I sit at the dining table, reading, and munching on some illicit almonds. Illicit, because almonds are not something the children can eat, meaning, I can’t share. Meaning, such eating had really best be done under cover of darkness. Far, far from the children.
However, the only child up at the moment is Gwynn. The littles are all sleeping. I made sure that Gwynn was utterly engrossed in her blocks over there in the living room before I quietly sat down here, in the dining room, so I’d say that I’m —
“What you eating, Mary?”
There is no point in lying about it. She can see me chewing. She can hear me crunching. I wonder if the crunching is what drew her attention, in this quiet house? From the other room? Over the clink and clunk of her blocks? With her back to me??? (Seriously. How do they know?)
(More to the point: why do I ever think I can get away with it? After all these years, it borders on delusional.)
But I’m not sharing. First, she’s had her snack, before the littles started their nap. Second, almonds are not safe for a two-year-old. Technically, they shouldn’t be getting whole nuts until they’re four, because of the risk of choking. (In fact, when I was a young mother, my pediatrician said five was the magic number.) I did not wait that long with my own kids. I took into consideration their teeth: obviously, kids without molars don’t get little crunchy esophagus-blocking morsels. I took into consideration their eating styles. Kids who madly cram food in did not get nuts (I had at least one of those). Kids who take little bites and chew slowly (I had at least one of those!) got nuts. So I honestly don’t remember how old they were when they first got nuts, but I do know it wasn’t the five years old my doctor was suggesting.
However. That was my own kids. With other people’s kids, I am much more careful. Gwynn only turned two a couple of months ago. Not even close.
“I am eating almonds, sweetie.” I show her the nuts in my hand. “But you can’t have almonds, my dear, because you could choke on them. They are dangerous for you. You can’t have almonds until you are five years old.” I pause to let that sink in. She pauses, to see if I’m about to change my mind. “How old are you, Gwynnie?”
She grows still as she considers. Her brilliant, pale blue eyes widen, her face is framed by wisps of white-blond hair. She speaks in careful, sincere, measured tones. She knows she just has one shot at this, and she’d better make it good. Her voice rings with conviction and sincerity as she assure me,
“I am old, Mary!”
She didn’t get any nuts.
She did get a giant, laughter-filled hug before being sent on her way, though.
I’ve known about it for a while, but couldn’t make it public just then. But now I can!
A month or so ago, my eldest daughter (yes, that one) gave me this:
We’ve been singing this story for a while at Mary’s. (One day I’ll post an audio clip of my version!) The children, especially Gwynn, love it. The rhythm! The rhyme! The chanted bits! The sung bits! The overblown hammy-ness of Mary’s presentation!! So much fun!!
However, it had become increasingly clear to me that while she loved all that good stuff, and can even chime in for short bits, little Gwynn had not one single speck of a clue as to the story line. I’m not even sure she knows it’s supposed to be a story.
So! Visual aids were clearly called for. I thought about it for a while. Finger puppets? Stick puppets? And then, while reorganizing the craft shelf, I found a giant box of felt squares that I’d forgotten I’d ever owned. Oooo, felt! And I already have a felt board!
Ta-dah! All the elements of the story:
“Once upon a time in a nursery rhyme there were three bears, one, two, three!”
Yeah, I know. You can see the lines of the pen where I sketched the outline. I did it on the back, but it bled right through. Lessons learned. but you know? The tots, they don’t care!
Gwynn hasn’t seen this yet, but I tried it on the wee ones while they were having their lunch. They were rivetted… though I’ll admit that it could have been the biscuits which really held their attention. I doubt, though, that it was the biscuits that had Daisy laughing so hard she spewed them out all over the table! That was entirely my doing.
I am so proud.
“Okay, guys. Naptime!”
“Not me!” says Gwynn. She has said this every day for the last three weeks. Every day, she denies that naptime applies to her just-turned-two self, and every day I say, “Yes, you, silly,” and escort her to bed. Where she falls asleep. Every day.
Today I take a different approach. After I have put the babies down in their cribs, I return to the kitchen, where Gwynn sleeps on a low to the floor toddler cot. She is sitting on it, playing with a small toy. Her pillow is at one end, her sheet folded neatly at the other.
I stand beside the cot, so she has to look up, waaaaay up, to see me. “So, Gwynn. You think you don’t need a nap?”
That catches her attention. I haven’t spoken in a challenging or derisive way.
Note: I am never sarcastic with the kids. In my own head, I’m often ironic, but that’s in my own head. Once in a while I say something wry that I know will go shooting wildly right over their heads, just for my personal entertainment. But sarcasm? Sneering? Mean-spirited humour? Nope. I feel very strongly that using sarcasm with a small child is simply unkind. They don’t understand sarcasm. It confuses them. They certainly understand the emotion behind it is negative, but they are not yet cognitively capable of processing that kind of duality. Besides, it’s just mean.
So when I ask that question, I am playing it straight. I am confirming that she thinks naps are unnecessary. That is not all I am doing, but Gwynn doesn’t know that… and doesn’t need to.
From her seat at the edge of the cot, she tips her head waaaay back to look at me. “No. I don’t want a nap.” Now, any adult knows that ‘want’ and ‘need’ are two quite different things. Gwynn doesn’t want a nap, no, but I am quite convinced that she still needs one. Gwynn makes no such distinction, of course. She doesn’t want one. She doesn’t want one, and that’s that. ‘Need’ is irrelevant. She, however, is pleased to be having this conversation. Maybe Mary is finally going to be reasonable about this whole nap thing!!
“Well, here’s what I was thinking,” I begin. Gwynn, finding this head-tipping thing a bit awkward, lies back with her head on her pillow to better see me. “What I was thinking was that, since you are a Big Girl now, maybe you don’t need a nap. So here’s what we’ll do.”
Gwynn’s eyes are riveted on mine. Big Girl? No nap? This is all very hopeful! She lies very still, hanging on my every word.
“What we’ll do, from now on, is, instead of naptime, you will have quiet time. You can have a toy or a book. You don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay on your cot. You can play quietly. Does that sound good?”
She nods. She blinks. I keep talking, quietly, steadily.
“You can stay awake and play quietly. You can go to sleep if you want. You just have to stay on the coat. You have to stay on the cot. You have to use your quiet time voice. But you don’t have to sleep. So long as you have a quiet time, I don’t mind if you stay awake. It will be all right. You can just have a rest. You can rest and play quietly and not get up and just be calm and …”
Aaaaaand that’s it. Gwynn is out for the count.
The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Naptime reins.
“She gave me soap!” Her blue eyes, though dimmed with age, still manage to flare in indignation. “Does she think I’m dirty? Does she think I don’t wash?!?”
My elderly neighbour, Mrs. L., is in full battle-cry against her sister-in-law. Again. Being a well-brought-up woman, I don’t argue with my elders. I don’t know the sister-in-law, despite all the tales of offense and infamy I’ve heard. What Mrs. L. tells me won’t hurt this woman, since the much-scorned SIL lives in a different city.
The offense is clear, however: The scorned sister-in-law gave Mrs L soap for her birthday!!!!
I like Mrs L, I really do. She’s a feisty old thing, determined to live her life till the last breath as an independent woman. She still drives her car — only in brightest daylight, as her vision fades, and it won’t be long before he license is taken away, I’m sure. She lives in her own home. She has supportive family, who see that her fridge is properly stocked and that she gets to doctor’s appointments. And she has attentive neighbours, myself among them, who note whether she’s walking her little dog every day, and that her mail is not accumulating worrisomely.
But she’s also a cranky old biddy, only too willing to take offense, to see offense where there is none, to be OUTRAGED by something as simple as a gift of soap.
I listen and nod, listen and nod, until Mrs. L runs out of steam and totters back into her kitchen. Then I breathe a sigh of relief, shake off her negativity and willful self-absorption, and move on to my day.
I never argue with Mrs. L. She’s old, and, despite her brave front, she’s frail. The days that she can continue to live on her own are numbered. Though she’s in denial, I suspect much of her rage stems from this awareness. (Even if it doesn’t, even if she’s just a cantankerous old biddy, she’s old.) I am kind.
A frail, cranky old lady who, despite herself, sees the writing on the wall, is one thing.
I am less patient with the gazillions of healthy young things who do this sort of thing day after day. Today I came across this post.
I’ve been pregnant, three times. I meet a dozen or two pregnant women each year; on average, one of my clients becomes pregnant each year. When I taught prenatal classes, I saw hundreds of pregnant women in a year.
This sort of article wearies me. The woman who wrote it doesn’t like to be asked when she’s due, and doesn’t enjoy the ‘wow’ comment. Okay. So she doesn’t. But you know what? Lots of women do. What’s the poor hapless bystander to do? You say ‘wow’ to one woman, she’s offended. You don’t say it to the next, she’s disappointed.
When people make complaints of the sort this author makes, they are assuming that all people feel as they do. Therefore, what they need, is what everyone wants, what pleases them is what everyone should be doing. And that just ain’t so. Since all pregnant women don’t respond in the exact same way to their pregnancy and to comments on their pregnant body, then what she’s asking of people is that they be able to read her mind. Which is hardly fair or rational. This exasperates me.
I could have stopped here. There would have been a certain amount of undeniable satisfaction in writing an acerbic, biting, sarcastic post on the self-inflated precious snowflakeness in our society, the incessant demand that everyone UNDERSTAND me, and react EXACTLY how I want and need. How dare you step on my delicate toes?
But you know what? Once that moment of exasperation had passed, compassion arose, and I just couldn’t be so unkind. Because what this woman is really expressing is insecurity. She’s not being fair or rational, but her distress is genuine, and I feel compassion for her.
And I am here to say to the author of this post, and to all of you who empathized with it, “Oh, honey. The problem is not with those people, even if some of them are tactless. You’re pregnant? Congratulations! And I will tell you now, even though I haven’t seen you in the flesh, you’re gorgeous.”
How do I know that, sight unseen? Because pregnant women are. Gorgeous. Yes, you are. Each and every one of you. Despite how tired you feel, how bloated you feel. Despite the bags that may or may not be under your eyes. Despite varicose veins and linea nigra and flatulence and stretch marks and the aches and pains and general weariness… You.Are.Beautiful.
Know why? Because you are a miracle on legs, you are. And that baby inside you? Is another miracle.
Those people who want to know when you’re due? It’s because they want to celebrate with you! Or perhaps to commiserate, and on a day where you’re feeling nothing more than “will I ever, EVER get my body back?”, a little commiseration is always welcome. Isn’t it?
Those people who look at your belly and go, “Wow!”? They are thinking, “Wow. Isn’t it amazing what the female body can do?” Or they’re thinking, “Wow. I’m so glad that’s not me any more!” Or maybe, “Wow. I can hardly wait till I get to do that!” Or, “Wow! Who knew a tiny woman could stretch so far!!” Some of them may even be thinking, “Wow. Why, why, why won’t my body let me do that?”
What they are not thinking is “Good lord, what a whale!” Do you hear me? They.Are.Not.
If you take offense or cringe in shame, when you hear that ‘wow’… Do you know who’s thinking that ‘whale’ comment?
Nobody else. Just you.
When you are pregnant, you gain weight. You do. It’s a fact. A biological necessity. 25 – 40 pounds is perfectly, deliciously, healthy. You are not “fat”. In fact, this is the one time in your life when gaining 25 – 40 pounds is the right thing to do. (If you gain more than that, you are not ‘ugly’, but you are making it harder on yourself. Pregnancy will be harder. Labour will likely be harder. Chasing your wee one after s/he is born will be harder. So, for your own sake and comfort, please keep the gain to healthy limits. But ugly? You’re Not.) And shame? It’s so unwarranted as to be ridiculous. Truly, it is.
Okay, we could all wish some of them would be a little more tactful. Sure. But I will tell you with 100% sincerity, no one who says ‘Wow!’ when they see a pregnant tummy is thinking ‘Ew!’. (Okay, maybe 0.0001% of them do. You can pay as much attention to those people as you do to people who think the world is flat. They are the lunatic fringe and should impact your self-esteem as much as the flat-earthers impact your travel plans.) So, please believe me: people are excited, not repelled. Pregnancy may not bring out the tact in everyone, but it does bring out the joy. People love babies. People love pregnant woman.
If you feel shame — seriously: shame?!? — when someone comments on your size, the problem lies not with the commenter, but with you. Because you don’t believe, in your heart of hearts, that your growing, blossoming, lush body is beautiful.
I’m here to tell you, it is.
When I taught prenatal classes, I would often hear women complain that they didn’t feel ‘feminine’ any more. And I would tell them, “Can you think of a single time in your life when you are more womanly? What man on the planet can do what you’re doing now?” You may not look like the pencil-thin 14-year-old models in Vogue, but you are as female as they get, sister!
All of it. All the aches and pains and lumps and farts and burps… and … beautiful skin and thick hair, blossoming breasts and lush, luxurient curves. You are beautiful. Utterly beautiful.
If you believed that yourself, if you really, really believed that, then every time someone asked, “When are you due?”, you’d be thrilled to tell them. And every time someone looked at your voluptuous belly and said, “Wow!”, you’d caress it with your mother’s hands, and you’d say, “Yeah. Isn’t it great?!”
Because it is. It’s great. It’s a miracle. It’s beautiful.
Daisy is a seriously cute baby.
Now, all the children in my care are gorgeous, of course. They all share the requisite round cheeks and big eyes. Some have curls, some have adorable baby-fine wisps. Most have dimple instead of knuckles — and if that doesn’t make you go “aw” every time you see it, you have a hard, cracked lump of coal for a soul. They have round knees and bellies, and the best collection of laughs you’d ever want to hear.
In addition to all that, however, Daisy is tiny. She’s 16 months old, but is in the 10th percentile for height. TEENY! (She is perfectly healthy, she’s just small. Her parents are not big people. Neither are her grandparents. She comes of petite stock, and will be a tiny woman, likely.)
So she does get a significant amount of cute factor from her sheer teeniness. People see her, think she’s 10 or 11 months old, and just LOOK what she can DO! They are amazed. (You see? ‘Tiny’ can be an advantage.)
She’s also got a quirky, mischievous, gregarious little personality. She’s friendly, she’s an imp. So there’s that.
But what gets her the cute award this week is that she has begun to say the names of her peers. But it’s not that she’s saying them, it’s how.
Liam comes out as a short, sharp burst of “Lee!” Never just once. A rat-a-tat of them. “Lee! Lee! Lee-lee-lee-lee Lee!” Makes me chuckle almost every time. She raps his name.
Zoe, however, gets an entirely different treatment. No rapping for Zoe. No. Zoe gets a long, lyrical sweep of a song. “Zooooooooooooooooo-ee!” Sometimes that first syllable is so elongated that I fear she’ll run out of breath before she gets to “ee!”, but she always manages it.
While she sings the name, her mouth is a perfect O, of course. So are her eyes. “OOOO”, says the mouth. OOO go the lips. OOO are the eyes.
Adorable, I tell you. Drowns me in cuteness every time.
Zoe’s dad saw it for the first time Wednesday evening. Saw it multiple times, because Daisy likes to say that name. Dad laughed, every time. Of course he did. Because it’s so damned cute! “I don’t think that will ever get old,” he says. Thursday morning, he drops her off, Daisy does it again. He laughs again. “Yup! Still funny!”
It is. Funny and adorable beyond words.
Congratulations, Daisy. YOU win Cute of the Week.