Monday, October 30, 2006

Momnipotent?

Mia’s father stands on my porch at the end of the day, talking. He does that a lot. He’s a raging extrovert, Mia’s dad. An extrovert who believes that nothing fills the air better than the sound of his own voice. He hears very little of anything anyone says to him, doesn’t often even look at them directly, interrupts incessantly, but he loves to be with people, he loves interaction - essentially, he loves an audience. His wife, equally extroverted, is much more socially skilled; she listens as much as she talks, asking questions and - unlike her husband - actually waiting for the answers (!), and leavens it all with lots of eye contact and an engaging giggle. I break into his monologue to tell him a story about his daughter - a topic more likely than most to actually engage his attention (though not to prevent him interrupting). Mia, at 20 months, has excellent people skills. She is not at all shy, she relishes contact with others, and that day, she had done some particularly noteworthy bit of social manoeuvring. “Well, yeah. She does that because we’ve always surrounded her with lots of people. She’s had friends and neighbours, she’s had babysitters, new faces, practically from days one. We think it’s important that she know how to get along with people, so we’ve always made sure she’s had lots of people around her. We’ve seen to it that she likes people and isn’t the least bit shy.” He believes his child is developing in a certain way as a direct result of parental decisions, that his daughter’s social skill is directly attributable to their manipulation of her environment. He’s wrong, of course. Take a kid chock-full of extroverted genes, throw her in with a bunch of new faces every day, and you get a kid who rises to the stimulation, giggling and interacting, smiling and playing. She thrives on it. “A-ha!” say proud parents. “Our strategy is working! Look at our outgoing, socially competent child!” They believe it’s their manipulation of her environment, their training, which has produced this social prodigy. Nope. Mia is a socially skilled extrovert because she is awash in extroverted genes. The training had little to do with her skill level. What they’ve done is given her opportunity to express what’s innate. Had they put her in a closet for the first two years of her life, it would probably take her a while to develop her current level of social finesse, (say, a week or so), but develop it she will, because it’s part of who she is. Not convinced? Picture the other side of the coin. Take a kid chock-full of introverted genes, throw her in with a bunch of new faces every day, and do you get a socially skilled kid who thrives on lots of interaction? No, you get a kid who is overwhelmed, nervous, clingy, unhappy, even terrified. The constant barrage of social stimulation is too much for her. Why? Because she’s not an extrovert. This is not to disparage the significance of parents. For those first years, you are the single most important relationship in your child's life. Even as they gain independence and autonomy, parents are still very important to their children. But we're not omnipotent. There is a limit to parental impact, influence, significance. You can give children skills, and you can hope they learn to apply them, but those skills are always superimposed upon their base character. Bottom line: no matter what your parenting skills, you can’t you cannot turn a child into something they’re not. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Percolating

I haven't felt much like blogging lately. Neither writing posts nor reading others'. I no intention of quitting, but this week I haven't had the usual "Oh! I have to write about that!" impulse. Instead of writing, I've been reading. Not blogs, but books. Oh, how I've been reading. This afternoon I suddenly became aware that the usual stack of books on the end table behind the couch are all finished. In the last ten days, I have devoured:

The Bad Mother's Handbook by Kate Long Tread Softly by Wendy Perriam Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrell The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier Man and Boy by Tony Parsons I skimmed through Canuck Chicks and Maple Leaf Mamas by Ann Douglas I dipped into an old book once again: Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes And I finally finished a book begun a month ago: The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris
A productive few days! Well, productive if these things are judged by internals, as I think they ought to be more often than they are. Only gradually has it come to my consciousness that I'm seeking some input to my well of words, in order to balance out my near-daily output. Input of ideas, perspectives, words. So I'll just revel in the book-wallowing, and we'll see what comes of it in another week or so! ~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Housebound

I was thinking of taking the tots to the museum this morning. Only the two of them, after all. But it's raining. Still. It's rained almost every day this month. Moreover, it's three degrees (celcius - right around freezing). Rain at three degrees is cold. It stings when it hits. It makes the leaves on the sidewalk slick, slippery, semi-frozen deathtraps. This month has been just like the last month of pregnancy. You know, the month where if it's not your back it's your bladder or maybe those damned false labour contractions, and you Just.Can't.Sleep, and all your oh-so-helpful friends and relations say, "Oh, ho,ho! This is just getting you ready for those sleepless nights after the baby's born!" (And isn't it amazing, all things considered, that those friends and relations still live?) How is THAT supposed to help anyone? I always thought it was the perfect way to get that poor mother to start looking for a bridge to leap from. If there was any justice, you'd sleep like a - HA! As if. If there was any justice, you'd sleep long and well for the six weeks prior to delivery, so as to have some reserves stored up. That would be justice. But there isn't any. Justice. Not in last-trimester sleep, nor in pre-winter rain. No justice, nor sleep, nor outings. I guess I could say this month's incessant frigid drizzle has been getting me ready for the long, dark, housebound days of winter. I could. But that would just be depressing. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Perils of Peri-Toddlerhood

It's the end of a long day at Mary's house. Timmy sports a bruise above his right eye. Anna has two: one above her left eye, and one dead centre in her forehead. They're at that tumble-prone stage: just leaving the cruising behind, and just starting with those very first steps. When they fall, they lead with their heads, poor mites, just as you would if your head weighed forty or so pounds. (Which it would if we maintained the same proportions to adulthood.) I'm self-conscious when I take them out, apparent twins with their twinned bruised and battered heads. Thank goodness I can say in perfect accuracy these three essential truths:

"No, they're not mine." "No, they're not twins." And most importantly, "They got the bumps at home."
Phew.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wistful and Wonderful

I've been a fan of Lynn Johnston's comic, For Better or For Worse for twenty years. I've watched the children (Michael, Elizabeth, and April) grow up, the parents (Ellie and John) mature from young adulthood to middle age (just like me!). They now have grandchildren. (NOT like me! Because Haley is too young - and old enough to know it. Heh.) One of many things I love about Lynn Johnson's work is that it isn't always funny. Real life happens on this strip, and readers have experienced disappointment, injustice, prejudice, and grief along with the characters. Recently, Ellie's elderly father has had a stroke, and the family reels to adjust and accommodate and accept. In this strip, the doctor is talking to Ellie's dad's wife, Iris. Have a kleenex on hand? If not, go get one. Sniff. See what I mean? Want to see the rest of the series? The strip above is a link to its original on the website, and you can follow the 'previous' links to get to the beginning. And now, here's Saturday's strip (yes, it's colour; we run colour strips on Saturdays up here): Sigh... I love the way Lynn allows these elderly lovers their grace and dignity - and their love. I hope, when I am old, I have someone with me to love me as Iris and Jim love each other. I also hope I have family as caring as the one that supports these people.
Updated to add: At least one reader worried about copyright violation in my reproduction of Lynn's strips. No worries! I checked out the website, and as long as you provide a link to the FBOFW site and send an email to them with the URL, you're allowed! No copyright violating on this site. :-) ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Friday, October 20, 2006

Mary P is Not Amused

A lot of you think I'm some sort of paragon of patience who never loses her temper. Any of my family reading this are falling all over themselves laughing. (Stop it, you lot, I can hear you from here!) But, just so you know I do lose my temper once in a while, go check out today's Partners in Parenting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Thursday, October 19, 2006

And Here I Thought I Was the One Raising the Bar

"Come to the table, Malli! Lunchtime!" "No." Well, I was kind of expecting that. Prior to this, I've not made an issue of food. Malli will eat if the food is placed in an accessible spot and she is ignored. Makes me feel a bit like the trainer of a wild and skittish animal. But that's fine. Until she had gained a level of comfort with me and my home, I was letting her manage her food in whatever way worked. It was a protest, for sure, but a silent one that affected no one but herself. She's entitled to express her feelings. However, the last few times she's been here, she's been perfectly cheerful and relaxed. The time had come to raise the bar. "You don't have to eat if you don't want to. You can just come and keep us company." I'm not coaxing, I'm stating, but even so, you raise the bar one notch at a time, not ten. "No." But it is going up the one notch. "Yes, please, Malli." I take her hand without speaking further, and she comes quietly to the table. She's somber, but she's at the table. I place a bowl in front of each child. "No eat." "You don't have to eat. You can just keep us company." One notch. Just that one. All I want to do is normalize sitting at the table during meals. If she's at the table while the rest of us eat, I'm happy. If her no-eating-in-company resolution wavers as a result, I'm even happier, but for today all I'm after is Butt on Bench. I chat with the children as I help Anna and Timmy with their peas and carrots and chicken. Malli watches us in silence. The aroma of our lunches wafts under her nose. I know she's hungry; I know she's being tempted. "Get down now." This is Malli of the Iron Will. She may be hungry, she may be tempted, but she's not giving in without a struggle! "Not yet, sweetie. We're not done yet. You're keeping us company. Tell you what. You can get down when Anna is finished." From that moment, Malli's gaze does not waver from Anna. The baby is Malli's chain to the table. I'm well pleased. Malli doesn't want to be at the table, but she is sitting quietly without protest, waiting for Anna to set her free. This is the one notch up I was asking. Perfectly acceptable. Anna finishes the last pea from her bowl. "All right, Malli. Anna is done. You can get down now." "No." (No?? I was fully expecting her to slide down off that bench and take off. 'No'? Hmmm.... Hope rises within me. Let's see if I can just manoeuvre this a bit...) "No? That's too bad. I wanted to give Anna what's in your bowl. Can I give Anna some from your bowl?" (Wicked, manipulating me.) "No. I eat it." (Ha! Did I call that, or what?) And she does. All of it. She's raised that bar two notches! Four minutes later, she's eating seconds. (Three notches.) And then thirds. (Four, five, six.) And then, because there are no more peas, carrots, or chicken, me not having anticipated a child needing FOUR servings, she has a slice of bread and butter! (Eight, nine, ten.) All at the table. (Eleven, twelve!) Ladies and gentlemen, Malli has gone for gold! She's cleared the high bar!! I believe the meal-time sit-out protest is no more. What a kid. :-)

~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More than one Way to Skin that Cat

...which is a horrible expression, BTW... Problem: Darcy consistently gets pee on his underwear when he uses the toilet. I can't go upstairs with every child every time they need to pee. I've taught him how to manage himself, obviously, but to no avail. What to do? - Take his underwear off before he goes upstairs! Problem: three children with runny noses require three sets of tissues. I have only two pockets. - Put a couple of tissues in each of their hoods. (Hoods are useful for any number of storage needs: extra mittens, teeny bags of fruit, dry socks.) Problem: Timmy will not eat from his own tray. Although each child has the identical array on their tray, food is much better off Anna's. Period. I place their trays far enough apart that he can't reach, and he manages to hitch, hitch, hitch his chair closer to hers! So... - put his food on one end of Anna's tray! Problem: Now Anna's eating from Timmy's food that sits on her tray!! - This is a problem? This is not a problem. This is justice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Plagiarism on an Astonishing Scale

No cute kid stories today. Today we take a stand, and make a call for action! By now most of you have probably heard of Bitacle, a website that has been plagiarizing bloggers wholesale for I have no idea how long. They take your post - no, usually they take ALL your posts - and put them up surrounded by AdSense ads. Someone is making money off MY work - and I'M not. There is something badly wrong with this. One blog I read said some 14,000 blogs were affected. (I've forgotten where I found that information, or I'd link it.) Kittenpie, Mir, Her Bad Mother, Susan, and a tonne of others have all been robbed. At first I couldn't find any of my writing there, but I accidentally stumbled over one of my recent posts there this weekend. (Are you there? Go poke around a bit (bitacle.org - no links for them from me!) and see. I tried searching under the 'aggregates' tab, but didn't find me there, either the URL or the blog name. When I clicked on the 'blogs' tab while my blog title was still in the search box, there was my most recent post!) Dorks. Various people have taken steps to stop Bitacle. This post, for example, is clear, helpful, and informative, and has lots of great STOP STEALING MY STUFF badges you can put on your blog, so people will know when they're reading stolen words. You can also set your feed to show only a snippet of your blog instead of the whole thing, thus forcing people to come to you if they want to read the rest. Mir is obviously up to something, judging by her most recent "please ignore, testing AntiLeech" post (a temporary post which will probably be gone by the time you read this). AntiLeech, hmm? The site that gave me the clearest idea of a) the problem and b) how to address it is Plagiarism Today. (Who is also, ironically, being plagiarized by Bitacle.) Here are two posts which give a clear idea of one way to shut Bitacle down. Because even if there are ways to keep B's greedy claws out of my posts, they'll just keep doing it to other unsuspecting bloggers. They have to be put out of commission. A Plan of Action Plan of Action, part 2 If you wish to write your own letter, a template for the acceptable format can be found here. And if you have the skills, here's a terrific, creative response that I just love to bits. You can indulge in a little revenge while you do your part to shoot down Bitacle. One of us isn't much, but bloggers by their thousands? We're a force to be reckoned with.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Monday, October 16, 2006

Emma shows her Grit

There's a new post up at PiP, featuring my youngest, Emma. I think you'll find it entertaining. It's part of our "True Grit" series. True Grit, you ask?? True Grit posts are tales from the parenting frontier, stories featuring non-PC, creative, unconventional, and effective parenting techniques. Probably they're techniques you wouldn't openly discuss at Mom's Group for fear of outraged gasps and disapproving looks. But they are techniques that worked for you and your child. Do you have such a tale? We want to hear it! (If you're curious, you can find a couple of True Grit examples here and here.) [Of course, techniques considered abusive will NOT be included. Stories of spanking or any other form of hitting (though it is generally considered non-PC these days) will also not be included because spanking is very conventional, and strikingly lacking in creativity - been used since the dawn of time, don't you know...] So, please, email us at partners_in_parenting at yahoo dot com if you have a tale to tell!
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Saturday, October 14, 2006

You Toucha My Daughter, I Breaka Your... Face

When I was a young married with a baby girl, our daughter's father would joke that she wouldn't be allowed to date until she was 35. Well, 30 if the prospective boyfriend was a member of the royal family. I'd laugh at his little joke, but it always annoyed me just a bit, though I wasn't sure why. (The fact that it was feeble and repeated waaaaay too often didn't help, but it was the actual content of the joke which bugged me.) Not too long ago, some commenters on a blog I was visiting were speaking of the future dates of their infant girls. A couple of the daddy-types came out with the typical Big Protective Daddy comments. "The first guy to stick anything in her," said one, "and I'll stick something bigger into him." (Charming, no?) Here's a thought that most parents of very small children don't really understand:

One day, you will be the parent of an adult.
Think about that for a sec. Your baby will one day be an adult. And you will still be the mom or dad. This is good, of course. This is why you strive so hard now - so that your child will one day be a fulfilled, contributing, card-carrying member of adult society. It's a long way from here to there. No surprise you can lose sight of the reality of the end goal. And how does we get that baby from totally innocent, helpless dependent, to fully-functioning adult, anyway? Well, we don't get them there by pretending that our children, boys and girls, will never be full adults, adulthood which includes sexual maturity. Just like learning to walk, learning to potty, developing language, gaining judgment and capacity for abstract thought, there is a developmental curve for sex and sexuality. This process takes years, of course, but eventually, children will become sexually mature adults. As a parent, I have to accept that at some point, when he/she is ready, my child is going to have sex. All we parental types are still somebody's kid, after all, and we're all having, or have had, sex. Sex is normal, it's inevitable, it's healthy. (You know what? I've heard tell it's even fun!!) Optimally, it will happen at the right time, with the right person; it will be respectful and caring. Optimally, it will be their choice. For both our sons and our daughters. My baby girl is now almost twenty-one. I'd be a fool to pretend she's not an adult in all senses of the word. I've been watching and guiding her passage into adulthood for a few years now. She's a young adult - she's got a lot of life, living, and maturing ahead of her (though she's a very mature young woman for her age). She still needs my guidance from time to time. (And is now mature enough to actually seek it out!) Still, she is an adult. How can I be a resource to her as she manages this area of adult life if I'm pretending she's still seven years old? If I deny her an active role, disallow her right to choose whether, when, and who - how does that help her? Okay, now we're coming to the crux of this post. Why did that stupid joke, why do those 'protective daddy' comments exasperate me so? Because they are based upon the assumption that females are passive recipients of sex. Females have no drives of their own, they have no sexual volition. They make no choices. If they are having sex, it's because someone required it of them. "My daughter couldn't actually want to indulge with her boyfriend!" these parents wail. "It must be his idea, the filthy creep." Well, I hope for your daughter's sake that this isn't true. I hope that the sex she has, happens when she's ready, that it is joyful, respectful, mutually desired and mutually satisfying. Just like you want for yourself.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ Updated to add related link: Talk Sex with Mary ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Thursday, October 12, 2006

When is a Book Not a Book?

Little Anna loves to open and close doors. Open, shut, open, shut, open, shut. She can stand in front of the cupboard, happily entertained for eight or nine minutes at a stretch. Open, shut, open, shut. She loves to lift and drop the flaps on the play table, lift up, set down, lift up, set down. She can while away large chunks of time opening and shutting boxes, turning light switches on and off, flipping the straw on her cup up and snapping it down, over and over again. This is all evidence of a single fascination, very common for her age. Any guesses? A single fascination. All these activities have one thing in common. Hint: They're all _________*. Today we read a counting book. No, 'read' is the wrong word. I started out reading it, assuming that's what Anna wanted. Silly me. Not that a page of a counting book takes much reading - especially 'one' and 'two'. 'Nine' and 'ten'? Now we're getting into serious pre-toddler reading. But even on the very first page, Anna was not about to wait for me to finish blithering on about windmills and the colour of elephants. Puh-leeez! "One elephant. See, Anna? One big, gre--." Whoosh. New page. Okay, then. "Two windmills. The windmills ha--" Flip. Three. Flip. Fou-- Flip. A whirlwind tour of one through ten. Puppies, dollies, tractors, and whales. Flip, flip, flip. Then some agitation on Anna's part, until Mary got with the program and started from the beginning again. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning. (Five 'flips' because each 'flip' has two numbers.) Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Back to the beginning. Thirty-seven times through the book. Thirty-seven times. One hundred eighty-five flips. When is a Book not a Book? When it's a *Hinge. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, . . . . ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nigel's Language is Taking Off...in All Directions

Nigel approaches me as I sit reading, both babies in my lap. "Whass daaa?" "You know who that is, lovie. You tell me. Who is that?" "Teemee!" "Right! And who is this?" I jounce the baby on my other knee. "Banana!" Note to self: perhaps use the nickname a little less... Nigel is reading a book to himself, a constant stream of babble/chatter filling the room. "Fuck! One fuck! Too fuck!" Guess which is his very favourite book? "T-rrrruck, Nigel. Trrrruck." Amusing as this is, I feel obliged now and then to try to guide him to the paths of politically correct enunciation. "Ffffuck." "That's right. Truck." Not that I try too, too hard... Nigel attempts to turn the page, but the book is large and its cover slippery, and it slithers to the floor. "Oh, dammitahehww." I consider once more donning the mantel of Political Correctness Arbiter, then decide against it. Once is enough for now. After all, his brother was even worse! And he outgrew it. Eventually.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Post on PiP

Mary waxes wise about choosing daycare. Check it out if you're interested. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

We're celebrating in non-traditional style here. The husband is off to a cottage to enjoy some peace and serenity and Very Traditional Plumbing. The boy went off to his dad's girlfriend's for turkey dinner. The big girl will have Thanksgiving Dinner with her aunt in the city in which she attends university. The younger (but still big) girl and I spent a couple of hours reading on the sun-filled porch, our chairs facing each other, feet resting in the other guy's chair. Then we went out for highly traditional nachos and salad. I am thankful for time and space and serenity. For children I love. For a wonderful man. Today we will lounge around, do a little housework, visit some friends, sit on the porch and watch the leaves fall. Which is exactly what I want to do. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Friday, October 06, 2006

Inexplicable...

A bit bleary today. Not a lot of sleep last night, and poor quality what I got. Tired... Which is why the title of this post is to be hummed to the tune of 'unforgettable'... "Kettle drummer! I say, kettle drummer!" This in plummy upper crust British accent... "Do you know 'That's What You Are'?" -- Oops, sorry, am I still awake? And typing? Sorry, sorry... (Why do babies so often fight naps? Don't they realize a nap is a Gift from Heaven?) Reading today. Trick or Treat Countdown, by Patricia Hubbard, illustrated by Michael Letzig. A good counting book: fun graphics, items clearly laid-out, easily picked out by a toddler's eye and dimpled finger, and a jouncy, bouncy rhythm to the words. Nigel sits on my lap to enjoy it for perhaps the fifteenth time this week. "One haunted house groans." "Wha'ss daaaaa?" "A house. See, it has a funny face." "Two tall tombstones moan." "Wha'ss daaaaa?" "Stones." I take his pudgy hand in mine and plonk his finger on the pictures as I count. "One, two, sad stones. Stones with sad faces." "Three green witches cackle." "Wha'sss daaaaa?" "One, two, three witches." More finger-plonking. "Three witches, see, riding their brooms. Four dried leaves crackle." "Wha'ss daaaaa?" "Leaves, Nigel. One, two, three, four leaves. Those are oak leaves. Big, brown oak leaves." "Wha'ss daaaa?" Okay, tombstones, haunted houses and witches might be a bit outside his experience, but leaves? We're knee-deep in fallen leaves, play in them most every day. I try for less automated, more thoughtful participation. "Oh, you know what it is. You tell me. What's that, Nigel?" I give him a squeeze, tap one of the leaves. "Be-gup." "Leaf. It's a leaf." "Be-gup." Idiosyncratic pronounciation? I'd have expected 'yeef'. But begup? "Five jack-o'lanterns gleam." "Wha'ss daaaa?" "Pumpkins. Those are a kind of pumpkin. You take a pumpkin, and put a face in it, and it's a jack-o'lantern." "Wha'ss daaaa?" "You tell me. What is it, Nigel?" "Be-gup." Hmmm. "Sick scarey skeletons scream. What is this, Nigel?" "Be-gup." "Seven ghosts whisper 'Ooooo'. What is that?" "Be-gup." "Eight goblins shout, 'BOO!'" "Be-gup." "Nine scarey monsters?" "Be-gup." Ten werewolves? Eleven bats? Twelve cats? Be-gup. Be-gup. Be-gup. "A shivery, shivery, shivery scene, All make-believe on Hallowe'en." "Be-gup." "Bless you."
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Unexpected Ally

Nigel is saying "please"! And "thank you"! Routinely - and with a smile! How, you may ask, did Mary achieve this, so quickly? So painlessly? So effectively? Fact is, Mary didn't. Remember our 23-minute standoff? Nigel is one very smart and even more tenacious little dude. He did not, as many - most! - children would, take that experience and decide, "Hm. Mary does not cave like I expected. Perhaps this means Mary is not to be trifled with." (Because toddlers do not hesitate to dangle their participles when necessary.) Many children would have begun to take this lesson. Nigel did not. Instead, Nigel decided that his response to the struggle would be to cease speaking to me when in the high chair. At. All. "Hey, sweetie! Want some apple?" Silence. "My, you drank that water quickly! You must be thirsty. Want some more?" Silence. "Malli is using blue paint. Would you like red paint, or green?" Silence. "Everyone else is having a cookie. Want one?" Silence. (Oh, but meantime? Meantime, is parents are all excited. "Hey, what have you done to Nigel these days? He's suddenly morphed into Polite Boy. 'P'eas' and 'gank oo' and 'toe-wee' and 'kooz me' all over the place!") It is clear I am being punished. I can handle this, though. I don't even have to get into it directly. This one is easy: no Good Thing will happen in the high chair until there are Words Spoken. "Everyone else is having a cookie. Want one?" Silence. "No? Okay, then, away you go and play." No second chances. He can stand and watch the others eat their cookies. This was a total set-up - I hardly ever give the kids sweet treats: that's the province of their parents. He stood and watched the others eat their cookies, but he did not whine or fuss. He took the consequences of his silence on the chin. Gotta love a kid like that, but I could see this was going to take us a while. Enter Malli. "Hey, Malli. Would you like some more asparagus?" "Yes, please." "Oh, Malli! What Good Manners you have. You said 'yes, please', just like a very big girl. Good for you!" Malli gets a hug. And more asparagus, which she loves. Nigel takes all this in. "Nigel, would you like some more eggs?" Not asparagus for Nigel. He eats those things on sufference, but scrambled eggs? Loves 'em. It pays to pick your motivation carefully. "Eggs." Hey! A word! A spoken word! From the boy in the high chair! But I'm not stopping yet. I may be pushing my luck, but I'm sticking to my principles here. "Can you ask nicely, like Malli?" Big warm smile at Malli. A slight - very slight - pause. I hold my breath. "Yes, eggs, please." HA! And that's it, folks. The wall of silence had been breached, never to return. Peer Pressure is My Friend.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Baby Delights

Don't you just love: - the way a baby stretches when they're woken? The bent arms by the scrunched-up face, and the arch of the back that makes their little bottom so round? Particularly effective if the child is wearing a onesie*, and you can see the pudgy thighs beneath the lil round bottom. What is it about that stretch that melts you, every time? - baby giggles? - the intensity of focus a 10-month-old requires to bang a spoon on a pot, or clap hands, or wave? - the way a 12-month-old's fingertips juuuuust barely touch over the top of their heads? On a good day? - the smell of a baby, warm and a wee bit sweaty, from a nap? - baby fingernails the size of a sesame seed? - baby babbling that almost, but not quite, makes sense? - toddler dancing? Mini elephants with itchy bottoms on speed. "Don't dance too close to the CD player, lovie, or it'll ski- it'll ski- it'll sk... Here. Dance over here." - teeny tiny toes, viewed from the bottom, tiny pink spheres clinging to the sole. - anything you'd care to add? *A term I picked up from American bloggers only in the past year or so, but it's so cute! ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Helpful Public

An old post from the draft files. (Anna's having a clingy day, and her yelling woke Timmy early from his nap, so he's unusually cranky...) ------------- Out with the tots today, taking a bus downtown. As you enter the bus, each side has three seats in a bench arrangement, facing the centre aisle. Behind these sets of three are pairs of seats, facing the front of the bus. I set myself in the rearmost seat of the three on the side. One child is snuggled to my left on the bench, one is in the seat immediately to my right, facing the front of the bus, tailor-sitting in the seat on the aisle. The third is in the umbrella stroller, tucked in the gap between my seat and the child in the front-facing seats. (A diagram would be helpful here, I'm sure...) We have travelled fifteen minutes or so, chattering away, the three of us, when the woman across the aisle leans over to speak. I've noticed her watching, but as she never returned my smiles, I've tuned her out. It takes a couple of attempts before I realize that she's telling me I need to move the child on the aisle to the window seat. She's afraid that, when we go around a corner, he's liable to fall into the aisle. We've turned lots of corners and he hasn't teetered in the slightest, but she is insistent. Where her English fails her, she supplements with lots of gestures and a fair bit of volume. If I thought she would understand my response, I might attempt to reassure, but I now understand that the reason for her lack of smiles was stern disapproval, so maybe not. "Arthur," I say. "This lady is worried that you might fall. She thinks you should sit in this seat." He slides over. The woman nods, her mission accomplished, says something - and I don't like the tone of voice - to her male companion, and gets off at the next stop. "Arthur," I say. "You can move back now." PHBHBHBHBHTTT!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Further Musing on Banned Books

I did a little searching to see if there was a Canadian equivalent of the "Banned Books" list. (In fact, that name is a bit misleading: the books were on the list because they were challenged; many (some? most? all?) of those books may not ever have been actually banned.) The Canadian list I found was much more informative: not only the titles and authors were cited, but the reason for the challenge and, when available, its outcome. I discovered that it was very rare for the challenge to result in the book being withdrawn from the class, store, or library. (This is good!) I discovered that many books were challenged by a single person. Hmmm... You know, if one wing-nut writes a letter of outrage to a bookstore owner, I don't really think he or she constitutes a serious threat to literary freedom. There's a very industrious fellow in my town who, every weekend morning, distributes hundreds of sheets of paper, closely filled with WARNING TO GOVERNMENT LEADERS AND HEADS OF STATE AROUND THE WORLD... RECENT MEETINGS EXPOSE THE MYSTERY GENEVA... THE WTO WANTS SMALL AFRICAN COUNTRIES... WARNING TO CEO... THERE IS NO RECOURSE FOR THE UNDERPRIVILEDGED...CEO CORPORATIONS USE LEGISLATION ADVANTAGE... SEVEN PERCENT OF REALITY IS IN MY HEAD... Every weekend. Hundreds of sheets of paper, tucked on windshields of parked cars for blocks and blocks in the downtown. He's angry, that's clear. He doesn't think much of people in authority, and seems to hold capitalism in some disregard. Sometimes it seems he's trying to rally the people to rebellion. At the very least, he's an ecological threat, but does anyone put him on a published list of threats to peace and stability? Course not. He's just one nut job, and a pretty harmless one at that. So, to find that a good number of items made the Canadian list because of one letter of complaint to one bookstore is a little disconcerting. I suppose a serious threat can start with one person; if that one is organized, focussed, diligent. It would depend on the community: will they rally round or ostracize? One unsupported person, forever on their own, is no threat - just the local eccentric. I further discovered that a fair chunk of them made the list because a parent or group of parents felt they were not age-appropriate. Of course these is room for abuse here. Parents could rally around and decide their sixteen-year-olds should not be reading books about puberty and sexual maturity. But that's not what I found. One example that poked me in the eye was that of a book on date rape - which was being used in a GRADE FOUR classroom. Now, those of you who've been reading me for long enough will know that I'm very relaxed about sex and sexuality, and I'm able to talk with my children about it freely - at a level appropriate to their capabilities. Date rape? With 9-year-olds? If my child had been in that class, I'd have been having a conversation with the teacher, too. If it had been a grade seven, maybe even a grade six class, that wouldn't be troublesome to me. But grade fours are prepubescent, largely. Most of them still think the other sex is "icky". Dating is not really on their horizon yet, sex even further, and the nasty possibilities of dating/sex impossibly remote. Their first "date", which will probably not occur for at least a couple of years (if their parents have any sense at all) will likely be done in a group. A bunch of them will go somewhere, and the couple's dating-ness will be evidenced because they'll hold hands during the outing (though maybe not when their friends are looking). So, yes, I'd have trouble with that book being raised with my 9-year-old. Does that make me a "book-banner"? So now I'm wondering: how many titles on the list I posted yesterday got there by similar means? To me, book-banning means an intelligent effort (not the ravings of a random individual) to have a particular text banned from public consumption. It's trying to control what other people think. So, if people are lobbying to have a certain book completely prohibited in bookstores and libraries across their city - that's book-banning. If a single person manages to badger a bookstore owner into removing a volume from his shelves, that's book-banning. A person who writes a single letter which is either ignored or responded to politely is a would-be banner, but doesn't deserve the list. A parent who says "I don't want my child reading this book for another couple of years" is not a book-banner. At all. Book-banning is real. It is wrong. But please, let's be accurate.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P