It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Bah, humbug

“HeLLO, ev-ryboDEE! Are we having FUN???” His eyes are wide, his mouth is wide, his face bursts with ANIMATION.

What is this, Howdy Doody? Why do some people talk to small children like that? So patronizing.

And so loud. Does he think they’re hearing impaired, to boot?

“Are you all having a GOOD TIME today???”

You see these people all over. People for whom children are a slightly foreign entity, people to whom children are not entirely… human? They’re well-intentioned, and, were I to be honest, quite a few of the children react well to the excess of enthusiasm. Quite a few, but not all.

The others withdraw, stand back, and stare, their faces radiating disapproving confusion: “What is wrong with you?” Or perhaps the more sophisticated wonder “Do you think I’m a total idiot?”

It happens all the time, and when it’s someone I don’t know, I cut them some slack. It’s a style difference, that’s all. (So not my style, but just a style difference. That’s what I tell myself.) This person maybe hasn’t much experience with children, and so styles him/herself on a certain type of children’s entertainer. (The type I avoid, but as I keep telling myself, style, it’s just style.)

But this one? It was happening in my front entry. He lingered in the mornings, LOUDLY declaiming inanities, for three minutes or more. And while he did this, he revved up the group. His child, used to his performance, began to giggle and shriek. A couple more responded to the increasing energy levels by beginning to run, run, run the loop from dining room, kitchen and hall. The youngest child set to bellowing. Finally even the dog was drawn in, and started to howl.

And then? He’d laugh. “It’s CRAZY here, isn’t it, kids? This is a cuh-RAY-zy place!!!” This is obviously his mental picture of what life with five toddlers is like, and it thrills him to be in the midst of it. Shrieking children, jumping children, children bouncing off walls. Bedlam, right down to the yodelling dog. And he had no idea, not a single clue, that he’d started it.

I am not kidding. At least twice a week he was doing this.

I used to stand and attend to him while he lingered and howdy-doodied and revved the whole house up to manic levels. It seemed… rude to just walk away and leave him there. Then I smacked myself upside the head once or twice — “Rude? This is your JOB! Just do it, silly woman!” — and now I’m thinking clearly again.

Now, once he’s said his first goodbye (undiscouraged, he says four or five), I herd the children into a corner of the kitchen where they can’t see the front door, or to the table where I have a craft at the ready. He’ll stand in the front door for a moment before bellowing “BYE-BYE!” one final time, and leaves. Thank goodness he doesn’t follow us.

(If he did, I’d address the issue directly, obviously, but previous experience has told me that he doesn’t like to be corrected directly. He’s never rude, though he does stiffen and glower a bit, but more importantly, though there are incremental changes, the behaviour doesn’t necessarily alter by much. By responding in this way, the morning circus has been reduced to once a month, even less. Sometimes indirect really is more effective.)

The dog is sent to her crate to calm down, and I pull out a couple of books to read to the children clustered around me on the couch. Within a couple of minutes, peace is restored.

Because my home? It is not a cuh-RAY-zy place.


October 28, 2009 - Posted by | parents, Peeve me, the dark side


  1. That is what I used to love about your place, it ooozed serenity – I think that is a big part of the reason ‘Darcy’ loved it there so much.

    “Oozed serenity.” Thank you!

    Comment by Darcy's Mum | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. Some really “big kids” don’t get the big picture.
    As always, I love your simple solutions!

    Comment by LoryKC | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. Both of my daughters are in the “what’s wrong with you?” camp. They always could detect adult BS.

    Comment by Bridgett | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  4. My mother is like this, sometimes. She just has no clue that she’s the reason my kids are so hyper. They’re not hyper when she’s not there. Usually ;-). I should say, she really relates well to kids, but at a high energy level rather than a low one.

    Comment by Anita | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  5. My son has always been of the “What ARE you doing?” camp and it has always made my husband and me snicker when people seemed sad that their over-the-top in-your-face greeting didn’t register a smile. He’s so serious, they would say. Would that make anyone smile? I think not.

    I would LOVE to see you in action one day. Oozing serenity sounds fabulous.

    Comment by elisa | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  6. […] Yes, small children make noise, and I don’t expect the poor monkeys to tip-toe all day long and speak in whispers. I provide rhythm instruments, we play noisy games, they can run in the house (within limits). I expect a certain amount of bedlam. I do not expect unlimited bedlam, and CONSTANT SHOUTING drives me In.SANE. […]

    Pingback by Ten Nine Tips for Choosing Daycare Parents « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | June 27, 2011 | Reply

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