Sunday, July 30, 2006

Not What You Think - A Public Service Announcement

Late last week, Ki-woon had a diaper rash. The best cure for that, of course, is air and sunlight, so we were letting the boy run bare. (No carpets in this house!) Emma watched his retreating bare butt with a grin that suddenly turned to a worried frown. "Mum? Mum, look at his bum! I think they've been beating him!" I hadn't taken notice, because I knew what I was seeing. Emma's only thirteen, however, and has seen mostly only Caucasian babies. She made me wonder how many innocent Oriental and Black families have been unjustly accused of abuse when a well-intentioned but sheltered Caucasian sees Mongolian Spots for the first time? (If you're unfamiliar with the term, check the link.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Friday, July 28, 2006

THAT'LL learn ya...

Seems this is a Bad, Bad Baby. Or maybe Baby has been on a helluva bender. Is this the morning after the night before for Debauched Baby? Either that, or she's been getting some seriously - seriously! - misdirected potty training.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Ki-woon loves to be fed. Loves, loves, loves it! Well, loves what he wants to eat. Not so enamoured of the peas and carrots we had with lunch yesterday. Today, though, he's a-trembling with glee at the approach of the bowl full of melon chunks that is this morning's snack. His chubby arms outstretched, his legs kicking against the footrest of the high chair. "Bring them on, Mary!!" If he weren't strapped down, he'd surely vibrate right out of the high chair. The first bowl vanishes, whoosh. Did he even chew? Don't think so. The second bowl is greeted with equal enthusiasm. Vanishes with equal dispatch. The third bowl approaches, the boy revs up yet again - arms, legs fluttering, child quivering in anticipation. It's a shame the way we starve the boy. Third bowl is placed on the tray of the chair amid screeches of enthusiasm that rend the air. And the eardrums. But wait. Seems that these melon chunks are defective. Either that or Ki-woon's evil twin has suddenly possessed his body. A grandiose swoop of two dimpled hands. "NO! No, no, NOOO!" Melons? How could you, Mary?? The bowl bounces across the room. Melon chunks scatter over the dining room floor. Think maybe he's done now? It's subtle, I know, but I am a professional, well able to pick up on a child's indirect cues. Mary instructs as she washes his hands and face. "If you're done, say so. Food stays ON the tray. ON the tray." Boy is set down to play while Mary tackles the high chair with the damp cloth. (Yes, the same cloth. I cleaned the boy with it first. Hush yourselves.) High chair efficiently swabbed, I turn to get the broom and dustpan for the melon debris and trip over Ki-woon, who is half under the dining room table. Three guesses as to what he's doing down there... Babies. Contrary little critters.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Time is a Slippery Concept

"Look at that sky!" Haley stares up at the clouds, thick and oppressive, promising a thunderstorm early in the afternoon. "I guess we'll be staying in after lunch." I scoop some broccoli into each bright plastic bowl as Haley flicks on the dining room lights. "My daddy come soon." Zach announces. "Well, not soon honey." Dad will be here in about four hours. In toddler-speak, that is a long time. "First we will finish lunch, then we will read some stories, then it's nap-time. After nap-time, daddy will come." We measure time by tangibles around here. Zach hears me out politely. "My daddy comin' soon!" "Nap-time first, sweets." Now Zach is puzzled. "I be at my house in my bed inna dark." "Well, yes, but night time isn't for a while yet." His puzzlement deepens, enriched by a tinge of exasperation. "Is dark NOW! My daddy come NOW!" Ahhhh! The penny drops. What does he know of the hands on the clock? It's twilight! Daddy come NOW!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In the Eye of the Beholder

Zach holds a scrap of paper proudly aloft. "Look what I made!" I examine it. "Ooo, a little black scribble. I bet it's an airplane!" Because this is Zach, after all. "Yeah! A airp'ane!" His smile stretches past his ears, then he hops down from the table. "I can't wanna draw any more, Mary." Because when you've hit perfection, there is no need to strive further.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Monday, July 24, 2006

My "Free" Book - updated

Like a few of you, I received an email from Simon and Schuster last month offering me a free book. Of course they were hoping that I'd review it on my blog, thus providing free, grassroots advertising for the price of a book. Not a bad marketing strategy. "Sure," I said. "Send me the book." Glamorous Disasters arrived a week or so later. I ended up paying almost ten dollars in an "administrative fee", but that wasn't Simon and Schuster's fault. It's a Canada Customs thing, so I paid up, with only minor annoyance. Today! Today I receive in INVOICE from DHL Express, the company that brought the book to my door. An invoice for - brace yourselves - $73.39. SEVENTY-THREE DOLLARS? With the nine and change previous fee, my "free" book is now costing me EIGHTY-THREE DOLLARS. I sent a terse but pointed email to Simon and Schuster.

Eighty-three dollars and thirty-nine cents. Eighty-three dollars and thirty-nine cents. EIGHTY-THREE DOLLARS. For a "free" book. Sheesh. And Glamorous Disasters? It's a stupid book.

This just in: I received an email from S&S, asking me to fax the letter and invoice to a certain number, and they would take care of it. Apology offered -- which of course I accepted!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mary Wants... (annotated)

I've seen this meme here and there, and decided it was good for an "I don't FEEL like posting" Friday. That'd be today. You Google your name plus "wants" and write down the first ten. Being the rebellious little rules-were-meant-to-be-broken woman I am, these are not my first ten. These are the ones I liked best. Here we go... Mary wants... know why she was sent there. (Don't we all?) ...every woman to feel herself to be like a star!! (and every woman to know herself to spika the English.) ...Stefan to help her escape the living death she endures as Gahrtorie's slave. (My savvy 13-year-old daughter says, "Stefan to help her escape? Can't she do it herself?" HA! I have succeeded as a mother! Can I quit now, and go to bed? No? Damn.) ...two things at the same time: hunger and fulfilment. (Hand me that bag of Miss Vicki's Salt and Vinegar potato chips, and we'll kill both those birds with the one stone.) play with me (This would be my job description, uh-huh.) put him back in his box (I'm trying, I'm trying.) ...a teaching position (I have one. It's what I do.) go to Denmark and study journalism (I do? Why Denmark? Would I have to study in Danish? I am so screwed.) ...a career in business so she can make a lot of money (Oh, yeah! A lot of money! Ummm... Career in business? Oh. Never mind.) buy some hair barrettes that cost $3 each (Nope. The Dollar Store, six for $1.50) have him, be him, experience him (My Sweetie is a happy man. Wait. "BE" him? This woman is all about interdependent autonomy. Ick.) ...wants life to be easy and simple (Yes. Yes, I do. Is that too much to ask?) ...she wants to move on to her next romantic encounter (My Sweetie is a nervous man.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Plight of the 2-year-old

Ki-woon is not, in fact, two. Not even close, a mere sixteen months, but oh, the boy is verbal! When he's not talking, he's babbling. His vocabulary includes, "shzz", "jiss", "momma", "dada", "moe", "dahn", "ess", "no", "ta-ta", and "caca", among many others. He is tremendously easy-going, preferring to laugh over any other response almost every time. Yesterday, though, we saw what might be the dawning of toddler negativism. The children were at the coffee shop. Haley approached with a tray of drinks and muffins. Ki-woon, an enthusiastic eater, greeted the approach of the tray with evident delight. Hands started flapping, legs kicking, little grunts puffing from those oh-so-fat cheeks. "Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!" Haley smiles down at him. "Heya, Ki-woon! Do you want a muffin?" "Ah!AH!" Flap, kick, wiggle. "Ah! Ah! NO!" It's hard-wired in, I tell ya. The almost-two, the two, they say "no" because they must. Haley, knowing this, is unperturbed by the disconnect between verbal and physical communication. She knows which to believe. "Oh, good. Here you go!" Hands him a piece of muffin. It vanishes in seconds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Choices, choices

Haley is here for the morning. "Hey, Zach," she consults with the boy. "What would you like to do today?" Zach answers with a beaming smile. "Would you like to... go to the park?" "Yeah!" "Would you like to.. go to the coffee shop and have a treat?" "Yeah!" "Would you like to... go to the museum on the bus?" "Yeah!" "Well, Zach. It seems you're open to anything. But can you think of something you'd really like to do?" "YEAH!" "What's that?" "Go on an AIRPLANE RIDE!!!" Accompanied by much clapping and jumping up and down. Haley considers this carefully. "How about the park, then?" "Yeah!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Remember When?

I figure these things would last maybe forty minutes out front today. (The snow piles, not the kids. Kids in snowsuits would last even less!)
It hit 44C yesterday (110F). Phew.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Baby Day!

It's Baby Day in my corner of the blogosphere. Many congratulations to Homestead, mother of a sweet little baby girl, and Mo-Wo, mother of a not-so-little baby boy! A sister for Sweet Boy, a brother for little-girl E. People growing families. Does my heart good!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Monday, July 17, 2006

And you think I'm Patient!!

George's mother emailed me this transcript of an exchange she had with her son last week. Yes, she really does speak like that - clear and methodical. And the patience! Lordy, the patience! George: Mummy, how did you feel when you were four? George's mummy: Well, I was sick quite a bit when I was four. G: No, I mean, how did you feel? Mummy: Do you mean, did I feel happy or sad? G: (annoyed) No. I mean how did you FEEL? Mummy: Are you asking me what did I feel like doing when I was four? G: (impatient). NO. I mean How Did You FEEL? M: (perplexed) OK, George, I don’t understand. Usually when people talk about how they feel, they mean one of three things. The first is whether they feel sick or well. The second is whether they feel happy or sad. The third is what they feel like doing, what they want to do. I asked you if you meant any of those three things, and you said no. So you’ll have to explain to me more what you are asking when you say “how do you feel.” G: I mean, how. did. you. feel. when. you. were. four!? M: George, I need you to explain a bit more. I don’t understand. Can you tell me another way? G: (totally exasperated at having to explain something so obvious). I mean, when you were four, did you feel grown-up!!! M: That’s a very good question. I felt grown up compared to my younger sister, but I still felt like a child. G: Well, I’m all grown up!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Life Experiences Meme

Bold the ones you've done.. 01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink 02. Swam with wild dolphins 03. Climbed a mountain 04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive 05. Been inside the Great Pyramid 06. Held a tarantula 07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone 08. Said 'I love you' and meant it 09. Hugged a tree 10. Bungee jumped 11. Visited Paris 12. Watched a lightning storm at sea 13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise 14. Seen the Northern Lights 15. Gone to a huge sports game 16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa 17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables 18. Touched an iceberg 19. Slept under the stars 20. Changed a baby's diaper (Yes, I have! Really!! LMAO.) 21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon 22. Watched a meteor shower 23. Gotten drunk on champagne. Ick, no. I hate champagne. Bleah. 24. Given more than you can afford to charity 25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope 26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment 27. Had a food fight 28. Bet on a winning horse (Too bad I didn't actually PLACE that bet!) 29. Asked out a stranger 30. Had a snowball fight 31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can 32. Held a lamb 33. Seen a total eclipse 34. Ridden a roller coaster 35. Hit a home run 36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking 37. Adopted an accent for an entire day (A few hours. Never an entire day.) 38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment 39. Had two hard drives for your computer 40. Visited all 50 states 41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced 42. Had amazing friends 43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country 44. Watched wild whales 45. Stolen a sign 46. Backpacked in Europe (I've travelled there, but no backpack) 47. Taken a road-trip 48. Gone rock climbing 49. Midnight walk on the beach 50. Gone sky diving (God, no! Afraid of heights.) 51. Visited Ireland 52. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love (THAN! It's "THAN", you idiot who wrote this, not "THEN". Sheesh.) 53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them 54. Visited Japan 55. Milked a cow (Though I've often expressed my own milk, and felt very much like a cow at the time...) 56. Alphabetized your cds 57. Pretended to be a superhero 58. Sung karaoke 59. Lounged around in bed all day 60. Posed nude in front of strangers (An art class; a friend of mine was the instructor.) 61. Gone scuba diving 62. Kissed in the rain 63. Played in the mud 64. Played in the rain 65. Gone to a drive-in theater 66. Visited the Great Wall of China 67. Started a business 68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken 69. Toured ancient sites 70. Taken a martial arts class 71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight 72. Gotten married 73. Been in a movie 74. Crashed a party (Ha! Yesterday, in fact!!) 75. Gotten divorced (Another Good Life Decision) 76. Gone without food for 5 days 77. Made cookies from scratch 78. Won first prize in a costume contest 79. Ridden a gondola in Venice 80. Gotten a tattoo 81. Rafted the Snake River 82. Been on television news programs as an "expert" 83. Got flowers for no reason 84. Performed on stage (Acting: very amateur, but yes, on a stage. Piano recitals, not so amateur, but I'm no musician, just a good student!) 85. Been to Las Vegas 86. Recorded music 87. Eaten shark 88. Had a one-night stand 89. Gone to Thailand 90. Bought a house 91. Been in a combat zone 92. Buried one/both of your parents 93. Been on a cruise ship 94. Spoken more than one language fluently 95. Performed in Rocky Horror. 96. Raised children. 97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour 98. Created and named your own constellation of stars 99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country 100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over 101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge 102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking (Only ALL. THE. TIME. I love to sing. :-) ) 103. Had plastic surgery 104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived. 105. Wrote articles for a large publication 106. Lost over 100 pounds 107. Held someone while they were having a flashback 108. Piloted an airplane 109. Petted a stingray 110. Broken someone's heart 111. Helped an animal give birth 112. Won money on a T.V. game show 113. Broken a bone 114. Gone on an African photo safari 115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced 116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol 117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild 118. Ridden a horse 119. Had major surgery 120. Had a snake as a pet 121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon 122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours 123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states 124. Visited all 7 continents 125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days 126. Eaten kangaroo meat 127. Eaten sushi 128. Had your picture in the newspaper 129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about 130. Gone back to school 131. Parasailed 132. Petted a cockroach (Nope. Only squashed them.) 133. Eaten fried green tomatoes 134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey 135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read (Way more than one!) 136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating 137. Skipped all your school reunions 138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language 139. Been elected to public office (if grade 8 student council counts!) 140. Written your own computer language 141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream 142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care 143. Built your own PC from parts 144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you 145. Had a booth at a street fair 146: Dyed your hair 147: Been a DJ 148: Shaved your head 149: Caused a car accident (Just a little fender-bender, and I wasn't in either car. Apparently that skirt was very distracting. Hee!) 150: Saved someone's life Not such a bad list, all in all. Any questions?

Friday, July 14, 2006


For those of you who are missing Arthur stories, here are a few from the draft file: Arthur sits on the floor, reading Calvin and Hobbes with Darcy. The boys discuss the pictures, and every so often Arthur will ask, “What’s this word, Mary?” He never wants to know the plot; he’s disinterested in the dialogue, just picks out the occasional word at random. It takes me a few repetitions to see that there is in fact a pattern: Arthur is asking about all the words that look


Even in print, the boy likes loud.
Arthur: Mary, I want to say something to you. Mary: Well, Arthur, I don’t want to listen right now. Arthur: [pause] Well, I’ll just say it, then.
And, for the true Mary's place afficianado, here's an Arthur-and-Darcy: Arthur: I love you, Darcy. Darcy: I love you, too, Arthur. Arthur: I love you, Darcy. Darcy: I heard you the first time, Arthur. Arthur: I love you, Darcy. Darcy: Arthur! If you don't stop that, I won't love you any more!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My (Pay)Cheque, Please

Caregivers are loving, caring people. We are kind and nurturing. We adore our wee charges. All parents out there smile and sigh in relief. "My baby is safe." Good to know! We caregivers are professionals doing a job. We are self-employed businesswomen with brains as well as hearts. Have I shocked you yet? Are you recoiling at the callousness? Some people do. Witness the following real exchange: A woman I met in my optometrist's waiting room, upon finding out what I do for a living, and being interested in doing the same, started asking me questions. Among other topics, the subject of money came up, and I gave her my input: that what you can charge varies depending on which area of the city you live in, and, given where she lives, she could charge a decent rate. She shied away from that like she'd stepped in something rotting. "Oh, I'm wouldn't be in it for the money!!" she gasped. The optometrist, who'd happened along about then, agreed. Oh, no, caregivers don't do it for the money!!! Well, no we don't. Not exactly. But would you, Ms.$100,000+/year Optometrist, enjoy your job quite so much if it only paid $20,000? Surely a professional can expect to be paid a wage appropriate to her work? I love the children, and I do my job well, but I am not some kind of saint with a calling, an other-wordly paragon who only soils herself with money because she has bills to pay. I'm a trained teacher, I've worked in daycare centers, I've taught parenting classes. I am a professional. I value my work, therefore I think it's worth what I charge, and I charge near the top of the scale for my chosen career in this city. Does that make me mercenary? Are these poor children suffering under the care of a crass woman who is only in it "for the money"? Pah! I like getting paid well for my work - who doesn't?

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Short Announcement:

New post up at Partners in Parenting. I'll have something for here later: it's Wednesday, and I'm going out for the morning again! Yay for Haley!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tag-Team Babies

Nigel and Ki-woon sit in adjacent high chairs. Scrambled eggs stucco their faces, their trays, and the floor beneath them. Toast crumbs similarly. Nigel calls out. "Dah! Dah!" "Do you want down, sweetie? You want down out of your chair?" Ki-woon: "Yes."

"Ki-woon? Do you want this apple slice? You want an apple?" Mary waves it enticingly just out of reach. Ki-woon leans forward. "Uh, uh!" Clear enough. He wants the apple. Let's see if we can get some manners begun. "Say 'ta-ta'." (This being an acceptable small-toddler substitute for 'thank you', for a the weeks or months till they can say the full word.) "Ta-ta. You want an apple? Ta.Ta." Very careful and deliberate enunciation, lots of eye contact, inches from his face. Mary waits. Ki-woon lunges for the apple. Mary pulls it back a little further, smiles encouragingly. "Say 'ta-ta', sweetie. You can do it. 'Ta.Ta.'" "Uh. Uh." Ki-woon is becoming annoyed with my intransigence. Suddenly... Nigel's pudgy hand flashes out and snatches the slice! "Ta-ta!" crows, impish grin wide across his face. Ki-woon is truly shocked by this development. "Uh! Uh!" More lunging for the apple, which is vanishing quickly. "Uh! Uh! Uh! Uh! Uhhh.... TA!TA!" Ha! This, my friends, is called "peer pressure".

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Monday, July 10, 2006

Because I'm Really NOT Busy Enough Yet...

...I've started a new venture. Together with another blogger, I have stepped into the waters of ... well, kind of what I do here, only more. Less with the funny stories, more with the considered opinions. What we're trying to do, Motherapist and I, is to create a forum for constructive interaction. From our Mission Statement:

We recognize that parenting occurs within a larger emotional family system, and issues affecting that to shape interactions between parents and children. Our goal is to create an environment where such issues can be discussed openly to explore how they may influence the way we parent, adversely or otherwise, and provide support and appropriate solutions to one another when necessary.
Open discussion - which, since Mary is involved, will be polite, thankyouverymuch - on issues involving and surrounding parenting. Is this my thing, or what? Come on over to Partners in Parenting, and make it your place, too!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I Want my Child to be...

...happy!!! Ask any parent what they want for their children, and they will almost certainly include, they may even start with, "happy". Brace yourselves: Mary's about to go all counter-cultural again. After years of watching families and children, I don't think happiness is a wise goal. In fact, I don't really see it as a goal at all. Happiness, my friends, is a by-product. It's like those stars in the night sky, the stars which, when you look directly at them, vanish, but when you focus elsewhere, they pop into view. What do I see as better, truly valid goals for one's children? Well, that they be kind, compassionate, considerate people. That they learn that others matter as much as they do. That they learn to treat others with the very respect they, themselves, crave. That they live up to their fullest potential, whatever that potential may be - whether or not it's exactly what mom and dad might have had in mind! That they have solid self-esteem (which is NOT brute egotism). If your child is all those things, odds are good he or she will be happy much of the time. Not all the time; happiness is fleeting, after all. Petty irritations, fatigue, disappointments - all these can reduce or remove your feeling of "happiness". It will come back, of course, but if happiness is a goal, if happiness is something that you feel you have a right to, then every time you're not at the peak of happiness, you will feel dissatisfied, robbed, that life is not dealing properly with you. If your goal is to be the best person you can be, then, when happiness recedes temporarily, you will be able to ride the low point - without the additional burden of a feeling of personal begrudgement! If your goal for your child is his/her happiness, then every time s/he cries, you will feel failure. If your goal is to mold a strong and giving human being, then when they cry you will feel compassion, of course (or exasperation, as the case may be!), but you will know that maturity, like anything worth having, doesn't come easily. There will be tough times, there will be tears and tantrums, along the way. It's life. I am a mother. Of course I want my children to live happy, fulfilling lives. However, I firmly believe they will not achieve that if their lives are merely a mad shallow scramble for happiness. They will achieve that, I hope, by being strong, kind, considerate, resilient and respectful human beings.

Update: This post won Lucinda and MommaK's a "Perfect Post", nominated by Lady M. Thanks!

A Perfect Post
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Friday, July 07, 2006

Isn't It Lovely? Isn't it Pastoral?

All these sights were seen on a recent trip to my favourite local park. One of several good reasons for its favoured status is the wonderful walk to get there. For the most part, we can avoid the streets altogether, and thus have opportunity to see things like...

While cautious of people, they are not exactly wild, either, and will let the children approach - even at a dead run - astonishingly close before waddling with only gently agitated quacks to the river. I'm not sure what it would take to stir them enough to fly to the river.
Kayaks are interesting, too!
And what exactly is this? Well, it's every bit as interesting as the kayaks, and possibly as exciting as the bunny. What you see here are the girders of a bridge spanning the river. (The central support is a fair way over. I stand on the bank to take the picture, and zoom in as far as I can to catch the birds which grace the support in the middle of the river.) And while they're gracing, they're also pooping. And pooping. And pooping some more. That bird playing King of the Castle? He's sitting atop a monumental pile of shit. That is why this structure is now, and will ever be known as
Pigeon Poop Bridge
. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Received from a Daddy Today...

This email:

I just dropped a friend's child off at a large daycare. It was a brief but memorable experience. Not for any unusual event that took place. Rather, it was the overwhelming size and sounds of the place that left me reeling. Although I miss Zach something fierce during the day, as I made my way home this morning it was nice to know that he is in a small, warm environment where - as they used to say of the barflies on that old sitcom "Cheers" - everybody knows his name. All of which is to say... Thanks.
I'm smiling.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Summer Baby

Here he is, my baby for the summer. Ki-woon is about 15 months old, and yesterday was his first day. It was the best "first day" I've seen in, oh, easily five years. A little fretful and sad immediately after dad dropped him off, he rebounded quickly, and with only what I would call the bare minimum of snuggling, he was ready for his day. A lot of kids won't even accept comfort from the nasty non-mommy who's keeping him from the Real Thing. Attempts at comfort are met with blows. "Go away! Where is my mother??" Ki-woon, bless him, cuddled in and snuggled up. After a few minutes, he'd wriggle down and settle into play. Most of the day was spent hunkered down over a toy or a bug or an invisible but fascinating something. The latter half of the day was spent pursuing Baby Nigel, whose response - a rather bemused "What is THIS? Get OFF me!" - didn't deter him in the least. Nigel is an affectionate sort. He'll come round. Stay tuned for further developments. Sometimes the ones who start so smoothly break down at about two weeks, when it becomes evident to them that, "Hey! This keeps HAPPENING! What gives?" But so far, so good!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Toy Fairies

The toy fairies are at work in this neighbourhood. Over the last six weeks, I have received: These items are put on my porch. I open my door in the morning, and there is yet another gift! Woo-eee! Some are from families whose children have outgrown these toys; some are from families who are moving; some were from an older couple who are moving, and whose grandchildren have outgrown the toys. They could sell some of these things at a local upscale consignment shop and get a good return, but they choose to give them to me. What a great neighbourhood, huh?

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Benign Neglect

In a recent email chat with another mother about how we interact with our kids, she said this:

Yes, I think I DO play with my children more than, say, my mother played with us. And some of it is [reasons particular to her family], but I really do think some of it is some weird cultural shift where if you are fortunate enough to BE HOME with children then by god you should BE with those children ALL THE TIME. And I'm a slacker mom in my large social circle; most of the moms I know have their kids in this lesson and that class and the other camp. My kids just pillage the Playmobil fort all day.
I've often wondered about the intensity with which parents are WITH their children, or the guilt they feel if/when they don't do this, and I think my friend has identified a key factor: "If you're lucky enough to be home with your kids, you should BE with them. ALL THE TIME." Conversely, I suppose, if you can't be home with your kids, you must somehow make up for this lack by BEING WITH them, even more, when you are home. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is crap. Arrant nonsense. An unattainable goal, and, moreover, it's BAD FOR YOUR CHILDREN. Bad, I tell you. When I see the parents who hover over their children's every breath, the parents who haul their kids from pillar to post - playgroups and swim lessons and pottery classes and mom'n'me gym times and dance class and kiddiemusik and, and, and - parents who can't let their kids JUST BE, not for a single second, well, it just makes me weary. Weary, because lord knows I don't have the energy for all that. I don't know that I had it when I was in my twenties and first having kids. I certainly don't have it now. But weary because I know these parents are doing all this with the best of good intentions. They want their children happy, stimulated, enriched, fulfilled. They want their children to have solid self-esteem. How else to do that, if not by Mommymommymommy all the time? And Daddy, too, of course. Mommydaddymommymommydaddymommydaddy. All the time. Well, there are other ways. Better ways. In fact, I will go so far as to say this intense parental involvement precludes some of the goals the parents are seeking. I confess that look at this phenomenon from the outside. The stage was set for me to be an Earnest Uber-Mommy: I was a dedicated, committed, involved SAHM for years, going so far as to homeschool each of them till the were ten or so, but for some reason, I didn't succumb. Though with my first, I came close... Part of this, I am sure, is my family culture, a mix of British and German. Brits of my mother's generation did not lay themselves out on the altar of their children's "enrichment". Mum had three kids in three years. That all by itself encourages the development of a bit of autonomy. But more than that, my mum's attitude was: Kids have imaginations, better than mine. Let them use them! Kids have energy, more than I do. Let them race around outside! Kids have curiosity, more urgent than most adults'. Let them explore. We never felt unloved. We were not neglected. She knew who we were. She noted our strengths and weaknesses, she encouraged, disciplined and corrected. We had lessons reflecting our interests and abilities. (One lesson a week, each, at most.) I remember tea parties, with mum pouring Real Tea (and a whole lotta milk) into tiny china tea sets. Lots of story-reading. Long walks. But she never, as far as I could tell, felt guilty for saying, "Go along and play now." Playing was something children did. She was young and lively. She could and did play with us - when she felt like it. And isn't that what play is? Something you do because it's fun? As soon as play becomes an obligation or a demand, it's not play any more, is it? She wasn't an aloof parent, by any means, but what she practised, and what I have perfected, is the much-neglected and ESSENTIAL parenting tool of Benign Neglect. Of course, only in a parenting culture such as ours would this be seen as "neglect". It can also be seen as giving your children a piece of life independent of you, of encouraging autonomy, creativity and independent thought, of giving them the opportunity to develop as individuals. It isn't actual neglect, because you care, you are involved, you support, encourage, nurture, and challenge. You just don't micro-manage. You don't hyper-schedule. You expect that you can do one activity while the children play, and everyone can respect the other's right to do what they're doing. The key to Benign Neglect, see, is that you LET your children play, explore, enquire, charge around. Kids who muck about on their own learn to - muck about on their own! How many of the world's greatest advances were brought about by an adult mucking about? With an idea, with numbers, with chemicals in a lab, with words? Time spent without an agenda, unscheduled time, is not wasted time. It is the field of productivity, of growth and creativity. And here's the biggest tip for Beneficial Neglect: Your child's boredom is your child's responsibility. Boredom motivates. Motivates exploration, autonomy, creativity. Well, it does unless the parent falls into the trap of being the solution to boredom. "I'm bored! What's mom/dad going to do about it?" A child comes complaining of boredom, I will make two or three suggestions. If they are all dismissed out-of-hand - and they usually are, the dynamics of boredom being what they are - I leave the kid to it. "Well, that's all I can think of, sweetie. You can try one of those things, or you can think up something, yourself." If they persist in pestering me to alleviate their ennui, I up the stakes a bit. "If you're bored, you can always clean your room. Or empty the garbage. Or scrub the toilet. Or clean out the hamster's cage." I might further point out to older children that I am too busy to have the luxury of boredom, and unless they want to get busy with me, doing tedious adult tasks, they'd best get themselves occupied, or at least out of earshot. Emma had a friend over a while back. When the friend complained of being bored, Emma looked horrified. "Don't say that in front of my MOM!" she gasped, and hustled the friend away. Five minutes later, peals of laughter could be heard from the back yard. Without any intervention from me at all. How strange. How wonderful! The thing is, when you make a child's boredom their responsibility, they start experiencing less of it. Being bored is, well, boring! Children who are scheduled and stimulated for hours a day never learn the skills of boredom-avoidance. Entertainment is something done to and for them, it isn't something they've ever done for themselves. By our hyper-involvment, we create the child who will whine of boredom 90 seconds into a quiet moment, because that child simply doesn't know how to cope with free time! When the constant barrage of stimulation ceases, something feels wrong, they don't like it - and they haven't a clue what to do about it. Oh, except "Mom! Mom? I'm bored!" I know most of the people who read this have small children. Small children need a lot more hands-on care. There is no denying this. But they don't need your attention over their every waking breath. They just don't. As a parent, you have the right to expect that your child entertain themselves some of the time. You have the right to a quiet cup of coffee. If you can't achieve that just yet, you can make it a reasonable goal. You have the right to read or talk on the phone (or blog!!) while they play. You have the right to say, "Mommy finds that game boring, hon." You have the right to do all this without guilt, and you can achieve it by introducing to the children a little Benign Neglect. Start today. Your kids will thank you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Few of My Favourite (Canada Day) Things

The crowds! This picture was taken last year. I'm in there somewhere, really! Wearing a bright red sarong and white t-shirt for Canada Day. See me?? The Peace Tower on the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, complete with flag, but of course, and I think maybe we caught one of the Snow Birds, who perform over Parliament Hill every Canada Day. Check out the video clips on the link. Those guys are amazing. What the clips show you is their astonishing precision. What they don't really show you is the speed, and what they can't convey is the roar of the planes as they pass overhead, a roar that rattles the air around you. I love it! And finally, the fireworks! I didn't take this picture, but I know right where it was taken. I can walk here from my house. Even if I don't go to see the fireworks, I can feel them through the floor, hear them rattling the windows. Such fun!

Happy Canada Day!

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P