It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Busy, busy, busy

As a society, we take pride in our busy-ness. When asked how we are, we routinely reply “busy!”, to which our friend will nod sagely, for they, too, are busy. We may complain about our busy-ness, but, really? We’re very proud of it. Those who work to keep their lives free from unnecessary social and work-related clutter are often disapproved of. We mock people who are in bed by ten p.m. We tacitly understand amongst ourselves that not enrolling your child in two (three! four! five!) activities a week is inferior parenting. We race through our days at high speed, without a second’s space for reflection, renewal, for just doing nothing. Because we’re busy! Oh! So Busy!

And busy is good! Because busy proves that we are diligent, energetic, productive people! Busy people live full, rich lives! Right?

The Washington Post ran an interesting experiment some while back. They plonked a world-famous violinist, Joshua Bell, into a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in Washington DC to see what would happen.

Now, they stacked the odds against Mr. Bell, setting him there at morning rush hour. Had they put him there at evening rush hour, when people arguably have more time at their disposal, it might have come out differently. But, given how we so often complain we don’t have time for a proper family evening meal, what with all we “have” to do, I’m not so sure.

Here’s the bit that totally wrenched my heart:

A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She’s got his hand.

“I had a time crunch,” recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. “I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement.”

Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.

You can see Evan clearly on the video. He’s the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.

“There was a musician,” Parker says, “and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time.”

So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between Evan’s and Bell’s, cutting off her son’s line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look. When Parker is told what she walked out on, she laughs.

“Evan is very smart!”

The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.

There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

Let’s hear that again: Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.


Doesn’t that just make you want to cry? What are we robbing our children of, every single day, with our much-vaunted busy-ness? What are we robbing ourselves of? And why should our children’s lives be impoverished because we must race like hamsters on a treadmill? Do we really need to work that extra two hours? Do we really need to sign our children up for all those activities? Why do we sneer at people who are in bed by 10, which enables them to get up easily in the morning and avoid that last-minute frantic charge to work?

Perhaps classical music isn’t “your thing”. But if your child wants to stop and listen, why not? Maybe you are very, very busy, with many Important Things awaiting you. But will the world really end if you were to pause for 90 seconds?


May 31, 2007 Posted by | Developmental stuff, music, parenting, socializing | 21 Comments

And everyone is happy

Nigel: Look! I built an airplane!!!
Mary: An airplane! (Three blocks stacked up is too an airplane! If you look at it the right way…)
Nigel: Yeah! I built it on the lutes!
Mary: On the what?
Nigel: I built it on the lutes!
Mary: On the lutes?
Nigel: Yeah!!!
Mary: Wow! Good for you!
Nigel: Yeah!!

Thus proving you can do a fine job in this parenting gig, without having a clue what is going on…

May 30, 2007 Posted by | parenting, the things they say! | 8 Comments

Food as Art

Lunch. Chili on rice with green beans. A bib-imperative meal.

BUT! Bibs? Hello, bibs? I can find precisely ONE. Where did they go? How did they get there? Not a flippin’ clue, but I have five children ranged round the table, salivating. I can’t keep them waiting long.

I don’t do disposable much, but paper towels were made for times like this. I tuck one under four chins. The messiest chin (Timmy!) gets the sole bib. (Timmy is not a picky eater, but he’s slooooow. Slow, because every morsel of food must be examined, rolled between his fingers, peered at, sniffed, and finally smeared everywhere – table, face, hands, arms, top of head – before it actually disappears into his mouth. I figure he’s so slim because two-thirds of each meal is lost in the smearing, deposited hither and yon long before it can be ingested. Food as sculpting medium.)

At the end of the meal, one filthy bib, and three filthy paper towels are removed from four relatively tidy tummies.

The fifth paper towel? Seems Emily has taken up Timmy’s hobby, and has been doing a little sculpting, herself. There, on Emily’s tray, atop a slimy pile of rejected kidney beans, lay the sodden, shredded remains of her bib. White on red. Fabric on slime on fabric. Ugh. I think next time Emily will get the One True Bib.

May 29, 2007 Posted by | eeewww, food, Mischief | 3 Comments

Protected: Finally, PICTURES

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May 28, 2007 Posted by | wedding | Enter your password to view comments.

Protected: It’s a start…

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May 27, 2007 Posted by | wedding | Enter your password to view comments.


We found the Sharpie.

Well, Emily found the Sharpie. Probably about 4 full minutes before I found her finding it. She’s right-handed, you know, which explains the state of her left hand. And both her feet.

But that’s it! One black hand, two tattooed feet. Not clothing, not walls, not furniture nor even her face – or anyone else’s.

I’m thinking we all got off lightly.

Except perhaps Emily’s parents…

May 25, 2007 Posted by | eeewww, Mischief | 12 Comments


A nightmare can be such a simple thing.

The lid for a black Sharpie lies on the dining room table. A lid which, when last seen, had the Sharpie firmly attached.

There are five toddlers under the age of three in my home. There is also a loose Sharpie, with the safety off, somewhere in that home.

This is my nightmare.

May 23, 2007 Posted by | crafts, eeewww, random and odd, the dark side | 21 Comments

Protected: First Pic. – updated

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May 22, 2007 Posted by | wedding | Enter your password to view comments.

Today’s the Day!

By four this afternoon, I will be Officially married. Thanks to all you who gave your congratulations a day early – it’s just that this Monday is a holiday up here!

My laptop is dying!! Must go!!!

May 21, 2007 Posted by | wedding | 21 Comments

Think maybe I have Other Stuff on my mind?

Every child was dropped off by a dad this morning. Usually there’s a mix of parenting genders.

I greet the child, I exchange a few pleasantries with the adult, we grin at the enthusiasm of the children who are gathered around to greet their incoming buddy. The shoes are removed, the slippers donned, the parent waves and heads on his way.

Only after all this has happened, FIVE TIMES, do I realize my shirt is on inside-out.

So glad it was the dads. 🙂

May 18, 2007 Posted by | daycare, Mischief, parents, random and odd | 10 Comments