It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The Old Red and White

Tomorrow is Canada Day, the 138th anniversary of Confederation, and (praise be!) a national day off. Today we are making flags in honour of the event.

For those of you who haven’t seen this daycare-nursery school-and kindergarten staple craft, it’s blessedly simple:

Take a rectangular sheet of white paper and paint a strip of red along the short ends. Then cover the child’s hand in red paint, either by using a paint-saturated sponge made of a few layers of paper towels, or, my preferred method, simply painting the little palm.

The hand is pressed onto the white space between the two red stripes, and, Voilà! You have a pretty decent impersonation of the Canadian flag, with your child’s handprint as the maple leaf. Cute, no?

Anyway, we produced quite a few of these today, one for each of the six children here, and a few extra to decorate my front porch.

Zach was particularly enthusiastic about this craft, and gleefully made half dozen on his own. I assisted in the stripes on either side, and then he would slam his hand with great emphasis onto the middle of the flag. Such fun!

After we were done, I took the flags out to pin them to my porch until the parents come. Foolish me, I left the paint on the table while I did this. In my own defense, there were several older children in the house, three of whom are teens. I should know better. Teens, when involved in their own activities, are every bit as oblivious to their surroundings as toddlers.

Thus, when I return, a laughing Zach greets me at the door, his dancing green eyes nicely set off by the daubs of red paint decorating his cheeks, chin, nose, and upper lip. “Mahwee! I paintin’!” He holds his hands up to me, intending to show me the paint brush he’s waving, but also calling my attention to the great ruby swathes sweeping down both arms.

He’s a festival of red and white. Oh, well. At least he’s patriotic.

June 30, 2005 Posted by | commemoration, crafts, holidays, Mischief, Zach | 10 Comments

Inverse Definitions 2

George has let Arthur play with the truck he brought from home. I comment George on his “good sharing”. Wanting to share in the praise, Arthur pipes up.

“I’m good at sharing!”

I like to give praise where earned, but, to be frank, Arthur has a ways to go on the sharing front, and I never give out false praise. I try to be kind in my response. “Well, you’re learning to share. You’re getting better every day.”

Arthur knows he’s being short-changed, and will have nothing of it. “No, I’m good at sharing!” he insists. “See? I’m sharing George’s truck!!”

June 30, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, Developmental stuff, manners, the things they say! | Leave a comment

The “Why’s” have it

Arthur:  Why do I have paint on my hands?
Mary:   I gave you paint, and you’re a messy painter.
Arthur:  Why did you give us paint?
Mary:   So you could have fun. Did you like the painting?
Arthur:  Yes.
Mary:   Well, then. Mission accomplished!
Arthur:  Yeah!!

June 30, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, crafts, random and odd | Leave a comment

There Are Limits

George approaches me, his little face tipped up, blue eyes wide under his dirty blond flip of hair. (My kids, incidentally, call that upswept bangs thing a ‘whoop’.)

“Mary, I got boogers.” Not one of my favourite things to hear, but I am, as I’ve said before, A Professional.

“All right, my dear. Here’s a kleenex. Blow.”

George performs an exceedingly ineffectual little puff, which I suspect came out his mouth, anyway. He confirms its inefficacy when he says,
“They’re still in there.”

“Well, George, you blew and they didn’t come out. I think that’s all we can do about it.”

“No-oo!” he is insistent, perhaps even a little indignant. “You gots to get it.”

I give him a look, let a beat go by so he’ll understand that what I’m about to say is a complete and absolute non-negotiable.

“George? George, I don’t pick noses.”

June 30, 2005 Posted by | eeewww, George, the dark side | 2 Comments

Inverse Definitions 1

Thomas and Arthur have a tussle over a toy, which suddenly escalates into violence. I had turned quickly enough to see Arthur shove Thomas, just before Thomas roared his disapproval and turned to me for justice. “Arthur hit me!”

“Yes, I saw him push you. Well, talk to Arthur about it. Tell him what you think.”

Thomas approaches Arthur, puffed up with righteous indignation. “Arthur, I don’t like it when you hit me. You don’t hit. Hitting is bad. You never hit! Even when I hit you!”

June 29, 2005 Posted by | aggression, Arthur, socializing, Thomas | 3 Comments

You Want to hear about Me?

I’ve been tagged to write about five things I miss about childhood… (This is the second tag in a month: I’m warning all potential taggers that this would likely be my limit in any given month, assuming any more come my way.) What do I miss about my childhood? I rarely miss anything. These are more a list of things I remember with pleasure from my childhood:

1. The smell of something being scorched in the kitchen. Always reminds me of my mother, whose motto for food preparation was “If it takes 40 minutes at 200, it’ll take 20 minutes at 400!” I was fourteen before I realized that I actually quite liked tapioca pudding: I’d just never tasted it un-scorched before. My mother always had plenty of time for us kids; for peripherals like food prep and housework, she had very little patience.

2. Snuggling in bed with my grandparents for that 6 a.m. cup of tea, specially on cold winter mornings in the still dark. I was raised in an extended family. After my mother was widowed (at age 25), with three children (of whom, at four years old, I was the eldest), my grandparents built a duplex. We lived in one side, my gran, grandad, and aunt lived in the other side. While the adults always treated the homes as separate dwellings, we children had free reign of both homes. I’d hear my grandmother get up in the morning, and I’d be out of my bed and over to their side, clambering into bed with my grandad. When gran returned with the teatray, there’d be a cup of very milky tea for me.

3. Trees, fields, sand, river. We lived on the last street of a village. Behind us was a wood, which we called “The Forest”, then a field (tobacco and potatoes), then a river with a high sandy “cliff”. Lots of time spent roaming barefoot, climbing trees, making forts, jumping down the bank to the river -, which we did not go in, as everyone knew there were eels in there – (I think my mother originated this rumor, the better to keep us out of it), spying on the tobacco pickers from the safety of the woods – with whom we were not to speak, as they were “rough”. They were pretty scarey.

4. Chasing the garbage truck. Yup, us, the flies, and the village dogs… A hoard of kids racing barefoot down the pea-gravel and asphalt street after the garbage truck, which was just a giant pick-up with wooden slat sides. Can’t remember the appeal, but remember finding it very exciting. It always got away on us.

5. Getting lost in imaginery games. The hoard of us would play long, involved, constantly evolving games for hours and hours in the summers. I would, in my mind, “become” my role, lose all sense of time and immediate place. Fantastic. I remember, too, when I lost this ability; I’d have been about eleven, and all the kids were playing cowboys and Indians, and suddenly, I just couldn’t “be” that Indian princess. I was just a kid with a bent-stick bow, and I was bored. I regretted it immediately, but it was irretrievable.

Now I have to do the chain letter thing. Remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump every one up one place; add your blog’s name in the #5 spot; link to each of the other blogs for the desired cross-pollination effect.

1. Redhead Mommy
2. Baby Lauren
3. Babbling Bente
4. Sharkey Malarkey
5. It’s Not all Mary Poppins

Next: select new friends to add to the pollen count. (No one is obliged to participate!!) I select:

Bill
Q
snaars

June 29, 2005 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 1 Comment

She’s Got to be here Somewhere

Hide and seek is a great game to play with two and three year olds. Great, that is, if you’re not too hung up on rules, and make sure your bladder is empty before the game begins.

Darcy, Thomas, and George were the seekers. They would lurk in the kitchen, diligently counting to ten by various and sundry routes (“one, two, free, sebben, free, nine”) while Emma (my eleven year old) hid. She would then call out to tell she was hidden, at which point the boys would thunder around to find her. Yes, she had called to them, but with tots this age, that doesn’t constitute either help or cheating, since it has less than no effect on their strategy, which generally amounts to looking wherever she hid last time.

For a while the boys hid while Emma counted. This is where the “not being too hung up on rules” became important: I would tuck each of them into a hiding spot – where they would commence to count loudly to ten, and then bounce out into the room!! “Founded me!” They loved it.

After a few rounds, they wanted to be the seekers again. In the kitchen, the three little boys line up. Thomas puts his two hands over his eyes and counts; George put his hands over his mouth. All we needed was for Darcy to cover his ears as he counted, and we’d have the three little no-evil monkeys…

Emma decided to hide in the front hall, between the internal wooden door, and the outside screen door. Naturally, this meant the inner door couldn’t quite shut. When the other three came to hunt her out, speedy Thomas was in the front (surprise!). Strangely, she was not crouched beside the couch where she’d been last time. Hmm… He darted out into the hall. Being an observant little guy, he immediately noticed the front door was ajar. Aha! He dashed over to it, shouting.

“Hey! The door’s not shut! We need’a shut the door!” he declares, and gives it a mighty shove. Of course, with Emma tucked behind it, it doesn’t shut. “Mary!” he bellows, looking for assistance. “The door is stuck!”

Having given me my task, he races off to continue his. Wherever could she be?

June 28, 2005 Posted by | Darcy, Developmental stuff, George, my kids, the cuteness!, Thomas | 5 Comments

Mistaken Identity

My eldest daughter, Haley, was in town visiting, and popped over this afternoon.

Young Zach toddles over and tugs on her pants. “Mary! Mary!”
She looks down and greets him, at which he stops dead and stares at the not-Mary for a minute. But he does want adult assistance, so…
“Uh… mama!”

She’s female, she’s a grownup – what else would he call her?

June 28, 2005 Posted by | the things they say!, Zach | 4 Comments

The Things You Hear Yourself Saying…

part one of a million, I’m sure:

We don’t drive cars on the piano. Thanks.

He doesn’t like it when you stick things in his ear.

If you need to touch that, go to the bathroom.

June 27, 2005 Posted by | random and odd | 13 Comments

Forging a Family

Note: this post speaks to the Canadian maternity leave, which is, in most cases, a full year. Additionally, many families can choose to split the leave between both parents. I am not talking about those unfortunate folk who are allowed a paltry and inhumane six or so weeks off. If that was/is your unfortunate situation, you have my sincere sympathy, and you may skip this post!

(Grammar note: Lacking a neutral person in this language, I am choosing to use the grammatically incorrect “they/their” instead of the cumbersome “he/she – his/her”, or the dated pseudo-generic “he/his”. Grammatically suspect though it may be, it seems the best available option.)


A child has been in daycare with me for a year or two, when the family tells me they are expecting baby number two in a few months. At one time, I would immediately assume I would thus have a space to fill, but I know better now. Most of my clients will keep child number one in daycare throughout their entire year of maternity leave. This always makes me sad.

There are good reasons to keep your child in care: parents want to keep the space open for their child. Good childcare (the kind I provide!) is hard to come by. The family and I have a long-term relationship we don’t want to curtail. If the child is old enough – generally 18 months and over – and social, they will miss their friends. And a break for the at-home parent is also a good thing. These are all good reasons to continue with childcare. So, yes, send the child: a couple of days a week. It makes sense.

But all day, every day? When there’s a parent home? It seems such a wasted opportunity! This is a time to forge that family bond, to build the foundation of the team that will carry your children till their adolescent independence. To teach your older child to share you, to give them opportunity to learn to be compassionate and nurturing, to experience the joy of seeing your children become friends.

So often I hear parents regretting the fact that their child – their young child, five, six, or seven years old – would far rather spend time with his/her friends than his family. Can this truly come as a surprise, when the child has never known it any other way? Parents regret that their offspring don’t get along better, when siblings have never spent whole days over weeks and months together, creating and developing their relationship.

Very often, after the initial honeymoon phase, the “old baby” sees the new baby as an interloper. The prince or princess has competition, may even feel like they’ve been completely deposed, and it’s tough! It takes time for the family to weather the transition and become a greater whole. It takes time, time together, living it out. And many of us have a whole year. It is such a privilege, and it should be treasured!

Why do they send them? The reason I hear most often is not the concern about keeping the space, or maintaining the child’s friendships, which have some merit to me, but that “it’s just so hard with two”.

They say this to me. They say this to me as I stand in the writhing midst of a half-dozen little bodies. It never ceases to astonish me.

It is hard with two. Probably double the work of one. But you live, you learn, you adjust, and a Family is created. It’s hard, it’s messy, it’s noisy, it’s chaotic, it’s fun, it’s rewarding, it’s stimulating: it’s a family. I wish more would try it!

June 25, 2005 Posted by | controversy, parenting, parents | 13 Comments

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