It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I’ll Pick Door Number Two for Emotional Resiliency, Dave

Door Number One:
A child, about 18 months old, falls in the playground. There’s a slight pause, that hesitation between stimulus and response. Tender mommy rushes over. “Oh, sweetie, are you okay?” Her voice oozes concern. Child looks at her, and starts to wail. Mommy cuddles and soothes. “He’s just so sensitive,” she says to me, raising her voice over the increasing cries.

Door Number Two:
A child, about 18 months old, falls in the playground. There’s a slight pause, that hesitation between stimulus and response. Cheerful dad watches. Child looks towards dad, and dad calls out in a hearty, cheerful voice. “Wow, what a big Kaboom!! Fall down!” He spreads his arms and laughs. Tot grins back at dad, levers her little butt up in the air and achieves upright again, then trots off to play. “She’s a tough little nut,” says dad. “Just takes these things right in stride.”

© Mary P

December 19, 2005 Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting, parents, socializing | 18 Comments


We received 20 to 30 cm of snow on Thursday night. When I stepped out onto my front porch Friday morning to clear it off the steps before the clients started to arrive, this is what confronted me:Apparently, it was too much, even for a snowman!

December 18, 2005 Posted by | Christmas, Ottawa, random and odd | 11 Comments

Another thing that makes me happy…

That TERRIFIC riff at the beginning of “Daytripper”.
Love it,
Love it,
Love it!

December 17, 2005 Posted by | quirks and quirkiness, random and odd | 2 Comments

On Being Reasonable with your Child

“Do you want to put on your boots now, sport?”
“Come on, now. You have to wear your boots.”
“It’s very cold. Your feet will be cold if you go out in your slippers.”
“NO wanna!” Child shoves at parent.
“Now, sweetie. Let’s get these boots on, huh?”
“NOnonoNONONOnonononoNONONOno. NO.” Child take a swing at parent.
“That’s not nice. Dada doesn’t like it when you do that.”
Child takes another swing. Protests now escalate into a scream, and a tantrum is under way.

I have seen this enacted, oh, it must be hundreds of times. Each and every time I sigh softly in exasperation, adding it to my mental list of “Things to talk about with this parent”, along with “please send more diapers”, and “don’t forget to take his craft home with him”.

The initial error is very common, very basic, and simple to eradicate. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:


If “No” isn’t an option, don’t present it as one! No self-respecting two-year-old is going to turn down the opportunity to say NO. You ask him a question, you’re giving him a GIFT. “Hoo, boy, something to resist! A chance to express all this negativity churning around inside me. I get to prove my autonomy! Oh, no,no,no,no,no,no, NO,no, no. Oh, yeah!”

So, the whole rest of the “dialogue” may have been avoided entirely had dad said, “Okay, sport, let’s get those boots on you. It’s COLD out there!”

The underlying problem is bigger. This parent, like many of my parents, is a nice, well-meaning, kindly, principled person, who has made a decision that he will always endeavour to treat his child with respect, that he will alway try to be reasonable with his child. And that’s a good thing. Thing is, he’s also expecting his child to be reasonable back.

I have a flash for you: Two-year-olds are not reasonable critters.

So what’s a parent to do? Well, continue being reasonable. Just because your toddler is throwing himself kicking and screaming to the floor doesn’t mean you can, too. No; no you can’t. Get up off that floor, right now please, and be the grown-up. Sorry about that.

But, you say, wasn’t that what this dad did? He continued being reasonable, and look where that got him!

Well… he was being reasonable, yes he was, but he was also expecting his toddler to be reasonable in return. He was honestly expecting that child to smack his hand into his forehead and say, “Oh, dad, of course you’re right! What was I thinking?”

Not going to happen.

So, how does one be reasonable with an unreasonable tot?

“Okay, sport, let’s get those boots on. It’s COLD out there!”
“No boots.”
“Oh, yes,” says the parent, pulling the tot onto his knee, and picking up the first boot. “Everyone wears boots in the snow.” Parent begins to put the first boot onto the child.

Now, if this has happened many times before, the child will subside and let the proceedings continue. Parent can keep tot’s mind in a positive channel by talking about what’s going to happen next (NOT in a coaxing way), by talking about the child’s day, by talking about all that lovely snow outside — whatever.

If this pattern is unfamiliar to the child, though, if this child has always gotten to throw a fit before complying, then that’s likely what he’ll do. So you have this screaming, thrashing child on your lap. Now’s your chance to REALLY practice your reasonable-ness!

You completely ignore the behaviour. The child is screaming and thrashing in your lap. You don’t soothe, you don’t coax. You just get those boots on. Then you put your child on her feet, you take her by the hand (in part to prevent her from ripping the boots right back off again), you “Wave bye-bye to Mary!”, and you head out the door.

You want this task to get completed? Then see that it is completed. You don’t parent by committee, waiting for the child to comply. Do you seriously WANT to give your two-year-old veto power over your every instruction? I can’t imagine you really do, because, you know, they’re not the most cooperative of critters. Team spirit is a concept that looms in their future, but isn’t likely part of their current reality.

If the conflict is over something you’ve asked the child to do – pick up their toys, say – you’d be doing it “hand-over-hand”, meaning you take their dimpled fist in your hand, and you place it on one toy after another and put them where they belong, even if the small body attached to the hand is uttering ferocious protest. “It’s time to put the toys away. You can either do it yourself, or mummy will help you.”

When the task is finished, you turn to your heaving, sniffling, red-faced, furious tot and give them a beaming smile. “All done! Thank you for helping!” Give them a big, comforting hug. Do not soothe them. No “there, there’s” and absolutely no “I’m sorries”!! Officially, that hug is to say thank you. You want the child to focus now on the satisfaction of having completed the task. You want them to experience the rewards of compliance. So the hug is to say “There! I knew you could do it! Thank you!” You know it’s also to help calm them. They don’t – they shouldn’t – know this. Don’t offer comfort for tantrums – it encourages more of them.

After a moment or two, go on to the next thing. (And remember: DON’T ask questions. “Would you like to… next?” is certain to elicit a NO, and probably a resumption of the tantrum in a child who has so recently been so ruffled. Instead, “Come sit on dada’s lap, and we’ll read a story.” Accompanied by action.)

If the tantrum doesn’t subside so soon, you put them someplace away from you – in their room, behind a baby gate in the next room – and say “When you’re quiet, you can come out.”

Throughout this, you have been entirely reasonable, you have modelled rationality to your tot, but you have not expected the impossible from her. She will get to it in the end, by your consistent example, by practice, with just a little more maturity.

Just not quite yet.

© 2005, Mary P

December 17, 2005 Posted by | aggression, Developmental stuff, parenting, power struggle, tantrums | 11 Comments

Christmas Gift Idea for Mary

“Here we go, little boy, one more mouthful.”

Nigel, who had till this moment been greeting each spoonful with impatience and glee, suddenly makes a little “gu-huck” noise in his throat. I know what this means, I do, but there’s no time to react. Just one little “gu-huck”, and then his high chair tray is suddenly filled with his lunch, a glistening and blurred recap of the food he’d so cheerfully ingested only moments before. My hand, hovering close to his dimpled chin, is similarly bedecked. Glistening strands, decorative in shades of green and tan, are suspended betwixt hand and tray. Clean the boy, clean the tray.

Wash my hands. Moisturize.

Step in a puddle. Wipe it up with a paper towel.

Wash my hands, because you just never know. Moisturize.

Arthur is crying. He has a bloody nose. This happens with Arthur, we know the drill: Firm pressure on the bridge of his nose for five minutes. The bridge of his red-and-yellow speckled, blood-and-mucous bedecked nose. The bridge in the middle of his snot-covered, tear-streaked face. For five minutes I sit with him, finger and thumb clamped firmly onto the bump that is the source and centre of a swirl of bodily fluids. Assure us both that the dripping has stopped. Clean him up.

Wash my hands. Moisturize.

Lift Darcy from the cot after his nap and discover the source of the puddle. The boy is soaked from the navel down. Peel of his clothes, strip the sheet off the cot, throw it all in the washer downstairs. Disinfect the cot.

Wash my hands. Moisturize.

One of the boys comes to me, holds out two blocks, one in each hand. “These blocks are wet!” We put them in the sink, rinse them off. I don’t make the connection.

Wash my hands. Moisturize.

Decide to tidy the rest of the kitchen floor. Lift Darcy’s cot. Discover a couple more “wet” blocks under there. Disinfect the blocks.

Wash my hands. Moisturize.

Baby Alice is in her highchair, fretful. “What’s up, little girl?” I say as I lift her. What’s up is baby Alice. She’s been sitting in something that’s been rotting for weeks. That has to be it. Couldn’t be a mere diaper producing that eye-watering stench, could it?

Oooh, my yes. Brownish green goo runs from sweet little cheeks to mid-thigh, and reaches as high as a darling little bellybutton. Forty-seven baby wipes and a change of clothing later, she’s back to her sweet self.

Wash my hands. Moisturize.

Is there any bodily fluid I haven’t encountered this noisome day? — Don’t answer that! — But if anyone is thinking of Christmas gifts, the economy-size jug of a lightly scented, heavy duty moisturizer would be much appreciated. Either that or shares in Proctor and Gamble.

Thanks, and Merry Christmas!!

December 15, 2005 Posted by | Christmas, eeewww | 19 Comments

What Makes a Good Daddy?

Arthur sits on the kitchen floor, legs straight out in front, doll tucked snugly into the front of his overalls. The eternal hockey game edges closer.

“Hey!” he calls out a warning. “You guys are bein’ dangerous to my baby!”

George looks at him with some disdain. “Well, you can’t bring a baby on the ice!”

“Yeah!” Darcy chimes in. “Your baby could get hurt. You’re a bad daddy!”

Two responsible daddies glare as the BD slinks off the ice.

December 15, 2005 Posted by | parenting, socializing | 6 Comments

My Favourite Things

Susan is sick and feeling dispirited, and wants people to post on their favourite things, the things that lift their spirits, hoping it might have a similar effect on hers. Oooo. I get to have fun and help someone: what a fun assignment! Here’s my list.


Sex. Strange how thinking of Q brought that to mind…

Green. Any shade except chartreuse, aka bile green.

Christmas. Christmas trees, Christmas carols, midnight church services, shopping, giving gifts, stuffing stockings. I love it all!

Almonds, and by extension, marzipan. I love, love, love marzipan.


Baby giggles.

Asparagus, cheese, (except blue), Miss Vicki’s S&V potato chips, licorice allsorts.


Tea. Except I can’t drink it any more because of this damned almost-ulcer.

Walking by the river near my home.


The sounds our budgie makes.

Meaningful talks with my kids.

Touching. Sensual backrubs.

Music, especially chamber music and the blues.

The fact that my youngest brings friends home regularly.


Long, seeking conversations.

Babies finding their bellybuttons.


Long walks.


A pint with a friend.

December 14, 2005 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 9 Comments

Rainbow Hockey

The participants of this conversation are three three-year-old boys. Names are unnecessary. They are arranging their hockey game.

“You’re the green team and I’m the black team, and you’re the red team.”

“No, I’m the red team.”

“I’m the yellow team and you’re the blue team.”

“He’s the blue team?”

“And you’re the grey team.”

“No, he’s the green team.”

“And I’m the yellow team!”

“Yes! And I’m the blue.”

“And he’s the red.”

Thus the game commences. Glad we got that sorted out!

December 14, 2005 Posted by | socializing | 7 Comments

Seasonal Parenting

Three little boys play with three baby dolls, and like all new parents, the conversation centres on their offspring.

“My baby Jesus is sleeping.”
“My baby Jesus is eating.”
“My baby Jesus is pooping.” (Surprised??)
“My baby Jesus is a girl.” (Now that’s a surprise!)
“My baby Jesus is a boy.”

“I’m going to give my baby a bath,” says Arthur. Guess his was the pooping one. He tosses his baby bodily over the baby gate and into the kitchen, where it lands, head-first, with a solid clunk. “There! I frowed my baby in the bath.”

“Shhh!” Darcy reprimands. “You woked up my baby.”

George shushes his baby. “Now all our baby Jesuses are crying.”

“Go to sleep baby Jesus, go to sleep!” Darcy urges, rocking his baby and kissing its forehead. (Was his baby Jesus male or female? I lost track.)

George has an idea. “You needa sing to your baby Jesus to help him sleep.”

Arthur launches into an enthusiastic if melody-challenged version of “I can sing a rainbow.”

Just then the CD, which has been on the random setting all morning, turns to The Blind Boys of Alabama. Their bump’n’grind blues version of “Away in a Manger” fills the air. Given how non-traditional their version is, I am surprised when Darcy recognizes it.

“Not that song, Arthur! We need to sing “Away inna Manger”, because a manger is a baby Jesus crib!”

And in only moments, three babies are lulled to sleep amidst a cacophony of the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the tone-deaf Boys of Ontario.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

December 13, 2005 Posted by | Christmas, individuality, socializing, the things they say! | 9 Comments

More Toys

I have mentioned that one of the perks of the job is getting to buy fun toys at regular intervals. Here’s one I picked up this weekend. I love the little squirrels doing their thing. I like that the elements are raised, so when children count the nuts, they can also feel them. Perhaps the part I like best, tactile woman that I am, is the fact that the pieces feel nice – see how soft and flexible they are?
Oh, and the kids like it, too!

December 12, 2005 Posted by | daycare | 10 Comments