D: I will be Jesus.
A: I will be da Mother!
G: I will be the Were-Rabbit!
A: He’s not in the Jesus book!
G: No, he’s in Wallace and Gromit.
Guess where I am???
I’m downtown! At a coffee shop! With my laptop!! At 11:00 in the morning! I feel so free and sophisticated. Look at me being a city woman. Woo-eee.
Stop rolling your eyes. From time to time it’s nice to step into a different world. And no snickering in the back row. It’s the sign of a healthy psyche to take pleasure in small things. So there.
How do I come to be downtown on a Wednesday morning? Because Haley is in the city for the summer! Haley is twenty, and with years and years of daycare experience, having pretty much grown up in one. Who better to hire for a half-day a week? (Yes, the parents all know. Lesson learned.)
So Haley shows up at 9:00, and Mary leaves at 9:00:27. Not quite. I do show her where the snacks are (all nicely prepared), what’s on the menu for lunch, and pass on any other info. that might be pertinent. THEN I leave. At 9:01:32.
It’s not so much that I have anywhere to go, though I do intend to use these mornings for doctors and optometrists and bankers and other such mundanities. (New word. Like it? It’s yours!) Mostly I am just enjoying the free- free- free- freedom!!
It’s been raining. Have I mentioned that before? A lot.
Today, the children entertain themselves by pulling the cushions off the loveseats. No allowed, of course. I approach, intending to instruct them to put them back, when I see the debris underneath. Okay then, since the cushions are off anyway, I pull the handheld vacuum from behind one couch.
Seasoned professional that I am, I do a bit of predirecting. “Okay, you guys. I want you all to sit on the floor, right there.” I don’t turn to my task until everyone is settled. Well, everyone but baby Nigel, who is not in the age that causes my concern. Besides, he won’t stay sitting unless I’m watching him, and I won’t be able to do that, so no sense in giving the boy an impossible direction and set myself up to be disobeyed.
“Now, I’m going to make a big noise with this thing,” (I am. This thing is LOUD.) “and I don’t want anyone shouting, understand?” I don’t know what it is with loud noises and small children, but run a vacuum in a room of three-year-olds, and almost certainly bedlam will ensue. They shriek, they giggle, they jump, they bounce, they clutch at each other and a frenzy of delighted hysteria. The noise isn’t really the problem: the problem is that my back will be to most of them, and in the racing about and screaming, someone is almost certain to get trampled. Best to take protective measures.
Everyone settled, I turn the thing on. The motor whines into its roar, loud and high. I really do hate it. So, it seems, does Baby Nigel. I turn the thing on, he SCREAMS. Well, I assume he’s screaming. Not that I can hear him over that damned vacuum, but the signs are there: the mouth wide, the skin reddening steadily. Oh, and the tiny talons of terror imbedded in my thigh. So, kindly caregiver that I am, I give him a cuddle and then put him in the high chair in the next room so I can finish. It takes two minutes, then I snuggle poor baby Nigel while the others put the couch back together.
All is well. For about three minutes, then baby Nigel is SCREAMING again. I can see him. He’s in no danger, no blood, no gore, no toenails being ripped off. Why the shrieks?
The others are pulling the couch cushions off again! Poor wee Nigel, he knows what will happen next. He’s screaming proactively. Baby Nigel, my very own Early Warning System.
Here’s the situation:
Child A has created a tunnel of the blocks.
Child B attempts to push a block through said tunnel. The tunnel collapses.
Child A rebuilds the tunnel.
Child B attempts to push a block through said tunnel. The tunnel collapses.
Child A rebuilds the tunnel.
Child B attempts to — Child A objects. Child B persists. Mary intervenes.
Child B attempts to reassure Child A and Mary: “It’s okay. It was just a accident.”
Mary: You tried to push that block through before. What happened?
Child B: It fell down. But it was a accident.
Mary: And if you try to push that block through again, what will probably happen?
Child B: It will fall down, prolly. But that’s okay, because it was just a accident.
So here’s the question, ladies and gentlemen:
If you’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again, and the results will probably be the same every time, but you don’t INTEND that result – it is deliberate, or an accident?
Everyone knows Mr. Rogers. Slow-spoken and gentle, Fred Rogers began his career with the CBC in 1963. Yes, we in Canada found him first! In 1967, he was aired by PBS in Philadelphia. Fred Rogers died of cancer in 2003, but his show lives on, making Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood, the longest-running show in PBS history. His appeal was ever in his gentle kindness, and his passionate concern for the health and development of young children.
This weekend, my husband found another bit of cultural history involving Fred Rogers on a blog he reads. Check out Mr. Rogers Goes to Washington, in which even a hostile, cranky senator is won over by Mr. Rogers’ sincerity, love for children, and kindness.
It starts slow – this is Fred Rogers, after all! – but it’s worth waiting till the last section, where Mr. Rogers makes a brilliantly subtle anti-war statement that ends with a rendition of his classic “What Do You Do With the Mad that you Feel?”. Brilliant.
…but it appears that an invisibility cloak might not be too far in the future!
Sir John Pendry published an article in yesterday’s edition of Science, describing his team’s research. Just as a pencil placed in a streambed only causes the water to flow smoothly around it, he says, an object ensheathed in special “metamaterials” could cause light to flow smoothly, hiding whatever it is from view.
Science or magic? I’d say, “Yes”.
We go for a walk. (Long-time readers, bear with me, as I explain the set-up.) The smallest, least trustworthy ones ride in the stroller; the middlers hang on to either side, and the big, trustworthy kids get to let go. If they’re very good, they get to “run ahead” on the sidewalk.
Now, even though he’s four now, Arthur has never been allowed to run ahead. He’s too distractable, too impulsive, and, when he’s involved in an activity – leaping out in front of a truck, say – he doesn’t respond when he’s spoken to. So, no running ahead for Arthur. Until today. At four, it’s time I raised the bar on him a bit. It may be easier for me to have him hanging on to the stroller, but he needs to learn to be a bit more independent. I’m going to have to – take a deep, brace-myself breath – going to have to give the child enough independence to develop some Common Sense. (Stop snickering. It’s not kind. Oh, that’s me…)
I confess my hopes are not too, too high. But a caregiver’s got to do what a caregiver’s got to do…
We are on a very quiet street leading down to the river. Almost, but not quite, a dead end. I see about one car a week on this stretch, which is just about the right level of risk for this endeavour.
“All right, Arthur. You and Darcy may walk ahead, if you stay close together.”
Arthur’s eyes widen in surprise. “I can let go?” Darcy’s hazel eyes are no less wide.
“Yes, you may, as long as you stay close to Darcy. You must walk close to Darcy, and when Darcy stops, you stop, all right?”
This to assure that the boy will stop when instructed. If he doesn’t hear me, Darcy will stop. Solid, reliable Darcy can be his bodyguard. Best to have as many layers of protection for Arthur as possible.
Arthur evidently feels that “staying close” means holding hands. He clasps Darcy’s hand in his. The two boys trot ahead of me. Do you know how heart-stoppingly cute tots holding hands are? I walk down the street with a perma-grin, watching their little stocky bodies, dimpled elbows, chubby hands joined. Heart-stopping, I tell you.
Heart-stopping for me, bruise-inducing for poor Darcy. Within half a dozen paces, Darcy is fending off elbows, dodging feet, having his arm wrenched repeatedly by the uncoordinated and oblivious Arthur. Uncoordinated, but with a death grip on Darcy’s hand. Darcy can dodge, but he can’t escape.
“Arthur,” I call. They are only a few paces ahead of me, so I don’t need to shout. “Arthur, please let go of Darcy’s hand and just walk close to him.”
There is no response. Darcy tries to pull his hand free, but it’s just not happening. I raise my voice. Not a shout, but the penetrating tones of an actor projecting to the back row.
“Ar-thur.” Pause a beat for the name to sink into the consciousness. “Arthur, please let go of Darcy’s hand and just walk close to him.”
No response. If the boy doesn’t loosen his grip soon, Darcy is going to start gnawing at his own wrist, I can see it in his eyes.
“Arthur!” Now it’s a snap. “What did I just say to you?” This penetrates. He looks up. He knows he’s in trouble, he wants to cooperate, but “what did I say”?? What did she say? Did she say something? Is this some kind of trick question?
Darcy leans in and bumps the boy with his shoulder. This seems to jolt Arthur’s memory into gear. He starts to speak.
“Please let go…” Arthur starts, then pauses.
Darcy bumps him again. Their heads brush. Darcy’s lips move. Arthur starts again.
“…of Darcy’s hand, and just…”
More jostling, More head-to-head. More lips from Darcy.
“…walk close to him.” Arthur looks up at me, beaming. He did it! With a little help from his friend.
“That’s right, Arthur. Thank you for helping him, Darcy.”
Arthur’s smile is wide and content, happy to have successfully met the challenge. I smile back at him. There is a small pause of expectation. Darcy and I wait. Arthur continues to beam. From Darcy’s mouth to Arthur’s ear and out his mouth, the brain was left out of the loop entirely.
“Please let go of Darcy’s hand,” I say, detaching Arthur with a bit of a jerk, “and just walk close to him.” Darcy’s poor hand is mottled pink and white from all the squashing.
I don’t know. Is increasing this child’s independence a good thing? Never mind Arthur’s safety, is the world safe from Arthur? Somehow I fear there’s just not enough body armour out there.
If the Elastic Doesn’t do the Trick, we Can Put this Roof on his Head So he Can Know What God looks Like
George and Darcy peer over the baby gate at the top of the basement stairs. Given its location, it is a custom-made, high, solid, thick slab of wood with heavy-duty hinges and a substantial bolt. We’re taking no chances on a tumble down those rail-less stairs to the concrete floor below. Probably because it’s such forbidden territory, the basement fascinates with mystery and horror.
George and Darcy discuss. Random boy (aka Arthur) “converses”, too. It would be too generous to say that he “joined” the conversation, but perhaps we can say he “inputted” into the conversation. (We could say that, though the English major in me recoils from it. Still, the word conveys the reality (surreality?) of the conversation reasonably well…)
G: There’s an inky, stinky monster in the basement.
A: Let’s go build a house with the blocks.
D: A monster?
G: Yes, and we have to kill it.
A: A house with a door and a window and a roof.
D: How do you kill a monster?
A: Put a roof on top.
G: With this (elastic), but he’s not dead yet.
A: A tower in the corner.
G: Oh, he’s dead now.
D: Is he sad? Is he sad because he’s dead?
G: No, he’s not sad because now he knows what God looks like.
A: I winned!
G: No, I winned!
D: No, we all winned!
Many moons ago, when my eldest was fifteen months old…
At which time the child had a vocabulary of 125 words. I know, because I Wrote Them Down. Each and every one. I still have the list, somewhere.
This child, who had one hundred and twenty-five words in her spoken vocabulary, also had a sense of humour.
“Haley? Haley, say ‘mummy’.” Young and earnest mother that I was, I loved to hear this word in particular. Haley knew it. Her little face would crinkle in delight, and she would say,
“No, lovie. Say ‘mumma’. You can do it, say ‘mumma’.” It’s a game, we both know it, and I’m playing along.
Big grin. Mummy gets the game! Haley’s in control. Chortle. “Dada!”
“You little magoo! Mumma! I know you can say it!”
“DADA! DADADADADADA!!!!” Gales of baby laughter.
I pretend despair. “Oh, all right. I give up.” I walk into the next room, and, as I knew it would, from round the corner comes her little voice:
George and Darcy are sitting side by side on the couch, reading. Arthur bounds into the room.
“You gotta be joking, George! You gotta be joking!” he proclaims. George looks up at him briefly, then returns to his book.
“You gotta be joking, George! George, you gotta be joking!” This time, George doesn’t even bother looking. His equanimity is impressive.
Undaunted by the lack of response, Arthur merely tries harder. Moves in a little closer, leans towards George. Speaks a little louder (who knew it was possible?).
“YOU GOTTA BE JOKING, GEORGE! YOU GOTTA BE JOKING!”
This time it’s Darcy who looks up. “Arthur. Why do you keep saying that, ‘You gotta be joking’, all the time?” He’s not angry, he just wants to know.
“Well then, stop it. We’re trying to read here.”
Arthur toddles off.