It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Good Mommies, Strong Mommies

A Perfect Post – February 2007

Does anyone in this generation worry about being ladylike any more? Not that they should, mind you, I was just wondering. If the term is too old-fashioned for you, here’s how I remember it. (Not that I was ever restricted by it. Either I’m not that old, or my mother was too free-spirited. Maybe both.)

Anyway, at a certain time, girls were often encouraged to “Be a lady”, or to “be ladylike”. A “lady” is pretty and clean, modest and kind, prissy, precise, concerned with rules and appearances. How she ever managed to have children is beyond me. Laying there with your legs splayed for half the hospital to see? I mean, really… And let’s not even consider how you got pregnant in the first place…

Not everything about her is bad and wrong. Some of her traits – modesty, kindness – are wonderful. But the whole package as a way of life? She’s so limited!

I’d far rather be a woman, thanks. Women are not a neat and clean projection of non-threatening, sanifized femininity; they are whole people. A woman is comfortable in her person, her mind, her body, her sexuality, and quite willing to be unladylike when it suits. She can dress in heels to turn heads, she can lounge barefoot in grubby jeans. A lady avoids bodily fluids, and denies them when she can’t. Women have been known to take unseemly amounts of pleasure in certain types…

I see a similar duality between the images of motherhood. Many (most?) North American mothers seem to be striving to be good mommies. But you know what? Good Mommies are to motherhood what Ladies are to womanhood.

Let’s take a look at the Good Mommy, shall we?

The Good Mommy is kind and nurturing. The Good Mommy loves her children. The Good Mommy knows that her children have their little quirks – who doesn’t? – but they are at heart truly kind, sweet, loving, patient, smart little people. They are never rude, or selfish, they are only tired or hungry. They are never aggressive, they are only frustrated. They are never disrespectful, they are only confused. They are never enraged, only sad. Poor little mites!

Thus, she never gets exasperated with them. She’s never hurt by them. And she never, ever feels anger. Sometimes the children make Good Mommy sad, but she’s never outraged by them, she never feels a gut surge of “How dare you??”

Many Good Mommies might argue this. “What? Of course I know my child has his flaws! Look at those tantrums! Look at the way he hates to share! It keeps me up at night, worrying!”

Ah, but if I were to say that the child is being selfish? No, no, no, no, no. Good Mommies can’t label a behaviour in character terms. They say “She throws such awful tantrums.” And then follow up with, “It breaks my heart to see her so sad.”

Good Mommies make Mary very, very sad…

You see, Good Mommy is doing herself no favours. Perhaps more importantly, certainly more important from her perspective, she is doing her children no favours.

I recently read a blog in which a mother was expressing her remorse over her child’s tantrums. They happened so frequently, and it pained this Good Mommy so much to see her child in such distress. She was so sad, you see, but every time she offered comfort, the child responded with punches and kicks. This made Good Mommy even sadder. (I think, eventually, all Mommy’s “sadness” will give her an ulcer. Suppressed anger often does.)

Is it any surprise that, rather than having long since faded away now that the child is closing in on Junior Kindergarten, the tantrums are ongoing and getting worse? This child is learning that the tantrums are not her fault. The child is learning that mom is incapable of helping her control the rage – because she’s not angry, she’s only sad!

We need to ditch the Good Mommy, and proceed with a new mother image. How about the Strong Mommy?

The Strong Mommy is nurturing, but she also has a solid self-respect. Strong Mommy knows that her children, like every single member of the human race, are capable of kindness, tolerance, compassion, patience, and great good. They are also equally capable of unkindness, intolerance, selfishness, impatience, and great ill. Because they are human.

Children are human. They are not paragons. They are innocent, yes, but we all know innocence can be dangerous. Small children have to be watched very carefully around small pets – a four year old can, in total innocence, kill a hamster. Yes, she’d feel very badly after the fact – but the hamster probably feels worse… Innocence doesn’t prevent one from being selfish. In fact, I’d argue that it makes it more likely.

Strong Mommies see their children in all their varied humanity. They see the innocence, the wonder, the bright eyes, the humour, the dawning empathy… and they see selfishness and manipulativeness, the intolerance and aggression. They don’t feel the need to deny those traits, or to apologize for even admitting they’re there. She doesn’t blame herself for the negative traits, which are only human nature. Of course children are selfish from time to time! Who isn’t? They need to be taught to be unselfish (or kind, or patient, or whatever trait is at issue). They need to be taught to put other people’s needs first once in a while. (After they learn that other people have needs, that is.)

Strong Mommies can look at their petulant, sulking child and see it not as sadness to be forgiven and excused, but a normal expression of childish inflexibility and selfishness. If every negative behaviour is only ever explained away and excused, when and how will the child learn to control and overcome these tendencies? Strong Mommies, who see the traits with clear eyes are in a far better position to teach the child another, better way of responding.

Strong Mommies can, and do, let their self-esteem rise up and say, “Enough, you little so-and-so. Mommy is NOT your maid, nor your punching-bag, either.” She stands up for herself in full confidence that her needs matter, too. I love it when a mommy comes right out and unapologetically says, “He’s taking advantage and I’m not letting this continue one day longer.” “She’s capable of better, and I’m going to see she achieves it.”

And you know what? Your child will respect you, and be more secure because of it.

So, let’s ditch the Good Mommy, shall we, and embrace the Strong one itching to get out of those ladylike confines. Our children will be better off.

February 24, 2007 Posted by | aggression, controversy, Developmental stuff, individuality, manners, parenting, power struggle, socializing, tantrums | 48 Comments

Nobody’s Perfect…

But seems I came close enough this week!

Someone thought my Good Mommies, Strong Mommies post warranted being noted as a Perfect Post.

Thanks to So-Called Supermom, and to all who read and enjoyed the post. Over 800 of you so far! Thanks for dropping by, thanks for all the comments, and I hope it’s helpful.

March 1, 2007 Posted by | commemoration, memes and quizzes, our adoring public | 8 Comments

Caillou: New Baby, or, The Weirdness

So. About that Caillou book.

Where were we? Let’s see…

Page 1: Caillou is happily anticipating the arrival of his baby sister.
Page 2: Mommy and Daddy go to the hospital. Is he excited that his sister is on her way? Is he happy to spend the night with gramma? Noooo… Drippy little Caillou plops his thumb in his mouth and is “lonely”.
Page 3: The baby appears and disillusionment sets in. The baby can’t do anything! (Drippy little Caillou’s parents obviously did a poor job of preparation.)
Pages 4 – 7: Caillou’s behaviour deteriorates, from pouting through passive aggression and non-compliance, through regression right onto to active aggression, culminating when he bites his baby sister.

Caillou’s parents are galvanized into action! Daddy comforts the baby, while Mommy tackles Caillou. And here’s where it gets weird. Just you watch.

Mommy: “You think your sister is sweet enough to eat. But if you do, you will no longer have her to love. You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

He thinks she’s sweet enough to eat?? Does this delusion nitwit honestly think her toddler bit the baby because he thinks she’s edible? Seriously?

I think Caillou’s mommy is one of those “Good Mommies”. Bad feelings don’t exist in her universe. I bet when Caillou manages to get under her skin by repeated whiny, manipulative, aggressive behaviour, she isn’t ever, ever angry, she’s only “sad”. So very sad. And Caillou is never angry, hostile, or jealous. Oh, no! He is just tired, or over-stimulated. Or, in this case, hungry.

Okay, Mommy. Time for a reality check. Caillou is thinking a whole big bunch of things about his sister, you bet. However, I would bet lots and lots of good money “my baby sister is sooooo sweet” is not one of them.

He may only be 21 months old, but Mommy? He knows the difference between a human being and an apple. That’s why, when he wanted to express his anger and aggression, he threw a doll around his room. A baby doll. Not, you will note, an apple.

“But if you do, you will no longer have her to love.”

Wait. Just wait now. You’re suggesting that Caillou is trying to ingest his sister, in her entirety?? That he wants to completely consume her? You think that bite wasn’t a simple act of aggression, but only the first morsel of lunch??

She’d rather believe her son was aiming for cannibalism than aggression?? A little bog-standard toddler aggression arising out of jealousy and anxiety?? So her thought processes were, what? “My baby would never act aggressively! Nooo. He must just have been trying to eat her. Like an apple. Yes, that’s much better.”

You know what? That’s WAY, WAY CREEPIER, Mommy. Waaaay creepier. Caillou the Cannibal. Ew.

Wonderful husband listened to me read that page and snorted. “Now, now, Caillou,” he chirped in a blissed-out Nice Mommy voice. “You can’t have your sister and eat her, too!” (Yes, I know I’ve just put down the red carpet for some seriously creepy Google-searchers. Won’t they be disappointed that it’s just whiny little Caillou and his delusional parents?)

“You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

Okay. We’ll let that one alone. It’s a reasonable enough thing to say to a young toddler. Also “You are a person, not a wild animal. People don’t bite.” Or, “You may be angry, but you may not bite.” Or, “Caillou! You just hurt the baby! See how she’s crying? Poor baby Rosie! I need to go spend time with her and help her feel better. You can sit over there alone.” Or, after the above, “You can come help me make her feel better. Poor, poor Rosie!”

It’s odd how most of the book is devoted to describing Caillou’s growing unhappiness and eventual aggression, but the parents’ response does not address the issue of his feelings at.all.

In fact, and I just realized this, there is never any discussion of Caillou’s feelings. It is simply a list of actions. Caillou does this, that, and that other thing. Every one of them negative, until the very last page. Nor is there any discussion of the results of those actions on other people. (Empathy for poor crying Rosie? Noooo.)

Good lord. What an enormous gap in the narrative of this book! Caillou is a little guy. He looks to be less than two. So…
– He doesn’t know what that turmoil of feeling inside him is. He needs someone to label them for him. He needs someone to show him how to control and channel them. In simple and concrete ways. (Not someone to deny that they even exist!)
– He quite likely genuinely doesn’t know that other people have feelings, too. Not like he does, at any rate. Rosie’s tears were a prime opportunity to introduce him to the notion, and to plant some seeds of empathy.

So, in a book that’s all about a toddler’s negative emotional reaction to the advent of the attention-sucking interloper of a new baby in his perfect world, there is not one single reference to the feelings that precipitate all the actions. Only the idea that it’s understandable if you might want cannibalize your sibling because she’s so sweet.

What a weird book.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | books, eeewww, parenting, socializing | , , , | 12 Comments

A slip of the lips

What do you call that circular toy, a round piece of rigid plastic tubing that you set to spinning around your hips and try to keep up there by just the right timing of hip-swaying?

Yes, that’s what I’d call it, too.

Jazz, however, mangles pronounces it slightly differently. She spots the kid-sized one in the back porch as I go out there to retrieve some spring toys so that we may play outside in the (freakishly) warm weather. (Twenty-seven degrees! In MARCH! For five days now! Though the record-breaking hot spell is broken now: today’s high is 17, and for the rest of the week we’re back to more seasonal 0 – 10C temps. But has it been WONDERFUL? Aaaaahhhh…)

Jazz spots the thing in the back porch as I’m lifting the back of buckets and shovels, sifters and tractors.

“Oh! A hoo-er hoop! Mary, there is a hoo-er hoop!”

Snort. I’ve heard lots of weird mispronunciations in my time, but they usually make intuitive sense. I had a (much younger) cousin who used that exact same pronunciation for “squirrel”. Made for entertaining streetcar rides through Toronto, I’ll tell you, and excited two-year-old bouncing on the seat beside me and pointing out the window. “Look, Mary, look! A whore!!!”

You get quick in those situations. Before everyone on the car can be horrified that ‘my’ two-year-old not only knows the word, but can use it properly, I would leap in and ostentatiously point past the young woman on the sidewalk to the tree behind her head. “Yes, Jeremy. There is a squirrel. Squir-rel.”

“Hooo-er.” Yeah. See, all you people on the streetcar, he really is talking about the rodent! But ‘squirrel’ to ‘hoo-er’ isn’t so much of a stretch. Those initial esses are hard to pronounce, and so are ells and ‘qu’s. And there is an ‘r’ in there. Somewhere. So it’s weird, but you can see it. Sorta. But ‘hoo-er’ from ‘hula’??

Nope. How she gets ‘er’ from ‘la’ is beyond me. However, I don’t really want her bellowing that across the playground. Let’s send some other children home with a shiny new word which will sound much, much worse at home than if their earnest mommies had the visual to explain the joke.

“That’s hula, sweetie. Hooo – lllla.”

Her blue eyes fix on mine earnestly, little pink lips form the word carefully, carefully.




“Try this, lovie. La, la, la.”

“La, la, la.”

So far, so good. “Hoo, hoo, hoo.”

“Hoo, hoo, hoo.”



Okay, it’s clear she’s just not capable. She’s really trying, but it’s just not going to come out right. Goodness only knows how her mind/lips/tongue turn a ‘la’ into an ‘er’, but that’s what they do, and there’s no changing it today. But, just for the entertainment:

“Hula, hula, hula!”

“Whore, whore, whooore!”

We don’t take the hoop to the park.

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Jazz, the things they say! | , , , | 10 Comments

Why Wouldn’t I?

I consider myself a happy person. I’m an optimist. My glass is half-full, I’m more likely to laugh when something startles me than scowl. I’m a quiet person, mind you. You’re not going to hear me roaring exuberantly around, tossing belly laughs hither and yon. I’m not jolly. But I am, quietly, happy.

Happiness is an interesting subject. Moreover, happiness does ebb and flow. Mine ebbs in the winter. I’m quite sure that, like many of us in the sun-starved northern latitudes, I suffer mildly from the fading of the light. Do I have full-blown SAD? No. But I do use a therapy light every morning, and it does help.

February and March are my lowest-energy months. Everything’s a little harder in March. I don’t feel sad. My life is absolutely worth living. I take pleasure in things each day. But I’m weary. Weary and very impatient for spring, for the end of snow, slush, grit, snow boots, snow pants, snow suits, hats, scarves, mittens, neckwarmers, and scarves, longing for the beginning of warmth, for the return of sunshine and long daylight hours.

Weary and impatient people do not make good caregivers. Now, I don’t take my weariness out on the children, I’m not snapping at them six times an hour, I’m not … but that takes restraint these days, restraint which takes effort, and only adds to my weariness.

I’m not getting a whole lot of fun out of my job these days. That’s not the kids’ fault. It’s all me. I know that.

One of the things that lifts my spirits is to read self-help books. They’re just so full of cheery potential! Even if I never adopt a single one of a book’s suggestions, I just love the potential in each of these books. Recently I bought myself a copy of “The Happiness Project“, the recounting of the author, Gretchen Rubin’s year-long account of her quest to increase her own level of happiness. There I found the idea of coming up with Happiness Resolutions.

Oh, now this resonated with me. I am a total list-and-chart girl. I’ve made charts to organize my thoughts, make decisions, plan projects, and pack for holidays all my life. A chart for resolutions is TOTALLY my thing. I make lists these days because I have no memory. None. Lists for memory, charts for organization. Love it. I can do this! I am excited to do this!!!

Rubin asks four questions to help you determine what your happiness objectives could be. It was her thirds question, “Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change jobs, cities, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?” that really hit home for me.

The middle question about changing things, that didn’t resonate. I like my home, I like my job, I like my family situation. But… “Am I living up to my expectations? Does my life reflect my values?” The best I could say was, “Well. Kinda-sorta.”

Not at home. I’m doing fine with husband and children. I’m doing fine with friends. I am treating myself well, too.

But at work?

There, I was undoubtedly falling short of the mark. Short of my own standards. You all know me well enough to know that I don’t encourage people to have unrealistic standards and goals. I think it’s good mothering to be a bit of a slacker, to indulge in a little benign neglect. I don’t hold myself (or anyone else) to an impossible parenting standard.

Here’s the hard truth: My standards are reasonable, and I am not meeting them.

Oof. It’s hard to look at yourself that clearly.

The children are being lovingly cared for. They are not at risk, they are not being neglected. But I know I am doing the bare minimum these days. I know I am not doing my best. I know it.

So I made for myself a list of seven Work Resolutions. Do I believe these will increase my personal happiness? Yes. If I am performing to my own standard of professionalism, I will be happier. Moreover, if I’m happier myself, I will be better with the children. It’s a virtuous circle.

My professional resolutions are:

1. Get outdoors every day. If someone needs a morning nap, the rest of us can play in the back yard. If it’s raining, my stroller has a rain shield. It’s just not that cold any more. There is no excuse but inertia, and I know that if I get out, I feel happier. Pretty much instantaneously. So. Go outside? Why wouldn’t I? (See? I can do something that is really totally about me, and it’s also good for the children! Again: why wouldn’t I? I think “why wouldn’t I?” will be my mantra for overcoming winter-induced inertia. Why wouldn’t I?)

2. Fifteen minutes of story-time before naps every day. They like hearing them, I like reading. It segues them neatly to naptime. It’s good for their language development. Why wouldn’t I?

3. Crafts, twice a week. I like doing crafts. Most of the children enjoy them, and all the parents do. It’s a way to engage with the children, foster fine motor control, make something pretty. Why wouldn’t I?

4. Sing for 15 minutes after nap/before snow suits every day. I love singing. They love singing. WHY WOULDN’T I???

5. Avoid ‘no’. I am not afraid to give the children a clear and unapologetic ‘no’ as required. But too often, caregivers (and parents!) fall into the knee-jerk no trap. There is no good reason to say no … but we do, anyway. Why? I picked up a terrific quote by Samuel Johnson (via Gretchen Rubin): “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.” There is a time and place for firmness, even for severity. But it should never be unthinking or habitual.

6. Keep a smile on my face, and in my voice. I’ve said it before, and Ms. Rubin cites the studies too: We often feel the way we act. We tend to think it’s the reverse, that we act the way we feel, but in fact, if we act a certain way, the feelings will follow. So. Smile. And keep that smile not just on my face, but in my voice. I can say the same thing in forbidding or stern tones, or I can say it with a smile. Why wouldn’t I smile?

7. Hug each of the children once an hour. I’ve heard it said we need four hugs a day for survival. I work with little people who would, if I let them, hug me four times a minute. Why wouldn’t I? (Well, because I’d never get anything else done, and could quite feasibly end up peeing on the living room floor. But once an hour, each, seems entirely doable. Which could give me, over the course of my workday, an average of 42 hugs per day. I think I’d be meeting the quota for survival…) 😀 In truth, it sounds entirely delightful! Why wouldn’t I?

I’ve made myself a chart. Because I’m starting mid-month, it goes through the end of April. Each day I’ll evaluate how I did on each of the seven items, and will award myself with either a check (yes! did it!) or an ‘x’, (missed the mark today). Since lists and charts are motivating for me, I know that I’ll be striving for a column of check marks in every category. I know it.

Inertia is a killer. It sucks a lot of the joy from living. As I composed this list and thought about it, my response of “why wouldn’t I?” got more and more insistent, until it now seems to me that to not do any of these things is sheerest perversity.

So yes, winter robs me of energy … but each of these things is so easy, and will bring me happiness, while at the same time improve my work environment, give me job satisfaction and make the kids happier (and thus easier to be around).

Why wouldn’t I?
Why wouldn’t I?

How about you? Anyone care to join me? What would your list be? I’ve had a week or two to think about my list. You want to prepare a list to start April first, and join me? My list is about my job. Your list may be about something different.

If the whole idea of increasing your level of happiness intrigues you, check out Gretchen’s website, look into her Happiness Toolbox, and maybe you’ll want to make yourself an account there.

Who doesn’t want to be happier? Why wouldn’t you?


March 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments

In which Mary nearly drops the f-bomb

Off to playgroup this morning. Oh, the joys of playgroup! Lots and lots and lots of space in our brand-spanking-new community centre. Space for the ride-on toys, space for the sand and water tables, space for a playhouse and kitchen, for some tumbling mats littered with baby dolls, for lots of running around and play.

It’s great. When, despite the brilliant sun, it’s still FREAKING COLD out there, the park an ankle-twisting maze of upchurned, frozen mud, the play structures frostbite cold, it’s bliss to be in this large, sunny room with lots of room for the kids to let loose and race around.

And there are lots of comfy benches around the perimeter of the room where adults can chat. Bliss. Adults. Not parent-adults, mind you, but other-caregiver adults. Parents, with their one (occasionally two) children, don’t really get it. Caregivers? Caregivers get it. I want my peer group. I want my colleagues. I want some support.

Because it’s March, the month that drains me. It’s March, the end of a looooong, cold winter. It’s March, and I still have Lily. The baby who has been a strain and a challenge all winter long. We’ve made some gains this week, mind you. I’ve seen the happy, sunny girl I so adore for two entire days this week! Hope rises… but not as much as it might have done once, for I am in no way sure these gains will hold. We’ve been through this loop a few times in the past few months already: I try a new approach, I see some improvement, my hopes rise… and then the improvement fractures, crumbles away, and we’re back to square one. Or maybe square negative three by now…

I am weary, is what I’m saying, and in need of supportive ears and encouraging words. And that bench of caregivers? It’s a beacon in a cold and dreary place.

Mom was intending to visit with us at playgroup, but when she arrived she let me know that she couldn’t stay after all.

I should have left then. Because how does this child react to changes in routine? Three guesses, first two don’t count. How to describe? We’ll just call it “not well”, and leave it at that, shall we?

But I stayed because I hoped she’d get over it. She used to love playgroup. I stayed for me. I’m wanting that beacon of support. I want to park my butt on the caregiver bench and be washed in empathy. The tots can play, the unhappy one can sit on my lap or play at my feet or even lie on the bench under my pashmina (she likes this, really), and I can relax in the company of Women Who Get It. I don’t just want this, I need it.

The other two trot off to play. Lily opts to stay with me, so I draw her onto my lap, kiss the top of her head, and rock her gently side to side. Her whining reduces in volume, but doesn’t stop. One of the caregivers nods at Lily. “It’s still going on?” She and I have spoken at length about this, me seeking ideas and a safe place to vent, she providing her solid, sensible compassion, and some damned good ideas. I talk to her because she’s got a wealth of experience, and because I know I can trust her to keep any confidences I tell her. She is the epitome of professionalism. No loose lips on this one.

I nod, adding a few carefully phrased, safe-for-public-venue details. The woman sitting to my friend’s left, a woman I’ve never met before, enters the conversation. She knows Just What To Do. In fact, as it turns out over the next highly informative five minutes, she knows… well, she knows EVERYTHING!

All this without asking a single question! She doesn’t know what I’ve tried, she doesn’t know how long it’s been going on, she doesn’t know Lily’s patterns or issues, she doesn’t know the parents, she doesn’t know me, the other kids, or… well, any details at all… and yet, SHE HAS THE ANSWER!

Gee. If only we’d had this conversation I’d listened to her monologue months ago, think of all the grief I would have saved myself!!!

I’m sure if I told her I tried one strategy for six months, she would be sure the problem persisted because I didn’t try a variety of approaches, but since I have tried more than one, well, the problem is because I didn’t stick with one thing for long enough!!!

Of course.

Consistency. You need to be consistent! If you are inconsistent ONE TIME in SIX MONTHS? All my fault.

You know, I give advice. I do. You might argue that parts of this blog constitute ‘advice’, and you’d be right. Of course, if you’re not looking for advice, you don’t have to read it. Skip that post. Easy. If you are looking for advice (and judging from my email, a decent number of people out there are) you might find what I have to say helpful. In real life? In real life, I am very cautious about giving advice. I wait until the person has asked for advice before doling it out, and, even when they do ask, I ask questions first. Because really, doling out advice when you know NOTHING about the situation is just plain arrogant. And rude. And totally infuriating.

We left playgroup early. I left in part because Lily never did settle in, and I’m always aware of the vicious, potentially bad-for-business tongues of the Earnest Mommies who believe that the sign of Good Parenting is a child who never cries. But mostly I left because this self-important, insensitive moron of a fellow-caregiver absolutely destroyed the empathetic, supportive oasis I had so looked forward to.

Arrogant bitch.

Ah, well. We got home, and Lily settled in. Now they’re all napping, and my home is… silent… And it’s Friday afternoon, and in three hours I will be opening the bottle of wine currently chilling in my fridge. Maybe I’ll sip that wine in a tub full of bubbles, too.


March 25, 2011 Posted by | the dark side | 13 Comments



Here we have the components to turn a Klean Kanteen into a sippy cup. (Yes, they’re plastic, but I figure the water passing through a mouthpiece of plastic for an instant is better than the water stewing in plastic for hours. (And yes, you’re right, there is absolutely no good reason to spell those words with ‘K’.))

Apart from the spelling errors, they look innocuous enough though, don’t they? Ha! Like me, you were fooled. Possibly like me, you thought those little sticky things on either side were only to hold the container together. Shows what we know! Those little sticky things are WARNINGS.

warning label

actual life-sized warning label

If, like me, you were to (finally) notice, get curious, and peel back the tiny cover of that small label, you would find the following hysterical scare-mongering information:

For your child’s safety and health WARNING!

For my child’s safety? And health? I’d better keep reading! Only Bad Mommies ignore advice to ensure their child’s safety and health.

To enable you to better share the joy I experienced whilst reading this thing, I will reproduce it in the same format as best I can: very, very tiny and no paragraph breaks.

Before first use, clean the product. After every use, take all items apart, wash and rinse thoroughly. Sterilize using a Philips AVENT Sterilizer or boil for 5 minutes. This is to ensure hygiene. Always use this product with adult supervision. Continuous and prolonged sucking of fluids will cause tooth decay. Always check food temperature before feeding. Keep all components not in use out of the reach of children. Before each use inspect all items. Throw away at the first signs of damage or weakness. DO NOT warm contents in a microwave oven as this may cause uneven heating and may scald your baby. Wash your ands thoroughly and ensure surfaces are clean before contact with sterilized components. DO NOT use abrasive cleaning agents or anti-bacterial cleaners. Excessive concentrations of detergents may eventually cause plastic components to crack. Should this occur, replace immediately. Dishwasher safe. Food colorings may discolor components. For hygiene reasons, we recommend replacing spouts after 3 months. DO NOT allow child to play with small parts or walk/run while using bottles or cups. Drinks other than milk or water are not recommended. Magic Spouts are not suitable for hot, carbonated, or pulpy drinks. DO NOT use cups with spouts to mix infant formula as this may clog the non-spill valve and cause components to leak. Always ensure the valve is properly assembled. Magic Cups should only be used as an aid to help children progress to using ordinary cups.

There. Cross-eyed yet? Count your blessings. My WARNING!! label was a quarter that size. And my eyes, they are not so good with the fine print any more, even worse at the flipping back and forth between tiny print and large. (“Your next glasses,” the optometrist intoned at my last visit, “will be bifocals.”)

Where does one begin with such a wealth of information?

Should one be insulted that they suspect you don’t know that you should be washing your child’s drinking gear? Or perhaps I one will feel more like a living-on-the-edge rebel, because, though one cleans them daily, one only dismantles those damned things once a week? Should one diligently seek ways to carve out an extra twenty minutes a day for “Sippy Cup Inspection and Maintenance”?

Wash them? Don’t put lumpy goo in them? Throw them out when they’re broken? No carbonated drinks? (Carbonated drinks? As in pop? Helloooo… these are sippy cups. For toddlers.) How stupid do they think we are?

Silly question. They think we’re idiots.

Either that, or these are very, very dangerous sippy cups. And if so…

You’re planning on giving this thing to your toddler? Seriously? Put the sippy cup down, ma’am, and back away from the shelf. Please leave the store quietly, sir.

Oh, and before you leave, hand over the child. You’re obviously too stupid to be in charge of one.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | food, health and safety, Mischief, random and odd | , , , , | 7 Comments


I know you guys say all sorts of complimentary things about me. One of you, you sweetie, actually called me the “gold standard” for caregivers. Which would have made me blush — if I ever blushed. (I never do; strange, since I have a very pale complexion for a brunette.) Not a few of you have very flatteringly rued the fact that you lived far, far away and couldn’t leave your child with me. It’s all very nice…

but you’re wrong.

There is no point in beating around the bush. I am just going to spit it right out. I am no paragon. I am not in the caregiver elite, and I am certainly not the Gold Standard.

Nope. As of right now, I am officially a deadbeat caregiver.


I have this great Mother’s Day craft I’ll be doing with the tots. I’ve done it in years past, and it’s always a hit. It’s cute, colourful, personal, and even a little bit practical. And the kids really do a goodly portion of the work. Not all: This is one of the rare ones that I actually “fix up” a bit when they’re done. It’s one I enjoy, AND it has a sort of companion Father’s Day gift, too, for next month.

And you, you lucky people, are going to get to see this thing in production, so that you, too, can make it. If not for yourselves (since most of you guys are gals), then for grammas. Wouldn’t that be nice? Step-by-step instructions, with pictures, and actually little pudgy dimpled hands doing the work? Wouldn’t that be CUTE?

And won’t the mommies just LOVE it?

Well, no, actually, because they’re NOT GOING TO GET IT.

Why not?

Because it takes about a week to complete, and I HAVEN’T STARTED IT YET, THAT’S WHY!

Why not?


I can’t even do some cute-but-quick craft tomorrow, because two of the tykes won’t be here tomorrow.

I screwed up Mother’s Day. I absolutely, totally screwed up Mother’s Day. What kind of a caregiver misses Mother’s Day?

A deadbeat one, that’s what kind.

I. Am. Mortified.


May 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Between Interruptions

One of the mothers gave me a book for Christmas, a collection of essays on motherhood. “Between Interruptions: 30 Women Tell the Truth about Motherhood”, edited by Cori Howard.

I was dubious. For starters, there is no one “truth” about motherhood. And generally, books like this are filled exclamations by Earnest Mommies, sweet and saccharine cliches that leave me with a level of impatience and exasperation that is hard to describe.

“Motherhood is so hard!” they are almost certain to say. And yet, (and yes, I know I’m lucky, blessed, fortunate, skilled, whatever), I never found it so. That distinction goes to trauma of the fearsome and gut-wrenching changes demanded of me by my divorce. (My necessary divorce, which I do not regret for an instant. But hard? Oh, it was hard.) Mothering is challenging, it is all-encompassing, it is demanding. Unlike any other task I’ve ever tackled, motherhood goes beyond “something I do” to “who I am.”

But hard? No. I’ve generally felt that I know what to do next. I’ve generally felt confident in my decisions. Yes, there have been times when I’ve been overwhelmed by indecision and uncertainty, paralysed by a sense of helplessness, but these are the exceptions. Generally, I’ve known where I was going and how I was going to get there.

I get a great deal of pride and satisfaction from my children, pretty nearly daily. Yes, they also irritate the crap out of me bytimes. I’ve been exasperated, and bored, and frustrated, and angry. There are aspects of their characters that cause me concern, and I worry how these will impact them as they leave home to establish independent lives. But mostly, I am proud. The consistent undercurrent of feeling regarding my kids is one of satisfaction, of pride in a job well done.

So, essays of hand-wringing about the fearsomeness of grocery shopping with a three-year-old? Paralyzing angst about the possibility of a three-day trip with a friend? I have little time for this.

The foreward was not propitious. The pre-mother whose story it tells did absolutely nothing to inform herself of the experience that awaited her, in fact, seemed to actively avoid thinking about it, and was then — imagine that — blind-sided by reality. Things changed! She didn’t expect them to change! “I expected I would give birth, figure out how to feed, clothe and bathe the baby, give it a few hugs and get back to work. Really.”

This is beyond stupid. I mean, yes, we’re almost all astonished by the depth and breadth of the change, but to not understand a change was coming? At all? Where had she been living the past 30 years?

She manages to learn the basics, she goes back to work, and then, when her son is a year and a half, she has the opporunity to go out of town for a few days. To say that she was ambivalent is a gross understatement.

She buys her plane tickets. She cancels them. She buys them again. (She obviously has MUCH more money than I do.) She cancels them, again. She buys them A.Third.Time. (Much, MUCH more money than me. We poor folk do not have the luxury of this kind of neurosis indecision.) Her friend, whose book launch is the cause of all this fraught-ness, tells her not to sweat it, to do what seems right.

She goes, and has a miserable time. She learns some useful life lessons. Sometimes we all have to learn lessons the hard (and expensive) way.

But did I have any confidence that a woman with so little self-awareness and such a grand sense of the drah-mah of it all was going to compile a set of essays that would have anything to say to me? No. Frankly, I expected it to irritated the shit out of me. But it was a gift from a woman I like. And it was a book.

The first essay (by Maria Jimenez, war correspondant) was nothing like the foreward. Sure, this woman felt profound anxiety about leaving her baby, but she was leaving him to travel in a war zone, not to pop to New York for a book launch. A war zone, with real bullets and bombs and actual danger. Anxiety seemed the only normal response.

I was hooked.

These essays are great. They don’t all resonate with my experience, and yet, even when they don’t, they often do. (Am I making sense yet?) What do I know of being a war correspondant? Nothing. But do I know about the pull of not wanting to leave a child? The fear of dying before you see your child turned adult and launched into the world? Sure I do. These feelings don’t prevent me from doing things, from going places, from seeing that my needs are met, but feel them I do.

And that’s how it proceeded. These essays are rich, they are real. They don’t skim the surface of popular cliches about mothering; they plunge the depths of individual mothers’ experiences, and come up with truths for all of us.

I am two essays into the section titled “Guilt” at the moment. (After “Ambition” and “Anxiety” and before “Devotion” and “Redemption”.) And now, if you’ll excuse me, the tots are arriving and I’m about to be interrupted. Tomorrow I’m going to share with you the paragraph that made me cry.

So good.

January 28, 2008 Posted by | books, Canada, individuality, parenting, parents | 10 Comments

Tantalus lives: We make gingerbread houses

Remember your Greek myths?

(What? You didn’t spend long hours as a child curled into a comfy chair with philandering Zeus, pissed-off Hera, horny Aphrodite and the drunken Bacchus? What were your parents thinking?)

Tantalus, for those of you who may not remember was the poor unfortunate soul sentenced to spend the afterlife submerged in water up to his neck, that dipped away when he tried to quench his thirst, and surrounded by bunches of grapes that retreated out of reach when he tried to satiate his hunger. Can’t remember why. Possibly he tried to diddle one of Zeus’s floozies.

I did something similar to the daycare tots this week. NOT the diddling! Honest to pete. Eeew. No, the Tantalus thing — from which we get, obviously, the word “tantalize”.

First, I set onto the dining room table five of these:


Graham crackers welded together with royal icing, made a few days prior. Food, in other words. Food which they were NOT to eat.

They were not entirely successful.
“Emily! Emily, lovie, don’t eat that!” Of course, this is (almost) entirely my fault. I had moved the houses to the dining room table when I needed a little more space in the kitchen and forgotten to move them back. “No, lovie. Not now. We’re going to decorate them later.”

Nigel looks at me with his huge blue soulful eyes. “But we’re hungry, Mary!”

It is 10:03. Snacktime is 10:00. Ah, those 100% accurate tummy clocks. It’s a good thought, though: fill them up with something nutritious, and maybe they won’t eat the gingerbread fixings before they get on the houses.

Though those are some very appealing fixings …


In fact, they do remarkably well. Once we get started, they are engrossed in the process of gluing the candies to the icing.

It takes Nigel a little longer than the others to get started.

“Nigel, don’t eat the candy. Put it on the house.”
“Nigel. The candy goes on the house.”
“Nigel. If you eat one more piece of candy, you will have to leave the table until I can watch just you.”
It’s really bizarre. It’s as if his hand and mouth are working independently of his brain. He knows it’s forbidden, yet even as he and I maintain eye contact, the jellybean goes in the mouth. Weird.
“Okay, Nigel. Away you go. You can make yours later, when I can help you more.”
Nigel’s eyes widen in shocked horror. (Whic is also bizarre. He knows by now I follow through. Always. Usually his reaction to the follow-through is resignation. Oh, well.)

He leaves the table in a soggy pool of self-sorry tears.

I let him languish on the couch for three minutes or so, then call him back. And now he gets it. Without a second’s hesitation, the candies make it from tray to house with nary a pitstop at mouth. Well done, Nigel!
It’s engrossing. It’s tricky. It’s just the right balance of fine motor control and fun.
They work in focussed silence for a good 10 or 15 minutes. Timmy goes a full half hour, long after the others have left the table. And the results? Bright and sticky architectural sweetness! A little primitive, but no less appealing for all that.
And the mommies and daddies? They LOVED it!

December 20, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, food | 10 Comments