It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Who’s on First?

Talking to Thomas can be a dizzifying experience. We have stopped at a downtown corner to investigate the raised relief map on the concrete pedestal. You know the sort – it shows brass models of historically and touristically significant structures in the few blocks around you. I hold the boys up so they can touch the figures on the map, and try to relate these representations to the real landmarks around them. One of these is the War Memorial (aka “the statue”), only a few blocks up the street. We decide we will walk up to see it.

Thomas: Where we going?
Me: To see the statue.
Thomas: We’re going to see the statue?
Me: Yes.
Thomas: Where is it?
Me: We can’t see it quite yet… Wait a bit. You’ll see it soon.
(Repeat the above ten to twelve times as we walk two blocks at toddler pace.)
Me: There it is! See it?
George: Yes! I see it!
Thomas: Where is the statue?
Me: Right ahead of us. See it?
Thomas: No, I can’t.
(Now, the War Memorial is a large-to-huge structure, dominating the confluence of three streets, right at the top of a hill, and we are by now right across the street from it…)
Thomas: I can’t see a statue!!
Me: stopping, squatting beside him, and aligning his head so that the memorial must entirely fill his field of vision: “There! Right in front of you.”
Thomas: Where? I can’t see a statue!
(He’s upset now, knowing he’s missing out on what everyone else is enjoying. I have a sudden insight.)
Me: Thomas, do you know what a statue is?
Thomas: No.

May 19, 2005 Posted by | individuality, outings, the cuteness!, the things they say!, Thomas | 2 Comments

A Matter of Respect

Remember that catch-phrase, “Expect Respect”? It was part of a campaign addressing violence against women. Many women in abusive situations, we are told, have become so acclimatized to the violence that they simply don’t see that they are in that situation.

You know, I think this is a slogan that parents of two-year-olds should adopt, and for much the same reasons! I can’t think the number of times – at a park, a school, in a store – I have seen a child aggress against a parent, seen the parent respond, and then seen the child simply wallop the parent again. And again. It doesn’t matter how often I see that, I am shocked. The first attempt is not shocking. Toddlers, as we all know, do try that from time to time. They’re emotionally-driven, impulsive little critters, still very egocentric. They are frustrated and have trouble expressing it in more socially acceptable ways, so they express it in the most expedient way possible – with a blow, or a shriek, or a bite. (A shriek can be an aggression, if done right in a person’s face.)

The first aggression is not really the issue, though of course it needs to be addressed. The issue is the second and subsequent aggressions, perpetrated in direct defiance of the parents’ objections. A child who will do this has no respect for their parent. The parent who allows this to continue happening has not established themselves as worthy of respect.

In my experience, it is those earnest and loving parents who try to raise their children by well-thought-out principles who are most often flummoxed by this behaviour. A child hits mom in the face. Mom, whose principles require her always to be rational, gentle, and calm with her child, demurs, “Now, Simon, you know mommy doesn’t like that.”


“Simon!” this in tones of distress. “Mommy doesn’t like that.”


Simon knows mommy doesn’t like that. For Simon, that’s the point. After all, Mommy is trying to make him do something he doesn’t like (put on his winter boots when it’s twenty below, say). And it’s not just mommies. I’ve seen daddies in the same position, though, I admit, less often. Me, I’m always shocked that the blows are received entirely passively.

The toddler needs to understand that their anger is acceptable, but its expression must be controlled. They need to understand that their parent has enough self-respect not to tolerate abuse. They need to know that when they are having trouble controlling themselves, you can provide the safe harbour for their raging emotions. And they need to know that when they do get angry, they are still loveable. None of this, however, means that a parent needs to accept abuse! Rather the reverse.

So, what should a parent do? Expect Respect. The child swings a punch. If possible, it’s best if the parent can intercept the blow before it arrives. Grip the wrist firmly and stop the blow. If it has already landed, take the wrist and pull it away from you. Then, rationally, calmly, and very firmly say to the child: “You can be angry, but you can’t hit.” Speak slowly and deliberately. Hold the wrist and maintain eye contact as you say this, and stay like that until the child relaxes. You may need to repeat this after a few moments. Stay firm, though, and they’ll relax. Once they have relaxed, they get a warm and reassuring hug. At this stage, I will also remind them that “Hands are not for hitting, remember? Hands are for hugging.”

There. You’ve been calm and rational, but you’ve also managed to insist on being respected. And it ends with a reassuring snuggle for everyone. A win-win — when a parent Expects Respect.

May 19, 2005 Posted by | aggression, Developmental stuff, manners, parenting, parents, power struggle, socializing, tantrums, the dark side | 1 Comment

Completely Irrelevant

Ever heard of Goose Mother rhymes? I heard these years ago, and they seem to have lodged in my mind. If they have a written source, I don’t know it: they were recited to me by someone who had them memorized from some uncertain source. (Not to worry: I would never share these with the tots in my care.)

Georgie Porgie, puddin’and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play
He kissed them too. He’s funny that way.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider, and sat down beside her,
So she beat the crap out of it with her spoon.

Hickory, Dickory dock.
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
And the rest escaped with minor injuries.

Jack and Jill went up the hill.
They each had a buck and a quarter.
Jill came down with two and a half:
Do you think they went for water?

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn.
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn.
Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
He’s under the haystack with Little Bo Peep.

There are more, but this will suffice…

May 18, 2005 Posted by | Mischief, random and odd | 3 Comments


Only three boys this morning: Zach, Thomas, and Darcy. We’re off to the park, but as a special treat, I decide to hit the Second Cup first: a chiller for me and blueberry muffin – one is big enough for three – for the boys. They have their drinks with them, and with a few library books strewn about, we look to be settling in for a comfortable outing.

Between sips of my drink, I dole out chunks of muffin, one bite each, round the table. Darcy is a slow and methodical eater. He’s not reluctant at all; the boy likes his food, he merely savours every bite. Thomas and Zach, however, are of the more typical toddler school of food appreciation: If you like it, cram it in and get more, fast!! Thus, if I simply give as each child is ready for their next bite, poor Darcy ends up with only half what the others get. Besides, I am in the business of civilizing them: I want to discourage wolfing and encourage savouring.

Therefore, when Zach crams, chews once or twice, and then somehow manages to squeeze “Mah, pee” out past the wads of muffin still in there, I tell him he’ll have to wait. Clever me, I’ve thought of a brilliant and simple way to make Darcy our Good Example. By uttering one simple sentence, the other two will have to pace themselves, and Darcy won’t be short-changed:

“When Darcy is finished, we’ll all have more.” Masterful, huh??

All eyes lock on Darcy. He chews peaceably for another moment or two, then suddenly becomes aware of the attention. He stops mid-chew, stares back, and then, clearly feeling the pressure, stuffs the rest of his piece in his mouth. His cheeks – and eyes – bulge under the strain. His eyes water a bit as he tries to swallow a portion of his mammoth mouthful. Tiny drops of muffin-laced drool trickles from between his lips, which can’t quite close when he smiles triumphantly. He’s done his part, and he knows it!

Brilliant and simple, indeed, and masterfully undermined!

May 17, 2005 Posted by | Darcy, manners, Mischief, outings, peer pressure, Thomas, Zach | Leave a comment


1. A child is brought to my home. He is clinging to his parent, and his wails precede him into the house. Parent and I exchange needful information over the uproar, and then the parent leaves, clearly in distress.

It’s hard. It’s hard to leave your child when he is crying and needs you.

2. One of my tots is dropped off. “Bye!” she crows, cheerfully, and toddles off. Parent lingers, then leaves reluctantly, dispirited, saying something like “She doesn’t care!” (Or “Don’t miss me too much”, or, speaking for their child, “Yeah, yeah, mom/dad, you can leave now.”)

It’s hard. It’s hard to leave your child and have them so obviously not need you.

I feel for my parents. It is hard. But of course, your child always needs you, happy or sad. Your child needs you whether you’re present or not. Your child needs you in his/her life, needs your love, needs your nurturing, your guidance, your unrivalled concern. However, your child does not need your physical presence every second of the day.

It is good for the child to have a circle of adults who love him/her, a circle of people s/he can trust. So, if your child cries when you leave, that’s okay. They love you. Just trust them enough to believe that they will cope just fine. And they will – it generally takes about 36 seconds after your departure for those tears to dry and the child to begin to play. And if your child doesn’t cry, that’s okay, too. They’re happy and secure in the place you’ve chosen for them. Good job!

So, don’t worry, mommy and daddy: Your baby will do just fine, and so will you!

May 16, 2005 Posted by | daycare, parenting, parents | 4 Comments


Zach holds out his bread and butter to Alice. Alice reaches for it. Awww, he’s sharing!

Seems straightforward doesn’t it? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve seen this too many times not to offer Zach the observation: “Do you want Alice to eat that bread? Because it you hold it out to her like that, she will eat it.” All this said in a positive, cheery tone of voice. Sharing is good, and I’m all for it. Perhaps he does want to share it with her.

Or perhaps not. Zach looks up at me, looks at the bread, and then at Alice, quickly withdraws his hand and stuffs the slice into his mouth.

It’s the not-quite-twos who do this most frequently. I suspect they are simply happy to have whatever it is, and only want to show it off a bit. “Look what I’ve got!” So they show it, and then are absolutely horrified to see their treat vanish into the voracious maw of their friend. Hey!!!

The adult equivalent would be to bring your neighbour in to see the new painting you bought and hung over the fireplace, and have them take it off the wall and walk out the door. What the hell??

May 16, 2005 Posted by | Developmental stuff, manners, quirks and quirkiness, socializing | Leave a comment

Choosing Childcare: two interview questions

Parents often worry over how their child is being treated at daycare, especially at the beginning. How do they know how the provider acts behind closed doors? When your child can’t talk, this concern is particularly acute.

Here are a couple of tips:

1. During the interview, ask about turnover. How long do clients typically stay with the caregiver? With very few exceptions, mine have stayed with me from the time mom’s maternity leave ended until the child went off to school – three or four years. I’ve even had two couples opt to keep their child with me through the junior kindergarten year. If the caregiver has a steady turnover, losing children after a few months, this should be a warning sign. Find out more!

2. Does the provider have an Open Door policy? Are parents allowed to drop in unannounced? The answer to this question should be “yes”!

Now, I will confess that I don’t really like it when parents drop in. It’s disruptive for the children, it makes me feel self-conscious, and, if the parent isn’t taking the child with them when they leave, I’ll almost certainly have an unhappy child on my hands for a while after mommy or daddy’s departure. So, all in all, it’s a nuisance and a bother! However, this isn’t about my convenience. I have an open door policy, because it’s only right that a parent have free access to their child.

And in fact, once parents knows they may drop in, they very often don’t feel the need to actually do it. Those that have dropped in have only ever done it once or twice. I hope this is because the idyllic scene they survey as they enter provides them with all the reassurace they need, but it may well be the fear of a repeat of the almighty fuss their child made at their departure!

If the daycare has a high turnover rate and/or a closed door policy, think carefully about sending your child there.

May 14, 2005 Posted by | daycare, parents | Leave a comment

Yes, Yes, Thanks for Noticing

Thomas and George are peering out my livingroom window. I am outside.

Thomas: Hey, there she is!!

George: She brought the stroller outta the backa yard.

Thomas (to me): Good job, man!!

George: No, she’s not a man. She’s a woman.

May 13, 2005 Posted by | the things they say! | Leave a comment

A Matter of Balance

Picture this:

A child stands, feet wide, arms stretched toward you, palms up. Recognize this? It’s the Ready to Catch the Ball pose. The adult involved gently lobs the ball into the waiting arms. Perhaps one time in ten, the arms actually react in time as the ball bounces off the child’s tummy, and the ball is successfully caught. Great celebration of this event follows, of course!

One time in, oh, fifty or so, this is what happens:

After bouncing off the child’s tummy, the ball dribbles between the child’s feet. The child bends to catch it. Misses. The ball continues to wobble on its way, now well behind the child. The child continues to reach for the ball, two little hands straining, bottom high in the air, further, further, further…

…and completely topples over, landing solidly on the top of his head.

N.B. It is advised that this manoeuvre be attempted only on a soft surface.

May 13, 2005 Posted by | Developmental stuff, quirks and quirkiness, the cuteness! | Leave a comment

Nasty or Nice?

I’m having trouble sorting through my reactions to a particular family. They are lovely folk, I think.

I think.

I cared for their middle son for a year and a half, ending two years ago. Mom and dad are both doctors, cheerful, easy-going people with a great approach to their children and lots of support for me. As clients, they were terrific. Which is why, when their son had finished his time with me to move on to kindergarten, I agreed to hold his part time space for five months, awaiting their third child’s first birthday. Foolish woman that I am, I didn’t even ask a holding fee. The baby girl had been with me only five weeks when mom decided she’d rather stay home with this, her last child, and pulled her from my care.

Foolish me, yet again: Because this was a family I trusted, and with whom I had a good rapport, I hadn’t made sure the contract was signed before the child started! In fact, it was when I asked if they could sign the contract and return it to me that I was informed, on a Thursday, that their child would not be attending as of Monday!

Had the contract been signed, I’d have been assured of another month’s pay, plus they’d have forfeited their security deposit (one month’s fees), so I’d have had the income through Christmas. Yes, they did this to me in November. As it was, they graciously didn’t request their deposit back, but I was out the second month’s fee. It took me four months to fill that space. (Far more people are looking for childcare in September, when I was keeping the space open and refusing interviews for it, than they are at Christmas when I suddenly found myself scrambling for a child.)

Phew. Lessons learned: 1. Always get the contract signed first. 2. Charge a non-refundable holding fee. Additionally, my contract now has a clause stipulating that if someone bails within four months, their deposit is forfeit even if they do give the required 60 days notice.

I figured that, as a double-doctor home, they simply couldn’t see that a drop of over $500 in my monthly income would have a huge impact on my family finances. Self-absorbed perhaps, but not malicious. So, nice people, still, if a bit oblivious.

Last week, I get an email from the mom. It’s been two years, and she’s now looking for part time care. Do I have a space? I figure I’m safe, right? This is her last child, and she’s going back to work after two years. This is minimal risk.

I agree to meet with her an afternoon later in the week. The morning of that day, I get an email: she’s been offered full-time work, would need to start sooner, and so found herself a space in a daycare centre close to work! All this in three days since we last communicated!

She did it again! I am astounded. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

May 12, 2005 Posted by | parents, the dark side | Leave a comment