It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Raising the Bar

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.

May 26, 2006 - Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, health and safety, outings, quirks and quirkiness


  1. I vote for saving the world from Arthur.

    Do you get the feeling he hears anything not deemed immediately relevant to his goals in Charlie Brown teacher voice? That he lives in a world of “Bwah bwah bwah bwah?”

    Comment by MsSisyphus | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  2. I hear you on the not hearing thing – and the oblivion to danger. when it came time to allow Mstr A to “walk ahead” I was sure he would either kill himself or give me a heart attack from the stress.

    But lucky me, the very first time he ran off round the corner on his own, there was a police car pulled up on the road right next to him. He came flying back to me convinced they were there to take him away as I’d told him children who walk around the streets without an adult are breaking the law:-)

    It was well over a year before he ventured far away from me again – and by then he was old enough to start to understand the dangers of traffic etc.

    Serendipity and the police rarely go together, but in this instance it couldn’t have worked out any better.

    Comment by Mrs.Aginoth | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  3. LOL. Isn’t Darcy younger than Arthur? Arthur is a piece of work. Darcy is a lifesaver. Too bad one of his hands is mangled now.

    Comment by Kristen | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  4. Thank you so much! I was introduced to your blog through your spanking input on MIM’s. I love you. As I hear my own lovely children in the background you give me the strength to forge on with my day.

    Comment by twoboysmom | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  5. Does Arthur enter kindergarten in the fall? I’m thinking that boys in for a rude awakening when there are 20 other children vying for attention – it might be good to have him practice some freedom and independent activities! And, maybe the world isn’t safe from Arthur – not if this is how he is all the time!

    Comment by Angela | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  6. Can you just pad Arthur?
    This is exactly why my mom never let me have a walkman, despite years of pleading. She couldn’t take an oblivious kid. I get it now…

    Comment by kittenpie | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  7. Yay for Darcy’s good sense! As a hobby, I direct a troupe of dancers – college age or older – and I swear, one of them sounds just like Arthur sometimes. Helloooooo!

    Comment by Lady M | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  8. Poor Arthur…I’m sure he thought he was saving Darcy’s life in some kid like way.

    You’re right though-two lil fat hands joined together? Precious!!!

    Comment by kimmyk | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  9. You know, I’m impressed with the fact that Arthur was even one of the middlers. The one I have who sounds like most Arthur stays in the stroller, because his ears and brain shut off when I say he has to hold on and can’t let go and run. He just runs anyway.

    So you gotta give him a little credit. 🙂

    Comment by KEP | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  10. Poor Darcy. The kid deserves a medal.

    Comment by Granny | May 26, 2006 | Reply

  11. you do tell a good story Ms. P.

    Comment by mo-wo | May 27, 2006 | Reply

  12. most like Arthur, I mean, not like most. I reread that and it made no sense. 🙂

    Comment by KEP | May 27, 2006 | Reply

  13. How I do like that Darcy! (Not that I dislike Arthur.)

    Comment by MIM | May 27, 2006 | Reply

  14. I have a child like Arthur. I think it might be male selective hearing. My daughter hears fine, and the boy hears fine when the words “snack” “milk” or “Wiggles” are said.

    Comment by AverageMom | May 28, 2006 | Reply

  15. MsS: He DOES! He does live in a world of “bwahbwahbwah”. That describes it exactly!

    MrsA: Hey! One of my neighbours is a policeman! Maybe I can set this up. No. (sigh) It would probably be classed as mental cruelty or something. Oh, well.

    Kristen: Yes. Arthur is about six months younger than Darcy. There’s a lot of good will in Arthur, but no common sense whatsoever, and frighteningly little self-preservation, an alarming mix for parent and caregiver alike!

    twoboysmom: Well, thank you. I don’t think I’ve ever received such an eloquent compliment in the comment box before. I’m touched.

    Angela: This IS how he is. All the time. Yes, he starts JK in the fall. I agree entirely: giving him skills of independence has to start now, particularly because he’s going to be a slow study! He needs all the time and practice he can get.

    Kittenpie: But if I give Arthur the body armour, he’ll hurt people with it! Has pumpkinpie inherited her mother’s childhood tendency to oblivion?

    KEP: When hanging on to the stroller, Arthur holds on to the handle, right close to me. The other boys (the walkers-ahead) hang on at the front. (I have a two- and a four-seater stroller, so two sets of two kids can hang on. Everyone hangs on every time we cross a street, no matter how quiet the street.)

    With him right there beside me, I am able to reach out and grab his hand any time it leaves the handle. Put it right back in place. Arthur has had several months of this training, and is now 98% reliable about hanging on, one of the reasons I thought he was ready to move on to stage two!

    As far as running ahead goes, he did just fine! The listening? The listening, she ain’t so good…

    Granny: He does, indeed. I am going to miss this child so much when he leaves at the end of June!

    mo-wo: Thank you!

    mim: I’m glad. Because he’s so sweet and so quiet, Darcy can fade into the background. I’m hoping all his teachers see what a lovely little guy he is, and that he isn’t ignored/neglected because their attention is diverted to all the more rowdy – and needy – children.

    AverageMom: No, I don’t think it’s selective hearing, either, because he’s just as likely not to hear “snack time!” as he is not to hear “give her that toy back, please”.

    Comment by Mary P. | May 28, 2006 | Reply

  16. Very easy to picture in my head the turn of events. A very enjoyable read, thank you, I needed it.

    Comment by CINDY | May 28, 2006 | Reply

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