It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Fascinating! — Updated

This puzzle has been going the rounds of the blogs down under, but I’m not sure how many of you may have seen it. When you go (and you really should) you’ll see the sihouette of a dancing woman. Well, she dances like the ballerina in your music box you had when you were twelve: an endless pivot.

Question is: does she pivot clockwise, or counter-clockwise?

If she’s going clockwise, you are primarily right-brained; counter-clockwise and you’re left-brained.

It seems I am right, right, right, right, right-brained. I did eventually figure out how to see her turn the other way, but I can only do it for a second or two. The most I’ve managed is three or four revolutions counter-clockwise, and then, suddenly and inexplicably, ding!, she’s going clockwise again. For my brain, that’s her default revolution.

How about you?

Update: Sylvia provided this link to the New Scientist blog, which claims it’s nothing to do with left- or right-brained-ness. Well, poop. It’s still fascinating, though!

October 31, 2007 Posted by | Developmental stuff, memes and quizzes | 23 Comments

Fall and haul

Fall is well underway here in Ottawa. The trees are rapidly shedding the last of their leaves, which collect in crackling drifts against the curbs, the light is golden and slanted, the air is crisp. I love it. We spend as much time as possible out-of-doors, me in the vain hope that I can somehow stockpile the sunshine for the dimness that looms.

Today, we headed to the library. It’s not quite a km away, an easy 8-minute walk for me; a gentle 20-minute trundle for the tots. A large part of the way there is uphill. I’m taking the two-seater stroller these days: Malli, Nigel and Tim are all quite sturdy walkers, and can stomp along for substantial distances, if I have the time to while away — and of course, I do! However, whereas young Timmy is an eager walker, ever pulling ahead of the traces, Malli and Nigel drag behind.

Drag behind only as far as the length of their arms will allow, mind you, given that they’re not allowed to let go of the stroller. Up the long hill to the library we slog. I slog. And slog. And really, really slog some more. The stroller is heavy today. It’s as if I’m pushing through mud. It’s as if I’ve left the brake on.

It’s as if Malli and Nigel are pulling backwards against the pull of the stroller with all their conjoined 50 or 60 pounds.

Ugh. There’s not much I can do about this. If they let go, they’ll be three metres behind in twenty seconds. I give them small nudges, alternatively, first one, then the other. “Don’t drag, Malli!” “Move UP, Nigel.” Of course, it’s futile. All I accomplish by this is a series of small backward jerks on the forward momentum of the stroller as they move forward for a pace or two, then return with a tug to their original positions.

Oh, well. It’s a workout, right? Better to focus on the muscles — butt and thighs — and just power them all, the fifty pounds in the stroller and the sixty pounds of drag, up that hill.

You know, if my ass ever, ever gets droopy? There is simply no justice in the world.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | outings | 4 Comments

Interview Question, Fifth and Final: Parenting License?

5. Some people say that people should have to obtain a License To Parent before they are allowed to bring a child into the world. The implication is, some kind accreditation is necessary to do the job right. You’ve worked with lots of untrained mommies and daddies. Are children at risk or otherwise held back by parental ignorance?

“Are children at risk or held back by parental ignorance?” If the ignorance is profound, yes. Most of us, however, trained or untrained, know to feed our children when they’re hungry, hug them often, and not to lock them in closets and hit them with sticks.

Are they at risk or held back if the ignorance is just garden-variety inexperience? No.

The idea of licensing parents is not new, of course, and there’s something to be said for the idea that we have to have a license to drive a car or own a pet, but not for something as life-altering as raising a child.

However, there is a right and a wrong way to drive a car. The rules for driving safely are clear and readily taught. A test can determine with reasonable accuracy whether or not a person is safe on the roads.

Pet licensing is more a public health/administrative issue than anything else – pets are licensed so they can be returned to their owners should they get lost, so there’s a mechanism to monitor that they’re all getting their legally-mandated innoculations, that sort of thing. We have birth certificates and innoculation records for our children which accomplish the same things.

My question has always been: who would dole out the parenting licenses? Who would determine the curriculum? What would make it onto the curriculum?

These things are so culturally-based. Moreover, they shift over the years. Parenting is just as influenced by trends and fads as anything else, and, fads as we all know, are mostly ephemeral dross. Pretty and appealing at the moment, perhaps, but with little lasting value.

Here’s only one of many, many examples: We believe that it’s vital that children be bathed in language, that communication be facilitated as soon as possible, that parents ease a child into language learning by interaction, simplified speech, repetition, and talk, talk, talk. Did you know that not all cultures believe this? That some cultures speak to their children as they would to adults? That at least one doesn’t speak directly to them at all until the child begins to speak? (In this latter culture, mind you, the children are always with adults or other children, so they hear language constantly. They are just not spoken to very much. Language is not cut up into bite-sized chunks for them.) And yet in all these cultures, the children learn to speak, speak well and fluently?

See my point? We believe you must speak to your children to encourage language acquisition; we believe this is a total and complete given. But it’s not. There is astonishingly little that can be unequivocably identified as “good” or “bad”, or “strong and effective” or “weak and handicapping”. It’s just not so clear-cut.

Who, then, would have the right and the authority to say “You may have a child and you may not.”? On the basis of what skill set and knowledge? Would physical health be a factor? Could a handicapped person be refused a license? Or a person whose family history makes them more likely to die before the task of raising the child was finished?

What would you do about accidental pregnancies to unlicensed parents – scoop the kid at birth to give to a more “qualified” parent?

Although it’s undeniably good to be prepared for parenting, I believe a license is at best of questionable value, and at worse, actively detrimental to parents and families. How does one prepare for parenting, then? Hang out with kids. Babysit. Volunteer at a daycare or a day camp. Just get yourself a little face-time with some children.

And you’ll do just fine. Even without a license.

October 29, 2007 Posted by | memes and quizzes, parenting | 12 Comments

Adroit, he ain’t.

Timmy is the wrigglingest child. He wiggles and he twitches and he fidgets. He doesn’t sit; he bounces in place. He doesn’t walk, he springs. He doesn’t run, he careens.

He’s also skinny. Fifth percentile. Are we surprised? No. Are we worried? No. He’s been at the fifth percentile pretty much his whole life long. How can someone who is never still help but burn a lot of calories? He barely sits to eat. Ironically, eating is the one thing he does slowly. Very, very slowly. He’s not at all picky: He’ll eat anything you put in front of him. Just don’t ask him to focus on it! There’s too much to do!

You’d think that someone who had so much practice with movement would be better at it, though. Two weeks ago, his mother had an appointment for the two of them to have their pictures taken. Portrait pictures, at a studio. The day before the appointment, Timmy’s nana came to visit. Upon hearing her voice as she entered the house, Timmy spun on his heel to run toward the front door. “NAna!!! NAAaaana!” Only he spun left when he should have spun right, and ran STRAIGHT into the doorframe beside himself. WHAM.

They postponed the studio visit for a couple of week. They figured it would take that long for the big blue bump to disappear… Their new appointment is on Saturday.

Today, the children sit on the benches that line my dining table, waiting for their lunch. As I enter with the tray of spaghetti and meatballs and broccoli, there is blur and a thud, followed by a wail. Timmy is on the floor.

“Oh, Timmy. If you’d just SIT for once, this wouldn’t happen.” (Yes, I know. Rather less than tenderly sympathetic, but this happens three times a week, at least. It’s like that old joke, “Doctor, doctor! It hurts when I do this!” Doctor’s response: “Stop doing that.”) Sooner or later, you’d think that it would dawn on the boy that it is not in his best interests to continue with the behaviour that keeps getting himself hurt.

Seems not. At least not “sooner”. I guess he’ll learn “later”. It’s never serious. He just plops on the ground with a jolt, not even enough to wind himself. He’s a resilient little dude, and generally scrambles back up himself with minimal fuss. Today he must’ve landed harder than usual, because he’s actually crying.

I pick him up, give him a hug and a kiss, replace him on the bench. “And this time, SIT down, silly boy.” Dish out the spaghetti round the table.

When I get to the bowls on the other side, so that I’m facing Timmy, I see that he has a blue bump that’s grown so quickly as to be almost visibly swelling. He must have hit the edge of the table or the bench on his way down, poor mite, something which he’s never done before.

When his nana comes to pick him up at the end of the day, I point out the bump (not that she could really have missed the damned thing) and explain its origins and treatment thus far. (Ice, over roars of protest.)

“Well. This one’s on the other side,” she notes as she kisses his battered wee forehead. “Usually he hits himself on the right. If he alternates, maybe the scarring won’t be permanent.”

I guess you have to find your silver linings where you can. I also guess mama will be postponing their portrait appointment. Again.

October 25, 2007 Posted by | health and safety, Timmy | 5 Comments

Defying Gravity: More complicated than you’d think

Nigel (two and three-quarters) stands on the bottom step and leaps into the void. And lands on the hall floor, laughing. “I’m JUMPING! I JUMPED!” And does it again. And again. And again.

Timmy (two and two months) stands on the bottom step and … takes a large, sort of bouncing step forward. Lands on one foot; the second foot lands a split-second later. “I JUMPIN! I JUMP!!!” Well, almost …

Emily (two and no months) stands on the bottom step, coils to spring, and … pauses. Then re-coils, bends her knees, and … pauses. Coils once more, bends her knees, draws her elbows up high and tight so they jut out behind her tubby body, and … pauses. Then steps down onto the hall floor, jumps three times in quick succession — thud! thud! thud! — and makes for the dining room at a run.

Which is an improvement. Let us flash back three months:

Emily stands, both feet on the floor, coiled to spring. She bends her knees, tucks in her elbows, sticks her padded butt out, and, and, and — STANDS UP!!

Hmmm… not what she was after. She bends her knees, tucks in her elbows, sticks her padded butt out, and, and, and — STANDS UP!! And swings her hands above her head!! (Well, her fingertips clear her head. The rest of her hands are in the range of her ears. But this is as far has her arms GO.)

Let’s try that again. She bends her knees, tucks in her elbows, sticks her padded butt out, and, and, and — STANDS UP!! And swings her hands “above” her head, AND … LIFTS ONE FOOT OFF THE FLOOR!!


So you are, sweetie. So you are.

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Emily | 6 Comments

Nigel, Nigel, Nigel

Nigel is feeling obstreperous this morning.

We go to the park. We sit at the edge, the five of us, digging in the sand. Nigel has a bucket and shovel, like everyone else. His bucket is, apparently, far better than the other four identical buckets. He is indignant when the other children do not acknowledge his superiority. Worse, they don’t even care!

Nigel trundles off with a bucket of sand, ascends the stairs on the play structure, and proceeds to dump his bucket of dirt down the slide. Damp dirt, as it’s a rather chill and damp day.

“Nigel, it’s fun to play with the sand, but we can’t dump it down the slide. People want to sit on the slide, and they will get their bums all dirty. You can dump the sand on the table in the play house, if you like.” I explain as I swipe the slide clear of dirt.

Nigel trundles down the steps and gets himself another bucket of sand. Which he proceeds to dump down the slide.

“Nigel. What did I say about the slide?”

“Don’t dump sand onna slide.”

“Exactly. Now come clean the slide off.”

He does. With a scowl. Then gets his little bucket, fills it with sand, AND DUMPS IT DOWN THE SLIDE. And scowls at me.

“Okay, Nigel. Come off the play structure. No more climbing for you.”

With another scowl — this is threatening to become permanent — Nigel stomps down the stairs. Stomps across the dirt. Stomps back to the others, who are still digging, chattering together, peaceful little companions to each other.

“Hey! Timmy! Get outta my spot!”

Seems like Nigel is going to have One of Those Days.

October 23, 2007 Posted by | aggression, Nigel, outings | 14 Comments

Gardening and Hallowe’en and Rock Boobs

It is far too nice a day to waste indoors. We scoop up some bulbs I bought that couldn’t be planted in last month’s unseasonably warm temperatures, and head out the door. Since it’s forecast to get colder after today and certainly won’t hit this week’s balmy temperatures (24C, 75F) until, oh, next JUNE, I think we’d best get those things planted.

And since I’m busy gardening, perhaps I will let the tots tell you about their morning…

Mary rakes the leaves off the garden. Gently, gently, so she doesn’t hurt the flowers that are still there. She makes a pile of leaves in the driveway. (We stay ON. THE. DRIVEWAY. We don’t go on the sidewalk, because it’s too close to the street! Anna! Anna you don’t go onna sidewalk! ANNA! That’s better.)

Then we pile the leaves into the leaf bin. We love dropping leave in the bin. I can hold one, two, free, five, sebben, four leaves in my hands. We could drop leaves ALL DAY. (And they will, at that rate.) Sometimes we try to drop other things in the bin, too, but Mary makes us take those out.

“That’s Malli’s Raggedy Anne, not leaves.”
“The cat wants his ball, Nigel. Put this stick in instead.”
“Garbage goes in the garbage can, Timmy. And don’t touch that thing anyway, it’s disgusting.” (It’s NOT disgusting! It’s interesting! And maybe tasty — and now it’s in the garbage. Mary is FAST, sometimes.)

And then we dig holes in the garden. Amazing! Mary has kept us out of the garden ALL SUMMER LONG. We’re not even allowed to come into the garden, not even a little bit, not even once. We don’t even put ONE TOE in the garden. Because there are flowers in there and the flowers need soft dirt to grow in and no stepping on them. And now Mary’s digging holes ALL OVER THE GARDEN, AND she’s telling us to come in!! And drop rocks in the holes!!

They’re not rocks? They look like rocks. They’re seeds? SEEDS? A special kind of seed, called a boob. Not boob? Bulb? A bulb is a kind of rock. Which Mary thinks will grow into flowers in the spring, which is what comes after the winter, which is when there is snow all over, which is very cold white stuff that falls instead of rain. In the winter we will dress in very warm clothes and play in the snow. Winter comes after Hallowe’en, which is next week. I am going to have my Hallowe’en with my mummy and daddy when they give me a costume to wear and we go outside and shout “Trick or treat” and people give us candies and then we say “Thank you”. I am going to have MY Hallowe’en, not YOU, Malli …

“I have a Hallowe’en, too!”
“No, I will!”
“No, ME!”
“NO, ME!”

Mary says everybody has a Hallowe’en, and Hallowe’en is a time, not a thing. But I will go with MY mummy at Hallowe’en.

“MY mummy!”
“No, MY mummy!”

Mary says we’ll each go with our own mummy when we get our Hallowe’en. My mummy will get me MY Hallowe’en!

“No, MY Hallowe’en!”
“NO! MY Hallowe’en!”

Mary says we need to go inside now because it’s nap time.

And I still think they’re rocks.

October 22, 2007 Posted by | aggression, outings, power struggle, socializing | 3 Comments

And I quote…

Lazy post today. Heard while hanging out with the knee-high set…

“Oh! Oh, look! A fwink-lar!!!”

“Hey, who tored all the flowers off the plant?”

“Whatchoo doin’?”
“Goin’ pee.”
“But you isn’t onna potty.”
“No. My diaper is cold and now is warm.”

“Get your finger outta your nose!”
“Get your finger outta your mouth!”

“Is your head stuck? Do you need help?”
inarticulate wail
“I will help.”
louder wail
“I won’t help if you yell at me!”

“You can’t sit here. I am sitting here.”
“Sitting here!”
“No, I am sitting here!”
“Sitting here.”
“I am sitting here first!”
“Sitting here!”
“Stop saying ‘sitting here’!”
“Sitting here!”

“You don’t go behind the couch. You will get stuck.”
“I SAID, you don’t go back there. You will get stuck.”
scuffling. wail.
“Are you behind the couch?”
scuffling. wail.
“Are you stuck?”
scuffling. wail.

“My mommy’s a grome-up.”
“And my daddy’s a grampa!”

“I am not a girl. I am a boy.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am a boy.”
“No, I am a boy. You are a girl.”
“I am a boy.”
“Does you have a penis?”
“Does you? I have a penis. Does you have a penis?”
“Then you’re not a boy.”
silence. Then, quietly,
“Penis is stupid.”

October 17, 2007 Posted by | the things they say! | 15 Comments

This is “Responsibility”?

Florinda posted on this article a few weeks back, and I’m just getting around to responding to it here. (UPATE: Here’s the article Florinda wrote.)

You should really go read the original article, but, in brief, the writer suggests that the responsible thing for adult children to do upon graduation is to go live at home for a few years. Pay down their debt, explore career options, get themselves sorted out while living with mom and/or dad, and then, when they’re established, get out and get going.

You know, as the parent of an almost-22-year-old (who is living on her own after having graduated university), and an 18-year-old who is living at home while he works and takes a gap year before attending post-secondary school, I am acutely annoyed by the article. (And yes, my son is paying rent.)

“Responsible?” In that entire article, there is not one single reference to the parents in this equation. No acknowledgement that it’s their home, too. No, wait: not “their home, too“. “Their home.” Period. The article expressed no awareness that, having had their child out of the house for four or five years, the parents might prefer to preserve their hard-earned parental autonomy. How “responsible” can it be to simply assume one can return to the nest as a chick, without any reference to the needs and realities of the people who own the nest?

The self-absorption is appalling. It’s not “responsibility” he’s describing here, it’s expediency and sheerest self-interest.

In the article, the author wonders “why do we … try to go from adolescent to adult in a matter of weeks or months?”. Hello? What were those four or five undergrad years all about? Obviously, the writer thinks that university students are in an extended adolescence until the very moment of graduation.

Strange, I’d always thought that the four or five years of university or college were supposed to be the transition from adolescence to adult. They certainly were for me — but, oh, that was before the dawn of time and is no longer ‘relevant to today’s experience’. Excuse me. However, those four years also seem to have done the trick for my daughter, who is 21, and for many of her friends. Guess what? People do grow up in university, even in this day and age! Imagine.

A large part of the problem probably lies with the parents in the equation, of course. Who has given these “children” the idea that it’s all right to continue to be children into their twentes? Who allows them back, and doesn’t charge them full market rent? Who infantilizes them so that they can’t make it on their own in the face of normal life challenges?

The article is a pathetic rationalization of a fundamentally unhealthy dynamic. If we’re adolescents until our late twenties, that’s a whole decade frittered away. Why would parents encourage extended childhood in their adult-age children? Oh, that’s right: because we see childhood as nirvana and adulthood as something bad.

Yup, I’m annoyed.

October 16, 2007 Posted by | controversy, my kids, parenting, socializing | 28 Comments

If I don’t have to fight it…

why would I?

“Nigel, where are you going with that block? Blocks stay in the kitchen, remember?”

“It’s not a block. It’s a fishy-fishy.”

“It’s a block that’s being a fishy-fishy. If it wants to be a fishy-fishy, it can be one in the kitchen.”

Sigh. “Oooh-kaaay.”

October 15, 2007 Posted by | Nigel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments