It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Empathy takes time, don’t you know

Daniel is an explorer. Daniel is a cause-and-effect guy. He’s fascinated by what happens when you do stuff. “Can I find out what happens when…” is a prime motivator in his little life. I predict a fine career as an engineer one day.

Some of his discoveries are happy, some are scary, but all are interesting. The alarming discoveries do not put him off. Not in the slightest. This is a compulsion people. He.Must.Explore. Must.

“If I throw my Cheerios off my high chair, the puppy will eat them!” (Happy!! Until we were out of Cheerios, and he’d only eaten, oh, four. The it was Very Sad.)
“If I pull on this lever, that thing there will move!” (Happy! He did that one at least eleventy-gazillion times.)
“If I blow into my water, I can make bubbles!” (Sooooo happy! And since it’s contained in a plastic drinking box, no mess, so I’m happy, too.)
“If I push that button, the music gets WAY LOUDER!!!” (Which was a little alarming, true, but SO INTERESTING!)

Sadly for the other children, Daniel’s explorations don’t stop there. He has no malice in his happy, bubbly little soul that I can see, but he’s an explorer. Cause-and-effect fascinate him. You can make things happen with things, and you can make things happen with PEOPLE! Yes, you can!

“If I pull Jazz’s hair, she makes that great noise!!!”
“If I shove Poppy, she sits down on her bum, fast!!”
“If I shove the enormous tower of blocks Rory’s been working on for the past twenty minutes, they scatter all over the kitchen!!!”

Yes. No malice, none at all. No discernable empathy yet, either. Boo.

You’ve all seen my stroller. You have not seen this view, however. Let us stand behind the stroller with Mary, and peep under the sun canopy to see the array of little heads, shall we?

Isn’t that cute?? That’s Daniel’s head in the rearmost seat. Then an empty seat, then Grace with a wee top-knot. You can’t see Poppy in the very front, but she’s there.

Because the rear seat has the narrowest spacing, I put the smallest child in there. The smallest child is not Daniel the Tank. It’s not even Poppy the Dumpling. No, the smallest child is skinny-minny Jazz. The order of children in the stroller used to be, from front to back: Rory or Grace; Poppy; Daniel; Jazz.

You will note the hole in the back of Daniel’s seat? The one through which you’re seeing his blond-blond mop? Yes. That hole, Daniel has taught me, is a distinct design flaw.

Rory/Grace, Poppy, Daniel, then Jazz used to be the order of the children in the stroller, I say, until Daniel realized that he could stick his hand through the hole in front of his face! And really, what baby worth his salt wouldn’t be doing that? You can stick your hand through that hole, you can reach around, and you can feel stuff! Too fun! And really, tots have been doing that since I bought the stroller. A firm word, a few firm grips-of-a-wrist and an equally firm plopping it back in a lap has been all that’s required to put a stop to that.

(Brief parenthetical tangent: Now that I’m thinking about it, there was that child a few years back who was so compulsively determined to remove the hat in front of him that I ended up tucking his snowsuited arms under his seatbelt and reefing that sucker in tight. And then I covered it all with a blanket so any squeamish Earnest Mommies we passed wouldn’t see that I had TIED THAT BABY DOWN!!!

I’d forgotten about that until this very moment. Hmmm…)

Back to story: So, if you’re Daniel of the massive hands, you can GRAB stuff! Grab and pull! You can pull hats through that hole, which is SO COOL. And then? Where most kids are content to wave the hat around and maybe throw it out of the stroller, Daniel, Mr. Explorer, he has to go back again. You can pull hats through the hole! Is there anything else you can pull through?

Hair. Hair!!! When you pull a hat through the hole, you get a hat. That’s interesting. But when you pull hair through the hole, you get hair (though, for some reason, not all of it, hm), you get resistance (because it seems to be stuck on something, hm), and you get NOISE. That’s really interesting!

Yeah. And with the old seating, Daniel was two seats ahead of where I stand. I couldn’t reach him in time to save poor Poppy’s head.

So now, Daniel is in the back, where I can grab him restrain him monitor him. When possible, there is an empty seat in front of Daniel. When it’s not possible, though Daniel will certainly protest the curtailment of exploratory possibilities, I think I may resort to plugging that hole with duct tape. (Duct tape, the caregiver’s friend.)

And Poppy?

She is very grateful that Daniel no longer sits right behind her.


October 12, 2011 - Posted by | behavioural stuff, Daniel, health and safety, Mischief, Poppy | , , , , , ,


  1. I’d totally be taping up that hole. It would take him a good while to explore how long it takes to remove duct tape from plastic. šŸ˜‰

    Heh. Fine motor activity AND a contest of strength! I should get on that, stat!

    Comment by hodgepodge | October 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. What a wonderful description of a child’s exploration of cause and effect. My son was also like this, with absolutely no malice intended towards any child he included in his experiments! But, oh, their mothers certainly thought he was malicious. Most of the time, though, the other children seemed to understand what was going on. I watched him diligently and intervened many, many times, but sometimes I didn’t catch him in time. We talked a lot and used role-playing to help him figure out socially acceptable ways to satisfy his curiosity. I realized that a teacher in a classroom would never be able to monitor him and 20 others at the same time (without labeling him “the bad kid” as the mothers at the playground had already done), so we chose to homeschool. He is now a friendly, empathetic college Sophomore–the girls in his group of friends told his visiting sister that he’s the guy they count on to keep them safe at wild parties!

    It’s tough to be the mother in that situation. You know your child’s intentions, but the child is being measured by his actions. You made a big decision in order to protect his emotional health while he matured. I really admire that, and you now have the confirmation that that was the right decision! I can see where it can be tough for the other mothers, too: even if they know he means well, their child is still getting battered and bruised! And when your child is getting the short end of the stick, that Mama Bear instinct kicks in and at times isn’t entirely objective or fair… It will take work on my part, encouraging Daniel to be gentle and helping the other children to defend themselves without being aggressive or afraid.

    Work that’s worth it, for I am 100% confident that at base Daniel is a kind and friendly little fellow! He just needs time and maturity to develop some empathy, and then, like your son, he’ll be the kind of person others can trust and rely on.

    Comment by Meg | October 13, 2011 | Reply

  3. Have you seen all the wonderful colors and patterns of duct tape recently? When did it get so exciting? I was happy with gray/silver, but tie dye? I’m hooked!

    No! I’ve seen different colours: red, blue, green, white, as well as silver, but I haven’t seen any patterns! Gee, now I’m itching to get to work on those dratted holes!!!

    Comment by My Kids Mom | October 13, 2011 | Reply

  4. […] that. We know that he’s cheerful and happy and well-intentioned, but that he’s also a big, unempathetic doofus when it comes to the other children. Other children are fun! He loves them! He loves to smile at […]

    Pingback by Willing, but clueless… « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | October 25, 2011 | Reply

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