Stephen has been working from home today, and, being the dedicated worker bee that he is, is about to hop on his bike and go get us both a coffee. I am kissing him goodbye at the door.
We do not peck on the cheek, Stephen and I. A good rule of thumb for kisses is one second per year of connubial (or co-habitory, as the case may be) bliss. People get this backwards, all the time. Have you ever noticed that? Ninety-five second kisses when they’ve been together ninety seconds; half-second kisses when they’ve been together forty years. Utterly backwards.
What a multi-second kiss means in a house full of toddlers is that you will always, always be interrupted. But we are hardy, experienced, committed kissers. We are not to be diverted from our appointed task by a mere piping voice, or a tug on a pant leg, nor even a head-butt to the butt. The kids have to learn their place in the grand scheme of things.
(What it means in a house full of teens is dramatic and copious moaning and groaning, also ignored. If the moaning and groaning gets aggressive, the kisses get even more so. Teens, too, have to learn their place.)
So. I am kissing my man goodbye at the door.
Malli trots up. The piping voice, the tug at the pant-leg, are ignored. Sensible girl, she doesn’t attempt the head-butt to the butt. She attempts conversation.
“What’s your name? Mary? Mary, what’s your name?”
Course, the man and I get contrary about this. Interruptions only ensure the kiss lasts longer. This is an Important Life Lesson. Now we have to keep it up until she’s quiet. It’s in her best interests, after all.
“Mary? What’s your name?”
He is a very good kisser. Emma, reading on the couch, is studiously ignoring us. See how well we’ve trained even our teens in appropriate response to adult nookie? Hard to know how she can see the page, though, with her eyes rolled up to the back of her head like that…
Ah, but Malli is quiet now, so I have to come up for air…
“Yes, lovie? What did you want?” Yes, I’ve heard her question. I suspect it’s a red herring.
“What’s your name?”
“Her name,” Stephen pipes up most helpfully, “is…” He puts his palm across his mouth and makes elaborate cartoon-y kiss-noises. “SMMMMMMOOOOOOOCCCHHHH!”
Emma can bear it no longer, and races in disgust from the room.
Parenting is fun!
Do you love to bury yourself in a book? Are you always on the lookout for suggestions, good titles, provocative reads? You’ve come to the right place! MaryP’s Book Binge is fast approaching. A month in which you read, log, and then post everything you read all through April.
On May 1, you’ll each post our lists on our blogs, and then everyone will know… that I read a LOT of schlock!
(And, to answer a couple of questions: yes, you can include books you re-read, so long as you re-read them in between April 1 and 30. Yes, you may also include books you start but don’t finish, just note the page at which you gave it up. Something like, “Quit, page 47 of 322”. Or, if you’re Addofio, “Quit, page 752 of 782.” No, you may not include books you read to your children – unless those books are at least 125 pages long.)
So far, we have:
A self-confessed voyeur:
Anyone else participating, leave a comment and we’ll add you to the list!
AND, for all you lucky participants, we have these lovely blog buttons! There’s a small and a medium version. All you have to do is copy and paste the the following code into your sidebar or post.
For SMALL (125 pixels wide, suitable for a sidebar),
Copy and paste this code:
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For MEDIUM (240 pixels wide; your text will wrap to the right of the image),
Copy and paste this code:
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(And if you, like me, are in awe at the way I have CODE on the blog, without it turning into the button and ‘vanishing’ the code, I can’t take the credit. This bit of playing with the browser’s head was devised by my devious sweetie, er, fiance. Isn’t he just so smart???)
Remember Nigel’s CD? And how one of the songs was a reassuring little ditty about how the people who love you always come back? Well, that song is starting to irk me.
Here’s the chorus:
Who says she’s gonna come back?
Your mommy does, that’s who!
Whoever takes care of you comes back
Because they do love you.
There’s a chorus for daddy, and one for grandma and grandpa, too. And then the all-inclusive “whoever”.
The verses are these:
Sometimes you miss them,
And sometimes you’re sad.
Sometimes you kiss them,
And sometimes you get very mad.
Sometimes mommy goes to work,
And sometimes daddy, too.
Sometimes you go to the babysitter’s house,
And sometimes you go to school!!!
Sometimes you laugh a lot
While waving goodbye.
Sometimes you understand
But sometimes you just have to cry.
And then the reassuring, “they’ll come back because they love you” chorus.
Okay. So I’ve listened to this a dozen times this week, and it was starting to annoy me, but why? Not because I’ve heard it a dozen times. I’ve heard the entire disk a dozen times, and the only other song that annoys me is “Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been”, the one where people “meow” the verses in high, squeaky voices. Ugh.
But this one seems innocuous enough, and with a positive, kid-friendly message. Right?
Or… perhaps not so much as you might think.
I don’t like it because, for starters, it’s not really very accurate to the child’s experience. Yes, there are tears when daycare first starts. However, once a child’s made the transition to daycare, they don’t “cry”, or “feel sad” or “get very mad”. For the first three or four weeks, you will likely see this. Thereafter it’ll be occasional, due to some specific reason – insufficient sleep, teething, change in routine. (And thereafter, smiles at departure are the norm, not “sometimes”.)
Why the tears during the transitional, adapting weeks? Is it because they fear you’ll never come back? Weeellllll…
I’m sure they’re confused. “Why is mommy/daddy leaving? Why am I in this strange place, surrounded by strangers?” When you go to leave them, they’re justifiably alarmed. Parents are a toddler’s primary relationship. The parent is all that are familiar in this strange place – and they’re LEAVING!!! Who wouldn’t be unnerved?
Unnerved, yes. Anxious, of course, But is the fear that mummy or daddy is never coming back?
I don’t believe that toddlers think of it in those terms. This subconscious fear could well be contributing to their tears, of course. But do they consciously have that fear “mummydaddy is NEVER GOING TO COME BACK!!” ?
As I read this post to Emma, her comment at this point was, “Not until you play this song for them, they don’t.”
I agree with Emma. Toddlers live in the “now”. They don’t think ten minutes ahead, never mind “never”. What they are thinking, at the moment of transition, is “Mummy is leaving, but I want her to stay!” Here and NOW. Full stop.
The glory of that ‘now-ness’, of course, is that when the parent leaves, the ‘now’ changes. The parent is gone, and with the parent, the struggle to make them stay goes right out the door, too. Parent is gone. Now they are in this place with this smiling woman, all these other kids, all these new toys, and a yummy snack! Hmmm…
(And what’s with the line, “Sometimes you go to the babysitter’s house, and sometimes you go to school!!” “School” being carolled out with radiant-with-glee inflection, whereas “babysitter” was just, well, just the babysitter’s house. Nothing like school!!!! That’s just rude.)
Here’s my second problem with this little ditty: This song completely lacks any focus on what the child will do at the babysitter’s house. It lacks any acknowledgement of the time that passes when mommy and daddy aren’t there – the time that is filled with activities and people, the time that is busy, happy, content? In fact, the song completely ignores THE CHILD’S ENTIRE DAILY REALITY.
So, are we really trying to encourage the child? Does this song have any real and immediate bearing on the child’s experience? The child’s experience, which, for those transitional weeks is a momentary uncertainty at the door, and then a day filled exploring, interacting, playing? The child’s experience, which, after those transitional weeks, doesn’t generally involve any crying or anxiety at all?
Nope. You know why? Because this song isn’t really about the child. This song is about the parents. It’s about the parent’s experience at the moment of transition. (And even then, only the transition for the first three weeks or so of care.) Because, you see, the parents need a song like this. The parents, the poor parents, they see only the tears. Caregivers all know that within 8 seconds of the door closing on mommy’s demoralized back, the child pops on their smile and chirps merrily through their day. (Little wretch.) Mommy only hears about it after the fact: she doesn’t experience it like the child and caregiver.
But in that case, write a reassuring little ditty for the parents. Don’t pretend it’s for the child’s sake. How about, “In just a few minutes those tears will stop, and she’ll be having fun?”
So, no, I don’t like this song. I don’t like the interpretation of the child’s response at transition; I don’t like the idea it promotes, that tears at departure are normal and ongoing; I don’t like the way it denies/ignores that lots of fun things happen all day long when mommy and daddy aren’t there.
And I really, really resent that it typifies my home, filled as it is with cheerful voices, chortles, hugs and kisses, music and play, being described through umpteen verses and choruses as a place to be endured until “the people who love you” come back.
Completely different results.
Little miss “gets it”.
Little man doesn’t.
Both of them smart as can be. Guess which one is eight months older??
Nigel’s mummy has given me a CD, a CD from a class they take together, a CD which Nigel loves and love and loves to listen and listen and listen and listen to at home and in the car and in the stroller and in the mall and…
You all understand, I’m sure.
Thankfully, I don’t mind it at all. We listen to all sorts of music over the course of a week, and there’s a place for this type, too. It’s very simple, and extremely repetitive, but that’s appropriate to the age its target audience. It’s not frenetic, like so many things aimed at kids. (And the kids on the disk? They can actually sing!) It is blissfully glitz-free. It’s a happy, clear, clean, peaceful little disk, full of gentle, peaceful, harmonious energy. I like it.
And Nigel loves, loves, loves it. He points to the disk propped on the mantlepiece.
“Want ‘hello, evweebuddy, so nice-a see you’!!” Which is the theme of the first track. It doesn’t stop there, though. Nigel knows the entire disk so well that that in the pauses between tracks, he announces the next song in anticipation.
After the first track ends, he turns to Malli. “Biddybiddy bum.” (The second track is “Biddy Biddy”.)
After the third track, “John a wabbit yes ma’am.” (“Oh, John the Rabbit”.)
After the fifth track (which was “bangabangabangabang”), comes “Sea Shells”. Which he sings very well – tone-matching in a just-turned-two! Not bad at all.
“That was good singing, Nigel,” comments my sweetie, who is home today.
“Yeah, Stephen!” Nigel agrees.
We hear –
“dis twain a gwoh-wy” (this train is bound for glory);
“kookabuwwa gum twee”;
“nee-noe” (Spanish song, including ‘nino’);
“sloooowly, slooooowly, snai-ww”;
“you comes back” (nice reassuring song about how “whoever takes care of you comes back, because they do love you”);
“skippin- down-a stweet” (Rig-a-jig-jig.)
But it’s his introduction to the 23rd track which brings down the house. The twenty-third track, “Everybody Loves Saturday Night”. In the silence before track 23, Nigel looks to the audience and announces…
“Ev-wee-buddy loves-a laugh at-a mime!”
I detect a father’s influence…
Okay, all you book–lovers out there, Bookmama and I have an activity for you. A fair number of you enjoyed the Literary Meme I did at the beginning of this week. But it was so arbitrary, and many of you who only had a fair-to-middlin’ showing on the list have probably read a TONNE of books that weren’t on it. Hardly right.
Clearly, we need a way to show our literary stuff in a truly personal way. So, here’s the idea: I’m proposing that, starting April 1, we start tracking everything we read for a month, and then, on May 1, we publish our lists. And yes, if you’re a student, assuming you’ll be doing any recreational blogging this month before exams, you can certainly include required readings and texts.
Emma kneels in the front hall amidst a swirl of snowsuits. Blue, navy, red, lilac, pink. Hats, mittens, boots, scarves, babies.
“There! You’re done!” She stands Emily on her puffy lilac snowsuit booties and calls over to where I’m putting together the snack for our outing. “You know, mum, if there was a contest for putting on snowsuits, I would so win!”
I chortle. “In your age category, anyway.”
“Pfft! I’m faster than most of the parents!”
She’s probably right. With a deft combination of good humour, calm authority, and distraction, she pops those kids into those contraptions with remarkable speed. Not that the kids aren’t doing their toddler best to stick a spoke in the wheels of efficiency.
“Okay, Nigel. Let’s get that foot in your boot.”
“Foot in boot!”
“That’s right.” She puts his toes in the opening of the boot. “Okay, then. STTOOOOMP!”
This is how we encourage the kids to push their feet into their boots. Yes, we could sit them on our laps and haul the boot on from behind, but once they can stand on one foot, this is way more fun – and a step on the way to independent dressing. Sometimes, mind you, you do have to lift the other foot to give the kid the necessary weight to slide fuzzy sock against the resistance of fleecy boot lining.
“Uh, uh, urgh, oog, ah.” Nigel’s face is screwed up in concentration, and his effort sounds prodigious. Emma, however, is unimpressed.
“Nigel, you have to push down. All that grunting doesn’t do anything, it just makes you sound constipated.”
“Uh, uh, uh, uuuuuuuuh.”
“No, STOOOOMMMP!” She cues him with the word always associated with the same action, but he’s oblivious, too engrossed in his effort-ful-sounding noise.
“Uh, uh, uuuuuhhhh.” For all the grunting, Nigel’s heel is woefully short of the bottom of the boot. He’s not pushing at all. His toes are barely in the top.
“Now you sound like you’re giving birth, you silly kid. Hang on to me, and say ‘STOOMMP’!!!” This time, the cue works. His face lights up.
“SSTTTTOOOOMMMPPPP!” His toes vanish, there’s a slight pause when his heel slips in, and then – thud – he drops into his boot. “In!” He crows.
“Yaayy, Nigel!! Now the other foot, and no noise this time, just STOMP!”
“Yaayy!” As Emma claps, Nigel walks toward the (locked) front door, waving a mittened hand.
“Bye-bye, Emma! See you inna moe-nin.”
“I’m not sending you outside by yourself, you,” she giggles. “Sit down over there while I get Anna into her suit.”
“Bye-bye! See you inna moe-nin.”
Bye-bye, Nigel, you noodle. See you sit on the step, please.”
“O-tay!” He plonks his butt.
In another couple of minutes, Anna is dressed, the snacks are packed, and we are on our way. Model of efficiency, I tell you.
By Nigel, age 2.
Today Mary gave us paint! One paintbrush each, and lots of green paint. Green is a pretty colour. Mary says that soon there will be stuff called “grass” and “leaves” outside and they will be green. I’m not so sure about that. Everyone knows outside is only white and gray. Sheesh.
I love to paint. It’s just so interesting. You hold the paintbrush – by the hard wooden end, not the bendy pokey end. You dip it in the paint – the bendy pokey end, not the hard wooden end. The bendy end picks up the paint. If you take too much, it drips on the table. If you don’t get enough, you don’t get any green on the paper. It’s tricky. Takes a lot of concentration.
But if you get just the right much of paint? Then you rub it on the paper – the wet, painty end. And it makes marks! All over the paper!
If this is interesting enough, you might decide to take a closer look at the wet, painty end of the brush. But be careful, or – OW. Maybe you’ll paint yourself right in the eye. This is not so much fun! Good thing Mary is there to wash it off. But only the stuff right in your eye. The rest can come off at bathtime tonight. Mary said so.
If you’re careful and look at the wet painty end right, you’ll only paint your right cheek and fill your ear with green paint. That doesn’t hurt at all!! It’s okay, Mary, that paint in my ear? It doesn’t bother me at all! Mary? Mary, you can STOP NOW! (Dripping on my shirt? But it doesn’t hurt! Can’t that come off at bathtime, too?)
And if it looks so good, I wonder what it tastes like?? Ugh. Not so good. No, it’s okay, Mary! I’m not going to do that again. I promise. You don’t need to wash my mouth. I said, you don’t need to! Stick out my tongue? What? So you can wipe it with that? I think not.
When you rub the wet painty end onto the paper, back and forth and back and forth. If you’re patient, you can make a hole right through the paper!!
Or you can poke the wet painty bit straight down onto the paper, and if you poke it hard enough, it makes green raindrops!
Or, you can get the bristly end really, really wet with paint, and then bang it on the edge of the table. More raindrops!
Or wave it around above your head. If the brush moves fast enough, you can make even more raindrops!
If you move the brush really, really fast? The raindrops will hit the wall!!!
If you fill up your paintbrush enough times, your painting will actually drip when Mary hangs it up!
Oh, look! There’s my mommy! Mommy, mommy, look at my painting! Pardon? “What did I make?” Pfft. Adults. So clueless. With all that fun going on, who needs to worry about making anything?