It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Yes, Yes. Sometimes I DO laugh AT the children.

My sweetie sits crossed-legged on the floor, organizing a playlist, playing with various dials and buttons, happily mucking about as he prepares to listen to some music. Arthur has been bombarding him with a steady stream of questions and comments about his activities, to which he has responded with his usual gentle grace. (He’s definitely the patient one in this partnership!)

“Are you going to listen to music now? You have a lot of CD’s. I don’t gots so many at my house. Is that your music? Why are your CD’s onna wall like that? Why are you putting that there? Why are you pushing that button? There are lights on that box. Why are some lights green but those lights are red? There’s a hole there. What do you put in that hole? Will you be turning it up? Will it be loud? Do you need to wear your headphones? ”

Now, however, my Patient Half is reaching for the headphones, and I decide to rescue him from further verbiage.

“Well, Arthur, he’s putting his headphones on now, so he won’t be able to hear you. Come over here and read a book with me.”

Arthur is amenable, but he has a concern. “Is he going to keep his headphones on?”

“Well, yes he is,” I say, and then address his concern, “So he can’t hear you right now.” I have, however, misunderstood his focus.

“He needs to keep the headphones on because that is quiet. I don’t like loud.”

At which point my sweetie puts the lie to my claims of his deafness, and snorts.

“Yes,” I say warmly for his benefit, while beaming at Arthur, “a little pool of silence is our Arthur.”

Another snort. “A veritable sea of tranquility,” adds the snorting one.

“The king of quiet.”

Arthur beams while the adults convulse into guffaws. It’s nice when grown-ups get it, after all.

September 23, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, individuality, Mischief, quirks and quirkiness, the things they say! | 2 Comments

Craft Time

An architect friend recently gave me a box of scrap paper and cardstock in varying weights, from flimsy right up to foamcore. Another friend gave me a pile of neatly folded, used wrapping papers. I am, as ever, the grateful recipient of the effluvia of my friends’ cleaning efforts.

Today looked to be rainy and chill, so out came these donations, along with a pair of scissors for me, a box of markers, and a few glue-sticks, all arranged enticingly on the table.

“Hey, guys! It’s craft time! We’re going to make something today!”

With a whoop of approval, the children converge on the dining room table, now a cornucopia of colours and textures. Zach, Darcy, Arthur, and Katie sit at the table. Alice, who hasn’t yet gotten the hang of benches – they have no backs, dammit! – sits in her high chair, drawn up to the table.

The children watch with interest as I take a piece of sturdy white cardboard.

“I’m going to cut it out like this,” I say, scissors slicing decisively through. “It will be flat at the top,” I run my finger along the flat edge, “and curved on the sides, see?, with a point at the bottom. There! Anyone know what this is?”

We’ve been reading books and looking at lots of pictures about knights and castles lately, so the concept is familiar. Arthur recognizes it. “A shield!”

Yes, indeed! So what we’re going to do, see, is decorate our shield with the wrapping paper. Not authentic heraldry, true, but attainable individuality. And good fine-motor activity. Plus lots ot sticky glue. The children will tear off bits of paper, rub them with the glue-sticks, and apply them to their shields. They’ve used glue-sticks before, so only a few reminders are needed: apply the glue to the back side of the paper, hold the paper steady with your other hand while you rub, gently and in the same direction, and turn it over to stick it on. The basics. (More complicated than you realized, huh??)

I hand each child a shield. Katie and Alice, too young to do the next bit, are handed a marker apiece. Alice looks at the shield on her tray and the uncapped marker I’m holding out in shocked disbelief. Am I kidding her? She’s in a high chair! High chairs are for eating. What’s with the inedibles? She draws a deep breath, preparatory to full expression of her outrage. A quick scattering of goldfish (now trans-fat free!) on her tray amidst the craft supplies mollifies her. Chewing, she picks up a marker and happily scribbles away.

Tearing the paper bits is the new and tricky bit. I demonstrate the technique. “Just use your thumb and finger from each hand. Put them close together, and make a little rip, like this. That’s the hardest part.” I repeat this four more times, giving each one a paper with a tiny rip on one edge. “After that, it tears really easily. You try it.” Much gleeful tearing among the older four. Alice prefers her food-and-marker combo.

Bet you never realized that tearing had to be taught. Bet, in fact, you’re reeling in shocked disbelief that I’d do this deliberately! Rare indeed (or obsessively monitored) is the child hasn’t torn a few pages from a book or three by the time they’re two and three years old. No one had to teach them to do that! True. The brute force clutch, crumple and yank they have down pat. But a controlled tear, to actually create a wee shape in a piece of still-smooth paper? No.

And in fact, Arthur is the only one who can yet manage the starter tear, and even he prefers that I do the tearing.

They work away at this for much longer than I’d expected, a full 40 or more minutes. At the end, we have five wee shields, each a cheerful blaze of seasonal colours: birthday red, Christmas green, baby shower pink and blue, anniversary silver. Shields for every occasion!

As the tots sleep, the shields are lined up before me, each labelled with their owner’s name and honorific. We have:

Sir Arthur the Inquisitive
Sir Katie (equal-opportunity knighthood in this realm) the Vocal
Sir Alice the Radiant
Sir Zach the Joyous
Sir Darcy the Unyielding. (He may be quiet, but he’s adamant.)

September 23, 2005 Posted by | Alice, Arthur, crafts, Darcy, George, individuality | 9 Comments

What is this thing called Fair Play?

Two rambunctious toddlers bounce off each other as they pass in my narrow hallway. One is offended, comes to complain.

“Mary? Mary, Darcy bumped into me.”
“So he did, but you bumped into him, too.”
“Yes, but that’s fun!”

September 22, 2005 Posted by | aggression, manners, Mischief | 2 Comments

Pity the 12-year-old Boy

Emma is complaining to Adam about the boys in the lunchroom.

“They keep daring each other to go sit at the girls’ table!” she moans.

“That doesn’t sound so bad to me,” observes the momma.

“But for a twelve-year-old boy,” Adam explains to his mother, who hasn’t been in a grade seven lunch room for some while, ‘daring’ means pushing, shouting, and throwing him right at the girls’ table.” Oh, that’s right. I remember now. Seems things haven’t changed all that much in the intervening decades.

“The problem is,” I observe, “That a twelve-year-old boy expresses his interest to the girls the same way as he would with the other boys.”

Adam likes this. “Yeah! Because he hasn’t really figured out that 12-year-old girls are different. He acts as if she’s interested in things a 12-year-old boy is interested in.”

“Which is why,” Emma chimes in, “We’re not interested in 12-year-old boys.”

A sad catch-22 for the love-stricken 12-year-old boy.

September 22, 2005 Posted by | individuality, manners, my kids | 7 Comments

Beer Tales

The three-year-olds are chatting. George has a new, bright red hat, which starts this conversation:

“I don’t have my red hat anymore,” says Darcy, a little forlorn. “I lost it with my daddy in the beer store.” (Beer stores in Ontario are actually called this: The Beer Store. No point in being subtle.) Darcy did not lose daddy in the beer store. I saw daddy this morning. Just the hat.

Arthur chimes in. “Hey! I go to the beer store, too! With my daddy, too!”

George, it seems, is also familiar with the local purveyor of potables. “I go to the beer store with my daddy. We get the beer for mommy.”

“Yeah,” Artur notes. “My mommy likes beer, too.”

Mary can’t resist this one. “Gee. George’s mummy likes beer, and Arthur’s mummy, too. Does your mummy like beer, Darcy?”

“No, she only drinks Corona.”

(So all the mommies are belting back the brews. *hic* Wonder why?)

September 21, 2005 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, George, Mischief, parents, the things they say! | 16 Comments

I Just Work Here…

Harry: Let’s play school!
George: Yeah, let’s play school!
Harry: You can be the teacher.
George: Okay.
Darcy: And it can be a chocolate school!
Harry, George: Yeah, a chocolate school!
Darcy: A chocolate pizza school!
Harry: Let’s drive to the grocery store.
George: Okay. Let me get my golf club first.
Harry: Now we can go to the grocery store.
George: I have my golf club, and the chocolate.
Darcy: And I have the pizza.
Harry: Hurray! Now we can go to school!
Darcy: Chocolate Pizza School!

September 21, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

It’s All in the Eye of the Beholder

Harry trots into the kitchen where I am changing the head on the sponge mop.

“Why are you puttin’ a new top on that?”

“I bet you can figure that out. Why would I be putting a new sponge on my mop?”

“Because the old one is old?”

“Yes, and it’s dirty. It’s not getting my floors clean any more.”

“Only making them dirty.”

“Exactly! Now watch, and I’ll show you how we clamp it in.” As I knew he would be, Harry is intrigued by the mechanism. He watches me slide the sponge into place and latch and release the catch. Then he tries it a few times himself, keeping up a running commentary on his actions the while.

Darcy and George, who have been reading in the next room (n.b., everyone: these three year olds have been out of sight!), are attracted by the conversation.

“What’s goin’ on, guys?” Darcy wants to know.

“I’m just changing the mop head. Nothing exciting,” I say, adult that I am. Harry stares at me for a moment in disbelief.

“It’s exciting for ME!” Harry declaims. He’s right, of course. I stand corrected.

September 20, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Boredom, a mini-rant

A new child will be joining us each Monday, a three year old boy by name of Hunter. Today I had arranged to meet with Hunter and his mommy at a local park. This is a good strategy on lots of levels. The park is a neutral environment, so the children are less likely to get territorial about toys and space; I get to suss out the play style of the new child; I get a window into how the child and parent interact; and the parent and I have more opportunity to talk while the children cavort in the dirt than we would in my living room with the children directly underfoot. It’s a good strategy all round.

Various children will interact in different ways, depending on their ages and characters. Three-year-olds generally start off ignoring each other, and will gradually, almost inevitably begin to play together. I had to prevent Hunter’s very Earnest Mommy (sigh) from forcing the Very Proper Social Introduction, but once convinced that there was a method to my madness, all proceeded according to expectation. Mine, anyway!

By the end of two and a half hours, Darcy and Hunter were charging around in a thrilling game of chase-me, all the while calling out directions and suggestions to each other, true hallmarks of the ongoing morphing that makes a truly great imaginery game.

Mommy took the opportunity of their preoccupation to tell me All About Hunter. Hunter is pure delight, though not without his challenges. Hunter shouts a lot. Hunter does not eat vegetables. Hunter does not lie down for naps. (What, he stands?) Hunter still has a bottle. Sometimes Hunter will hit Mommy or shout at her. Hunter screams at strangers in the street. None of these bothered me much at all. I can’t imagine I’ll have any trouble with these behaviours. Not more than once, anyway.

It was the last one she threw at me that told me I had a true project coming my way. Hunter, you see, doesn’t tolerate boredom well. All those nasty behaviours? Merely the result of boredom. As long as he is kept occupied, he is no trouble at all. None at all. It is clear that Mommy expects Hunter’s days with Mary will be a steady stream of activities and stimulation, just like they’ve been all his life so far. There are very clearly no expectations that Hunter could in any way be responsible for his own entertainment. Nope. His role is passive recipient, the adult’s is constant entertainer. I could feel the headache coming on…

Hunter’s days with Mary will be spent learning to chill out and amuse himself. My highest priority for this boy: helping him learn that he is his own best resource for entertainment. If not, as a teen Hunter will almost certainly join all those other worthy young people hanging out in the parking lot of your local coffee shop at midnight, indulging in petty vandalism for thrills because he’s bored, and lord knows, if a child is bored, he couldn’t possibly be expected to come up with something constructive to do with his time, all by his own self…


September 19, 2005 Posted by | controversy, manners, parenting | 19 Comments

P.S. Terry Fox

For more information on this brave young man, check out this post on Simply Put.

September 19, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Courage in Small Packages

Today my sweetie and I went for our usual weekend walk downtown. On summer Sundays, one of the two roads that run parallel to the canal is closed to vehicles, and so this is our chosen route. Cyclists, runner, and bladers typically keep to the road; walkers and teeny tot cyclists stay on the paved footpath beside the canal.

People of all shapes, sizes, and ages take advantage of this scenic walk, so we’re used to it being busy, but today it was especially so. We figured it’s because, like us, people are aware that summer is drawing to a close and winter looms. Best get out there and savour.

Pedestrians, roller bladers, and cyclists, many towing babies and toddlers in trailers or older children on those detachable trail-a-bikes… people of all ages and sizes take over this road. We’ve seen people in wheelchairs, and people on those skis with wheels and ski poles. Today we saw something new: a rickshaw, carrying a man and a couple of children. From our position on the footpath, we only got a partial glance at the rickshaw as it passed on the road, but we couldn’t help but notice that those who approached it on the road were applauding.

Why, we wondered? Cheering on the rickshaw runner, pulling two or three bodies up that long, slow hill? A friendly gesture, but these guys go miles with those things, and this wide smooth road really wasn’t all that challenging.

Then we approached a refreshment station, and the picture became clearer. Refreshment stations mean a formal run is occuring. There are half a dozen runs for one charity or another that happen over the summer. Usually it’s obvious when one is occuring: all runners wear matching race t-shirts, or have numbers pinned to their backs, which we hadn’t seen thus far. Only after seeing the refreshment station did we notice that a fair number – though far from all – of the runners were wearing race t-shirts. It was the annual Terry Fox run.

For those of you unfamiliar with this Canadian hero, Terry Fox was a young man who suffered through bone cancer. Eventually, one leg was amputated. After he had recovered and learned to walk with his artificial leg, Terry decided to go on a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research. For 143 days, this incredible young man ran a marathon a day. A marathon a day. On one leg. I can still picture his hop-and-skip gait, his mop of curls tossing, his smile seemingly unquenchable, as he lurched on and on and on. And on.

Until one day, he stumbled and fell. Could not get up. Was carried away on a stretcher. His cancer had returned, and this time he did not win his fight. He was not quite twenty-three.

This was 25 years ago. Every year since then, Terry Fox runs are held across the country, the proceeds going, as did the original run, to cancer research.

So why were people clapping and cheering for that rickshaw? When it turned and passed us a second time, we realized. The passengers in the vehicle were four: a young man, and three children, none of the children more than 8 years old. Two of them wore surgical masks. One was bald.

They have cancer. And they were participating in the race the only way they could. And all along the way, people, running for their cause, cheered, clapped, and whistled encouragement to them.

I cried. It was a good day.

September 18, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments