Thomas, we all know, is a boy in a hurry.
He uses the potty, then comes to me, quite distressed. “Mary, my pants is hurting me!” I can’t see anything wrong on the surface, so I check underneath…
The broad black elastic waistband of his teeny white spiderman briefs sits neatly on his hips at side and back, but is firmly wedged underneath his apparatus at the front. Ouch! You know, little man, there are times when it pays to take things slowly…
George and Thomas play a very involved game involving the play house and two ride-on toys. During this game, Thomas backs into baby Alice. George observes this and notes, very matter-of-fact:
“You are a terrible driver.”
“I am?” Thomas is not offended, only interested.
“Yes. You just bumped into baby Alice.”
“I did?” He pivots to look at Alice, who smiles at him.
“Yeah, and now I will go call the police.”
“Yes.” This with great authority. “That’s what you do when you bump someone in a car.”
Whoo-eee! Probably spurred by the need to avoid a second Inside Day in a row, the tots and I forged out under dubious skies. Usually I can see the forecast written in the sky outside my front window, but this morning, I just couldn’t tell. To my right (SE) the sky was grey, but light; to my left (SW) dark and forbidding. What to do? It should have been easy: we all know that the weather comes from the west… A quick call to Sophie (my caregiver friend) allowed us to encourage each other in a decision borne of imprisonment and lunacy. Yes! We would go out, and yes! we would meet for a coffee, and yes! we’d take the tots to the park…
Two outta three ain’t so bad.
Yes! We went out. Yes! We arrived our meeting place, an indoor courtyard behind the coffee shop. And NOOOOOoooo….look at that rain!! Thankfully, our coffeeshop backs onto the courtyard, because the patio out front was definitely not the place to be. Out came the trucks intended for the sandbox, and the children managed to have a happy playtime while Sophie and I sipped our coffees. Today was Sophie’s turn to buy, and, creative woman that she is, she emerged from the shop not with the usual dark blue mugs, but with a tray containing two lovely bowls of steaming café au lait…perfect for warming hands chilled by gripping damp stroller handles.
It was quite a nice way to spend a morning, really. As they played and we sipped, we kept an eye on the sky, waiting for the weather to clear. The sky would lighten, the rain abate somewhat, and then suddenly darken as another cloudburst plummeted earthward. Back and forth. Back and forth. We waited with increasing agitation: maybe we should just stay all afternoon and have the parents pick them up there?? Finally, when it seemed that it had settled into a steady light rain, we decided to brave it.
Had I had only four children today, so that none would have needed to walk, I might just have missed that last cloudburst… As it was, we were about a km from home when it hit. Saturated only begins to describe us. But you know, it wasn’t cold, so once I’d made the mental adjustment that we were all going to be drenched, raincoats or no, it became rather fun. Darcy, in the front seat of the stroller, just laughed. When Thomas complained that his pants were getting wet, I took a peek at his legs and made a great fuss of scolding him for being so silly as to have a bath with his clothes on. Now that’s funny! By the time we got home, everyone was in the mood: giddy, laughing, shrieking, and wet, wet, wet…
Serendipitously, my eldest daughter had arrived just moments before we got to the house. She’s nineteen and, not surprisingly, very experienced with tiny tots, so it was just a matter of a very few highly efficient minutes before the two of us had the five of them stripped to their diapers (or underwear, or doodle shorts) and seated in front of a plate of scrambled eggs on toast. (Warming and FAST.)
The clothes are now tumbling in the dryer, the children all fed and now napping, a hot cup of tea at my elbow.
All in all, a pretty good day!
Today’s meeting of the Potty-Training Support Group, Sunnyside Branch, took place in part at one of our favourite parks.
While at the park, George felt the need for an emergency meeting, and, informing Nona of the situation, repaired to the shrubbery. Members present included George, Darcy, Thomas, with one guest, Zach (who must needs come along so as not to be left unsupervised on the play structure). One might consider this his early induction to the art, but Zach appears largely oblivious of the point of the exercise. While one little boy pees, the other big boys lean forward and peer at the stream, making observations and offering encouragement all the while.
“There it goes! Your pee is coming!!”
“Look. His pee gots that pine cone all wet!” (This is very funny.)
“Don’t get that pee on your pants!”
“Don’t stand there. You might get his pee on your foot.”
“Are you done? Is it my turn?”
Darcy is wearing yer basic training pants: little pale green underwear with the padded section in the middle. He largely ignores his audience, focussed as he is on the engrossing task of producing and aiming. (I have them sit down. It’s simpler.)
Thomas has on his teeny tiny grey briefs – of which he is overwhelmingly proud, because they have Spiderman on the backside!!! Thomas revels in his audience. After he’s watered the shrubbery, he makes a point of ensuring that everyone sees and appreciates his posterior artwork, wiggling that little bum for all to see. “I gots Spiderman back there, Darcy! George, see my Spiderman?”
And George? George, too, prefers production over playing to the audience. He doesn’t at alll mind that they stare at the stream of pee, but he’s quite modest about his undergarments. In my position as overseer of the event, however, I can clearly see that George, who prior to this had worn sweat pants over nothing at all, is wearing…… boxers! Eentsy-weentsy plaid cotton boxers!! How delightful! Who knew they made them so small?
Everyone considered themselves highly satisfied with the outcome, and thus this meeting of the PTSG, Sunnyside Branch was called to a close.
Now that she is mobile, Alice has discovered the nice little wooden end table in which I store diapers. Two shelves, each with three stacks of, oh, twelve or fifteen diapers. (In behind is another such stack, so I can tidily store a couple weeks’ worth of diapers in there.) Normally when she’s here I pivot it so that the solid back faces out, but today I forgot. I stepped into the kitchen for a moment to stir a pot, and when I return, my livingroom is a maelstrom of white! Diapers fly left and right, shrieks of delight puncture the air — and my eardrums.
How, you might wonder, could such a tiny child strew that many diapers in the nine seconds my back was turned? (Though you all have tiny children. You probably aren’t wondering at all…) Because GEORGE was helping her!! Three-year-old, responsible George, is merrily flinging diapers all over the living room!! Woo-hoo!! This is what happens when energetic toddlers stay inside all morning…
Of course George must help clean it up. He’s a little miffed that baby Alice isn’t expected to put any away, but is mollified when Thomas volunteers to help. Yay, Thomas! What a good friend you are! In fact, this task is right up Thomas’s alley. He’s absolutely terrific at puzzles, and what is this but a giant, practical, super-absorbent puzzle? The diapers must be sorted by size and brand – which means sorting them by the pictures on their waistbands. The plain white Sesame Street ones are Alice’s; the Sesame Street with the green stripes round the legs and big bird on the back are Zach’s; there are diapers with bears and diapers with flowers, all to be stacked and returned. Thank goodness for branding, say I!
It takes almost twenty minutes, but they are twenty happy, productive, and most importantly, quiet minutes…
It’s my home, but it’s my place of business. It’s a business, but it’s a very personal business. They are my clients, but they feel personally towards me. They are not my friends, but I’m involved in an intimate endeavour – raising their child – with them.
There’s always that push-pull, that sometimes too nebulous boundary between the professional and the personal in this business. I’ve had parents try to tell me what I may and may not feed the children (not just their own child), whether I may let them watch television, or take the bus, or go out in public. I’ve had parents who wanted me to drive their children places, and parents who didn’t. Over the years, I’ve become better and better at keeping the delineation clear, but sometimes it still blurs.
A couple of months ago, I pointed out a mark on a child’s shirt, confessing that the child had managed to spill my tonic water down his shirt, and that it had managed to turn the front of his blue shirt pink. Nothing exceptional in this, except that the next day, dad felt it appropriate to make sure that there had been nothing in my tonic water but tonic water. Which there hadn’t been. I often drink the stuff from the can with a straw, and it had been a can the the child had upended.
But still. What if there had been? What if, during naptime, while reading a book, I’d decided to slip some gin into that tonic. Do they never have a glass of wine with their dinner? Do they routinely hire a babysitter to care for their child when they decide to have a cold beer on a hot Saturday afternoon? I’d not have been offended if this was a new client. In that case, their uncertainty would be normal, perfectly natural. These people have been with me for over two years. They’re in my home every weekday. We’ve been out for coffee, I’ve been into their home to discuss their child. Heck, my sweetie and I have even been out for a drink with the two of them a couple of times!
As it happens, I don’t drink at work. But lots of people do have a drink with their lunch during their work day, after all. A single drink is not the sign of a sot.
I wasn’t offended at the time, I didn’t resent the question, and I haven’t had to alter my normal behaviour in any way, but it’s stuck with me as a sign of the difficulty of keeping the boundary clean. It just ain’t so obvious.
Zach is learning his manners. I hand him his cheese and crackers. “Dan-goo, tah-tah!” he says, and then proceeds to eat his cracker – with a spoon!
George: Thomas? Thomas, what time is it?
Thomas: Ah… it’s two, six.
Who says the preverbal can’t communicate? Alice waves bye-bye to mommy through the window, then speed-crawls to the high chair, kneels up, and smacks the foot rest, making anxious/instructive noises. The message is clear: it’s snack time!
George: Thomas, what time is it?
Thomas: It’s eight, four.
George: Pee-pee time!!
Alice’s mother liked her feature post. (I’d hoped she would!) But she gently suggested to me (as others have also done), “You know, you needn’t feel that you must always be positive.” A tactful way of suggesting that should their little angels display a pair of horns from time to time, I should feel free to say so!! I will, but I confess it doesn’t come naturally…
I am by nature an optimist. I see the bright side as clearly as the dark. Always. This is not a mental exercise I consciously perform, but rather a wholly natural way of perception. So, if a child has had their ups and downs over a day, I will naturally recount the ups. I know the downs happened, but, for most children, the downs are minor blips, and the ups are the bulk of the day.
Of course, if a child is unusually fractious, in a way that might suggest illness or the need for some kind of intervention, I will discuss it. But the normal type of misbehaviour and fretfulness simply isn’t of adequate interest to me!! Unless, of course, it’s funny – and so often it is!
As to Alice…
When loading the children into the stroller, I am quite calculated in the order in which I do it. Until today, Alice has been loaded in first, the reasoning being that she frets if left behind, and as the youngest, it’s harder for her to wait. So she sits in the stroller on the front walk, while I bring the other children to it, one at a time.
As of today, the street – no the entire block! – must surely be fully and painfully aware of just how thoroughly Alice detests waiting, even in the stroller! And that hat?? We won’t even talk about how she hates that thing…
Tomorrow, she’ll be loaded in last!
Thomas does not like vegetables a whole lot.
He sits on the bench and peruses the vegetable stew he’s been presented for lunch for a moment, then heaves a deep sigh and bravely declares:
“I can eat it all up, and I can be happy!”
Alice, the newest addition to the daycare, is coming into her own. It often takes three weeks to a month or so for a child to become completely comfortable at daycare, so that the child I see during the day is the same child the parents know at home. With part time children, this integration can take even longer. Generally, apart from the obvious symptom of tears, children are quieter than they would be at home, more solemn. They are observing and evaluating their new environment.
Alice had a very easy transition, and relaxed quite quickly, with only a few sporadic clingy-uncertain days. These days, she’s blossoming into a much more extroverted child than I’d seen thus far. She’s finding her world here increasingly interesting.
She’s interested in her peers. Over the last week or three, the very quiet baby girl who sat at the edges and watched with interest has become an exuberant baby who cheers the action with delighted, and loud, squeals. She sits in a high chair at lunch time and bounces with such enthusiasm at the antics of the others that her cup flies from her tray, and a few stray peas and bits of chicken threaten to follow.
She’s interested in the environment. She’s now mobile, and will vigorously chase down a ball, the other children, and most especially, the cat.
She’s particularly interested in the cat!! Generally he stays well out of it when the tots are about, but these days I’m almost ready to believe he’s posing deliberately for her. Every morning when she arrives, there he is, on the fourth step up the stairs, awaiting his audience. Alice does not disappoint. She greets him with whole-body enthusiasm, squeals of excitement, and a beaming smile.
In fact, her smile graces most of her day. What a happy addition to the crew!