It’s Not All Mary Poppins

A rose by any other name…

… would be a petunia.

“Dese are my glubs.”

“Actually, sweetie, those are your mittens.”

“Well, IIII call dem glubs.”

I tap him on his button nose. “You can if you like, but yooooou’d be wrong, kiddo.”

Creativity in language is a marvellous thing. But those things you wear on your hands to keep them warm in winter, those things with no digits but thumbs? They’re mittens, mister. Like it or not.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | individuality, quirks and quirkiness, the things they say! | , , | 7 Comments

I am where I belong

(This post was inspired by this one.)

For a time, I was not satisfied with my career. For a period of several years, I was restless. I’d enjoyed it hugely at first, but after a few years, I began to wonder. Maybe this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Maybe I could be doing something else, something more. More lucrative, more professional, more… recognized. I explored a few options, for a time working a job and a half, testing out that other possibility.

Which remains a possibility but, I discovered, not yet. And at first that bothered me. I was stuck here because I couldn’t afford to be elsewhere. I was stuck here because I’d wasted years when I could have been pursuing a Career, and now, to step out into that world, I’d be so far behind…

But then I began to look at my work, to look at my days, to see the match between who I am and what I do, and I realized this is what I should be doing. This is where I belong. That the career that I chose at a friend’s suggestion at a very difficult time of my life, is perfect. That my life is pretty much 100% as I’d have it be. Sure, I’d like more money (or perhaps more accurately, freedom from worry about the damned stuff). There are details that I’d like to tweak, I have my worries and there are always those things I strive to improve, but the basic, fundamental shape of my life? It is who I am, and me, I am content.

Being content in your life comes more readily to some people than others, and it certainly isn’t something encouraged by our culture. Strivers are valued. Contentment is equated with complacency, with settling for second-best, with inertia. Even if you feel that it’s a worthy place to be, it’s hard to achieve in a risk-phobic culture, where everything is potentially dangerous, where toxins are lurking in the most unlikely places, where psychological damage is a virtual certainty, where you are encouraged (particularly in parenting) to second-guess every tiny thing you do, think, and feel.

Bah, humbug, say I.

I am content. Except for my teens and the truly miserable years preceding my divorce, I have been content most of my life.

But the contentment I feel now is deeper and richer than anything I’ve experienced before. I think that had I been married to a different man, I’d have been this satisfied during my SAHM years, which I loved, loved, loved… except for the increasingly unavoidable fact that I was with the wrong man. That’ll take the glow off a girl…

But now?

I’m happy in my marriage. My husband (of two years; together for twelve or so) is absolutely perfect for me. We fit together seamlessly, we resolve conflict the same way, we view conversation the same way (and love it), we’re emotionally aware and communicative, we understand each other. Goodbye kisses at the door still take a good five or ten or even fifteen seconds. Every morning. (If that doesn’t sound like much, try it next time you have occasion to kiss your significant other.)

I’m happy with the way my kids are turning out. I have three: one a fully-fledged adult, one a fledgling adult, and one a teen living at home. All three have caused me no end of worry from time to time, have kept me up at night (as infants and as teens!), have made me cry tears of misery and of rage… and all three have made me laugh, have made me cry tears of joy, have challenged and stimulated me, have increased the depth and richness of the tapestry of my life in a way I just can’t see getting from anything else.

I am happy with my career. No, I’m not burning my way up some corporate heirarchy, I’m not raking in the impressive salary, I don’t have the job title that makes people’s eyes light up.

I’m not even going to say that I have an Important Job, and that I Make a Difference (though I believe both those things are absolutely, inarguably true).

It is just that this job, this career, it suits me down to the ground. It allows me to express and explore my strengths, it challenges me where I need it, it causes me to grow as a person. These small people fill my life with laughter and love, their parents (when they’re not driving me crazy) have brought friendship and variety into my life.

This is how I feel. Others may not. I can recall more than one social event, when answering the question of what I did for a living, having the other person say, “Oh,” pause… and walk away.

Really.

I have had people close to me suggest — meaning only the best — that I am not making the best use of my talents, that I am wasting my education (a couple of bachelor’s degrees), that I should think of doing something different, more professional.

And sometimes I have wanted to have the job title that would get a different reaction from strangers, that would reassure my well-intentioned but concerned well-wishers… until I consider that if I had the title, I’d have to have the job… and it woudn’t be this one.

I like working with these little people.
I like seeing them grow, learn, develop and mature.
I like knowing that their lives are richer because of me.
I like the challenge presented by developmental quirks and downright wretched behaviour.
I like that my job demands creativity — creative thinking, creative hands.
I like being my own boss.
I like working from my own home.
I like the level of job security I have.
I like having the time to cook dinner for my family.
I like organizing my home.
I like being on the spot for those times when my kids need to spill something crucial.
I like being the hub and fulcrum of my family.

This is where I belong. I am grateful. I am content.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | daycare | , | 13 Comments

Back this aft!

“We are going bod-a-keen?”

“Yes, we are, lovie. Let’s get your snowpants on.”

“YAAAAAY!”

We’ll be back in a bit. Serious bod-a-keen-ing awaits.

(Guesses welcome.) :)

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Canada, Noah, outings | , , , , | 16 Comments

too much empathy

Nissa, trotting along the hall, takes a small tumble and looks up, checking for response from any adults in the vicinity. Typical toddler behaviour.

And of course, my response is practiced. In situations like this, you don’t ask them how they’re feeling, you tell them. A beaming smile and a cheery comment shows the child this wasn’t a biggie, and they pop up and trundle happily on their way.

Except there’s a parent in door (not Nissa’s), who is in Nissa’s direct line of sight. A nice parent. A kind parent. A well-meaning parent. A parent who is about to annoy the heck out of me. She crumples with doting concern, her voice oozing pathos. “Oooo, sweetie, are you all riiiiight?

Great. So instead of my hearty “you-can-handle-this” message, Nissa’s getting the limp “oh-you-poor-delicate-flower” message. I wince and wait. It takes less than a second.

Nissa crumples into tears. Whyever not? She’s just been informed that’s what’s expected, and furthermore, been told that any tears will be enveloped with great swaths of time and attention. Having ensured the tears, the nuisance parent mom can now utter words of consolation. “There, there, little Nissa. You will be all right.”

Yes, she will. In fact, she was fine until you told her otherwise with all your ooey-gooey empathy. There is a time and a place for empathy. It is smart, however, if you don’t want to be knee-deep in tears all the damned time, to make sure that what you’re empathizing with is what the child’s actually feeling. In this case, the mom projected the tears into that pause between stimulus and response. When she looked up for adult response, Nissa wasn’t unhappy. She was surprised, certainly. But she hadn’t yet decided how to respond.

In that instance, why on earth wouldn’t you nudge them in the direction of cheerful resilience?

Meantime, the mom is still oozing, and Nissa is lapping it all up, her wails getting louder as mom’s fluttering reassurances continue.

Bah. Hustle out that door, woman, so Nissa can stop crying.

Thank you so much.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Nissa, parents, Peeve me, socializing, the dark side | , | 13 Comments

What I said

“I can’t get him to drink water. All he wants is milk and juice.”

It’s a pretty common complaint. Milk and juice taste better than bland old water, and, uncontrolled, toddlers will suck back untold quantities of the stuff. Not that either of these is bad for a child, of course, but as with anything we can ingest, the issue is one of moderation.

Milk is good — to a certain point. After that it’s unnecessary calories. Juice is all right — though fresh fruit is better.

But water? It’s essential, and learning to drink water when thirsty, as opposed to milk, juice, or god forbid, soft drinks (pop! for thirst! bizarre — and just plain gross, people) is a lifetime healthy habit children need.

So I explain my tried-and-true strategy. Since children don’t get juice at my home at all, I’ll be using milk, but the strategy holds for all liquids:

Water it down. Slowly, incrementally, over a period of weeks. You’re not replacing milk with water entirely, of course, but you do stretch the milk out. And we’re talking a child who’d drink his weight in milk every day, so there’s no worry about inadequate milk intake. Rather the reverse.

Mom shakes her head. “Oh, that’d never work. He loves his milk!” I remind her that it’s incremental: the first day, you need only replace half an ounce (15ml) of milk with water. As small as it needs to be.

She shakes her head, dubious. “He’ll know. I know he’ll know.”

I try once more, but it’s clear that mom has decided this won’t work for her child. And she’s going to prove that by not trying it even once. My sigh is deep and heart-felt.

Fast-forward three months. Mom walks in to see son downing a bottle of water.

“He drinks water?”

“Mm-hmm. Usually a cup, cup and a half over the day.” (By which I mean a full 8-ounce/250 ml cup.)

“That’s amazing! He NEVER does that at home!”

Gee. Guess I’m just “lucky”, huh?

January 6, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, parents, Peeve me | , , , , | 7 Comments

It’s not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’

Sometimes, in my job, the trick is to look beyond the facts under my nose to the larger picture. Seeing the forest for the trees, as it were. Nowhere is that more obvious than in conflict.

Because toddlers and conflict? People have done studies to track the number of conflicts a toddler has in a day. Staggering. And also inevitable. The thing we’re after is not conflict avoidance (no, no it’s not), but conflict management. Not me managing them, either, but them managing their own selves. Stop snorting. We’re in the business of raising adults, remember? It’s a long-range project, with long-term goals…

My old mantra: “You may be angry, but you may not [insert anti-social behaviour here],” which I start when they’re about 15 months old, and which, applied unceasingly over the years, reaps enormous benefits when they’re 15 years old. Trust me on this.

Whereas once I might have tried to explain how they didn’t need to be having this particular conflict, maybe even that it was a silly thing … waste of air. And not in the best interest of the larger picture, which is to teach them how to manage their anger and to manage their behaviour in conflict.

I’m sure there are things I get annoyed about that wouldn’t bother you at all. I’m quite sure that if you tried to tell me why I didn’t need to be annoyed, I would probably only get annoyed…

So. We don’t often get into the substance of the conflict. But we do worry a lot about the style.

Noah and Nissa are squabbling over toys. This is routine. Nissa is a strong-willed little thing and Noah much milder, but even mild-mannered Noah can be pushed only so far. Today he’s decided to stand his ground.

“No, no, no! It’s mine!”

Nissa’s response is instantaneous — a long, loud howl. She is not saddened, she is OUTRAGED. She wants the toy he is playing with, and she wants it now! How DARE he thwart her will???

The howling is all the more aggravating because this girl has been talking in sentences since she was 16 months old. Sentences of three and four words. Now she’s up to… um… lots of words. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lo…

Let’s just say that, for little Ms. Articulate, the issue here is not an inability to express herself verbally.

“Nissa. Use your words.”

“AAAAAAA…”

It takes four and a half minutes on the quiet stair, during which time Noah gets to play with BOTH toys — both toys directly in her line of vision — (what? twist the knife? me???), but she does finally concede to speak rather than shriek.

“I can has a toy, Noah, please?”

“Sure!” (Told you he’s a mellow little dude.) “You can have this one.”

“No. I want DAT one.” (And Nissa’s not. She’s made one concession already, dammit, she’s not making another!)

Noah looks at the toys in his hands.

“Okay. Here you go.”

She snatches it. I take it from her and give it back to Noah. “Take it gently, Nissa, and say thank you.”

We try again. A civilized transition is accomplished. Each tot settles in to play, Nissa with her blue plastic wrench with a yellow screw mechanism… and Noah with… his blue plastic wrench with a yellow screw mechanism.

Yes. Yes, I know.

Big picture, big picture, big picture…

January 5, 2010 Posted by | aggression, manners, Nissa, Noah, parenting | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Beauty is in the eye…

“Here, Noah. This is for YOU.” Emily, still in the throes of holiday spirit, pushes a lushly-wrapped parcel into his tummy.

“Oh, THANK you!” Noah clutches his bundle of shiny red and gold and ribbon and bows, all held together with copious strips of metallic green tape. “Is beautiful, Emily!”

“Yes, it is! And now you open it!”

And so he does. The struggle with the tape and the ribbons and the bows and the paper goes on for quite a while, Emily and Noah both engrossed in the task, heads together.

“I will hold this and you can pull that,” Emily directs.
“Yes, and then you can tear on dat.”
“I will.”

Eventually, there on the table before them is a glittering, shimmering pile of glossy paper, glittering tape and, in the midst of it all, several lengths of curling ribbon.

“Oh! It’s beautiful! Thank you!”

Spontaneous toddler hugs are just the cutest damned things…

At the end of the day, Noah races to his mother, his hands cupped against his tummy, his arms cradling his bundle of shimmering, shining, love-in-crumpled-paper.

“Look, mommy! Lookit what Emily gaved me!”

Mommy peers into the midst of the colours and shininess. “Oh, that’s so nice! Isn’t Emily such a good friend! What did she give you?”

Noah looks into his arms and peers into the sparkling debris. “She gave me… it’s… she, um…” He pauses and looks up, confusion replacing delight. His mother’s kind and entirely reasonable question has framed the perception of his gift in a way entirely unrelated to his own experience of it. His voice, when he speaks, registers utter surprise.

“It’s… nothing!”

“Nothing?” Mommy is surprised, too.

“Nothing.” Noah is still puzzled. Then his face clears. Mommy’s question is Mommy’s question, but he knows what he knows. “It’s a nothing, and it’s beautiful!

Beautiful.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Emily, holidays, Noah | 4 Comments

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