It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Poppy Gets Brave

Poppy.

Poppy has not taken to New Baby. You would be justified in thinking that this is pretty standard behaviour for a two-year-old, suddenly deposed from the throne of Baby of the Household. Certainly that was my initial response, and it may indeed be a factor.

After a few days’ observation of the little so-and-so, though, I’m not sure that it is, and even if it is, it’s far from the main issue.

Anabels rightly remembered that Poppy is an empathy crier. This, too, is a factor, except that New Baby, as I described yesterday, does not cry a lot. If Poppy cried every time New Baby cried, she wouldn’t be crying much.

However, that the emotional attunedness that makes for empathy crying? I think it’s a co-symptom of what I think is the real issue. A co-symptom of, or perhaps it makes her more vulnerable to the real issue, which is …

Poppy is dealing with Huge Anxiety re: New Baby Girl.

It started with the crying, for sure. New Baby Girl (NBG from here on) arrived, and Poppy, ever cautious in new social challenges, hung back a bit. NBG burst into a shrieking storm of tears, and Poppy, ever the crying empath, broke into a similar storm of tears herself.

If it had stopped there, if Poppy simply cried when NBG cried, well, the problem would have solved itself by now, because today NBG did not cry once. But instead, I think the tears they shared stressed poor Poppy out, to the point where, in Poppy’s mind/psyche/emotional world, NBG is now associated with scary levels of tension, misery, anxiety. Additionally, my home is associated with NBG. Particularly, it seems, the front steps and entry, and the dining table.

Over the first few days of the first week, Poppy moved from her usual decisive enthusiasm — “Hi Mary! We saw a balloon today! A balloon in the sky!” — to a tentative, querulous mess. As she headed up the stairs, the tears would start, she’d be telling-begging her parents “I want to go a nap!” Even those days she was the first child here — no evil scary NBG in sight — she’d be demanding to “go a nap!” as she walked through the door. I was dishearteningly reminded of baby Lily, who’d started out so full of fun, but who reached such a state, that, after months of effort on her parents’ part and mine, I had to give them notice. Lily was not thriving with me.

That was hard, people. I’ve given one other family notice (and only one!), but never before have I felt that I’d failed with a child. I felt that I failed with Lily. I still do feel that way.

With Poppy, at least there was a clear precursor, but the symptoms were unsettlingly similar.

It must be the intervention of some kindly-disposed fates, then, that about a month ago I was asked if I would review Growing Up Brave: Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety.

Just in time for my sweet little sunshine Poppy to turn all quivering and anxious. But this time, instead of spinning my wheels helplessly, I had IDEAS!

Growing Up Brave is not aimed at parents of toddlers. Its focus is school-age children and adolescents with genuine anxiety disorders. Poppy is two, her source of anxiety entirely age-appropriate, and the level of anxiety, while greater than the norm, is not to the point of a disorder. (Says me, the woman with an English degree and a B.Ed.)

However, I learned a lot of useful things from this book, have put them to practice and … spoiler alert! … it’s working!

The author, Dr. Donna Pincus, is director of an Anxiety Treatment Program at Boston University. The book is an absolute pleasure to read, clear, factual and informative. Ideas and concepts are given practical illustration through non-identifying case examples.

I learned that some of my approaches were absolutely correct. You’ve heard me preach before that generally, knowing “why” a toddler does something isn’t necessary. Dr. Pincus says that, too! “Instead of worrying about what causes a child’s anxiety, we parents can better focus on what we can, normally, expect.” Ha! I feel so affirmed.

When Lily stated evidencing this behaviour, I first investigated her sleep patterns. Growing Up Brave devotes an entire chapter to “Managing Bedtime”.

The less satisfactory his sleep, the more anxious he becomes. The persistent inability to sleep well makes it harder for him to regulate his emotions and cope with stress during the day… [N]ew research confirms [that] helping a kid get a better night’s sleep, which doesn’t take long, can have an amazing effect in immediately reducing the severity of his anxiety.

My instincts here were sound.

Dr. Pincus explains — which I understood — that anxiety itself isn’t the problem. Anxiety, in fact, is adaptive, keeping us from making all sorts of rash and dangerous decisions. The person who feels no fear at all, ever, is not going to live very long. Anxiety keeps you from walking in front of a bus, from leaping into a fire, from having unprotected sex. Being brave does not mean you never feel fear. It means you see “difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather as threats to be avoided.” (p. 13, quoting Albert Bandura)

Ah. Avoidance. I had a thing or two to learn about avoidance. Obviously, avoidance is not helpful. If your primary strategy for dealing with something that makes you nervous is to avoid it entirely, you’ll never learn how to cope with it. You’ll never learn that you can cope with it. Avoidance not only robs you of the opportunity to deal with your problem, but it reinforces the belief that you’re incapable of dealing with it. I didn’t need to be told any of that. I just wasn’t recognizing avoidance behaviours in Poppy and Lily, even when they were biting me right in the behind.

The nap request? Avoidance. My confusion arose because I had been seeing this behaviour as useful and effective … yet it wasn’t helping at all. In fact, it seemed only to make things worse. Once I realized what I was looking at — thank you, Dr. Pincus! — I was better equipped to develop a more effective response.

My confusion arose because this kind of retreat is not that unusual, and it’s not always, or even usually, avoidance. A child comes in fretful, but after 15 or 20 minutes alone in a quiet room is ready to join the fray. I’ve seen it regularly enough to have given it a label: I call it a “transitional strategy”. Introverted me totally gets that, and respects it. Used in that manner, retreat is indeed a reasonable transitional strategy. But the child who cries to be alone, cries with fear and trembling, and NEVER WANTS TO COME BACK EVER, EVER,EVER!?!? That’s not “transitional”, it’s just “avoidance”. Ooooohhhh…

The opposite of avoidance, I learned, is exposure. Rather than flee what’s provoking the anxiety, you approach it. But not all at once. I’m not required to fling poor Poppy bodily off the dock and into the depths of her fear. Rather, we’ll approach it incrementally, with what Dr. Pincus terms a “Bravery Ladder”. First Poppy will dip in one big toe, and get lots of praise for the courage that requires, and then one foot. She’ll be swimming those seas eventually, but we’ll let her do it a baby step at a time.

The book suggests that the child works with you to identify a goal, and then to break it down into achievable steps. Poppy is only two. If I suggest to her that the goal is to be in the room all day with NBG and be happy about it … I think the poor child would have a nervous breakdown on the spot. She does not yet see her anxiety as a handicap; she’s not mature enough to see time spent with NBG as a desirable goal. NBG makes her feel shaky, nervous, scared. NBG makes her heart race and her tummy clench. Why on earth would she ever want to spend a whole day with her????

So I’m not consulting Poppy about this. I’m devising the Bravery Ladder myself. I considered a number of factors:
– Poppy has been using a nap as an avoidance tactic. She needs to stop doing that, but we’re going to wean her off it gradually.
– Poppy has been avoiding contact with NBG. We need to encourage contact gradually, and do our very best to see that it’s positive.
– Poppy hates, hates, hates, hates it when NBG cries. Poppy needs to learn that even though she finds the tears distressing, she doesn’t need to cry, too. Even though the tears make her nervous, she can stay in the same room and be functional. Eventually — the long-term goal — I want Poppy to be able to shift her attention from her own reaction to NBG’s tears to concern for NBG. Instead of fleeing the tears, I want her to move in to comfort.
– The sight and sound of NBG a trigger for anxiety, obviously, but so is my front porch and entry, and also the dining table. In other venues, particularly out of the house, she’s quite relaxed. So I can use the other venues as places she can experience NBG’s presence with less anxiety, gradually desensitizing her in a fairly passive way. I can focus efforts on active re-training in the entry and dining room.

So. Toward the end of last week, I greeted Poppy with a carefully measured dose of calm and confident cheer. Warmly welcoming, but not over-the-top.

“I want to go a naaaaaap!” Poppy is whining, tears on her face, her voice a creaky trembling whinge. Before this, mom or I would try to get her engaged with some other idea or activity without overtly refusing the request. It was not a successful strategy. Poppy would rail and scream, flail and fuss. Mom would peel Poppy off her body, hand her over and flee.

Whee, fun.

Today, though the ultimate goal is to be rid of this nap tactic altogether, I start small. Rather than refuse the nap outright, I’m going to let her earn a brief nap … by controlling the expression of her anxiety.

“You want to have a nap?”

“Yeeeeeees. I want to go a naaaaap!”

“If you ask me in a calm voice, you can have a short nap. If you cry, you will stay downstairs with the rest of us.” (Including, of course, scary scary NBG.) All this said in tones of matter-of-fact cheer. Poppy pauses and takes a breath. She stops wailing.

“May I go a nap, p’eas?” The tone is still pretty creaky and whiny, but the form is polite. She’s not crying, she’s talking. It will do for a start. Even though she’s experiencing anxiety, she’s controlling its expression. That’s pretty damned good for two years old. It’s a first step, and a small one, but it’s a step. Her toe is in that water!

“Nice asking! You used your polite words. Thank you! Yes, you may have a nap for a few minutes.”

Up she went, and stayed there for the 20 minutes it took to get everyone ready for our morning outing. When the stroller was packed with diapers, sand toys, snacks and the other children, I raced upstairs and brought Poppy down. Once we were heading to the park — a low-stress venue — she morphed back into her usual cheerful, engaging, declarative self.

I ensured that she played close to NBG for some of the time we were at the park. I pointed out the times that NBG smiled at Poppy. I had Poppy give NBG toys, and noted that NBG enjoyed them. I also let Poppy wander away and play by herself for some of the time, too. NBG is stressful for Poppy. Small doses are sufficient.

And when we approached my front porch on our return from the park? Whiny, creaky, pathetic request to “go a nap”.

Sigh… But that’s okay! Baby steps. Baby steps!

Whew. You know what? This is turning into a short novel. I’ll stop here and finish tomorrow.

September 14, 2012 Posted by | behavioural stuff, books, health and safety, Poppy, socializing | , , , , , | 10 Comments

New Baby Aces Daycare

We have a new baby! Our new baby is Rory’s little sister (yay!), because Rory has gone off to preschool (boo!). But really, having NewBaby here is like having Rory still, if Rory were very petite and female. Really. This girl is a Rory clone, except that where Rory often had an anxious look on his wee face the first weeks of care, NewBaby mostly has a quizzical one.

She finds us curious, not alarming. For the most part.

She’s been here a week and a half, and is adjusting very well. There are tears at drop-off, of course. There were not tears the first day. The first day she was curious, interested in what might be around the corner in the living room, and she saw daddy off with nary a hiccup. The second day, with mom dropping her off, was a little harder. A few anxious looks. The third day, harder still. She cried as daddy handed her over.

This is all pretty normal. Many children don’t have an easy first day, of course. Many cry immediately, alarmed at the thought of being separated from mum and day, but a large number of babies do manage the first day or two easily enough. It’s the repetition of experience that teaches them this is just going to keep on happening. What started as an interesting visit is becoming (WTF?!) a way of life. A visit is okay. Fun, even! Forever? Not so much.

And the fourth day (the last day of the week)?

Oh, dear.

She didn’t just whimper, she didn’t even just cry. She shrieked desperate sobs, and clutched at her mama’s hair. She had to be physically disentangled, one finger at a time.

Poor mama.

Not poor baby? No. This baby is having an easy transition. Baby was fine in five minutes. Okay, calm and serious in five minutes. Calm and interested in ten. Smiling in 15 and a full-on belly laugh in 30. Happy-baby singing at intervals throughout the day. There were more solemn moments, during the day, but no more tears, and overall her mood was a range of cheerful, from quiet to giggling. An easy transition.

Mama, now? That poor woman carried the image of her child crying, little hands reaching out to her as she walked away, all day long. That? That is heart-wrenching.

[Update: A comment makes me realize I can’t leave it there! That was mom’s emotional reaction, of course, with which I completely empathize … and so that’s why I made sure to pass along pictures of their little darling smiling, even laughing, interacting with the others, and why, during the two most difficult days, they also got hourly texts!]

We’re now Wednesday of the second week, and the drop-offs, almost always the hardest part of the day for a newbie, have been getting a little better. Already! This morning, though there were tears, there were no shrieks, and there was no desperate clutching. She moved into my arms readily, and buried her face in my neck for comfort. Taking comfort from me with a parent still standing right there? That, my friends, is amazing.

New Baby Girl is doing very, very, very well.

New Baby Girl’s parents are doing all right. Not great, but all right.

This would be a perfect success story were it not for Poppy. You recall Poppy? Poppy, age 2 years, 2 months?

Poppy is not weathering the transition so well.

In fact, I would say that this transition has been far harder on Poppy than on either New Baby or NB’s parents.

And that, we’ll talk about tomorrow.

September 13, 2012 Posted by | daycare | 5 Comments

Puzzling…

The result of a good 20 minutes’ effort on the part of Grace. Unassisted, obviously. Though her focus and persistence is laudable…

… I think we need to work on our alphabet a wee bit more…

September 12, 2012 Posted by | Grace, random and odd | | 3 Comments

Read it again!!!

Parenting (stop me if you’ve heard this) is not one long sunny journey of laughter-filled days. Though of course it has its joys, and of course, creating a happy, functional adult is the ultimate reward, there are lots of exhausted bits, frustrating bits, and stretches of tedium.

One of those, books, comes early. We know books are good for kids. We all probably genuinely enjoy reading. So you take your precious bundle into your lap just about as soon as they can hold their head up, and you start reading to them. Mommy or Daddy’s voice, a warm lap, the comfort of your arms around them. Reading a book is like a great big hug! OF COURSE they will learn to love reading!!

But at first, of course, they can’t read. At first, they have to be read to. (And you may certainly continue that long past the time they can read on their own. I have many warm memories of chapter books read to school-age children, the whole family a cuddling lump of happiness.)

When they are teeny infants, you choose the book, you read the words, you talk about the pictures. You laugh as an excited, dimpled hand swats the pages. Then you choose another book.

Then they become toddlers, and they still love to be read to. So you choose a book … and they loudly object. “Not that book! THIS one!!!” and hand you “Snoofy and Bumpus Learn to Wipe their Bums”. You do not want to read Snoofy and Bumpus. You have read Snoofy and Bumpus every damned day for the past three months. You have even read Snoofy and Bumpus more than once each day. In fact, you know that were it not for a few tantrums (yours) you would have read Snoofy and Bumpus fifteen times back-to-back every day for three months.

You hate Snoofy and Bumpus. You are also harboring serious doubts about your child’s sanity, or at least her intelligence. You have no doubts at all about her literary taste: It stinks.

We can talk some other time about ways to deal with this Common Parenting Challenge, but today we’re going to try to take a more positive approach. Today we are going to list books that we honestly don’t mind reading many times.

Perhaps not many times in a row. Adults, we all know by now, are sorely lacking in attention span, at least when compared to their obsessive-compulsive toddler. But a book you don’t mind reading daily. There are such books!

… Or maybe I’ve just been hanging around toddlers so long they’re starting to rub off on me. Possible. But I do have a few books that I have read literally hundreds of times down the years, and I still enjoy reading them. Seriously.

So, for the record: MARY’S LIST OF RE-READABLE BOOKS

Are You My Mother? Lots of opportunity for a dramatic read in this one, and though some of your more delicate flowers might find it a bit fraught if you pour on the emoting too convincingly, it’s a great read.

Hippos Go Beserk! I love the rowdy rhythm of this book. Just love it.

In fact, Sandra Boynton makes it to my list more than once, with

Blue Hat, Green Hat
But Not the Hippopotamus (Real opportunity to teach empathy and talk about social exclusion, in very simple terms)
The Belly Button Book
The Going to Bed Book
Moo, Baa, LaLaLa
and
Barnyard Dance.

From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle (So fun to see a bunch of toddlers try to wiggle their hips. Because of course you do the actions as the book is read!)

Something from Nothing. There are two stories going on at once in this beautifully illustrated book, one of the boy and his wonderful blanket/coat/vest/handerchief… and one of the mice who live under the floor at his grandparent’s home. Lovely story, lovely to look at. Beautiful book.

I’m sure there are more. I have not been reading the same handful of books for decades, but those will do for a start. How about you? What book(s) can you read repeatedly without pain? Share, please! Every parent needs a bunch of these!

September 11, 2012 Posted by | books | , , , , | 19 Comments

Black bean falafels

Ingredients:
2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
500 g ground beef*
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cloves garlic
1 egg
3 teaspoons lime juice

* When making them vegetarian, I add a quarter cup tahini instead; failing that, a quarter cup shredded zucchini, squeezed once to remove some of the moisture, also works

Method:
Preheat oven to 425F.

Mash beans till smooth but chunky. (“Smooth but chunky”? Mysterious, no? What it means is you’ll see a greyish paste, but there will be lots of black bits in it.)

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with your hands, then form into about 24 balls

Place on foil-lined sheet and bake 15 minutes.

You can put two or three in a half-pita with various shredded veggies on top and drizzled with a yogurt-cilantro sauce, or, if your kids’ coordination is not up to that, you can just give them their falafels on a plate with the sauce on the side and let them dip. Toddlers looooove to dip their food.

September 10, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 4 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Tomato-corn crumble (adapted from this; I’ll be adding crumbled feta cheese and corn to the tomatoes, and making a crumble topping with flour, oats, melted butter, ground almonds and salt and pepper.) The cheese may make the tomatoes (pretty suspect with this group, unless they’re fresh cherry tomatoes) more appealing. Those who are still dubious will have the corn, and there’s at least some nutrition in the crumble.

Tuesday: Broccoli-cheese soup with baking soda biscuits

Wednesday: Chicken cacciatore. For the vegetarian, I’ll skip the chicken and beef it up (ar,ar, the irony) with pureed chickpeas.

Thursday: Black bean falafels in half-pitas with yogurt sauce and shredded veggies

Friday: Vegetable-cheese tart

Jazz is vegetarian. When they interviewed with me, that was one of the first questions asked: Could I accommodate a vegetarian? Though they were quite prepared to provide meals for her if I said no, they were relieved when my answer was “no problem!” It had proven quite an obstacle in other daycares, apparently.

Honestly, I find that odd. Now, this could be because I’m well used to cooking healthy, balanced, meat-free meals. At least half our family dinners are meat-free, often more. But we’re not vegetarians; we do eat meat, and I don’t find adapting meat meals for a vegetarian difficult at all.

The only meat meal on offer to the toddlers this week is the cacciatore. Conveniently, the chicken is the last item added. (You cook it first, then let it rest on a plate while you chop and cook everything else.) Does it make my life any harder whatsoever to use a vegetable broth instead of chicken when simmering the other ingredients? Nope. And then, before I add the chicken, I’ll remove a cup or two to a different container. Easy.

The only additional step I’m taking is to take a handful of cooked (or canned) chickpeas, which I always have in the house, whirl them in a blender with some water till they’re creamy, and pour into the soup. Takes 45 seconds, plus washing the blender. Call it three minutes. If I were feeling reeeeally lazy, I could crumble some tofu into the broth. Additional effort? 5 seconds.

September 10, 2012 Posted by | food | , | 2 Comments

Dodge and weave for the win!

“Grace is TALKING to me!” Jazz’s voice soars in indignation. Talking to her? How DARE she!? We are walking to the park, the little girls trotting side by side on the grass. I have no idea what preceded this. They seemed to be getting on just fine.

“Grace is TALKING to me!!”

If you have more than one child, or have been responsible for more than one child, you’ve heard this sort of thing before. You’ve probably joined right in the dance. Even though you hate it. Even though it’s silly and petty beyond belief, and ooooooooooh, sooooooooo tedious. Because there’s a pattern here, a tried-and-true, oh-so-familiar call-and-response, and it’s hard to avoid it. But tedious? Lordy.

Boring. I know people told me about the sleep deprivation of parenting an infant, the lack of privacy, the conflict and power struggles of parenting, but I don’t know that anyone ever warned me that great tracts of it are so UTTERLY BORING.

Different parents will be bored by different things. Some parents hate reading the same book over and over and over again. Hearing the same song, watching certain television shows, changing diapers, the constant battle against clutter, cooking meals, soothing a not-quite-sick, not-entirely-well child, helping with homework … Maybe your particular tedium thing is on that list, maybe you’re bored to tears by something else.

For me?

Squabbling. Some parents find squabbling enraging. It drives them INSANE. Me, I find it boring. Boring, boring, boring beyond belief.

Not a real conflict, mind you, where honest-to-goodness problems are being addressed — more or less constructively, perhaps, but a genuine issue is being addressed directly. That’s necessary, and necessary conflict doesn’t bore me. Done properly, necessary conflict is interesting, and, ultimately, constructive. No, it’s the petty, frivolous, pointless, MORONIC bickering that is really just jockeying for power, control, and/or attention.

So, the automatic, obvious response to:

“She’s TALKING to me!” can go a few ways, depending on the personality of the adult involved.

1. Annoyance.
“For heaven’s sakes. Why shouldn’t she?”
“Oh, don’t be silly!”
“What’s wrong with that?”

2. Coaxing.
“But Grace would like to talk with you. Grace is your friend. You can talk with Grace, honey!”

3. Sweet Reason.
“Is Grace saying anything mean? No? Then you can talk to her. You’re friends, remember?”
“If you don’t feel like talking, just tell Grace, politely.”

4. Arbitrator
“If you can’t even talk together, then you can’t walk together. You come here, you stay there, and not another word till we get to the park.”

5. Mockery.
“NO! Really? How DARE she???”
“TALKING to you? How will you ever survive?”
“So, what? You want me to tape her mouth shut, now?”

So what do I do? Well, not 1 or 2. Because I find the mindless squabbling so mind-numbingly boring, I don’t want to do anything to prolong it. If I respond in annoyance, I’m not discouraging the squabble, I’m joining in. Yawn. Coaxing? Coaxing is almost as boring as squabbling. Besides, it puts you in the place of supplicant for your child’s good behaviour, a truly bad parenting strategy.

Sweet Reason is laudable, and were I a more worthy human being, I would do it most of the time, but, oh, the brain-bleeding boredom.

I have been known to indulge in some gleeful mockery. Self-indulgent, I know, but it amuses me. And divide and conquer? Certainly.

Today, though, I simply deviated entirely from the script. Any of those scripts.

“Grace is TALKING to me!!!”

The indignation is profound, the expectation that I DO something about it clear. And imperious. Jazz does ‘imperious’ extremely well. I know what my role is … and I refuse to perform. Instead, today I pretend that Jazz is a normal human being instead of a toddler. A normal human being, interacting with her best friend.

“She IS? Well, isn’t that nice? What a good friend she is!”

The look Jazz shoots at me can only be described as nonplussed (definition 1, obviously). (Victory! Keep ’em off-balance, that’s my motto.)

Nonplussed, confused, off-balance, bewildered … it’s all there. I keep smiling. “You’re a good friend, Grace, talking to Jazz. It’s fun to talk with our friends, isn’t it?” I beam at both of them.

Jazz looks at Grace, who beams along with me. Grace has no idea what’s really going on here, but she loves all the smiles and happiness!

And Jazz … talks to Grace.

We continue our walk to the park.

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, Mischief, potty tales, whining | | 7 Comments

Reality? What’s that got to do with anything?

“I want to trade dollies with Grace,” Jazz informs me. Grace is right beside her on the kitchen floor. Jazz has a baby doll, Grace has a Groovy Girl. Seems Groovy Girls are the doll to have today.

“I don’t want to trade,” Grace responds, calmly playing with the dolly of desire. Neither girl looks at each other. I could transmit Grace’s response to Jazz, but I would rather teach Jazz to deal direct with Grace. I have no desire to be the intermediary in all their encounters, and why should Jazz want one?

“Well, I don’t have the dolly. Grace does. You need to ask Grace if she would like to trade.”

“I don’t want to trade.” Grace is not alarmed, she is just informing us of her position. She continues to play, not bothering to look up.

Given this, it’s rather surprising when Jazz goes along with my pointless exercise. “Grace, do you want to trade dollies?” Jazz asks, in her best, perky, friendly, let’s-DO-this voice.

“I don’t want to trade.” (Surprise, surprise.)

I look at Jazz, who is standing, staring at Grace as if she’s expecting something more.

“Well, Jazz. What did Grace say?”

Grace answers the question, yet again. Her tone of voice is level and not particularly interested, same as it’s been throughout all this. Her position has not changed. “I don’t want to trade.”

Jazz looks up at me, her face happily alight.

“Her said YES!”

Why fight reality when you can just re-write it?!?

(Her didn’t get that dolly. Mary is such a poop.)

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Grace, individuality, Jazz, power struggle | | 2 Comments

Settling In

Aaaaaand it’s fall!

The kids on the street all trundle off with their girnomous backpacks, managing to be pack mules, play street hockey, hold shrieked conversations with friends mere centimetres from their faces, and somehow make their way schoolward, simultaneously. Quite something. My own university students are back to classes. They (bless their young-adult hearts) go quietly.

The daycare tots are back, all day, every day. Routine is back. Aaaaaahhhh…

There are lots of things to love about summer. I love my time off. I love that the kids come and go, so my days are often lighter. I love the ease of getting out the door. Shoes and sunhats on five kids? Ten minutes, tops! Snow gear on five kids? More than ten. Way more. (And then, of course, some whiner always gets cold in five minutes and want to come in. When that whiner is me, I tell her to suck it up.) And oh, the freedom of daily meandering outings! My world expands exponentially in the summer!

Summer is great, but I love the fall. Just as I loved the variability of summer, I love the return to routine in the fall.

This fall, I have:
Grace and Jazz, both three. Rory has gone on to preschool. We miss him.
Daniel and Poppy, both two. Daniel is now coming only two days a week, as he now has a baby sister at home and mom’s on mat. leave. If all goes according to plan, I’ll have Daniel and his baby sister full-time next fall.
New Baby, who turned a year old last week.

Two three’s, two two’s, and a one. PERFECT! I love it when there’s a range of ages. I avoid age-clumps when I can. Though it’s simpler to have a bunch of kids all at pretty much the same stage, it makes for a sudden, dramatic drop in income when they ALL LEAVE AT ONCE. Yes, I know it’s coming and I have lots of time to find replacements, but I still find it nerve-wracking.

New Baby is Rory’s little sister, and oh MY, she’s a cutie! A featherweight pixie of a child, tiny, fine-boned, with enormous cinnamon eyes and orange-turning-auburn hair. Where her big brother often looked anxious, Newbie looks quizzical.

And shy? Separation anxiety? Clinging misery?

Not.

Yesterday, her first full day, she cried for perhaps four minutes. I carried her about on my hip — given that she weighs approximately as much as a smallish bag of feathers, this is no hardship — and from that vantage point she calmly considered the seething masses below. Within 20 minutes I was able to sit on the floor with her, then slip her to the floor beside me, and then … then she crawled off. Just like that!

This, my friends, is amazing. We’ll see if it continues. Some children arrive with barely a flutter, then have their big WTF moment two or three weeks in, when it dawns on them that this is permanent. You can see the growing realization: “Wait now. I’m here again?? This just … keeps happening.” It is not a welcome idea, and it is then, three weeks in, that the resistance suddenly makes a full and dramatic appearance. It takes about the same amount of time to fade away (three-ish weeks), it just starts later.

I won’t be making any happy assumptions before the month is out, is what I’m saying. If she’s still chirpy by Thanksgiving (our Thanksgiving, in mid-October), then I’ll breathe my sigh of relief at an easy transition.

And in a week or three, I’ll be thinking about names for her.

September 5, 2012 Posted by | daycare | 4 Comments