It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My Fridge

I have a fridge magnet collection. I’m note sure if I started the it, or if it was thrust upon me, but I have quite a few now, and there seems to be a theme to most of them:

My two favourites are “I was put on this planet to…” and “Can’t think…blood rushing…”
My least favourite is, “You spend the first two years…”

Which do you like best? (If you have trouble reading them, click on the picture for the larger version.)

April 30, 2006 Posted by | random and odd | 16 Comments

Later and Later bedtimes

When does your tot go to bed? Your school-age child? Your teen? Chances are increasing, statistically, that the answer is “too late”.

The Globe and Mail published an article* a while back discussing childrens’ bedtimes, and how they’re getting later, generation by generation. Is this because we need less sleep than a generation or two ago? No. Does this explain road rage? Probably. Does this help explain the huge increase in behavioural disabilities? I’m almost certain of it.

We take great pride in our “busy-ness”. Ask anyone how they’ve been lately, and they say, with a rueful grin, “Busy.” And we all nod sagely, yes, yes, we know how it is. And we do know how it is, of course.

We adults also get all macho about how little sleep we need. We boast about our late nights, and, if we’re in the minority who get to bed at a healthy hour, we feel compelled to apologize for our un-coolness. Going to bed before exhaustion hits is seen as a weakness. This is wrong. Just plain wrong.

Our children need their sleep, they’re not getting it, and it is not good enough to lay all the blame at the altar of busy-ness. One blogger not too long ago said their family couldn’t use a certain method of sleep-training because their lifestyle would be too constrained if they had to ‘make their lives stop’ for sleep and nap-time.

To a certain extent, there is justification in this position. If the only time you can get the child to a necessary appointment is during afternoon nap, well, you prepare for a cranky child and you take them anyway. As long as it’s necessary, and there is no other time to do it. Once in a while. But if your life is set up in such a way that your child is consistently getting less sleep than they need, this is a problem, and, for your child’s health, you need to make some adjustments.

I once had clients who requested that I give their child shorter naps in the daytime, as they were having trouble getting him to sleep at night. (Actually, this happens all the time, but I am thinking of a specific family right now.) As I do with all families who make this request, I explain that before we start tweaking with the child’s sleep/wake schedule, we need to know what that schedule is. I give them some charts, and instruct them on how to fill them out. I’ll do the same at my end, and we’ll talk in three weeks.

Their discovery? Though they thought their schedule was reliable with a few exceptions, their charts showed them that their “normal” bedtime was the exception. Once they started putting him to bed at the same time every night – which meant leaving that dinner at a friend’s house early, or hiring a sitter instead of taking tot along – he fell asleep with no difficulty. Routine is so important!

What does your child need? The chart on the left is pretty standard. (It is also a link to the site from which I copied it. I didn’t spend a lot of time checking it out, but it seems a good one!) There are those that suggest more sleep for certain ages, but none that suggest less is better.

If your child is getting consistently less than what is indicated, it is possible that your child genuinely doesn’t need as much sleep. It is possible, but, frankly, it is not likely.

I had a friend who believed that her daughter, then age 7 or so, didn’t need more than seven hours sleep. “She goes to bed at ten, and she bounces out at five in the morning. And then she just goes, goes, goes all day.” All this energy must mean the child was well-rested, right?

Well, no. Counter-intuitive as it might be, I often see under-rested children who charge like maniacs through their day. I call it “being in overdrive”. Strangely, when this child had sleepovers at our home, I’d pop her in bed at eight, the same time as my same-age daughter – and she’d sleep till seven! Was it too surprising that she was having trouble in school? I think not. A good night’s sleep might not solve all her school problems (though it might!) but it would certainly help!

I am disturbed by the number of under-rested children who come through my daycare, whiney and prone to tantrums until I replace their lost sleep with solid naps. Teachers are concerned about the number of tired children they see, droopy, irritable, unable to focus and concentrate. And what about the manic children, who may not immediately appear to be “tired”? What about the sleep-deprived adults, who make small driving errors that put others at risk, adults who are irritable on the road, in airplanes, at the office, and blame everyone and everything except their bedtime? There are too many tired people out there, and it is not a good thing for our society!

*I’d provided a link, but when I checked to see that it worked, it turns out that since April 8, when the article was published, the Globe has begun requiring that you be a paid online subscriber to view it! Sorry about that!

© 2006, Mary P

April 29, 2006 Posted by | Developmental stuff, health and safety, parenting | 16 Comments

You Have the Power

Three little boys pound by, one at each end and one in the middle of a long strip of fabric. Round and round and round they go. Dining room, living room, hall, dining room, living room, hall…


You tolerate these things when toddlers have been stuck indoors by the rain for three days. It’s only fair.

Oh! The child at the end is shouting in distress!

“Hey, guys!” he shouts. “Stop! Stop! Stop!”

“What’s wrong?” I ask the distressed one they pound past me where I stand in the living room door.

“I’m tired of running! I don’t want to run any more! Stop! Stop! STOP!!!” His voice trails into the distance down the hall. I wait. They’re in the dining room. They’re back in the living room. Yell at distressed boy as they pass,

If you don’t want to run, then let go!

Child vanishes into the hall, his cries trailing like a banner behind. “Stop! Stop! Stooooop!” Dining room, back to living room. He calls to me, “WHaaAaAAaat?”


Child drops his arms. “oh.” The other two thunder into the distance. There is peace.

April 28, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, George, random and odd | 5 Comments

Couth? You Want Couth?

Well, you won’t find it here.

George and Darcy are skipping round in small, thunderous circles. Skipping is the wrong word, really, belonging as it does in the same category as “frolic”, “lyrical”, “diaphanous”. Brings to mind fields full of buttercups inhabited by fluffy bunnies and those ladies all dressed in white from the sanitary napkin commercials. The boys’ version of “skipping” is more related to “thud”, “gallumph”, and “ponderous”, and conjures up something entirely more earthbound than ladies in white eyelet.


The boys are skipping, and as they skip, Darcy, showing remarkable ability to fit music to event, sings:

“SWING your partner round and round!
BLOW a fart and knock them down!”

Apropos, no?

April 27, 2006 Posted by | Darcy, eeewww, George, Mischief, the things they say! | 10 Comments

If You Want Your Caregiver to Hate you and Your Child, part 2

…or, you could send him with one of THESE!!!!

You’d think the whistles would be worse, but given their general ineptitude with the whistles – they tended to wrap their lips right over the hole, thus muting themselves – and their unparalleled skill at hammering, this was much, much louder. And, no, it wasn’t in the slightest musical.

With a few guidelines (no more than two kids at a time, and only one finger on each hand per kid) it was tolerable, but really. What are they thinking?

Tip to all you nice mommies and daddies out there: ASK before sending noisy toys to daycare!


April 27, 2006 Posted by | daycare, parents, the dark side | 13 Comments

If You Want Your Caregiver to Hate you and Your Child…

Just send him to daycare with a few of these babies round his neck…

April 26, 2006 Posted by | daycare, parents, the dark side | 13 Comments

Entertainment Doesn’t Come Cheap Around Here…

On a bleak and drippy Monday morning, the children yearn to be outside. In truth, Mary yearns for the children to be outside, too. All that boundless energy severely bound by the four walls of this small home.

But what is it that so rivets them all? In the grey, drizzly, chill April Monday, what captures their attention?

Alas, it is our poor car, which, it turns out, dislikes the wet as much as I. More, in fact, for whereas I will force myself out of my warm bed despite the dreariness of the day, the car will not.

Ah well. Fifteen minutes of silence, as they stood welded to my front window is worth quite a bit. Though not, perhaps quite so much as all that.

April 25, 2006 Posted by | commemoration, random and odd | 11 Comments

But what does it Do?

I read about a family that paid $900 US (US!! about 1,035 CDN) for a stroller.

I want to know: what does it do to be worth that kind of money? Does it have its own engine for that extra boost up those steep hills? Does it come complete with generator to run the bottle-warmer and baby-wipe heater? It’s an American gadget, so it will have a drink holder, of course. Does it make cappucinos to put into the holder?

I mean, really.

Now, being in the business, I own three strollers, the largest of which cost $960 US ($1100 CDN) when I bought it four years ago. My stroller, however, seats four. I have used it for four years; I fully expect to be using it at least another four, probably something over twice as long a stroller is used by a one-child family.

What, oh what, does a $900 single-baby stroller do to be worth that kind of money? What does it do that a $300 stroller doesn’t do? Or a $150 stroller? Or a $50 stroller? Or, for that matter, the $18 umbrella strollers I keep for the occasions when I want to take a baby on the bus?

Blows me away. Truly, it does.

April 24, 2006 Posted by | controversy, parenting, peer pressure, the dark side | 22 Comments

Sunrise, Sunset…

So here’s what happens if you happen to like people who are cultured AND mellow:

You Are Sunrise

You enjoy living a slow, fulfilling life. You enjoy living every moment, no matter how ordinary.
You are a person of reflection and meditation. You start and end every day by looking inward.
Caring and giving, you enjoy making people happy. You’re often cooking for friends or buying them gifts.
All in all, you know how to love life for what it is – not for how it should be.
What Time Of Day Are You?
You Are Sunset

Even though you still may be young, you already feel like you’ve accomplished a lot in life.
And you feel free to pave your own path now, and you’re not even sure where it will take you.
Maybe you’ll pursue higher education in a subject you enjoy – or travel the world for a few years.
Either way, you approach life with a relaxed, open attitude. And that will take you far!
What Time Of Day Are You?

April 23, 2006 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 1 Comment


A couple of years ago, children started with me at five or six months old. Now they start at a year. Although I firmly believe the year-long mat. leaves are much better for the family, for me it was easier with six-month-olds. (I cannot speak through direct experience to caring for four- or six-WEEK-old babies (except my own!) but my educated guess would that it would be still more straightforward. More hands-on, yes, but straightforward. These children don’t know where their bodies end and the rest of the world begins. They’re not likely to make strange…)

Six-month-olds, bless them, tend to coo when a new person holds them, and reward the smiling stranger with radiant smiles of their own. Year-old children tend to cling to momma’s thigh, view the smiling stranger with a frown of suspicion and wail when momma leaves. This makes my working environment a little stressful for the adjustment period, indeed. Fretful clinginess is the norm, to be juggled with the normal needs of three or four or five other tots. (The others are generally quite concerned and solicitious, but New Baby doesn’t generally appreciate their attention!) However, awkward and labour-intensive as it is for me, it is the parents who truly suffer.

The parents. Oh, the poor parents. Their tot suffers in their own way, it’s true, but it’s the parents who agonise. The parents, who remember the tear-filled wails at drop-off all day long. The parents, who worry throughout the day, staring at that picture of baby on their desk, hearing the cries echo in their ears through their working hours, who yearn to sooth and reassure – and can’t. Who know that, were it not for their decision (even when it really wasn’t much of a choice), baby would be safe in their arms, not wailing at a stranger’s house. Baby has his/her moments of anxiety at the door, then gets a lovely cuddle, feels better, maybe a has snack and a bottle, goes out to play in the park, swings on the swing, listens to a story, gets fed some more. Whenever the newness of the situation hits them anew? More snuggles, more cuddles, more lovin’.

Meantime, who’s loving mom and dad? Who’s telling them it’ll be okay? Who’s rubbing their backs and giving them their binkie? Who’s taking away the guilt, the guilt, the nasty “I-should-be-with-my-baby, how-can-I-abandon-him/her-like-this, what’s-more-important-than-my-baby” guilt?

One of the things that can ease the transition to daycare is a weaning-in process. It may surprise you to learn that I do not think a weaning-in process is necessary for most children. After over ten years in this business, it is my firm conviction that the weaning-in is only secondarily about acclimatizing the child to the daycare. Primarily it is to reassure the parents.

In my experience, it takes a six-month-old child three weeks of full-time attendance to make the adjustment to care. Year-old children may take a week or two longer. Children who come three or fewer days per week take longer still. At the end of those first few weeks, the tears at the door should be finished (parents who unconsciously encourage tears can be the subject of another post) and the child should be having happy days at daycare. It takes this long whether there was a gentle two-week weaning-in process, or whether it was done cold turkey, after a single initial baby-caregiver meeting. It really doesn’t seem to make a great deal of difference. To the child.

It can make a huge difference to the parents. Parents want to see the child with the other children, they want to watch the provider interact with their child, they want to see their child gain familiarity with the new environment. Bottom line: mom and dad want to get a sense that their child is gaining comfort in the new place. They want a sense that their child doesn’t feel abandoned to strangers.

Weaning-in, then, is mostly for mom and dad’s benefit. And you know what? This is not a bad reason. This is not a second-rate, inferior reason. This does not make it something insignificant and dispensible, needy or selfish. If you want it, you should do it. (Conversely, if you don’t want/need, or simply can’t manage it, you can feel reassured that you will not be guaranteeing ever more layers of trauma to your tot by starting cold turkey.)

If you opt for weaning-in, there are a few things you need to know. Having a parent around can make the daycare provider’s job more difficult. The extra adult changes the dynamic. It can make some children more self-conscious and clingy to the daycare lady, some may be more prone to act out and show off to the new audience, other will be less attentive to the daycare lady – why listen to boring old her when there’s this NEW person in town???

Thus, no matter how experienced your caregiver, you may be making her a little self-conscious, and you are certainly adding a layer of complexity to her day. So, if she asks you to follow certain guidelines when you are with her, please do.

(Do not, as one mother did to me, directly contradict the caregiver’s instructions. “Come get your hats on, guys.” “Oh, they don’t need hats: it’s not that cold out there!” Well, thank you for your input…)

Also, you need to recognize that group care is different than individual care. Not better, not worse, just different. The daycare lady may respond to the children differently than you. There are different patterns of interactions, different dynamics that need to be monitored and maintained when there are five or six children in a room, as opposed to just one.

Remember, too, your baby’s caregiver has multiple children to care for; she may not be able to chat with you. (I once had a parent complain because she felt “ignored and snubbed” her during her visit. She didn’t think I had ignored her child, mark you, but that I had ignored herself – the mother. So, if it will make you feel “unwelcome” when the caregiver breaks off in the middle of a sentence to attend to the children, or fails to make eye contact with you because she’s busy scanning the sandbox, I think perhaps weaning-in isn’t the right strategy for you. Mm-kay?)

Finally, and most importantly, recognize that weaning-in does not guarantee no tears at drop-off when full-time care begins. When the child is spending full days with this new person, no matter how gradual the transition, they will feel the adjustment, and there may well be tears. What weaning-in does do is begin the transition, and, most importantly, it can give mom and dad the assurance they’re looking for.

You may not get a blankie and a snuggle, mom and dad, but it is going to be all right!

© 2006, Mary P

April 22, 2006 Posted by | daycare, Developmental stuff, parenting, parents | 12 Comments