It’s Not All Mary Poppins


A woman approached the table where the tots and I sat in our neighbourhood coffee shop. I’m sipping a latte, they are munching on blueberry muffins. We are chatting together, the six of us.

“Are they all yours?”

You’d be astonished how often I get asked. Two three-year-olds and three two-year-olds? My poor, weary womb…

“No, it’s a daycare. We’re all friends!”

“Are they always this well-behaved?” Since they are doing nothing out of the ordinary, the only answer I can give is a straightforward,


“Wow! You’re so lucky.”

We’re at a park. There are three play areas in this park, and my five are playing in an around the one containing a playhouse. They are making birthday cakes and singing “Happy Birthday” as they present buckets filled with sand and sticks (aka candles) to each other. It is very cute.

Another woman, mother of busy 15-month-old, comments, “Look at them all playing together. Do they always stay together like that?”

“Pretty much.”

“You’re so lucky!”

I get that a lot. I take five toddlers to a coffee shop, we stay for 25 minutes, with everyone staying in their chairs, waiting for their food, saying “please” and “thank you”, and not being disruptively loud — and that’s luck?

I have five two- and three-year-olds in a park, and they play co-operatively together, staying within a clearly defined area — and that’s luck?

Thanks a helluva lot.

I’m aware that there is a reluctance on the part of many mothers to take credit for their child’s good behaviour. I can only speculate why. I wonder if it’s a form of inverse political correctness: if I take credit for my child’s good behaviour, that means a parent with poorly-behaved children must take the blame for that. We see this as unfair, I guess. And, yes: there are those children who, given the best, most loving, wise and sensible of parents, still end up rebellious, defiant, rude, unkind. Children who cause their parents no end of grief. It happens. Life’s unfair like that. But is that the norm? I don’t think so.

And does that mean that you should not take credit for the good behaviour that is the result of days and weeks and months and years of careful, consistent, reasoned, diligent effort? Why is it that women, who are so willing to accept blame and guilt for every quirk of their children’s behaviour, are so reluctant to accept the credit for the good stuff? My three kids are a constant source of pride to me: because they are marvellous people in their own right — but also because they are (in part, though not entirely, of course) a credit to my parenting.

Yes, they are.

And the fact that I am able to take five or six toddlers all over this city, that we can frequent coffee shops and busses and art galleries and museums, and have nary a tantrum or hissy fit (well, maybe three a year) … this is luck? That I’ve been doing it for twelve or so years, with dozens of children, who are all pretty uniformly well-behaved?

I’m just so lucky.

Anyone can be an effective parent. All it takes is a little luck!

May 6, 2008 Posted by | behavioural stuff, manners, outings, parenting, socializing | 19 Comments