. An assessment is required. "Are you hurt, Darcy?" Whimper. "Did something frighten you?" Whimper. I reach to pull his pants up: that gets a vehement response - he swats my hand away and yelps. I have a flash of intuition, and turn the boy around. I've mentioned before that I have all children, girls and boys, sit to pee? Darcy had gone a little further under the trees than I normally encourage, and instead of sitting on grass, he'd sit on the carpet of needles - last year's yellow, dry, and incredibly sharp needles - needles which are currently protruding from between his chubby cheeks in a nasty arc of brittle spikes! Apparently, when he stood up, he'd managed to take on some cargo. Yeowch!|W|P|111591957553557470|W|P|Yeowch!! (2)|W|P|5/10/2005 04:24:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|I don't know a single caregiver who doesn't start to froth at the mouth when considering some of the questions, the pointless, silly, trouble-making questions, parents ask of their child. Consider this true-life example. One wet spring day, when rain is coming down in absolute sheets, this dialogue occurs in my entry way. "Tammy" is three; "Mom" is old enough to know better. Mom: Would you like to put your splash pants on? (For those of you unfamiliar with parent lingo, "splash pants" are, not surprisingly, waterproof pants one wears over one's regular clothing.) Tammy: (very calmly, because she is, after all, simply answering a question) No. Mom: (in tones of great surprise) Why not?? It's pouring out there!! And the battle commences. What possesses someone to present as a choice something which is manifestly not a choice?? Of course wee Tammy is in battle mode: Mom offered her a choice, and then told her she couldn't have it! Why shouldn't she object with all the volume and passion a three-year-old possesses? I've heard all these ridiculous questions: Would you like to put your boots on? (When it's twenty below.) Are you ready to come with daddy? (When the parent is already late collecting the child.) Can I put your seat belt on you? (When it's the law!) Argh!!! I know, I know, they're only trying to be polite. It seems never to have occurred that one can be polite and not completely abdicate their authority. How about: Okay, love, time to put those boots on! Let's go, we're late. Let's get that seat belt on you now! All said in calm, cheerful, polite tones, and with all due parental authority. No coaxing, wheedling, or negotiating required. Should the child balk, the parent need only repeat the expectation and assist in its completion. (And remember to thank your offspring for their compliance, no matter how ungraciously given it was!) Generally speaking, however, if a parent says something with calm confidence, the child will go along with it. Give a tot a choice, though, and what two-year-old worth their salt won't try to create a ruckus??|W|P|111574604031865064|W|P|Silly Questions|W|P|5/09/2005 03:36:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|So George says, "the big green garbage truck". And I think to myself: the garbage truck is green? I picture it in my head, and, what do you know, the kid is right! The garbage truck is green! This is the sort of child observation that has adults cooing “Children are so observant!!" Adults who don't have much to do with children, at any rate. The rest of us know better. Children do not observe the toy that has fallen just to the left of their foot, because they're looking for it to their right. Children do not notice that they have spilled milk all over the table until it pours into their lap. The milk was spilled in the first place because a child did not notice the cup that you pointed out to them when you placed it there. Children do not observe the step until they trip over it, the doorknob until they run into it, the baby until they sit on him - and then only because he yowls... You can send an older child to look for an object, and they will return, unable to find it. When you look yourself, it will be RIGHT ON TOP of wherever you told them to look. Children, observant? What they are is highly idiosyncratic. Children notice odd and quirky things, things that adults don't notice. They notice the colour of the garbage truck because garbage trucks are fascinating when you're three. They notice the ants in the cracks of the sidewalk, the pattern of gravy on their mashed potatoes, the smiles on the bottom of their rain boots, the sound of an airplane, the way the mud spatters the curb, the fluff stuck in the branches of the bush. They notice these things because they have all that spare memory space in their sponge-like minds, space that is available precisely because they aren't noticing "normal" stuff that gums up an adult's mind! That's another reason to love my work, of course: while my mind is necessarily filled with all the mundane things I note and take for granted, I get to be reminded of all the quirky and interesting bits that would otherwise go unnoticed by this "observant" adult!|W|P|111566741368154876|W|P|Children are so Observant!!|W|P|5/12/2005 10:38:00 AM|W|P|Blogger keldar|W|P|Nice Blog :-)5/12/2005 10:52:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Mary P.|W|P|Wow! My first comment on this blog! I tend to view this as talking to myself, but, as you've proven, it is a public forum and there's always the chance of someone happening by. Welcome.5/03/2005 05:32:00 PM|W|P|Mary P.|W|P|Oh, what an amazing, glorious, sun-filled spring day! It wouldn't be humanly possible to stay indoors on such a day, would it? I push the stroller, the long, four-seated stroller that always garners so very much attention, down the street. On some days, my more extroverted days, I enjoy the attention and return laugh for laugh and smile for smile. On other, more introverted days, I feel a bit of a spectacle, and find all that attention a little much. My return smiles are weaker on those days! Yesterday, an extroverted day for me, thank goodness, because there were a LOT of people out, I heard all of the following as we strolled along: "Oh, how cute!" "Have you ever seen anything so adorable??" "Look at those hats!" (They're identical and garish, the better to find them in the playground.) "Are they all yours?" (You'd be amazed how often I get asked.) "Mommy! Look at all the babies!" "Holy sh*t!" "Oh, my god, she's got four in there!" "Why does she gots so many babies, daddy?" "Where did you get that stroller?" "Look at that. So sweet!" "God, you must be so patient!" "Bet that keeps you busy!" "You've got your hands full!" "The second one is asleep." "Two boys and two girls?" "God bless you!" "Busy lady!" "You are one lucky woman!" But by far my favourite was that uttered by a young, very pregnant woman who was pushing a toddler in a stroller, to her husband: "Oh, look! My worst nightmare come to life!"|W|P|111574997077039295|W|P|Reactions|W|P|-->