My sweetie, who has been suffering a sore throat for a couple of days, gets out of bed, heads to the bathroom, returns. I check the clock – it’s a full half hour after his usual wake time. He returns. I am still snuggled deep under the comforter, eyes closed, savouring the last three minutes of languor. I call to him from my cocoon.
“You staying home today?”
My eyes fly open when Lou Rawls answers. “Oh, yeah, I think so.”
I roll over to face him. “Come over here. I want to make out with a big black man.”
I close my eyes.
Advent Calendars! This one was a lot more work for me than the tots, but their parents will be impressed. They’d better be.
Take bristol board, construction paper, ribbon, stickers, tape, scissors, and 144 teeny prizes.
It wasn’t cutting the calendars, nor even cutting out all one hundred forty-four little pockets, because you can cut a bunch at a time. Folding them was a bit more fiddly, because that has to be done one at a time, five foldes per pocket. My fingers are still sore from all that pressing. Punching holes in the wee doors that will cover the pockets was all right, because again, you can do a bunch per punch.
It was putting them on the calendars. I measure, so they’d be placed evenly. Built a grid for each calendar. Then you stick them to the calendars. All one hundred forty-four of them.
Sticking each and every one of them requires four pieces of tape, two to make the pockets, two to affix to the board. For each of every one hundred and forty-four pickets. 4 x 144 = 576 pieces of tape. Five hundred seventy-six. That’s a LOT of tape. That happened the night before.
And then they all got numbered.
The next morning, the kids got involved, decorating their calendar with stickers.
(And before anyone asks, the cage on the table is not for a child, but for the budgie, Java, who has been suffering from the cold in his usual spot nestled against two exterior walls. He’s on the table temporarily.)
(Because since Arthur can see it, Stephen can, too, right? That’s how it works when you’re three – very Piagetian.)
And even yet, we’re not done. That evening, Emma and I put 144 teeny prizes into 144 teeny pockets, and then tied each of the pockets’ little doors shut with – you guessed it! – 144 pieces of ribbon. Two knots each. My fingers are now knotted, too.
I have SO earned me some decent Christmas presents, let me tell you…
“I hope you like Mozart,” says dad. Zach stomps along the hall carpet, holding a block in each hand. Not just any blocks, mind you; these are Baby Einstein blocks.
A woman I met in the park this summer told me how she had been pigeonholed by an Earnest Mommy at a playgroup. “Do you have Baby Einstein?” EM queried. Never having heard of this line of toys, videos, books, CDs, and goodness knows what else, non-Earnest mommy thought she was joking. Gesturing toward her then three-month-old daughter, she said, “Oh, yes, a genius all right – an Isaac Newton in the works. Got that gravity thing down pat!”
Dead silence. The Earnest, as we’ve noted before, have no sense of humour.
Einstein blocks: One has the words of colours on five of its six sides. The other has pictures in the same colours on five of its six sides. Match the correct picture with the word, and a soft and joyous female voice identifies the picture and colour.
On the sixth side of each block – the only sides in which young Zach has any interest at all – show three maniacally grinning cartoon animals. In tuxes. Grouped around a perspective-challenged piano. One waves a violin in a rather worrisome manner.
When these two sides are put together, the blocks produce eight bars of Mozart. Disco Mozart. Mozart ramped up 30 beats per minute. Electronic, beeping Mozart. Mozart as produced by electronically enhanced manic chipmunks on speed.
Yes, I do like Mozart. Love him, in fact.
Which is why those blocks have been put away.
“Zach and I will be a little late, if that’s not too inconvenient,” Zach’s daddy informed me from his cell phone last Friday. “We’ve just dropped his mother off at work, and now we have an errand to run. Will you be home in another half-hour or so?”
Half an hour later, Zach and Daddy showed up – with the fruit of their “errand”:
Pretty cool, huh?? Six feet long, it’ll carry all the tots.
Don’t I have nice clients?? This shot was taken before I’d waxed it.
Now that I’ve given it a couple of coats, I’ll have it out this week.
Watch for the pictures!
p.s. But not today – at least a cm of ice on everything, and more ice rain falling! Ick.
|The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick|
You do things your own way – and it’s made for colorful times.
Your life hasn’t turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!
Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite
Just to show you that I do indeed take them outdoors! Even when it’s nine below zero – which, on a gloriously sunny day like today, actually felt quite nice, thanks!
And when I do take them outside, I know how to show them a good time, let me tell you! As Henry Fonda said in “On Golden Pond”, “What’s the point of having a midget around the place if you can’t put it to work?” (After which utterance his wife – Katherine Hepburn – walloped him, as I recall…)
What is it about small tots and shovelling? They absolutely can’t get enough of it! When does the thrill of it leave? Right about the time that they become anything near useful at it, that’s when…
The Long Haul is Over
Aren’t these nice? Fun to have, fun to display, but the truth of the matter is, I’m only halfway through. Happily, I seem to be hooked, and even if this manuscript turns out to be the embarrassment I shove in a bottom drawer and never draw out again – much like my diaries from high school – it will have been instrumental in turning me from some one who was going to write a book “some day” into someone who has actually written one, no matter what its eventual fate.
I would like to write a really, truly, published book (or two, or more) one day. So this month has been the turning point, and the beginning…
The Long Haul has Just Begun
“You didn’t get out with the kids today? It’s a beautiful day!” Disapproval drips from every syllable.
Well, yes it is, Mr. Outdoorsman, Mr. I-Bike-for-Fun-in-the-Gatineaus, Mr. Winter Camping Guy. It’s nice if you’re on your own, if you can stride out at a pace sufficient to generate any heat. But you see, I don’t get to stride. I have to toddle. And stop every ten toddled paces, take off my mittens, and wipe a nose or three. I will freeze my not-as-pert-as-it-once-was butt off if I go out there. In another month, ten below will be a nice mild day, but today, it’s COLD!! I have not yet acclimatized to the dropping temps.
I don’t say that, I just agree and try to deflect. “It was a lovely day, wasn’t it? All that sun! Here’s the craft your son made – isn’t it great?”
“And you didn’t get out with them? Was someone sick?”
“A couple of sniffly noses, nothing serious. See how he’s mixed these colours to make a third? He did that on purpose, you know.”
“I think it’s important that the children get out every day.”
“Yes, I know.” (Sigh. He’s not about to be deflected, is he? It doesn’t work all that well on his son, either…)
“It just doesn’t seem like there was a reason they didn’t get out.”
“I wasn’t feeling well today: headachy, maybe a lowgrade fever. I didn’t have the energy.”
He subsides, somewhat mollified. I could have said that right up front, now, couldn’t I? Why the coyness? Well, mostly because it was a lie.
I could’ve said it’s because I didn’t feel like it – I’m entitled to a day like that once in a while, which would have been partly true. I could’ve said it’s because it felt too cold to me. I could’ve said that others of the parents prefer I keep their child in when the temperature drops (which is true – I get parental flak coming and going over this one.) I could’ve told him that it’s my business, and remind him that I take good care of his child.
But how satisfying it would have been to have given him The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth. I imagine the scenario with relish.
“Well, you see. My period came early this month…”
He flinches. I knew he would. Mr. Outdoorsman is such a guy. He can’t bear the topic, even though he’s been married for years and years to a real, live, menstruating woman.
“And the first day for me is really heavy…”
He winces, opens his mouth, but I would continue, inexorable.
“So I need SuperPlus tampons…”
I said the T-word! He blanches at the very thought.
“but since I wasn’t expecting it so soon, so all I have in the house are regulars…”
A strangled noise escapes his throat.
“So I can’t get more than twenty or thirty minutes from a bathroom, you see.”
He grabs his child, turns to flee, and I call gleefully after his departing figure:
“Which is why we didn’t get out today.”
He is gone. Bet he won’t be asking any more pushy questions. I didn’t, but one day, one day I just might. Even if it’s a lie.
Here we see a basket of rhythm instruments, a staple in any good daycare home. In it we have sandpaper blocks, rhythm sticks (which in my teacher’s college were called lummi sticks, lord knows why), shakers and rattles of various kinds, bells, castanets. There should be a tambourine, but it’s off to grade seven with Emma, being part of a music project.
Now, to you and me, this is a basket of musical instruments. Today, for the boys, it’s a bowl of ingredients. Ingredients for making Banana Bread. Which, as it so happens, we will probably have for snack this afternoon, given the state of the remainder of the bananas we bought last grocery day…Are the boys psychic?
Nothing so exotic. This is their inspiration. Looks just like a banana, doesn’t it? It’s not, though: it’s a shaker. If the makers of rhythm instruments are going to blur the lines like that, it’s their lookout when shakers are used for baking.
Other ingredients included tomatoes. This is another shaker, fondly known around here as the “Shaky Tomato”.
They added sugar, milk, and flour, these ingredients being invisible. And then finally, the ultimate ingredient, without which no day would be complete in Mary’s home. Any idea what these babies are???
Dried Poop, to be specific
Wonder if it’s that upscale “sundried” stuff?
Care for some Banana Bread, anyone?
Alice has had her hug and kiss goodbye from mummy and now sits on my knee as I kneel in the entry hall. Her mother and I exchange a few more bits of information. Alice stands, moves to go into the next room, then hesitates, changes direction, and moves to her mother, begins to hold up her arms.
“Time for you to start your day, love!” says mummy in a cheerful voice. “I’ll see you tonight!” Her smile is warm as she waves goodbye and leaves. Baby Alice turns to the next room and finds a toy. Everyone plays.
I LOVE this mother! Love her, love her, love her. You know why? Because what she did up there? That, my friends was perfect tantrum-avoiding parenting.
Did you catch what happened? It was so small, so innocuous, that you might have missed it. In fact, I’ll bet many parents would assume that the reason little Alice has so few tantrums is merely that she is the dreamed-of “easy child”. I don’t think so. Alice is a sunny child, but she’s just as capable as any toddler of having a full-throttle tantrum. Zach, another sunny one, has been having some doozies lately. So what happened?
We were in a transition. Transitions need to be handled with skill, or they become an outrage of tantrum in very short order.
Your child approaches you with their hands up. What do you do?
Alice’s mum did NOT pick her up.
Step #1: Do not pick the child up after you’ve handed them over to the caregiver. No second hugs, no extra smooches.
Ninety percent of my parents – of any parents – would, without thinking, scoop the child up. But what is your goal here? Your goal is to get out that door without tears or fussing. Your goal is to leave with your child happily waving bye-bye, or so involved in play that they barely notice your departure. If you pick that child up, you are taking several backwards steps on the out-the-door-and-on-to-work continuum. You are retreating from your goal.
If you don’t pick up that child, how do you respond to the child?
Step #2: cheerful, casual confidence.
Of the 10% who don’t pick the child up, eight of ten of them evidence distress of some sort: they apologize, they worry. “I sorry, sweetie, but daddy has to go now.” You child has emotional receptors a hundred times more sensitive than yours. They hear sorrow, they hear anxiety, and they respond by – surprise! – getting sorrowful, or fearful, rapidly followed by rage that you would leave them in such a sad and scary place.
Alice’s mother did none of these things. Her tone of voice was cheerful and matter-of-fact, her smile warm. She did not evidence either anxiety, regret, or guilt. Her tone and manner conveyed her confidence that daycare is a happy place, and that her daughter has every ability to manage this transition.
Step #3: Leave promptly. With a smile.
And finally, of the 2 in a hundred who have managed a) not to pick the child up and b) to be cheerful, one of them will hover to see if the child can manage it, thus undermining the confidence they were attempting to provide their child. “I know you can do it — but I’ll just stay here in case you can’t.”
Alice’s mum left, immediately. She did not hover to see if the child managed it. She expressed her confidence by following through. “It’s time for you to start your day now.”
Alice heard her mother’s confidence, absorbed the atmosphere of cheer, and went on with her day in a wholly natural and unfussed way. There was no tantrum. Be aware: in that critical moment of indecision, when she turned back to her mother for the second hug-and-kiss, Alice was 100% primed for a tantrum. It was there, ready and waiting to happen. There was no tantrum because Alice’s mom is one masterful momma.
Is it any surprise I love this woman?