It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The new crew

There’s been a big turnover here. Poppy, Daniel and Rosie are off to other adventures — JK for Poppy and Daniel, preschool for Rosie.

(An aside: Preschool, to “get her ready” for Junior Kindergarten, don’t you know. Silliest thing ever. As I recall, JK was intended to ‘get them ready’ for SK, which, at its inception, was intended to ‘get them ready’ for Grade 1. Honestly. What’s next? Intercom to the womb, so we can ‘get them ready’ for life outside?)

But, a secret here? The only one I truly, truly miss is Poppy. Daniel, though a charmer, was also more than a handful. I could manage him, him with his aggression and defiance. Over the course of the three years he was with me, he improved tremendously, but even so, he was a lot of work. And Rosie? Sweet little Rosie came with parents who were, increasingly, a lot of work. So, while I do miss Rosie, I’m pleased to have mom and dad gone.

And in their place?

I still have Daniel’s little sister, Gwen, who is now two. She’s dawning into an absolutely lovely child. You know how some people are just naturally positive? Gwen is one of those. Now, like her brother, she is very strong-willed, but unlike her brother, she is not self-destructively, reflexively defiant. It’s probably an exaggeration to say she can be ‘reasoned with’ very much just yet, but it is fair to say she is amenable to reason. She’s two, and perfectly capable of unreasoning contrariness, but negativity is not her default. She’s sunshine, mostly. Thunderstorms are occasional, and fleeting.

I still have … Oh, gracious. Did I ever give Poppy’s baby sister a blog name? I think not. Hmmm… I think I’ll keep the flower theme in the family, and go with ‘Daisy’. Bright and sunny, but also a bit of a weed. Yeah. Daisy. Good name for this one. (And yes, I’ve given her the same name as my dog. They share a goodly number of character traits…)

Daisy is now 16 months old. She’s got a killer sense of humour for such a wee one, is bouncy and resilient — cheerfully feisty, too. She’s tiny for her age, often taken for 10 or 11 months old, but make no mistake, she’s a powerhouse, this one.

And we have two new tots, Liam (18 months) and Zoe (14 months).

Liam is a hoot. He’s got the most beautiful, engaging smile. When Liam beams at you, it’s because he’s seen something wonderful and he just knows you’ll share the joy. From time to time, he recalls the evil, parent-eating door, and has a moment of sadness, but he’s quickly distracted. He’s a big, solid boy, but gentle with it, gentle in spirit and in actions. He does charge around like a tiny moose, yes, but manages, for the most part, to avoid knocking the others over like ninepins. He’s not a blunderer. And I have yet to see him use his size to push the other children around, which he manifestly could.

Zoe is a cautious one. Though she’s capable of some lovely smiles and has bouts of good cheer,  those are not her default. Zoe, sadly, is a whiner. Zoe’s response to life’s little setbacks is to cry. And Zoe’s definition of ‘setback’ is both exceedingly broad and endlessly specific.

Did you know that toddlers fall an average of 17 times an hour? True fact. That’s an average, too, meaning a bunch of tots fall more often than that! And did you also know that in Zoe’s world, an unexpected sit-down on her well-padded butt constitutes a ‘setback’ of scream-worthy proportions? Followed by long minutes of low-intensity grizzling? The girl seems to have no other response to a setback, no matter how insignificant, but to wail. No resilience whatsoever.

She’s cautious, so she probably falls less frequently than average. We’ll say a mere 10 times an hour. Oy. And that’s only the start. She will cry for … gracious. What won’t she cry for? I say again, Oy. Someone walks by too close. I put her in the high chair. I lift her down from the high chair. Another child laughs. Another child looks at her. Or at her toys. Or doesn’t look at her. She’s offered food. She’s not offered food. I put her in the stroller.

And let us not speak of diaper changes, which she greets with screams that would have the neighbours thinking (had I not pre-emptively shut the windows) that I was removing her toenails with pliers. Rusty pliers. Lord only know what will happen should she ever get a diaper rash!

Now that I am sure she’s adjusted to the new environment,  and equally sure that the grizzling is more bad habit than genuine unhappiness, I am beginning some basic behavioural training. If I am playing with her, helping her stack blocks on the floor, say, and she begins to grizzle (because someone walked too close? because a dog scratched itself across the room? a dust mote settled on the top block?), I spin on my butt so I have my back to her. Then I ignore the wails. She is passive. She won’t crawl around to the front of me. She sits and wails at my back. *sigh*

But, after a little while, there will be a pause.  Now, I doubt she’s tired. This girl is a marathon-calibre grizzler. No, not tired of whining, but puzzled. This is not what grizzling is supposed to do. So there’s a pause, and in that pause, I promptly turn back, smile, and continue with our game as if there hadn’t been a two-minute Grizzle Hiatus. I play with her until the next dust mote offends Her Delicacy and the grizzling starts again. Without saying anything at all, I once again turn my back.

And so we go, in sessions lasting 5 or so minutes, two or three times a day. I’ll use the quick-turnaround strategy at other times when the grizzle is being used instead of communication — this happens many times in a day — but I’m making a point of squeezing in these more prolonged, specifically training sessions.

It’s only been three days, but I can see improvement. On this, the third day, I will first sit back to increase the distance between us, and then pause a moment before I turn my back on her. About a third of the time, that pause is sufficient to make the whining stop, and then we resume our play.

If she can make that much progress in three days, I’m confident that we’ll train the Default Whine out of her. She’ll probably always be the first to whine when she’s tired or hungry. That’s okay. She may never be Miss Suzy Sunshine, but, give me a couple more months and we’ll get her to Polly Peaceable, at least.

It’s a largely pre-verbal group. Gwen chatters up a storm, but she’s only here three days a week, and she’s the only truly verbal one in the bunch. Daisy has some words, her absolute favourite being “Do-GGY!”, said at least 400 times a day, always with the accent solidly on the last syllable. Liam doesn’t offer words, but will occasionally echo, or give one up if prompted. And Zoe? Zoe goes in for vowels, in a big way. A serious dearth of consonants in Zoe’s ‘vocabulary’ just yet, though I have heard an enthusiastic “BA!” when she sees her bottle.

And now Daisy has woken from her nap, and I need to bring her downstairs for a diaper change and a story.

It’s nice to be back. Even if there isn’t anyone out there any more!


October 8, 2014 - Posted by | individuality, socializing, whining |


  1. Oh, I missed you so much! What a joy to read you again! My own little toddler is now the oldest in her home daycare, too, because so many parents think CPEs (bigger-group daycares? with age-separation) are better preparation for school and more “stimulating”. I think it’s plenty stimulating for my kid to be taught to share and “take care” of people smaller than her.. But I know I’m preaching to the choir here 🙂 Thanks for writing again!

    I am so pleased that I’ve actually been missed. It’s rather touching.

    Yes. Before they enter school, social and emotional education is far, far more important than pedagogical stuff. Which is not to say we don’t do pre-math and pre-reading skills (and even some actual math, reading and writing with the older ones). But it’s not the most important thing, not at all. Developing those empathy skills, becoming aware of others’ emotional needs, developing consideration of others — all of which can be learned when they ‘take care’ of the littler ones — are much more important at this age. Yes, you’re preaching to the choir, but let me preach right back: I think you’ve made the very best decision for your daughter, keeping her in a small environment where she’ll get love and personal attention, and the opportunity to learn these so-important life skills.

    Comment by myrheille | October 8, 2014 | Reply

  2. Glad to see you’re back! I love your stories about the daycare littles, and learn a little from the stories you tell to apply to the kids in my life.


    I’m glad to be back! And goodness, this unexpectedly long list of kind comments will certainly encourage me to keep it up! Thank you.

    Comment by Sarah | October 8, 2014 | Reply

  3. I’m happy you’re back! I love your stories. 🙂

    Thank you! I’m glad to be back, and very encouraged to receive even a single comment. I’m a little blown away, to be honest. (Does TX mean you’re in Texas? Bet it does. Isn’t the internet wonderful, connecting people who would otherwise have nothing at all to do with each other?)

    Comment by LeighTX | October 8, 2014 | Reply

  4. I’m so delighted to hear about your new crew! I’ve relied a lot on your stories and advice through your blog for this last year, when I’ve been working as a nanny. I’m moving on to other things, but it’s been so great to have your archives as a resource- and I can’t wait to read your stories during my lunch hours!

    Ooooh. You’re working in a job with actual lunch hours? How very grown-up of you! Do you feel comfortable telling me here what you’re doing? (If not, shoot me an email. I’d love to know where you went, after nannying!)

    Comment by BeckaJo | October 8, 2014 | Reply

    • I’m going to be a university admissions counselor and credential assessor! I was nannying while finishing my doctorate in sociology. I also did a brief internship at a daycare to see if I could handle it…but unfortunately I don’t really seem to have the amazing level of organization and energy that’s needed to work with groups of small children – to say nothing of the parents! The semi-adults entering university are much more manageable.

      Comment by BeckaJo | October 11, 2014 | Reply

  5. This made my day!

    Aw! That’s so great. And you know I love your writing! I probably only comment on every 10th column I read, but I always enjoy your writing, and often send links out to friends who I think would be interested — or who are in a situation where your thoughts would be useful.

    Comment by evilhrlady | October 8, 2014 | Reply

  6. I’m glad you’re back! Sounds to me like Daisy and I share a favourite word – does she use it every time she sees one, or is it non-specific?

    Well, I have two dogs, so there is always a “daw-GEE!!!” to point out! Sometimes, I think she uses it for her daddy, too…

    It is so weird how many times your crew has had a complete turnover in the time I’ve been reading this blog. Kind of like when bloggers I’ve been following pre-parenthood are now having their third or fourth child.

    I know! I really would prefer to have a 1, a couple of 2-, a 3- and a 4-year old, and just turn over one or two children a year, but it’s been ages since I’ve had that! (Maybe I’ve never had that, and I’m just deluding myself that it’s possible!)

    Comment by May | October 8, 2014 | Reply

  7. Glad you’re back! I love hearing about your tots.

    Thank you! With this kind of encouragement, I’m sure to come back. I’m a little chuffed, really. (‘Chuffed’. Such a great English word. We don’t really use it in Canada, but (assuming I understand what it means!!) it seems to be just the right one for the situation. Hee.)

    Comment by Megan | October 8, 2014 | Reply

  8. Welcome back! I’ve been reading since LO was pre-verbal and she’s now talking up a storm at pre-K. I’ve been making my way post-by-post through the archives and I’ve made it to posts that I remember enjoying when they were first put up.

    Reading your stratagies for dealing with children (and parents) has definitely informed my parenting (and life/work) style. Thank you for sharing and so pleased you’re back!

    Thank you! You’ve come a long way in your parenting life. When she’s older, it will seem like it slipped by in a heartbeat, but there’s a whole lot of change and development (for both of you!) crammed into those first few years. I’m glad to hear she’s thriving. I’m also glad to hear my ideas, experiences, and opinions have been useful to you. Thanks for commenting.

    Comment by Ailsa/Jackie | October 9, 2014 | Reply

  9. I’m still here! I’m glad your back. Your approach and mine are similar and I love getting new ideas on how to engage the kids and prevent bad habits. I can’t wait to hear stories of the new tots!

    I’m glad you’re still here! I’m sure the tots will give me lots of fodder for stories and rumination.

    Comment by Melinda | October 9, 2014 | Reply

  10. Oh, I missed you, apparently along with so many others. I like your stories.

    Thank you! Here’s hoping the tots provide me with a steady stream of stories!

    Comment by Sophie | October 9, 2014 | Reply

  11. No one out there? No, we don’t give up that easily. I was worried you were no longer enjoying your blog, so nice to see you back!

    It seems you don’t! I wasn’t enjoying or not-enjoying my blog. It just never managed to become a priority. There were any number of times I opened the ‘compose’ window, but when faced with that blank screen, my mind became similarly blank, all energy left me, and I close the computer after a few empty minutes. Now, it seems, the energy, impulse, and inspiration are all back. Here’s hoping they stay!

    Comment by Nev | October 9, 2014 | Reply

  12. My daughter has decided to leave Gus with his lovely childminder rather than send him to pre-school for his final year before starting at school. There are various contributory factors but mainly it’s because she’s lovely and he’s happy. He’s also very young – children here now start school in the September following their fourth birthday and his falls on 20th August – so Weeza reckons that the more family atmosphere will be better for him than trying to push him before he’s ready.

    Oh, I really wish Rosie’s family had that mindset. How lovely for Gus!

    Rosie is sweet, but very quiet socially, much more a watcher than an actor, and thus slipped to the back of most activities and conversations. I was really looking forward to seeing her take that next step forward when the older two headed off to school, and she became the biggest, and thus more likely to be a leader. Instead, she has been put in a situation where she’s once again among the youngest, and this time in a much larger group. I fear Rosie will never get her opportunity to shine. She may well get there in the end, but she missed this first opportunity to be top of the heap, and a leader. It makes me sad.

    Comment by Z | October 9, 2014 | Reply

  13. Hey, you’re back. Groovy!

    Far out! Glad to be back! 😀

    Comment by Tammy | October 9, 2014 | Reply

  14. Gosh, I’m glad you’re back! You had me worried there for a while…

    Comment by Margaret Paschal | October 10, 2014 | Reply

  15. Glad you are back!

    Comment by Beth | October 11, 2014 | Reply

  16. I love reading your writtings! Thanks!

    Comment by lonicarowley | October 12, 2014 | Reply

  17. I’m back from my mat leave and have been checking to see weekly if you’re back! I’m so glad you are. While I didn’t put my kids in a home daycare (Montessori – I couldn’t find someone like you where I live) – I love your philosophy. I have a little Zoe of my own – and tonight I’m starting your method to see if we can get to Polly Peaceable soon! She’s perfectly happy and sunny at daycare – but when mama’s in the room – she’s the Queen of All Whining. Look out baby – Mary’s given mama some good ideas!! So, so happy you’re back!!

    I don’t know if you’ll see my reply to your comment, but I wanted to share the post where I talked at greater length about whining and how to eliminate it. I can’t use this on Zoe yet, because she’s not yet talking, but if she’s still whining when she gets verbal (oh, I hope not!), this is what I’ll be doing.

    Comment by Cindy | October 14, 2014 | Reply

  18. I’m so glad you’re back!

    Comment by Meg | October 14, 2014 | Reply

  19. So happy you’re back! It brightens my day to read your stories about your crew, and to know I’m not alone in this battle we call raising kids (I have a 4 year old and 7 year old, and have been reading since on mat leave with my 4 year old). The pictures of the wedding were lovely btw.

    Comment by DK Flygirl | October 16, 2014 | Reply

  20. “Bright and sunny, but also a bit of a weed” ahahahahaha. Love it.

    Comment by IfByYes | October 24, 2014 | Reply

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