It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Spring! Get out of that damned car!

Yes, there is still snow mounded in the front lawns of houses across the street (though not on my side of the street, which gets the morning sunlight). The air is crisp in the mornings, hovering just above the freezing point — but with the sun beaming brightly, warm enough for me to have a cup of tea and a quiet read on the front porch for 20 minutes.

The tots and I have been getting out every day, and I’ve been discovering that we have three dawdlers, one steadfast marcher, and one dasher-ahead. Makes for some logistical challenges, keeping the herd together, particularly since staunch walker me believes children should walk, not ride. Four-year-olds in strollers mystify me. (Frankly, I actively disapprove of healthy, able-bodied four-year-olds in strollers on a routine basis. The occasional necessary efficiency of plopping them into a stroller aside, for speed or logistical reasons, those kids should be on their feet!) Three-year-olds, too, for that matter. Once a child in my care is comfortably over two, they start walking.

We walk to the library (1 km) and back. We walk to the park by the river (.6 km), the other park by the river (.8 km), playgroup (1.2 km), the mall (2 km). For all these jaunts, the tots walk the entire distance, there and home again. The stroller is used to hold onto, and for tossing in stuff we find along the way. For anything over 2 km (downtown, 4 km), the park by the coffee shop (3.5 km), they take turns in the stroller.

Because walking is good for them, and if you allow enough time — and heck, we have all day, don’t we? — they can walk much further than people give them credit.

I would also suggest that if you never “have time” to walk a km (half-a-mile-ish) and back home again, something is amiss in your life. We get to the library (half-a-mile-ish) in about 20 – 23 minutes. Not such a huge chunk of time, and so much healthier for you and the environment to walk it than haul the car out for another 2-minute toxin-spewing, road-clogging trip.

Rather than seek ways to become ever more efficient, to cram more and more into less and less time, try for a little inefficiency. It’s very soul-restoring.

April 14, 2008 Posted by | health and safety, outings, parenting | 9 Comments

Hello? You still there?

Sorry I’ve been invisible the past couple of days. I’ve been a tad under the weather, and though that’s not enough to stop me from working (where do you think I pick up these bugs, anyway?), it has stopped me from writing. When the tots nap, I zone out. Sit and blink at the wall.

Today, however, just in time for the weekend (!!), I am feeling markedly better. So maybe tomorrow I’ll write something worth reading. Today was just to let you know I haven’t forgotten you, and I’m still alive…

April 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Moving with the times

This was my front window last week:

But, given that the street has gone from this (19 days ago):

Through this (18 days ago):

To this (yesterday):

I thought it was time for a change. (Yes, this is early spring in Ottawa! It looks like mid-winter to some of you, I know, but here, it’s called Spring!)

So we took a pile of these:

And made a bunch of those. (Sorry about the glare. Hope you can make them out!):

And soon, there will be REAL ones in my garden! Happy Spring! (And yes, I know there is one lone snowflake in the window. This was not intentional, but when I discovered it there I decided to leave it. It seemed fitting. Because Lord only knows we’re not out of the woods yet.)

But, one last snowfall or not, Spring has indeed Sprung.

April 8, 2008 Posted by | crafts, Ottawa | 7 Comments

Shit happens

When my son was just a toddler, he was playing with his cousins at his grandparents’ house when one of the older cousins tossed a wooden block down the stairwell. Adam, who was at the bottom, caught the block in his forehead. He has a scar there to this day.

When we were camping one summer, my then 10-year-old daughter spilled near-boiling water on her ankle, raising blisters in a shockingly short period of time. (She bears no scars.)

While we were walking through our neighbourhood years ago, another daughter reached down to pet a very cute little dog, and it snapped at her, breaking the skin on her thumb. (I grabbed the rotten little thing and checked: its tags indicated its shots were up to date. Phew.)

I sat on the curb and watched my daughter wobble down the street on her new bike. She turned to smile at me, lost her precarious balance, and landed in a tangled heap under the thing. It took half and hour to ease the grit out of the abrasions.

Tobogganing with the family, son and daughter crash into each other. A bloody nose (daughter) and a black eye (son) were the untidy result.

Between the two of us, my husband and I have eight children. We have seen more blood, scrapes, sprains, strains, bumps, bruises, contusions, concussions, barfing, dislocations, beans up noses and beads in ears than most.

But something that many kids will teach you, is that there is no place for guilt in any of this. At no point in any of the little dramas listed above, did I ever feel guilty. Not that it had happened, not that I hadn’t managed to prevent it. Because, you know? With kids? Shit happens.

And yet, even if the mother isn’t one to assume unnecessary guilt, the assumption is that she will, even that she should. I know a mother whose son suffered a broken arm while she was out of town. She told a group of mothers about it, and the mom-to-mom support network, that marvellous thing, kicked right in. They all offered words of kindness, except … all of them assumed that she was feeling guilty.

Why would they do that? The child was with his father. His loving, wise, involved father. Child took a tumble, as five-year-olds will do, and ended up with a broken arm.

Shit happens.

But if the mother correct them, “Oh, I’m not feeling guilty!”, she risks being judged as an inferior mother, because, I mean, how could she be so unfeeling?

I was telling this to my daughter and a friend. “I don’t understand why she was expected to feel guilty,” say I. “She wasn’t even there.” My daughter didn’t get it, but her friend did.

“Because she wasn’t there.”

Oh, of course. Omniscient mom should have known this was going to happen, and should have stayed home, so that Omnipresent mom could be there at the significant second, and Omnipotent mom could have prevented it.

I have news for you guilt-ridden moms out there: We’re not gods. We’re not even near perfect. And that’s as it should be. Children hurt themselves, and it’s nobody’s fault. Yes, there are exceptions to this, of course. Clear cases of negligence, abuse, even, but that’s not what we’re talking about today, and don’t be imagining that a split-second’s inattention, or leaving your child with another loving adult constitutes negligence. Good lord.

The bumps and bruises of life will buffet your child, and what they learn from that is how to manage, how to dust off and proceed; what they need from you is your calm support, not your weeping and “I should’ve/I shouldn’t have’s”.

Here’s the thing. Yes, we want to protect our children from serious bodily harm, of course. We want them to achieve a whole and healthy adulthood. But our goal is not to prevent all injuries, physical or emotional. Our goal is to show them how to deal with the stuff that life deals out, with the consequences of bad decisions, with the random unpleasant stuff that happens — through no fault of anyone’s.

Because, in life? Shit happens.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | health and safety, parenting | | 16 Comments

Irresistable Force, meet Immovable Object. Just don’t expect it to come to dinner.

“Want to come to my house on the weekend?” Malli lifts her gaze from the playdough on the table in front of them, presses her forehead against Nigel’s.

He sits up straighter. Their foreheads peel apart. “I don’t know.”

“My mommy will make us playdough.” It’s a good bribe. They love playdough, these two.

“Maybe. I might have a tummy ache, though.”


“Want to come over to my house tonight?”

“My mommy is driving, and she drives too slow.”


“Want to have dinner at my house?”

“No, I don’t like the food there.”


“We could play fire engine at my house.”

“Maybe my daddy will say fire engine is not good for little boys and girls.”


“I have a playhouse at my house. Want to play in my playhouse?”

“I think I have to go to my gramma’s then.”


You have to admire the girl’s persistance. I wonder at his reluctance. They play all day with nary a ruffle. Perhaps enough is enough? Perhaps he’s just a homebody? Maybe he doesn’t like to take work home?

Whatever it is, Nigel has stood firm against a campaign of some weeks’ duration. Normally I inform parents when children are making social plans, so that the parents can support them if they choose. In this case, I think I’ll leave well eough alone. If Nigel wants to go to Malli’s house, he can take it up with his parents!


“You can play with my brothers at my house.”

“That’s okay. I have a brother at my house anyway.”

The campaign continues …

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Malli, Nigel, quirks and quirkiness, socializing | 7 Comments

Want to Help a Student?

You have to be Canadian, or at least, living in Canada. As part of her research for her dissertations, a PHD student at my alma mater is looking to run a blog for four months, and is seeking Canadian mothers with children age 8 and under.

If you’re Canadian, if your children are 8 and under, and you want to participate, check out the Mothers’ Voice website.

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Canada | Leave a comment

Sharing, sharing, sharing

For those of you not in the know, that’s the motto of the Beavers — little Canadian wanna-be Cub Scouts, for boys around the age of five. They wear these cute little vests and have adorable hats, all in pale blue and brown — and the hats? They have beaver tails hanging down the back. You haven’t see adorable till you’ve seen a troop of kindergarten-age boys with beavertails hanging off the back of their hats. Heh.


The little-girl equivalent is Sparks. They wear pink T-shirts emblazoned with their motto: “I promise to share and be a friend.”


Girls: “I promise to share and be a friend.”
Boys: “Sharing, sharing, sharing.”

Methinks the standards for the non-verbal male are just a tad lower. Or perhaps we’re just cutting to the chase: SHARING, boys. It’s about SHARING, and will you please just Let. Go. Of. That. Damned. BALL and THROW it, please???

Oh, no. That was at my house. I dunno about the Beavers. Timmy brought a ball to “share”. Timmy is a sweet and eager little guy. If I say he’s “full of energy” you won’t get a picture of Timmy. Timmy is … twitchy. He doesn’t walk, he springs; he doesn’t sit, he sort of vibrates in place. His movements are bird-like in their quick jerkiness.

You know how a hummingbird’s heart beats at a phenomenal 180 per minutes? (Or so. I have 22 minutes to write this post; I will not take time to fact-check. Those of you who Need to Know can go Google it now.) In fact all small creatures run at higher speed. My private feeling has always been that they experience life like that, too. Just as Terry Pratchett describes his Carpet People: they live only a tenth as long, but they do their living ten times faster.

So, when Timmy comes with something to “share”, I know my day is going to be intense. Because, though he’s willing to share — oh, he is! He’s a friendly and essentially cooperative little guy. He likes to hand the toy over; he likes to share a smile with the recipient as he passes it to them. And then, having shared it, he likes to get it back. Of course.

Thing is, in Timmy’s revved-up, fast-living world, “sharing” lasts about 6 seconds. Six seconds and then HEWANTSITBACKNOW. Now. NOW!! Not in an angry way. He’s just desperate. The anxiety is intense. Because, like, six seconds is a LOOOOONG time in a Timmy world, and we expect him to let the other guy have it for TWO MINUTES???

TWO MINUTES? He will DIE in two minutes. In TWO minutes he will grow old and EXPIRE, right there on the floor, because TWO MINUTES is an ETERNITY. So, just about the time the receiver child has noticed that there’s a ball in his/her hand, Timmy wants it back.

This makes for a lot of adult intervention. “Here, Timmy, let’s set the timer. You push that button. When it goes ‘beep, beep, beep’, you can have your ball back.”

“Beep, beep!” He smiles, his incredibly expressive face radiating joy. Timmy likes beep-beep. His face crumples with anxiety. “Ball?” Total time elapsed: three seconds.

A long, intense day…

April 2, 2008 Posted by | socializing, Timmy | , , | 6 Comments

Childcare choices

If you’re in the process of choosing childcare, or you know someone who is, you might find my latest article at Work It, Mom! helpful:

Nanny vs Daycare, and beyond: Large group, small group – sorting through your options

Head on over, make a comment or an observation. If you have another pro or con to any of the choices I’ve offered, feel free to add it in the comments over there! (You need to be a member, of course, but that takes about 38 seconds and is SO worth it. And when you are a member, you can rate the article, if you like.)

April 1, 2008 Posted by | daycare, Work It Mom! | , , | 1 Comment