The neighbours voices, drifting in the open window.
The refrigerator humming in the next room.
The clickety-click of the laptop keys.
No, I don’t have the day off — that’s tomorrow. (Happy Canada Day!!)
Today, Emma and a friend have taken the three tots to the beach. They will be there all morning. They will eat their picnic lunch, lovingly packed by me, and they will not be home until naptime.
The hours of the morning stretch out before me, and I know JUST what I will do with them:
- hang the laundry
- sit on the porch and write
- mop all the downstairs floors
- sit on the porch and write
- vacuum the stairs
- sit on the porch and write
And when they return? When they return, it will be naptime, so after greeting them and tucking them all in bed, I will go to the bank. And maybe hit a coffee shop before I get home.
I lied. I am getting a day off.
And it’s only costing me $10/hour.
Worth EVERY penny.
Malli arrives first, prances in on her pink-shod tippy toes. “See my new DRESS? My mommy got me my new DRESS! It is a PRINCESS DRESS!” She skips and spins and preens and prances, the better to elicit our cries of awe and admiration. She is delectable in a delicious confection of pink satin and white gauzey stuff, embellished with beads and ribbons.
She is truly a Sight to Behold.
And, boy, did people behold. Today we had an Outing, you see, to one of the many museums in this lovely city, so there was lots of beholding. The comments came in thick and fast. On the street, on the sidewalk, on the bus. From bus drivers through museum staff and random strangers here and there. Smiles and coos from doting adults padded our journey.
And her response to all these lovely, loving, friendly people? She pouted. Fixed each of them with a reproving glower before ducking her head and refusing to speak. The girl is not shy. Depending on her mood, she’ll readily start conversations with strangers. She’s just noticed you get a second round of coaxing from the doting adults, sometimes even a third, when you turn your nose up at them, make them really work for the privilege of your attention. And meantime, the other equally cute and possibly more receptive kids get ignored.
Sigh. It’s enough to make a caregiver wish she’d brought along a pair of jeans and a tshirt…
There are dinosaurs at the museum. Dinosaurs, it turns out, are scary. Now, they weren’t scary last time we went. Last time they were exciting! Big! Scaaary! But “scary” in a “how-exciting-to-pretend-to-be-scared” way. This time? This time, with a little more maturity, a little more imagination, a little greater concept of danger … they were scary-scary, not play-scary.
The three tots (only three today) who’d bounced ahead of the empty stroller, full of eager expectation for the wonders in the next gallery stopped dead in the entry. The gallery is dimly lit and filled with giant leafy ferns. The room is enormous, the dinosaurs huge. The tots’ eyes are wide, they scan the scene ahead of them, then, to a man, they turn on their heels. Quick! Head for the stroller!
We enter the gallery, but slowly, quietly. No one roamed far from the protective shelter of the stoller (though not one of them was riding. The stroller is merely crowd control.) They gazed up, up, up in awe-struck silence, speak only in cautious whispers.
“Is dat a dinosaur?”
“Can it see me?”
In the sun-filled, dinosaur-free coffee shop — because no outing with Mary is complete without a trip to the coffee shop!! — the children come to exuberant life once more. The nice coffee shop lady notices not Malli (hallelujah!) but Timmy. Well, she did notice Malli, but when Malli played hard to get for the 147th time that morning, Smart Coffee Shop Woman immediately turned beaming attention upon Timmy.
My experienced eye caught her experienced eye and we exchanged knowing grins. We both know from manipulation. Heh. And besides, Timmy deserves some of the attention. Not only is is sweet as can be, but he is sporting not one, not two, but FOUR bandaids on his wee forearm.
“Oh, my! Look at all those band-aids? Did you hurt yourself?”
“No.” Timmy rewards her with an ear-to-ear grin, and if you remember Timmy’s ears, you’ll know it was a killer smile.
“Oh you just like bandaids?”
“Yep.” Timmy can talk your ear off once he gets going, but he knows how to stick to essentials, too.
“What do they have on them?”
Well, that’s a fascinating question, and one which he hadn’t considered before. He lifts his arm up, holding it so they can both peer at the bits of plastic dotting his arm. “Oh, I don’t know!” he chirps, in tones of great wonderment.
“Is that Donald Duck?”
“Nooo, it’s just a duck.”
They grin, each well-pleased with the other.
Live-blogging can be intense, so I thought I’d be easy with myself the first time and start with two children only. What follows is a few minutes of Emily and Nigel, before the other children arrived:
“I’m not a dinosaur, I’m your mama.”
“But you are a mama dinosaur.”
“I am a skunk.”
“I’ll be the baby skunk and you be the mommy skunk.”
“Okay. Hello, baby!” (FYI: Nigel is the mommy skunk.)
“Where are we going?”
“To our home. We live in a box in a hole.”
“Something is in our box!”
“Let’s crawl, let’s go, we have… we have… We walk like this, baby skunk!” And Nigel ‘crawls’ away, on hands and feet, butt in the air.
“I’m gon sleep on this couch.”
“And I’m gon sweep on this couch.”
“Ouch. This couch is hurtin’ me.”
“That couch doesn’t hurt you.”
“It’s sunny outside today.”
“We won’t have breakfast today.”
“Let’s go home again.”
“Okay, it’s this way!”
“I’ll be the baby skunk, and you be the mommy skunk.” (Now Emily is the mommy skunk.)
“Where are we going, baby skunk?”
“We are going to our home.”
“That’s where we stink, in our home.”
“I need a mattress.”
“And food. This is food in the mattress.”
“In my tummy.”
“Is that breakfast in your tummy?”
“I’m making mattresses so I can sleep.”
“This is my mattress.”
“This is mine.”
“Goodnight, baby skunk!”
“Goodnight, mummy skunk!”
“I need a blanket. Do you need a blanket?”
“We can both sleep with it, if we want to.”
“Nope. It is just time for you to stop talkin’ and go a sleep.”
“I can be the princess and you can come save me.”
“I’ll come save you.”
“I live in a castle.”
“I live in a biiiig castle.”
“Yes, and we will SLEEP in it, okay?”
“But there’s no doors and steps in it.”
“Yes, there is a door and a step, see? You go in the castle, okay?”
“I can’t do it.”
“But you can sleep in it, right?”
“You can go somewhere else, and I’ll sleep in this castle. Go. Go to your castle.”
“Okay, I’ll sleep here.”
“Come save me now.”
“Okay, okay, I’m coming. There. Now I will sleep.”
“Oh, the princess is a skunk. The princess is a baby skunk.”
“And a mommy skunk?”
“No, I am sleeping over there. I always sleep over there.”
“I’m really tired.”
“And I am a skunk.”
“Me, too. A tired skunk.”
“Yes, and now I can go to sleep! That feels better, that feels better.”
“Can you turn off the light, please, mama?”
“Mary, I have to go pee.”
“Okay, you go pee, then.”
“I’m goin’ pee, Emily.”
“Okay. See you soon!”
The end. My fingers are tired.
Our poem for the week? “Happiness”, by A.A. Milne. No, we don’t do a poem a week. But we do them when the mood strikes or they seem hugely appropriate. This one seemed downright unavoidable.
Yes, all my toddlers know what a mackintosh is. (No, that’s evidently not “john” in the picture, but it’s the best picture I could find. Besides, this is an equal-opportunity site…)
We have actions for this. First we stomp in place, getting the beat. STOMP-stomp, STOMP-stomp, STOMP-stomp…
JOHN had GREAT big WATERproof BOOTS on (Pull up one boot, then another)
JOHN hada GREAT big WATERproof HAT (Grab imaginery brim and pull firmly down over head)
JOHN hada GREAT big WATERproof MACKintosh (Do up the toggles of your mackintosh)
And THAT, said JOHN, (fold one arm, fold the other)
THAT. (NOD firmly)
So there. Mucho fun.
(Totally tangential: Happy St.-Jean-Baptiste day, all you lucky Quebeckers…)
Rainy days are craft days. We’ve been doing a lot of crafts these days. Today’s craft involved largish sheets of card printed in a pale-sky and puffy-white-cloud pattern, popsicle sticks, and blue tempera paint. Dip the popsicle stick into the tiny bowl of paint, and then dab, dot and scribble the paint across the sky.
We’re making rain, of course.
Malli unloads the paint primarily into one palm-sized patch of sky, and swipes it back and forth in those four square inches. Nigels, meantime, covers his sky with dots. Dots and dots and dots. Tappa-tappa-tap, tap, tap, tap, go the popsicle sticks on the west side of the table. Anna and Timmy, meanwhile, tap once or twice, to offload their wee bit of paint, then commence to swirling the tip of the popsicle stick through the paint. Swirls and swishes of blue appear.
“I’m makin’ rain!” Nigel, he of the tappa-tappa-tappa, declares.
“I’m makin’ rain, too!” Anna echoes.
Malli considers Anna’s page, then her own. “I’m making a storm. I’m making a storm of rain and wet drops. Anna is making wind, a storm of rain and wind.”
You know? She’s absolutely right.
I pelt down the stairs. (I always do. Because lord only knows what might break out in the 43 seconds it takes to pee.) I’m fast, but I’m quiet, rolling off the front edge of the steps, whipping down the 15 stairs.
My husband looks up at my descent and starts to laugh.
It’s not just the speed that amuses him. It’s not just that I can come down that fast and also that quietly.
“You always do that.” He chortles. “Zip up on the way down the stairs.”
I glance down at my hands on the button of my fly. He’s right. I do. He chortles some more as he follows me out to the kitchen sink where I wash my hands. “Most people do that while they’re still in the bathroom.”
True enough. However, I have good reason for all this, don’t I? Sensible, wise reasons. Most people do not have four or five toddlers in their home. Most people have toddlers in their home for three years, five years, depending on how many children they have. I’ve had them for close to twenty. I am not most people.
I could say all that. It’s true, after all. I could say all that, but before I open my mouth, reality hits and I start laughing, too. It’s Sunday. There is not one, single, solitary toddler in my home. Nor has there been for 48 hours…
I do “always” do that. Even on Sundays.
Nigel’s voice lilts down the stairs from the bathroom. A sweet voice, a happy, cheerful, sing-song voice:
“Maaary! There’s shit all over the tooooi-let!”
“Look at the friends!“
There’s a woman in my neighbourhood who I see quite often as we stroll with our children. We never seem to be heading in the same direction, not for more than a block or so. I’m going to the park as she heads away from it, I’m heading down my street as she crosses the intersection to proceed down the street perpendicular to mine. And every time she sees us approach, it’s the same thing,
“Oh, guys! Look at all the friends!“
Or, on occasion,
“Careful! You don’t want to bump into the friends!”
“Squeeze over, honey, and let the friends go by.”
“Don’t poke your stick at the friends, sweetie.”
“Friends”? Lady, we don’t even know you.
I understand why she does this, of course. She wants to engender a positive attitude to other children; she wants her children to see other children as potential playmates, not as threats. She wants her kids to lean into life with a smile of welcome, not a frown of suspicion.
(Not that she seems to be succeeding in her efforts. Her children almost always shove mine and/or menace them with sticks or aggressive roars. Rotten little cretins. Probably sick to death of having total strangers fobbed off on them as “friends”.)
I really, really don’t like it — the friend thing, I mean. It’s a bad idea on so many levels. First off, it’s insufferably patronizing. Why should agemates be automatic friends? When she’s out for a coffee with a girlfriend, does she enter the coffee shop, see a couple of tables of thirty-something women, and call out to the room at large, “Oh, Suzie! Look at all the friends in here!”
They’d be carting her off in a padded wagon in short order. Or at least muzzling her saccharine outbursts with stony faces and averted eyes. (“Don’t look up. The crazy “friend” woman just walked in”)
And she is so saccharine. Her voice just oozes ooey-gooey preciousness. Ick. I’ve managed, so far, not to sneer, but I can tell you the very last thing she’s engendering in me is any desire whatsoever to encourage friendships between her children and my tots. Because then I’d have to hang out with her. Ugh. That lilting, squeaky-happy voice. Those earnest, earnest mommy sentiments. The way she patronizes the kids, while at the same time letting them treat her with huge disrespect. Could I stand it? I could not. I’d be fighting the urge to beat her senseless with a sippy cup within moments.
On a more substantive level, do you really want your child thinking that everyone is a potential friend? No, you don’t want to encourage hostility, but a little social caution is only sensible. Firstly, with other kids: The children who do best socially are those who follow a consistent set of steps: they stand back and watch the other children play, then enter the game and do as they’re directed, and only after they’ve been accepted into the game do they attempt to direct the game themselves at all.
Children who skip steps one and/or two tend to be ostracized. If you are successful in teaching a child that everyone is automatically their friend, no breaking-in required, you will almost certainly create a child who is shunned by the others. A little counter-productive, no?
And with adults? It’s a sad fact of life, but not every adult out there is a child’s friend. Not every adult is benign. You absolutely do NOT want your child assuming every adult is a friend. That’s just plain dangerous.
You want your children to be open to friendship? Teach them how friendships are formed. Model open, friendly behaviour. But don’t set them up with false definitions and dangerous assumptions. Good heavens.
Not a good day.
Took the day off because I am so tired I’m practically transparent. Don’t feel ill, just exhausted, but since there’s no good reason for this level of fatigue, I figure I’m sick.
And the guinea pig died this morning.
Anna is a clothes horse. She loves dressing up. She loves clothes, and, though it will be some while before she knows the word, she loves “accessories”. She is, as I’ve written before, the true tomboy girly-girl.
One of the many reasons I love her. I have told her parents that she’s one of the kids I’d happily adopt if need be, one of the (few) kids who makes it totally, completely, into my heart. This is true of about one child every two or three years. And this is true of Anna even though neither of my girls are, or ever were, girly-girls. She’s just one of those kids.
You know this is all emotions, right? That my feelings for one child or another do not affect the way I treat them? If the thought that a caregiver can have a particular fondness for one child over another bothers you, if you think that makes me a poorer caregiver, you’d best stop reading now.
(Though I will tell you that of the eight or ten or so children you’ve read about so far, one other has been in this elite group. If you have no idea who it is, then you can be pretty sure neither their parents nor the child has/had any idea, because I leave more hints lying about in this blog, I am more open about how I feel, personally, about the children here in this blog than I ever am in real life.)
Okay. So Anna. She came into my home on Friday dressed in this:
(Is that not the cutest thing you’ve ever SEEN?? It would be even cuter if I could show you her FACE.)
A neighbour had given it to her, you see, the night before. And she had loved it SO MUCH that she had worn it full-time from Thursday evening till Friday morning. Yes, she wore it to bed! Because she was a HORSIE!!
Actually, she was a UNICORN. Well, given the rear view, she was also a PEGASUS. Because those in the costume business, they frequently mix their mythologies. If it makes for good sales. Iridescent wings make for good sales.
(AGH! Even MORE CUTENESS! I am drowning in the cute!!!)
As far as Anna was concerned, though, she was a HORSIE! With a HORN! And WINGS!!! (Does it GET any BETTER???)
Well, it WOULD be better if the costume weren’t so damned HOT. Because on Friday it was 29 degrees here in Ottawa. (Celcius, because we are part of the rest of the world.) 29 Celcius is HOT. Particularly if you are wearing a full-body, one-piece suit made of ARCTIC FLEECE.
(With a HORN! And WINGS! Irisdescent wings!!!)
So after about 45 minutes of her own personal sauna, Anna decided that maybe she could dispense with the horned-winged-horsie. Thankfully, mummy had provided a very pretty little flowered sundress, knowing (hoping? praying???) that the girl would succumb to common sense before heat exhaustion set in.
Too bad she didn’t want to wear it.
Though, given the sweat levels inside that suit, it’s hardly surprising. Maybe what the girl needed was to chill out a bit, and THEN she’d be ready for the dress. Chill out in her Big-Girl Panties (aka training Pants).
And sure enough, in another hour or so, the Training Pants Princess did indeed decide that she needed more clothing.
Except what she wanted was NOT the pretty pink-flowered sundress mummy had provided. What she wanted was a sarong. Made of a pillowcase. This one. Cute, no?
She did finally get into the pretty dress. Twenty minutes before mummy showed up.
Because, we will have you know, Anna is quite capable of compromising with reality.
On her own terms.
LOVE that kid!