It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Breaking Settling-in Malli

Malli was here again yesterday, her third day with me. She was here a couple of days last week, and clearly thought she’d done her bit at entering the wider world. She most certainly didn’t expect to have to do it again! I could hear her expressing her… misgivings from half a block away. Her face was blotchy red, her eyes swollen, when she arrived. Mum’s face was haggard.

Malli’s a bright little girl, though. Last week, we had worked very intensely on “You may be angry, you may be sad, but you May.Not.Scream.” (You can see in the sidebar. Malli is the one with the Will of Iron.) The first day took 40 minutes to cease the screaming; the second day took eleven. Yesterday, after a week off and with her more upset at the outset, it took only six. She remembered! She remembered the rules, but more importantly she remembered that I am probably one of the few people in the world whose will is even ironer than hers. Must be those supplements.

After she’d ceased with the screaming yesterday, it took a while before she was partaking happily of what Mary’s house has to offer. She didn’t want to be here; she wanted to be with her mummy, and though she took what comfort I offered, she was not going to be happy about it! So there.

“What’s Nigel got? Shall we play potato head with Nigel?”

“No.” It’s not loud, it’s not angry. It’s small, and short, rather pathetic in fact, but unshakeable. “No.”

“Let’s get those shoes off.”


Off come the shoes. No further protest.

“Shall we see what to have for lunch?”


She follows me into the kitchen.

“I like beans. I’m going to cook some beans.”

“No.” She pours some beans into the water.

“Are you ready to eat now?”


She isn’t, either, but I know that if I leave the food someplace accessible and ignore her, it’ll vanish somehow.

“Let’s read this story.”

“No.” She climbs onto the couch beside me.

“Pick a book, Malli.”


“Would you like this book? Or this one?”


“Look at the kitten! Isn’t he funny?”


“I’m going to go to the bathroom. Do you want to come with me, or stay down here?”


I’m not losing patience here. This little mite is undergoing a huge culture shock. She’s moved from a very involved, loving home where she’s the indulged baby sister to two very nice little boys. At two and a bit, she still nurses on demand, mummy lays down to nap with her. Mum has immersed herself in the home and family for well over ten years, and only now has decided it’s time to carve out some private time and space for herself. Four hours, twice a week, is a kind and gentle baby step for Malli, but Malli doesn’t know that.


Me, I’m sort of impressed. She may be bowed, but she is not broken. We can drag her to daycare, but we can’t make her like it! And she will Not.Co-operate. She’s a feisty little thing, and I love the feisty ones.


Doesn’t prevent me playing with their heads a little, though…

“Malli, can you say ‘No’? I bet you can! Just say ‘no’ for me, okay?” I favour her with a brilliant smile, eyes wide, awaiting the “no” I’ve asked for. (Yes, I’m evil. Isn’t it fun?)

Silence. Contrariness wars with accuracy. YES, she can say ‘no’, but damned if she’ll let a word of positivity cross those pretty pink lips. But if she say’s NO, she’s complying with a request! What to do??? I watch the conflict flicker over her face. Heh.

She’s baffled for a moment, but she’s not stupid.

She won’t say “no”; she won’t say “yes”. Suddenly her head is a blur of blond curls with ths vigour of her defiant head.

She won’t utter the word, but that head shake? Deafening!

I love this kid!

© 2006, Mary P

September 22, 2006 - Posted by | Malli, Mischief, power struggle


  1. She does sound like a wonderful little girl. I honestly admire her!

    With the few language tools at her disposal she is making her feelings and position perfectly clear while, at the same time, being reasonably pleasant. That’s an extremely valuable talent!

    Kids amaze me.

    Comment by dreadmouse | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  2. Wow, she’s amazing. Obviously a bright kid… I can’t wait to see how she ends up coming around. I like Malli, too.

    Comment by Kristen | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  3. yeah, i definitely think the best thing about this girl is that she’s managed to find a way to comply with the rules and act appropriately without “giving in” and compromising how she feels. that will be an invaluable skill later in life, too. way to exercise your right to experience emotion while still respecting others! i look forward to seeing how this all works out. 🙂

    Comment by kari | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  4. Pssssst. Question from a desperate parent: Screaming is against the rules, but how do you enforce it?

    Comment by Ki | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  5. when LM went through the “No” phase I used to make the 5th or 6th question “would you like to spend all morning saying no?”

    She usually thought for a while, then answered “yes”:-) which I could follow up with some other “yes” questions (sometimes)

    She soon learned that it wasn’t worth just saying no all the time if you wanted to do anything fun!

    Comment by Juggling Mother | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  6. I like her too. No is an extremely important word. She’ll realize that when she’d older.

    Comment by Granny | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  7. Oooohhh, such fun! I need to remember this game, if anything so I can laugh during those trying times. Such a smart girl! I’m curious what my little man will do.

    Comment by Mamacita Tina | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  8. Doesn’t she sound like fun though! And a nice balance to all the babies in the house now too!

    Comment by Haley | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  9. Haha…I’m with you, Mary. I love this girl!

    Comment by Jamie | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  10. I’ve already retold this story twice – so funny! Sometimes when Q is just babbling “no, no, no” without really projecting the meaning, I’ll just starting saying “yes, yes, yes” so that he can get some practice hearing and saying the opposite. Silly mommy. But we did get him to say “yes” for the first time last week!

    Comment by Lady M | September 22, 2006 | Reply

  11. dreadmouse: That sums her up well. I’m glad she’s part of the crew. I haven’t heard much from her yet but those teeny tiny no’s, but I’m looking forward to a little more variety as she gets more comfortable!

    Kristen: I’m looking forward to it, too.

    Kari: It was interesting to watch. She’d learned that she couldn’t express her feelings by screaming, but that didn’t stop her from expressing them. She just found a more acceptable way – good for her!

    Ki: That would take too long to describe here. There are time out/isolation/ignoring methods, and there are more intensive, hands-on training methods, depending on the child, their motivations, and your tolerances. I see a post coming up…

    Juggling: It certainly would have been simpler if Malli had managed to let go the negativity enough to answer the question – but not nearly so entertaining for me!

    Granny: She’ll need it, too: she’s already a beautiful little girl, product of striking parents. I think she’s going to be gorgeous.

    MamacitaTina: Sometimes the laugh you get from playing these little mind games with your children is the only thing that stands between a toddler and e-Bay!

    Haley: Indeed. She and Nigel are the “big kids”, and then we have two, and soon, three babies.

    Jamie: Feisty. Feisties are fun.

    LadyM: The best and most effective way to teach a lot of toddler skills are fun and games. Silly mommy is pretty smart. 🙂

    Comment by Mary P. | September 23, 2006 | Reply

  12. i love this kid. and i love how you love this kid. feisty girls make for deliciously fiesty women, yes? (my kid could use a dose of you!)

    ps. thanks for your comment earlier. it touched me quite deeply.

    Comment by jen | September 23, 2006 | Reply

  13. Oh my gosh that is my baby Sophia. She’s 15 months though, and is going through a very similar transition dealing with the childcare at my gym.

    She’s getting better all the time. I know she’s in good hands and I think it’s good for her to spend a little time away from Mommy.

    Comment by Andie D. | October 1, 2006 | Reply

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