"Anything you can do,
I can do better.
I can do anything
Better than you."
"What a good runner you are, Zach!" I call to the boy leading the pack.
"I'm a good runner, too," says the boy walking at my elbow.
"Boy, you sure love your beans, George," I smile at the boy who's asking for seconds.
"I like beans, too," says the boy who has managed to down two and a half so far.
"I love to see you boys playing together so nicely."
"I play together nicely. I played together the nicest."
"Good job picking up all those puzzle pieces, Darcy and George! You sure worked hard."
"I can clean up, too," says the boy from the middle of a demolition of blocks.
"What a nice picture you drew, Arthur. So many colours!"
"Yeah. Mine gots more colours than Zach's."
"You each pick a book, and we'll read them all."
"Read mine first."
And on and on and on. All day long. And each time, I respond politely, sometimes telling him that I was speaking to another child, or explaining that I meant all the children, or telling him that right now, it's so-and-so's turn to hear something nice. And sometimes I simply opt not to hear him. But my heart, she is weary.
At snack time in the afternoon, we are having oranges. Now, I don't much enjoy peeling oranges, and for snack, I'll peel four or five of the wretched things. These ones peel readily enough, in fact, but then one of them just won't pull apart neatly into segments. The damned things keep tearing in the middle, and my fingers become sticky with juice.
Sensitive George notices my face. "What's the matter, Mary?"
What a sweetie. I make a dramatically disgusted face at the orange for his entertainment. We share a grin. "Some come apart more easily than others, and this one just doesn't want to come apart."
"I can peel them apart easily," says Arthur.
"You're the child who can't pull up his own socks, Arthur. Give me a break."
Bad caregiver. Bad, bad, bad, bad caregiver...