It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Sometimes it feels good to cry

If you understand the sentiment of the title, you’ll love this post by my so-talented daughter.

But take your tissues!

May 28, 2010 Posted by | my kids | 2 Comments

Living outside the box

HE thinks it’s a pull-toy.

Who am I to argue?

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Developmental stuff | , , | 2 Comments

Because it’s not a daycare, silly, it’s a Park!

New Baby Boy, who has been with me about a month now, has had one of the easiest transitions I’ve seen in years. Lovely, lovely New Baby Boy (who really, really does need a blog name)!

The transition has been easy for me, that is. New Baby Boy, bless his busy, action-loving self, has been bright and interested, curious and busy, busy, busy right from his first day. Tears? He has no time for tears! There are diapers to rip off the shelf! Other kids’ bottles to steal! Toys to fling on the floor! Cushions to haul off the couch! Busy, busy, busy days! But happy! Cheerful! Interested! Curious!

But. That all made it easy for me.

New Baby Boy, though? He has not had it so easy. The poor wee fellow has had the misfortune to catch EVERY bug which went through the daycare, some more than once. I was waiting for his poor besieged parents to throw in the towel and stay home with him, or hire themselves a nice, safe, germ-free nanny.

But no! They hung in with me, they let their little guy hang out with me, and this week, we seem to have turned the corner. Not only is he happy and busy, but he’s snot-free, cough-free, and fever-less!


Yesterday morning, to celebrate, we all went to the park. Okay, so we’ve been going to the park all week, but this week’s park outings have had a distinct celebratory feeling to them. It’s sunny! And warm! And summer-like! It’s even been HOT! And we are all — ALL — healthy!!

I have taken the tots to the park when one of them’s been down with a cold, but the cold-kid either stays in the stroller (sorry, kiddo), or is kept in firm quarantine by me. I’ve stopped short of a duct-taping a “PLAGUE” sign to their butts, but we’ve been aiming for times when the park is lightly populated, often entirely empty, and we either leave when someone shows up, or keep a goodly distance. Once in a while I was lucky, and we’d discover that the other child at the park ALSO had the creeping ick! Yay! Guilt-free socializing all round!

But this week, with a full cohort of fully healthy children, we could go to the park AND Mary could pick the time when all the other caregivers are there. Play for the children AND socialization for Mary, too! Oh, happy day! So, yes, I’m feeling distinctly ‘yee-haw’ this week.

I stand, as do all the caregivers, where I can scan the group and see all my tots at a glance. We chat, we women, with fragments of eye-contact. One or another of us is always scanning the group. We’ve got each other’s backs. Ah, it’s good to be back!

There’s a new face, too, a mother possibly, more likely a grandmother. She has one child with her, a pudgy little butterbean of a baby girl, the same sort of age as New Baby Boy, though not as mobile. (New Baby Boy is a walker!) This doesn’t stop New Baby Boy, who toddlers over to her and plonks his diapered butt in the sand next to hers, the better to make the acquaintance of her enormous, multi-coloured shovel with glittering ribbons on the handle this new face. Baby Girl does not object at all when New Baby Boy steals shares her toy, and the two of them interact as babies of that age do: They watch each other, and occasionally copy each other. When they’re not peppering each other’s eyeballs with inadvertently-flung sand, that is. They chew on each other’s toys.

It turns out that the female adult with Baby Girl is in fact a grandmother. We chat about our respective adult children, and we chat, of course, about the miraculous babies we are superintending. New Baby Boy is 13 months old, yes, and he’s been walking for about three weeks. No, he doesn’t have any words yet. He’s more of an explorer, all about the physical. Baby Girl is 11 months old and though she’s pulling herself to stand, she isn’t walking yet, but she’s quite the talker! Yes, that is pretty typical of boys and girls, isn’t it?

So, how does Baby Girl come to be with Grandma today, anyway? Giving mom a break and doing a little gramma-grand-daughter bonding? Well, not exactly. Of course, she’ll take any chance she can to have time with her little darling, but Baby Girl’s mommy works outside the home, and normally Baby Girl would be in daycare, but today? Well, she has a cold, you see, with a terrible cough! Just awful! You should hear it, it’s so deep! Her chest is just so tight! Terrible!


So. Let me clarify here. You have a child who is sick. With a “terrible” cough. So sick that she can’t go to daycare. And so you somehow think that the thing to do with that sick child, who is too sick to be around all the other children in her daycare, is to take her to the park? The park which is filled with children, just like, oh… like a daycare???

Not only does she do this, but she obviously sees nothing at all wrong with it. I haven’t heard the cough, but she’s telling me all about it. In dramatic detail! She hasn’t got a clue. Not one clue.

It’s uncanny how this woman managed to seem so normal, how she managed to get dressed, eat breakfast, and get to the park, even have a conversation with another adult, when she has NO BRAINS AT ALL.

“Oh, poor little thing!” I say, scooping New Baby Boy up. “I hope her cold gets better soon. But you know, if she’s too sick to be at her daycare, then she really shouldn’t be playing with other children.” She looks puzzled. “Because they might catch her cough.” I explain, gently.

Her smile freezes a bit. I know she probably feels foolish, having been so directly corrected, but really. It’s a public service I’m doing here, and it needed to be said. It shouldn’t need to be said, but it did. Obviously. I feel awkward, too. I don’t like embarrassing someone, even when necessary.

Do I continue with the explanation? “When one of mine is contagious, I try to play away from the other children.” Something like that? Or would that just make her feel sillier? Nah. I’ve said the essential. No need to preach. I smile again, and move away, New Baby Boy in my arms.

“But…” She looks at New Baby Boy. “But they were playing together so nicely. Who will she play with now?”

Okay. It’s official. I have met the only living, breathing, upright, completely brain-free human known to man.

“I’m sure she’ll be very happy to play with her grandma!” And I take New Baby Boy back to the corner where my other charges are diligently digging holes, where the other caregivers are watching over our massed flocks,

and I warn them of the NO BRAINS AT ALL woman, and her cute-as-the-dickens plague-carrying baby.


And I will NOT be telling New Baby Boy’s parents. We will just keep our fingers crossed and hope for better luck on the germ front than he’s had so far.


May 26, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, outings, socializing | , , , | 8 Comments

Normally I use duct tape for this

It was a hot, hot day here yesterday. Our first truly hot day of the summer.

We made our trip to the park early, getting home before the sun hit its skin-sizzling zenith. Not that I have air conditioning, but with judicious use of curtains, standing fans and ceiling fans, the house was quite decently tolerable. (It won’t be after a week of this, but the heat is supposed to break in a couple more days.)

But it was a hot day, and three of the kids sleep upstairs, so I stripped them down before bed, just down to their diapers. No sheets required.

And then I did my nap-time stuff: finish preparing dinner, tidy the house a bit — from waist-level and up, that is; no sense in doing anything lower than that till the Mini Masters of Mayhem have gone home — set out craft, prepare afternoon snack, read a bit, have a cup of tea, and waste time on the computer do some social networking.

Baby Lily was the last to wake. Baby Lily is becoming quite a favourite charmer. From her first wailful weeks, her glass-shattering shrieks, her “GET AWAY FROM ME AND BRING BACK MY MUMMY!!!” rages, she has evolved into a chirpy, cheery, smiling, chattering — not many words, but lots and lots and LOTS of happyhappy chatter — absolutely adorable little mite. When another baby cries, she does not crumple in empathy, but continues in her unflappable good humour, inviting any and all to join her in her to-the-bone love of life. I loves this child.

Noah had announced his return to consciousness with the lilting calls from his room. “Maaaary! I’m awake! Maaaaaary!” It’s very sweet.

New Baby Boy had woken soon after, announcing his return with cries of outrage. “WHY am I still in this bed? WHY did I have to take that damned nap? What took you so long? WHY ARE YOU LIFTING ME OUT OF BED, EVIL WOMAN??? AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

Emily, who, at four, snoozes on the couch on those days on which she requires a nap, simply sits up and, at a nod from me, proceeds into some quiet activity.

And Lily? Well. Normally I hear Lily moving about for quite a few minutes before she starts to call out. She wakes, she rummages about, she talks quietly to herself, and gradually, the volume increases until the happy babble becomes a call.

But today… today I thought I heard rummaging about… and then I wasn’t sure. Maybe? There it is again… no. Did I hear something and it stopped, or was there nothing? Hm. But there’s no chatter. This is Baby Lily, chatterbox of the decade. If there’s not chatter, she simply can’t be awake. The heat is just making her restless in her sleep. Yeah. That’s it.

Half an hour later, though, with all the other children awake and snacked, it’s time to wake the girl.

Lily smiles delightedly when I enter the room. “Up, up, up!” she greets me, her wee arms raised, her face a beacon of friendly welcome, her dark eyes sparkling. “Up, up, up!”

Her butt completely bare.

Her crib littered with teeny shreds of paper. (The paper liner of her cloth diapers.)

Her crib sheet wet with pee.

Her diaper on the floor beside her bed.

Baby Lily has learned to remove her diaper. Oh, happy day.

And THANK GOD it was just pee.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, Lily, Mischief | , , | 7 Comments

No post today

… it’s a holiday! A holiday which I intend to spend sitting on my front porch with a cup of tea (a.m.) and a glass of wine (p.m.) and a book (all day).

Happy Victoria Day!

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Canada, holidays | 1 Comment

expecting respect — teen version

A recent online conversation about teens provoked an email exchange, which seemed to me to be the essence of a pretty good post. This one’s about teens, not toddlers, but those of you with toddlers will soon see the parallels between teen and toddler behaviours! Anyone with teens certainly sees them. 🙂

And thus the parenting response is quite similar in principal, though different in execution.

In the conversation, one woman had said she didn’t sweat the small stuff, that she ignores the eye-rolling, sarcasm, and sneering. My hackles went up instantly.

The principle — don’t sweat the small stuff — is sound. The thing is, eye-rolling is an expression not only of disrespect, but of contempt. In studies done of marriages, certain behaviours are strong indicators of divorce within a predictable time-frame. Habitual expressions of contempt, which include sneering, sarcasm, and eye-rolling, are among them. John Gottman, the mathematician-turned-psychologist whose research is the cornerstone of this idea, comments that “respect and affection are essential to all relationships working and contempt destroys them.”

Teenagers may try to sneer, mock, and roll their eyes all the time, but they’re not “small stuff”, and I strongly believe you should sweat them.

My kids got my iciest rage if they ever sneered or rolled their eyes at me. “You may be angry at me, but you WILL express that anger respectfully, just as I am respectful with you.”

People have to learn that they can control their behaviour even when their emotions are involved. And that learning doesn’t come without lots of practice. I expect it of toddlers, in a rudimentary way, I expect it of teens, in a much more sophisticated (though not fully adult) way.

As I expect it of myself. Only seems reasonable.

My oldest might have sneered or rolled her eyes twice. The younger two learned from their big sister’s example, and, though my youngest has come close to the edge with sneering, I don’t think she’s ever once rolled her eyes at me. She has also been known to apologize for mood swings — without being asked!

While I have told her she can’t take out her bad mood on me, and she can certainly apologize for mood-driven bad behaviour, I don’t expect an apology for the mood itself, because mood swings? They’re small stuff. You don’t sweat ’em. (Like with the todders, “you can be angry, but you may not…”)

“Small stuff”also includes door-slamming, petulant tears, protestations of eternal misery, stomping up stairs, pouting…

I endeavour to help them put the moods in perspective, but very rarely do I attempt to do that WHILE the mood is ongoing… Expecting a teen to dissect/analyze an emotion while it’s being experienced is the very definition of “exercise in futility”. Wait. I lie. I did that with my FIRST child.

Live and learn.

I think the most important thing that I’ve learned re: teens is to observe the moods without being drawn into them. To let them roll over and through, but don’t get involved with the child until it’s over. My primary role during the negative mood is to ensure that its expression is respectful, and that innocent bystanders are not used as whipping-boys. “Respectful” doesn’t necessarily include calm or reasonable. They are allowed their emotions. It does mean “not aggressively rude”.

And when the teen is calm, when their rationality has asserted itself over the (probably hormonally-enhanced) emotions, THEN you can have the talk. (Which, with teens, particularly boys, might be three minutes at most. You learn to be CONCISE, with teens.) You can debrief, they can learn that you still love them… and that they have the power to control their own responses. That emotions are signposts, not roads, that they give us a certain amount of valuable information, but it’s the brain that gets us there.

And that if they roll their eyes at the momma, they risk losing one.

May 21, 2010 Posted by | aggression, manners, my kids, parenting, power struggle, socializing, tantrums | , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments


Haven’t done a meme in forever, and I have no inspiration whatsoever for today’s post, so when I found Clumberkim’s, I decided this was a gift from the universe, and I scarfed it.

1. What’s your favorite color?
Green. I prefer darker shades, am also partial to blue-green hues, though I love them all… except chartreuse, aka “bile” or “puke” green.

2. If you were headed to a desert island and could take just one CD, what would it be?
Oh, gracious. Right now? A disk by Harry Manx, called Wise and Otherwise. Ask me in a month, it’ll be something entirely different.

3. Ginger or Mary Ann?
Mary Ann. She was kind of gag-me cutesy-wholesome, but at least she knew better than to wear evening gowns to breakfast.

4. Cake or pie? Why? What kind? (Yeah, I’m calling that one question.)
Not really a fan of either. (You know, me and that whole ‘sweet’ thing.) Pie, probably, because there’s like, you know, real food in it, somewhere in all that sugar. And of the possibilities? Strawberry-rhubarb, I think.

5. What was your favorite book when you were in high school?
I read voraciously in high school, more than I do now. I recall really liking “Brave New World” and “The Chrysalids“.

6. What is your dream car?
I have no dream car. Not a car person. If I owned a car, it would be inexpensive, fuel efficient, and probably a hybrid. I think there’s no such thing, so at the moment I have no car. Suit me fine, and saves me a boatload of money.

7. If you had unlimited resources for a service project anywhere in the world, what would you do and where?
My current interest is Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. They do so much, and go to places few other organizations brave.

8. Do you speak a language other than English?
No. Wish I did. I’d start with French, and after that, for a complete change of pace, Arabic. Other interests: Swahili and Japanese.

9. What is your musical guilty pleasure?
Don’t think I have one. Are there types of music you’re not supposed to enjoy? (I mean, there are types I don’t like, of course, but that’s just me. Other people are allowed to like them!)

10. What did you do on your last vacation?
Does ‘vacation’ mean ‘time off work’, or actual trip? My last actual trip was two or three years ago, and a Real Vacation was almost ten years ago, when we went to France. Mostly we hang around the house and get stuff done.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 2 Comments

Dad View

New Baby Boy (who really does need a blog name) totters by, a small plastic ratchet from the toy tool kit in his hand. The Husband raises his eyebrows.

“Hey there. What’s that you’ve got? It’s not a coaster, a shoe, a pillow, the dog’s bone, a marker, a piece of grass nor even a fist-full of dog fluff. Well, now. That’s an actual, regulation baby toy in your hand.” He gives the boy a sideways glance.

“You’re falling down on the job, son.”

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Mischief | 2 Comments

Kid-friendly world, or world-friendly kid?

“Is your restaurant child-friendly?”

A couple of weeks ago, my local paper published an article by a woman whose book (You’ve Been Served) I am sure to buy when it comes out.

I suspect I enjoy children more than Ms. Fox-Revett. “I like children as much as the next person,” she writes. “Which is to say, not very much.” Pfft. Speak for yourself, Ms. F-R. However, the headline — “No one thinks your child is as adorable as you” — had me nodding my head in agreement. Because I love children, yes, I do, but I am not pink-puffy-heart sentimental about them. And, like Ms. Fox-Revett (like most of us, I suspect) I have been held hostage by someone whose doting adoration of their child blinds them to the fact that, rather than being delighted by their child’s antics, I am in fact being harassed and annoyed.

It seems we are united, Ms. Fox-Revett and I, in our dislike of badly behaved children. Yes, yes, I know: it’s not the child, it’s the behaviour we don’t like. True. But when my dinner conversation is drowned out by the obstreperous children two tables over, or my chair jolted by the unruly one as she charges down the centre of the room, that distinction grows pretty fine. Whatever my feelings toward the child, you may be sure I’m not enamored of the parents.

Because my career is childcare, people often assume I love all children without reservation. I must be entirely accepting of such childish foibles, right? Honestly? No. Remember, I have made a career of civilizing children. I know that, barring genuine developmental delay, such behaviour is unnecessary. Parents who allow it are simply rude, and to expect other diners to tolerate it because “he’s only two” is insufferably self-absorbed and inconsiderate. Moreover, I’m the woman whose motto is “We’re not raising children, we’re raising adults.” The self-absorption that’s natural in a two-year-old is not so appealing in a twelve-year-old, and distinctly unpleasant in a twenty-two-year-old. When do you start your child in the process of learning that other people’s needs are as real as his/her own, if not as soon as possible?

“Is your restaurant child-friendly?”

Ms. Fox-Revett points out, rightly, that such a question is nonsensical, and the only appropriate reply (which it seems she bites back) is, “That depends. Is your child restaurant-friendly?”

I discussed the article with a neighbour, formerly in the food service industry, now happily employed in the quieter and arguably more civilized realm of government cubicles. His comment?

“Anyone who would ask that question, you don’t want in your restaurant.”

Indeed. What does the question mean, really? “Are you all right with children leaving their seats and wandering around on their own?” “Is it all right if little Simon crawls under the table, little Suzie sings the ABC song at top volume, wee Lina stands on her chair to comment on the shiny-ness of a fellow-diner’s balding head?” Or perhaps the question refers to the menu? “Do you serve nothing but processed foods heavily salted, laced with fats and devoid of vegetable matter?” (This is familiarly known as the “Children’s Menu”, as if it’s somehow appropriate — required, even — to serve children artery-clogging non-food utterly lacking the nutrition their growing brains and bodies require.)

I have been providing childcare for over a dozen years. I’ve been a parent for over twenty. In all those years there have been two children who, once they got to the age of two or so, I could not take to a restaurant and know that they would behave appropriately: stay seated, not be disruptively loud, and eat what was served without a fuss. (One had a developmental delay; one had an anxiety disorder, both diagnosed by professionals.)

How do I know we could do that? Because we do it at home. Dinners out are earned by consistently good manners at home; when a child knows how to eat nicely at home, we can try doing it in public. If “we” are having a bad day and it turns out we can’t manage it after all, we leave. Not in an angry, punitive way, but only stating something like, “I guess we need to go home now.” (Sometime we go home before we even get there…)

Do I worry about other diners ‘judging’ me? Not particularly. But I am a considerate person. I don’t expect my child to have adult-level good behaviour. Our meals are shorter — no two-hour lingering with a toddler in tow. They’re earlier — dinner at five or 5:30, not 6:30 or later. A certain amount of fidgeting is acceptable, so long as it stays in the chair. I expect to have to remind and coach on manners — chewing with the mouth closed, keeping the voice quiet, using your fork.

I do not, however, expect others to accept that my child has the right to run around the room, to talk to other diners, to shout, to sing, to throw fits about what’s on (or not on) their plate. If this happens, I don’t worry about being judged. I leave. I leave not because I’m afraid of other people’s bad opinion but because to stay, to continue to inflict my fragile, disruptive child on the other diners would be rude — and then, yes, I’d probably be being judged. Not for having an unruly child, but for my own rudeness. Fair enough.

“Is your restaurant child-friendly?” It’s the wrong question, weighted, as it is, with the expectation — unspoken demand, even — that the restaurant (and everyone in it!) adapt itself to the quirks of your particular child.

The best question is not “Is the world adequately accepting of my child?”

The best question is “Am I preparing my child to be functional and considerate in the world?”

May 18, 2010 Posted by | food, manners, parenting, Peeve me, socializing | , , , , | 13 Comments

No, no, no, no

Baby Lily reaches for Emma’s laptop, left on the couch.
“No, no, nooo!”

Baby Lily pulls diapers off the shelf.
“No, no, nooo!”.

Baby Lily swings the door of the dog’s crate open and shut.
“No, no, no, no, nooooo!”

Baby Lily throws her blueberries on the floor.
“No, no, no, nooo!”

Baby Lily tosses the contents of my purse, which she has just hauled down from a shelf I didn’t realize she could reach, all over the front hall floor.
“Oh, no, no, nooooo!”

Baby Lily sticks her pudgy hand into the slot in the side of the basket holding their sun hats, and tugs a hat out through it.
“Oh, no, no, no, noooooo!”

What’s wrong, Mary? Has Lily’s busy-ness robbed you of you ability to say anything other than a litany of “no-no-nooooo’s”? Surely you have better ways to respond to baby exploration? Can you not re-direct, distract, remove?

Well, yes. I can and I do. Constantly, these days.

All that ‘no, no, no-ing’? That’s not me. That’s Baby Lily. These days, when I hear that solemn “Oh, no, no, noooo!”, I hunt the girl down, because I know she’s up to no good. Seems Lily knows it, too.

Too bad she doesn’t listen to herself…

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Lily, Mischief, the cuteness! | | 3 Comments