It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Mid-morning in the garden of good and evil

“You are a BAD boy!”

Malli’s voice is thick with indignation. “That is MY princess dress and you don’t put it in your mouth!”

We adults, of course, do not use the term “bad” in reference to the children. The child isn’t bad, the behaviour is. We will not dwell too long on the fact that some children seem to have far deeper, richer, wider, broader reserves of “bad” behaviour than others. None of these children, however. They are all pretty much standard-issue toddlers, untidy and energetic mixes of joy and rage, kindness and callousness, innocence and wretchedness.

Whether such labels are appropriate or parentally-politically correct, the fact is that most days are a pretty blatant struggle between baser and virtuous urges. Like it or not, toddlers think in black and white. There is no nuance in their world.

“You BAD boy! Let go of my princess dress!”

The morning had started quietly. Very, very quietly. No Emily at 7:15. No Anna at 7:45. No Nigel at 8:00. Which might be good, but …

When, by 9:06 I was still utterly on my own, not one tot in the house and not one phone call explaining their absences, it all began to feel a little surreal. I was thrown back to my adolescence, a startling occasion at school when I was searching for friends who should have been in certain places, but none of them were. This may be a memory of a dream. I’m not entirely sure.

My friends were all so thoroughly not where I expected them to be that I became certain that “Ohmygod, ohmygod, OHMYGOD!!!– not that I would have said that at that age, being devout and respectful of deity, but it’s how I was feeling — “Ohmigod, it’s the Rapture. It’s happened and I’ve been Left Behind.” Bad, definitely bad.

Something of the same sense of disorientation hit me at 9:06 when I was still alone in my home. (The neighbour’s 17-year-old walked past on the sidewalk, but that proved nothing. I would doubt that young woman has any interest in heaven, and I’m sure this would be to the mutual satisfaction to both she and the deity.) She’d be baaad, that girl, and proud of it.

At 9:07, just as I’d decided that since I had been left behind, I might as well take the day and get some shopping done, the first child arrived, followed within the next few minutes by the rest of them, though I never found out from any of them why the delay. Odd.

Malli is assured that Timmy is not bad, he is just little. Timmy is reminded not to put things in his mouth, particularly other people’s clothes, particularly particularly when these clothes are being worn by the other person. We apply some clean rags to the soggy spot on Malli’s princess dress. All is well.

“That is okay, Timmy.” Secure in her reclaimed princess dress, Malli is benificent royalty. She presses her forehead against his and beams at him. He giggles. “You are a Good Boy now.”

We are supposed to discourage “good boy” and “good girl” labels, too, but I’ve never been convinced of the rational for that one. No one is all anything, good or bad, but let us focus on the positives when we can.

“Where are my headphones? Have one of the evil toddlers made off with them again?” It is evening, the tots have gone home, and my husband is rummaging around his desk. The headphones are discovered where many things congregate at the end of the day, high on the mantlepiece, up out of harm’s way.

“Harm” being three two-year-olds and a couple of threes.

The phone rings. Emily’s mother. “Emily’s getting ready for bed, and she’s insisting on saying goodnight to Mary. Do you mind?” Do I mind? I’m just about melting in the cuteness, oh lordy. That little baby voice down the phone line, clear as a bell, high and sweet.

“G’night, Maywee. I love you.”

And once again, good triumphs over evil.

February 26, 2008 - Posted by | aggression, socializing


  1. Awwwww!

    (And I would have been freaked out by the nobody there with no explanations, too.)

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. I would have stood all alone and wondered why no one told me about the social plans they’d made. All the kids/parents/friends made plans without me! My insecurities would have started dripping from my pores.

    I have a file from my teaching days of moments like the call from Emily. I’d write them down, or save the sweet notes, presents and pictures, then pull them out on dark days to brighten my mood. Maybe your blog archives work similarly.

    You do know that if you hadn’t started to get some errands done but had instead been so preoccupied that you hadn’t even noticed the time, that they wouldn’t have come.

    Comment by Jill | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. Oh my goodness! Eternity alone with a tot might just be hell on earth. I would’ve been a little scared too! I get uneasy when I drive the 13 miles to town and don’t see a single car or sign of human life for the first half of the trip. Creepy.

    Comment by MJH | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  4. Oh how sweet!!
    It’s good to remember the sweetness and to have a place to archive it all.

    Comment by Dani | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  5. Those sweet moments are what keep me going some days, just the mere memory helps put a smile on my tired and tried face.

    Comment by mamacita tina | February 26, 2008 | Reply

  6. What a beautiful way to end the day! (Especially one that started off a little “off!”)

    Comment by LoryKC | February 27, 2008 | Reply

  7. Oh man, my heart just melted. How cute!

    And I just have those mornings when NOTHING goes right and the kids don’t want to wear those shoes, they want to wear the other shoes, and my shirt – the very nice one I need to wear for the very important meeting I have that day – suddenly has a child-produced stain on it. And then I can’t find my car keys and then forget the check for the childcare provider on the counter and I remember half-way to the provider’s house…

    You get the idea. It just never dawned on me that every other parent at that childcare provider could be having the same day.

    Comment by Childsplayx2 | March 3, 2008 | Reply

  8. Ah, this is where we seem to have fallen by the wayside. I have to undo the “naughty boy” labelling. Actually, I think I may need to undo a few more things–I know what they are because the toddler echoes them to the babies. (Although I have to say it’s quite amusing when his dad plays rough with him and gets a very grown-up sounding “Would you stop that?!?” Heh.)

    Comment by Kat | March 11, 2008 | Reply

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