It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Happy Cynicism







October 23, 2005 Posted by | Mischief, random and odd | 14 Comments

How? Why?

October 22, 2005 Posted by | Mischief, parenting, random and odd | 11 Comments

He’s Prescient, what can we say?

Just listening to Shelagh Rogers this morning (ah, the CBC – my window into the world of thinking adults while immersed in my world of toddlers, bodily fluids, squabbles, and glee), interviewing some members of a musical group from Newfoundland, and I was reminded of a story. Happened to a friend of mine last summer.

He had accompanied his girlfriend to her Cape Breton home. Cape Breton, where everyone is related to everyone else, and they all play or sing, or at the very least, drink hearty while listening to others play and sing.

Pete was at just such a party. As in most Cape Breton parties, someone pulled out a fiddle and someone else pulled out a flute, and as the beer went round, and round again, the music, singing, and dancing started. Peter is nothing like a shrinking violet. He’s having a great time, it’s 3:30 a.m., and these guys, hey, they’re just great.

When one of them stops for breath, Pete’s right there. “Hey, you guys are great!” he tells them. “You could be big!” His praise is met with a wry grin. He redoubles his encouragement. “No, no, I really mean it. Big! Really big!”

Someone taps his arm. “Ah, Pete?”


“Pete, that’s Great Big Sea.”

October 21, 2005 Posted by | random and odd | 7 Comments

It’s Tough to be Two

Zach has a toy. Arthur wants it. Arthur approaches Zach to negotiate – a vast improvement over the snatch-and-grab tactic of two days ago! (Keeping my fingers crossed, I am.) Zach doesn’t want to share it yet, reasonably enough, since he’s only just started playing with it. He protests non-verbally, whimpering and moving the toy to his other hand, but Arthur persists. Very verbal Arthur projects a wall of words at Zach, over-riding Zach’s mute resistance. Arthur asks and asks again, explains and cajoles. Words, words, words, flow at, over, and around little Zach. His frustration rises. He moves further from Arthur , holds the toy over his head and away, whines, then shrieks. I intervene, and begin the process of helping them sort through this. Arthur is told to “listen to” Zach, that he’s allowed to say “not yet”; Zach is told to “use his words”.

Poor wee Zach. I imagine that I’m learning a foreign language. I’m at the point where I have the rudiments, though my grammar is shakey. I can get by in functional, straight-forward situations. But I have no real fluency yet. I certainly can’t speak convincingly, much less debate, especially when stressed and pressed by a persistent native speaker.

Such is the position of the two-year-old. The language is new, and it’s tricky. Words are slippery. You can’t find the ones you need, or you don’t know how to fit them to this situation, or you don’t have them at all – it’s enough to make you wanna bite someone!! To make matters worse, along comes some adult telling you sweetly to “Use your words!”


It’s frustrating. Of course, “Use your words” is the only useful response. A language is learned, whether at 2 or 62, only by constant practice. So the adult kneels down, puts an arm round the child, and walks them through it, in simple words and short sentences, feeding them vocabulary, showing them which words fit, and how they’re used.

But still, it’s tough to be two.

October 21, 2005 Posted by | behavioural stuff, Developmental stuff, manners, parenting, socializing, Zach | 5 Comments


Elegant Cat wanders by. Zach greets him with enthusiasm.

“Hello, Pissycat!”

You know, I don’t think he’s so far off…

October 20, 2005 Posted by | random and odd, the things they say! | 14 Comments


“The crayons go in this box. When you’re done with a crayon, you put it in this box. Understand?”

“Jeremy’s name starts with a J. And Josie!”

“You don’t listen to a thing I say, do you?”


October 20, 2005 Posted by | random and odd, the things they say! | 11 Comments

Excremental Vision

The above title makes reference to a series of lectures I attended in university, “Swift’s Excremental Vision” focussing on Gulliver’s Travels in particular. In truth, when the long-suffering professor could be heard over the adolescent sniggering of the 19 and 20 year olds in front of her, she had some interesting things to say on the subject. My tykes may be years – decades, even – before they reach such exulted heights of learning, but they are preparing for it with gusto!

We’ve been singing a lot lately, but in addition to the nice little children’s ditties I teach them, they’ve been doing a lot of improvisation. Bob the Builder’s theme song is a particular favourite.

So far this week, we’ve heard,

“Bo-ob the builder! Can we fix it? No. We. Can’t!” (Okay, so that’s not excremental humour, but I like it, even though I know I’ve blogged on it before.)

Then there’s, “Bob the builder! Can we pee-pee? Yes, we can!” I like it: potty-positive singing.

And of course, “Bob the builder! Can we poo-poo? Yes, we can!” Only fair to give both functions equal time.

Or this variation, “Bob the builder! Can we fix it? No, we poo!” I don’t quite get it, but Darcy practically pees himself over this one. Which is in keeping with the theme, after all.

Darcy’s ultimate, not-to-be-superceded contribution to this theme was the tuneless little ditty he produced while leaning over the arm of the loveseat. Er – sorry Darcy – the side of the boat. Looking down into the “water” that was my living room floor, he carolled away, “There’s water down there! There’s pee and poop and barf and snot down there.” Some days, he wouldn’t be too far off. Darcy has a finely honed excremental vision.

Sounds much classier than “potty humour”, doesn’t it?

October 20, 2005 Posted by | eeewww, potty tales | 11 Comments

Time for an Object Lesson, part 2

His face freezes, his eyes widen in alarm. “This is MY sweater that my granny made for me!”

I radiate sincerity. Well, not sincere sincerity, but a good enough approximation to fool a three-year-old. Parenting, done well, requires some acting ability. “Yes, but I like it.” I undo the next button. Arthur is starting to panic. His voice rises and quivers, tears spring to his eyes.

“You can’t have my sweater!”

I stop. Put my hands on his shoulders, and look him dead in the eye. “How do you feel right now, Arthur?”

He looks at me, mute with unhappiness.

“It looks like you’re feeling sad. Maybe you’re worried, too, or a little angry?”

He nods his head. “I am sad because you are taking my sweater.”

“You don’t want me to take your sweater, do you?”


“Even though I really like it?”


“Arthur. George didn’t want you to take his horse. He was playing with it. When you tried to take the horse, George felt sad, just like you feel sad now.”

I put my arm around him, draw him onto my knee. “I’m not going to take your sweater. I really like it, but I won’t take it, because it’s yours. You can’t take toys from the other children, even though you really like their toy. Understand?”

“I understand.”

I think – I’m not making any rash bets on it, mind you – but I think he really does this time. At least a little bit.

October 19, 2005 Posted by | Developmental stuff, manners, parenting, socializing | 12 Comments

Time for an Object Lesson, Part 1

George and Darcy are playing with the hobby-horses in the kitchen. Arthur, attracted to the game, blunders in and hauls at the horse in George’s hands. George tightens his grip and a tussle ensues, both boys bellowing their outrage. Only one party’s outrage is at all justified, of course, but that’s never stopped a toddler.

I intervene, speaking at first, then forcibly pulling Arthur’s hands off the toy when I am ignored. “Arthur. You cannot just walk in and take someone’s toy away.”

“I like it.” Sincerity blazes from Arthur’s eyes.

We’ve been down this road too many times, Arthur and I. I am completely out of patience with this particular self-justification. I’m not sure whether the boy is just dense, and genuinely doesn’t “get it”, or whether his inability to abide by this simple standard is wilfull. At this point, it doesn’t really matter. It is clear that my calm and rational explanations and redirections have been ineffective. It is time for a little hardball.

“That’s a nice sweater you’re wearing, Arthur.” It is a nice sweater – a cardigan, really. Hand made, I’d guess, in a complicated nordic pattern, its wide collar cradles his chin in bright colours, the whole thing warm, soft and appealing. “Did someone make it for you?”

“My granny made it.”

“It’s very nice. I like it. I bet it’s warm, too.”

“Yes, it is warm.”

“It’s a lovely sweater,” I say, as I start to unbutton it. “I really, really like it.”

October 18, 2005 Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting, socializing | 9 Comments

It’s all in the Timing

Not a lot that goes on around here has a whole lot of point to it…

“We have to go to sleep,” Darcy explains to the two other boys, both of whom are lying down on the living room floor, “or Santa won’t come.”

Santa? What’s provoked this game, in October already? Probably ads during kids TV. You can really tell who watches TVO (which has no ads) vs who watches commercial Saturday morning television, more accurately known as ToysRUs ads with program breaks.

Harry assures Darcy that he is, indeed, sleeping.

“You can’t be if you’re talking!” Gee, Darcy sounds suspiciously like me at naptime.

They all lay still, or in the nearest toddler approximation of still, for 3.2 seconds, until Darcy, clearly the producer and director of this game, announces, “Okay! Mornin’ time!”

Everyone bounces up and jostles around semi-purposefully, awaiting the next instruction of pretend. George, however, beats Darcy to the punch, and takes the game an unexpected direction. Surveying the floor, liberally littered with toys, he announces dolefully,

“Guys, I’m afraid there are no presents.”

Darcy is not having his game high-jacked like that. “Yes, there are. But not for you because you didn’t sleep.”

Arthur is ever helpful. “You’d better cry for Santa, George, and make him come back.”

Darcy isn’t having that, either. “Crying won’t help. Santa doesn’t like cry-babies.”

“Let’s go back to sleep and see if he comes again!” George suggests.

This new idea fits Darcy’s script. Down they all go once again. Everyone is very, very quiet for the requisite 3.2 seconds to bring us into a new day.

“Mornin’ time!” Darcy calls.

George is taking no chances this time. “Did he come?” he checks with Darcy. As Darcy looks around, Zach enters the room.

“Oh, Santa Claus!! You came!” Arthur crows, delighted.

“That’s not Santa Claus, that’s Zach.”

“Well, where is Santa Claus?” Arthur wants to know, reasonably enough.

“He’s gone back to the North Pole.”

Ever the optimist, Arthur is undismayed. “To get more presents for us!!” he declares, even though thus far it’s unclear whether anyone has received any at all.

“Let’s go to sleep again, and get more presents!” George suggests.

“Yeah!” With great enthusiasm, all four boys lay down once more. Another 3.2 second night, another “Mornin’ time!”, another day spent fruitlessly looking for toys, another sleep. It’s beginning to look like the point of the game for Darcy is getting to yell “Mornin’ time!”, and after a while, it seems George comes to this conclusion as well.

“Mornin’ time!” Darcy announces. By now at least a week has passed in this endeavour.

“You know what?” George asks.


“Santa can’t come because we haven’t had Hallowe’en yet. Let’s be ghosts instead.”

And awaaay they go…

October 18, 2005 Posted by | Christmas, holidays, the things they say! | 9 Comments