It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Acceptance and Appreciation

I have two simple living-type books on the go right now: Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Simple Abundance“, and “Frugal Luxuries” by Tracey McBride.

Simple Abundance is in the form of a devotional or a day book — a series of entries, one for each day of the year, each with a few short paragraphs containing a thought to chew on for the day. For all that I find it a bit dated in some ways, I quite enjoyed January’s entries. I have flagged in February, though. This month’s entries have not been speaking to me as January’s did. That’s okay. I’ll keep at it and see what emerges in the coming weeks.

So, when the Sarah BanB pages weren’t giving me much to chew on, I switched to Frugal Luxuries, another meditative book, though not a year-long project.

And this week, McBride presented me with these lines:

Accept others as they are, and allow them to be themselves… While acceptance allows you to relax and behave freely, appreciation can actually raise the value of an item or individual. Make a habit of seeking out and appreciating the blessings in your life. I have found that by consistently appreciating people (and things), their value increases.

It was one of those thoughts that leaps off the page and stays with you. It’s a good thought. A wise suggestion. Particularly good to keep in mind with family (which is the context of those sentences.)

My children are all adults now (some more thoroughly adults than others, but all technically adults, and all doing well in their various stages of adulthood). I think we have done pretty well with acceptance and appreciation, so far. And Wonderful Husband and me? We ace this. It’s a second marriage for both of us, and, having been through the traumas of a failing and failed marriage and the awfulness that is divorce, we really, really appreciate each other.

So, as I mulled over that nugget of thought, I considered it in terms of my daycare kids. And as I did, I realized “acceptance” is a nuanced thing. Yes, we accept our babies, our children. They are what they are. We also love them to bits, and delight in their strengths and in the joy they bring into our lives. That’s be the appreciation part.


We are responsible, as parents, for the outcome of our kids. We have to be clear about where they are, sure. That’d be the acceptance part. But we also want to help them, to facilitate their development. Is he very shy? We want to teach him confidence and social skills. Is she too pushy and demanding socially? We want to help him develop consideration and awareness of other people’s needs.

For years and years and years, we work to tweak, improve, buff and polish, steadily increase our children’s potential.

You know what? That can make it really hard — really hard! — to accept them for who and what they are in this minute. It’s easy to let the things we’re trying to mold frustrate us, and lose sight of the things we truly appreciate. On the flip side, you don’t want to appreciate your child so much that you can’t see the areas in which he or she needs to grow and develop.

Huh. Now that’s an interesting thought.

There’s a push-pull as a parent, isn’t there, between the future focus necessary to help our child achieve their potential, and the present-time focus of accepting/appreciating who they are, right now. Well, when we’re not exasperated beyond belief by their behaviour, right now…

Acceptance: it is what is it
Appreciation: and I value it.

I have a child who is a challenge to me right now. I am committing to apply these principles to all the daycare children … and that one in particular. It will help us both to enjoy each other more, I’m sure. It will also bring more satisfaction to my days, even as I tackle the behaviours that so irk me.

Acceptance and appreciation.
Acceptance and appreciation.
Acceptance and appreciation.

My new mantra.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | books | 2 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

My Grandmother would call it “Giving Them Ideas”

We went to the library yesterday. Brought home a great heap o’books. Now, when at the library, I do generally glance through the books they toss on the table, and discreetly remove the ones I know I would find mind-numbing beyond belief, or simply annoying. When Poppy tossed in a Caillou book, I let it stay without reading through. I know some people love to hate Caillou, but I find him generally harmless. Insipid and whiney, perhaps, but harmless.

Until today, that is.

And this book? Was Caillou: Baby Sister, which is VERY COOL, because Poppy is getting a baby sister in the summer. (We all found out it was a sister a week or so ago.) So, can Poppy bring home a book about getting a baby sister? Of course she can! How fun!

So I sit down with the children, and we start reading through the mondo pile o’books. We get to Caillou. I begin. Caillou pats his mummy’s big tummy, and looks forward to baby’s arrival. Mummy and Daddy go off to the hospital, leaving Caillou with gramma.

Is he excited about the even he’s awaited so long? Is he eager? No. He sticks his thumb in his mouth and he “feels lonely”. (Yes, Caillou’s a bit of a sap.)

Mummy and Daddy return, and Caillou is surprised. The baby can’t walk or play. “She’s just a baby.” Um, did no one tell him this? Yeesh.

Next page, Caillou is jealous.
Then he pouts.
The he refuses to look at the baby.
Then he regresses.
Wets the bed.
Wants a bottle.
Wants to be rocked to sleep.
And then, in a startling bit of active aggression (instead of his usual passive version) he
BITES the baby.
Then he goes into his room and beats up on his baby doll.

And then, on the very last page, after a whole book of Caillou being a little shit, he hands the baby her bottle, and discovers she is funny! She is very small and smells nice.

Last sentence of the book:
“Caillou likes being a big brother.”

Um, really? You know, I am not convinced by this. I very much doubt your toddler would be, either. I did not finish reading the book to the tots. After two or three pages of negativity, I had had enough. (I read it later, on my own, to discover what I’ve just shared with you.)

“Goodness, Caillou is being mean, isn’t he? I don’t think I want to read a book about someone being mean to a baby.” The children all nodded sagely, because a guiding principle at Mary’s is “Big people take care of little people.” Being mean to a baby is shocking, people! Shocking and utterly reprehensible. And then I hid the book.

Of course it is important to prepare a child for a sibling’s arrival. Let the older one know how helpless the baby will be. Disabuse them of any idea of being presented with a fully-developed playmate. Talk about crying and pooping and sour milk. And also talk about what they might do with the baby. Pat her head, fetch burp cloths, jiggle a toy…

Of course it is important to acknowledge a child’s feelings, both positive and negative, as they arise. A new baby very often does make the older child feel displaced. An older child can feel resentful, jealous, might indeed wish to be a baby again, and cause reams of delighted laughter, from the entire world, for farting. I mean, really!


But while you can and should prepare the child for the helplessness of a newborn, and you can and should suggest ways that they can be involved, I do not for one second think you should be telling the child how they might respond emotionally in a negative way. Small children are extremely suggestible. Tell a child, “You might feel jealous. You might think that everyone loves the baby more than you,” and you will pretty much ensure that your child does just that.

If you’re going to plant seeds, why not make them positive ones?

“You will spend the night with grandma. Won’t that be fun? You LOVE sleepovers at Grandma’s house!”
“The baby will be soooo teeny, it will be like having a doll that wriggles and makes funny noises.”
“When the baby cries, we will try things to make her happy and stop crying. Maybe you could tickle her toes.”

I find it interesting that the author of Caillou has decided not to make these types of positive suggestions, and thus plant seeds of resilience and possibility. No, she has decided that it’s more helpful to tell your child all the ways he might hate the new baby.

Honest to pete.

(And don’t even get me started on how Caillou’s parents respond when he bites his sister. Actually, that part is screamingly funny in a dark, dry way, and deserves its own blog post.)

If, in fact, your child responds in a negative way to the new baby, you deal with those feelings as they arise. A wise parent is prepared for that eventuality … but why would you suggest to your child that you expect those behaviours? You, the adult, may indeed be expecting them. You probably should anticipate some negativity, at least for a while. For that matter, Caillou’s lengthy list of rotten behaviours is good preparation for the parent. (But, whatever you do, don’t use Caillou’s parents as role models for how to respond. Lordy.)

But to plant the seed for your child? To, in essence, actively make suggestions for how to respond negatively?

That’s just nuts.

My fall-back New Baby book is Mercer Mayer’s “The New Baby“. I don’t always like the sibling dynamic in the Little Critter books, but this one is very good. The older brother does discover that babies don’t do much on their own, that they cry a lot, and don’t play like older children do, but he makes all these discoveries in a cheerfully exploratory way, as he tries to interact positively with his new sibling. Then mom makes a bunch of helpful suggestions which he tries, and on the last page, the big brother is showing his wee sister off to his friends, who think he’s “SO LUCKY!”

Accurate information presented positively (imagine!) with a believable happy ending. Much better.

How about you? Any “New Baby” books you particularly love? Or loathe?

February 22, 2013 Posted by | aggression, books, parenting, Peeve me, socializing | , , , , | 10 Comments

Valentine’s approacheth

love monsterValentine’s Day is coming, a scant three or so weeks away. I have gathered the supplies I need to make six of these, and that was that, or so I thought.

However, I was shopping on the weekend and found this! How adorable, and really, I think that makes a theme, don’t you? If I can get the local children’s bookstore to order in six copies for me, they’ll get those, too.

So it seems the tots are going to get not one, but TWO Valentine’s gifts this year. Lucky little so-and-so’s.

And ALSO, because for kids of daycare age Valentine’s Day is about family love, not romantic love, they also make cards to give to their parents.

Oh, and their grandparents, too. I am a big fan of grandparents, as they so routinely take in children who are too sick for daycare, but not sick enough for a parent to stay home with them. Or they keep a child home just to play. Or they pop around at a moment’s notice to collect a child whose parent is unavoidably delayed. I love grandparents.

I think all the cards for adults will be on a Monster Love theme. I’ll have to see what I can come up with. Oh, fun! I love holidays that give me a chance to come up with cute crafts that will be loved by all. 😀

January 22, 2013 Posted by | books, crafts, the cuteness! | , , , | 2 Comments

Power Struggles

I know I promised you a follow-up to the book I discovered, Beyond Time-Out, but I can’t! I’ve already lent it to a parent. Obviously, I need to buy my own copy. Or two.

However, the book did get me thinking about a few things, and I’m going to muse on one of them today.

“Oh, I never get into a power struggle with my child. You just can’t win those!”

Have you heard this? I have, quite routinely. The parent who says it is generally quite pleased with herself. She (less commonly he) seems to view it as a point of pride. A rueful one, perhaps, but a point of pride nonetheless. It’s a thread in the parenting ether out there, a parenting meme: Avoid power struggles. They’re costly, they’re exhausting, and, more to the point you just. can’t. win. Why dive into the stress and the mess when you know it’ll only result in humiliation and frustration?

I agree with a lot of that. Avoid unnecessary power struggles, of course. Don’t foolishly set yourself up for one, because they are indeed costly and exhausting, emotionally and physically.


“You just can’t win?”

Are you nuts?

You have to win. In the first three or four years of life, establishing your role as authority in the child’s life is one of your primary parenting job. You do that all sorts of ways: by caring for their physical needs, by being emotionally available and supportive, by loving them to itty-bitty bits.

And by winning power struggles.

I think the resistance to the idea of winning these struggles has three sources.

1. Many people don’t like the idea of “power” in a family context. It smacks of authoritarianism, of oppression. They read “win” and “power”, and they think “power tripping” and “bullying”.

2. When in a power struggle, your toddler will, along with the raging, almost certainly cry. A loving parent hates to see their child cry, and many loving parents respond to the tears by backing away from the conflict. They may even feel guilty at having provoked the tears, and never want to do that again! What kind of a parent, they wonder, is willing to trample roughshod over their child’s feelings just because some toys need to be picked up?

3. Many people have tried to tackle their toddler … and have lost. Ignominiously. They have skittered from the fray, tail between their legs, uncomfortably and humiliatingly aware that not only are the toys still not picked up, but they have been bested by someone who comes up to their belt buckle and who still says “yeyyow” instead of “yellow”. (And is probably pointing to something orange when s/he says it.) Who wants to repeat that experience?

Given these points, why do I insist that you must win power struggles?

The short-term answer: Family harmony.

It’s your job as the parent to be the authority in your family. If you let your child think you’re afraid of power struggles, they will set them up. You won’t have to worry about seeking out a power struggle — they’ll be thrown at you. What’s the end result of a parent who can’t or won’t see a power struggle through and prevail? Chaos. And conflict. Continuing, unrelenting conflict.

The long-term answer: Your child’s happiness.

Toddlers like to vie for power. They want to be in control … but they aren’t developmentally ready for it. They have no idea how to wield power constructively. They are impulsive, short-sighted, impetuous, selfish. They will choose to do things that are just not good for themselves. You cannot trust a child to know what is in her or her own best interests.

A person who has never learned to share power, to defer to others is not going to get along well in life. They will likely be ostracized by their peers, because who wants to be friends with a person who always must have things their way? They will likely experience more conflict, as their peers push back with more vigour than their parents ever did.

Sadly, loving but misguided parental efforts to avoid tears and conflict … results in long-term conflict and dissatisfaction for the child — who is, one day, going to be an adult. Unless they can learn those life lessons elsewhere — from more rough-and-ready peers, from some good teachers, from other family members — they will not be happy people.

If it’s so bad for them, why do they do it?

– they don’t know it’s bad for them. No point in asking the child why. They don’t know! If you step back a pace, it doesn’t take long to see that no toddler has the cognitive and emotional maturity to know why they do what they do.
– it is developmentally normal for a toddler to be testing the boundaries. Who are you? Who are they? Are they a separate person from you? YES! And how do they express their autonomy? PUSHING BACK! SAYING NO! RESISTANCE! DEFIANCE! Wheeee… However, just because something is developmentally normal does not mean that a parent does nothing to shape and direct that stage. Besides, the purpose of this stage is to establish their autonomy and your role as a strong resource. If you’re not strong, they are undermined. Ironically, what they need at this stage is the exact opposite of what they want.

A further irony here is that if a parent consistently backs down from power struggles in order to avoid tears, they only ensure ever more of them. You must see them through.

What is “seeing it through”?
– it does not mean humiliating or brow-beating your child
– it does not mean frightening your child
– it does not mean pleading, coaxing, negotiating
– it does means ignoring the protests and calmly but firmly seeing that the request is accomplished
– it is often entirely possible to do this with a light touch; I regularly use humour

What is gained by consistently seeing power struggles through to the end?
– the conflict ends
– the child is calm
– the damned toys get picked up
– there will be fewer and fewer power struggles
– you can say something once, calmly and cheerfully, and with only occasional exceptions, that’s what happens
– your child feels secure, knowing they can rely on you to be their safe harbour when their emotions get the best of them
— your child trusts you

Okay. So let’s say you’ve all bought in to this idea. Power struggles are inevitable. The parent must see them through. They are not to be avoided at all costs. And you will never, ever again say, “Oh, I never get into power struggles with my child!” as if this is a parental accomplishment instead of a) an impossibility and b) a mistake.

You’ve bought into all that. Now you’re saying, “Okay, but how? How do you respond? What happens next?”

That’ll be for the next post in this series, when I get my hands back on that book! This might not happen until next week, but we’ll get there!

January 17, 2013 Posted by | books, parenting, power struggle | , , | 4 Comments

A discovery!

I am occasionally asked by a parent to recommend a parenting book. Given that this is what I do for a living, I should have a tidy list at my fingertips, right? Yes, I should. A well-thought-out list with headings and categories, with good representation of varying approaches and parenting styles. I absolutely should.

Embarrassing as it is to admit — and it is!! — I don’t.

It’s not that I’ve never read a parenting book. Once upon a time I read them compulsively. Probably dozens of them. I read them not so much because I felt at a loss as a parent, though of course I learned tips and tricks, picked up some good ideas, but because I found them interesting. Parenting books were fun and stimulating. Interesting, as I said.

But, you know? When you’ve been doing the job for 27 years, the books become … jest a smidge less rivetting. I have seen trends and fads come and go, heard one expert after another suggest this and that approach in one book after another. Some I largely agree with, some have taught me some good stuff; others cause me to alternately laugh at the sweet naivety or shudder at the self-absorbed brats that dreadful approach will set loose upon the world. After dozens of books read, over a couple dozen years, most of them blur together, and so, when asked, I go all deer-in-the-headlights and am absolutely no use to the questioner at all. Embarrassing.

I really should do something about that.

A couple of weeks ago, when a client asked me to recommend a book, I decided I would do something about that. I culled my own shelves and found a few of my favourites, and then, thinking I should probably have something a little more current in my Recommended Reading list, I trotted over to the library. Pulled a few likely suspects off the shelves, took a couple home.

And I discovered …

I’ve written a book!

Okay. Not really. But if I had, this would pretty much be it. Probably the only book you’d agree with 100% is one you wrote yourself, so, yes, there are a few points at which I diverge from the author, but they’re peripheral points, not detracting from the authors’ main points, method, and philosophy.

So, yay! I now have a book I can recommend to parents who ask. Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm, by Beth A. Grosshans, with Janet H. Burton.

I will tell you more tomorrow.

January 16, 2013 Posted by | books, parenting, parents | , | 5 Comments

Friendship is a Two-Way Street

When we go to the library, the children each get to choose two books.

When I choose a book at the library, I pull a likely-looking title off the shelf, I flip to the blurb on the inside of the jacket, I open at random and read a paragraph here and there, to determine if I like the style and tone. Then I might put into my bag, or, more often, back onto the shelf and move on to the next likely candidate.

Now, toddlers can’t do much of that. Toddlers can’t read. They can, however, look at pictures. Not that they do. When a toddler ‘chooses’ a book from the library, they wander to the nearest shelf and yoink one off without, far as I’ve noticed, even looking at it. They certainly don’t open it first. Toddlers could ‘choose’ their library books blind-folded.

When it’s a lingering visit rather than a git ‘er done visit, I do a little training in discrimination. “Look at the front cover. Look at the back. Open it and peek inside. What do you see? What do you think is happening? Does that look fun and interesting?”

But really, toddlers are far more of the “ALL books are fun!!! I want them ALL!!!!” school of discernment. Which is why, when I go to the library with the tots, I feel more than free to discreetly look over their Giant Heap o’Books and cull. I remove the ones with far too much text. I eliminate the ones that we’ve read a gazillion times before, and I Just.Can’t.Face again. I slip to one side the ones that would drive me screaming round the insanity bend.

Because, you know? THEY love them ALL. I am more persnickity easily bored picky discriminating. And I’m the one who has to read them. All. Over and over.

We don’t tend to read our books at the library. Even for the older children, the library is too distracting, with all those books on the shelves, the other children, the toys and activities. Rosie, who is not much of a cuddler, and more of a grabber and scruncher of books, tends to get bored after a book or so. (“If I can’t crumple the pages, WHAT IS THE POINT?!??”) If we’re at home, I can let her toodle off without worry. At the library, I can’t let her wander out of sight. Reading at the library is too damned stressful!

So we’re at home before I tackle the giant pile o’books. Eventually we get to A Splendid Friend Indeed, by Suzanne Bloom. I love the size of the book, I love the clean, simple layout of the pages, I love the look of the characters, a big, fuzzy polar bear and a small white goose.

I will tell you now that the people over at Goodreads looooove this book. Lively! Charming! Funny! A good look at Friendship and how friendships are formed!

Hm. I think all the people who gave it five stars are extroverts. They’re all the Goose. Me, I’m the Bear.

Now, in terms of pictures and layout: five stars for sure. Language appropriate to the age of the readers (the read-to’s)? Five stars. Whimsical, playful feel? Five stars. This is a very appealing book.

But the actual content?

The story goes like this: You have a big old bear, see, who is reading a book. Along comes goose. A lively, cheerful goose. “What are you doing? Are you reading? I like to read!” As I read, it seemed that goose just had to have a rather LOUD voice. And you know? I’ve met goose before, many times. He didn’t just say those things once. He said them repeatedly. Rapid-fire. Incessantly.

“What are you doing? Huh? What’re you doing? Are you reading? Areyoureading? Areyoureading? Hey! I like to read! You know that? I like to read, too!”

And after two pages, goose has not only inserted himself between bear and his book, but has commandeered the book. (How are you feeling abut goose at this point? Are you thinking, “Oh, what a lively little character!” Or are you thinking, “Lordy, what an annoying little doofus!”) A mildly disgruntled bear decides he will write instead. The next pages are predictable.

“What are you doing now?”
“Are you writing?”
“I like to write.”
“Do you want to see me write?”

And then goose has bear’s journal and pencil. So now bear is sitting there, without his book, without his journal and pencil, looking rather pissed. (I LOVE the illustrations in this book. They are SO expressive!) Bear has nothing left to snitch. Does goose stop yet?

NO. Because goose doesn’t want the things so much as he wants, needs, DEMANDS THE ATTENTION! ALL OF THE ATTENTION! Do not dare attend to anything but meeeeee!

(Are you gathering that Mary is not a fan of goose?)

“What are you doing NOW?”
“Are you thinking?”
“Thinking makes me hungry. Are you hungry? I think I’ll go make a snack.”

I wryly note how goose does not, in this instance, follow the previous pattern. “I like to think!” HA. As if. That would involve sitting still, being quiet, and not being the focus of attention. Goose is an annoying little twerp.

Bear relaxes back into his journal with visible relief. When the little twerp returns with a snack, he cringes. Because bear is an introvert. He wants to enjoy his book, his writing, his thoughts. Not only is goose a raging extrovert, but he’s also an attention-hog. He doesn’t just have to be talking and acting all the time, but the talk and action has to be focussed on HIM.

I am not liking goose, but I am enjoying the true-to-life dynamic. There are children out there like goose. There are children out there like bear. Bear is being remarkably patient, mind you. Many bear-type children would have either run away or decked goose by now. But there are quiet, introverted kids who just become overwhelmed by this type of insistent, pushy extrovert. I can see this happening.

So goose returns. Bear cringes. Goose has a snack and a note. Goose reads the note:

“I like you. Indeed I do. You are my splendid friend.”

Yup. Extrovert all over. They’ve interacted, therefore they are FRIENDS!!!

However, it is at this point that the book loses all credibility to me. When presented with this declaration of splendid friendship, does bear give him an incredulous look and say, “You stole my book, you commandeered my journal, you interrupted my thinking. How could we POSSIBLY be friends???” No, he does not. In fact, he is so touched that he must wipe a tear from his eye.


What has goose done to earn bear’s friendship? Was there any sharing? Any accommodation of bear’s style? Anything at all that would make bear want to be his friend?


And what could possibly be in the ‘friendship’ from Bear’s perspective? Why would he want to be friends with this intrusive, pushy, demanding little dude?

No idea.

But NONE OF THAT MATTERS! Because to be friends, see, all you have to do is make an enthusiastic declaration of friendship. No need to find out about the other guy. No need to let them take a turn. No need to be respectful of their needs. Nope! Just be REALLY REALLY ENTHUSIASTIC!!! and then, even if you’ve been SUPREMELYY ANNOYING (and rather selfish to boot), then boom! You’re friends!


I sound much more angry than I in fact am. We all know kids like this. You may find them charming. They are charming, in their way … but are they good friends? Not really. Do they need to be taught to tone it down, to pause, to listen once in a while? Yes. Until then, they’ll just be the annoying kid who is generally ignored by the others. And rightfully so.

I would have found this book much more satisfying had there been some recognition that friendship is a two-way street, and that Goose has done nothing whatsoever to make Bear want to be friends with him. Had Bear shown some annoyance, and Goose had to make some accommodation, the two of them meet in the middle somehow.

Then it would have been a good book about friendship.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | books | , , , , | 6 Comments

And the winner is …

Thanks to all of you who scrambled to comment on the Give-Away post. This is a great book, and I’m really pleased that so many of you are interested — and delighted that I can assist in getting it to three of you.

I wrote all your names on pretty yellow paper,

Yellow paper, all the names.

and dropped them into a hat. (And if you’re going to pull names from a hat, it should be a great hat.

Is this not a great hat? The sort of hat you buy because it’s just SO FUN!!!

Daisy thinks it’s worth a sniff.

And then you never have any place to wear it.

Of course.

Because, really, where would you wear a hat like that? But it’s still SO FUN!!!

Drop the names in, swish them around a bit, and have your daughter pull them out.

And the winners are:

So, the three of you? (Wallingjen1, Janis, and mamadragon!) You need to send me an email at notmaryp at gmail dot com with your address, so I can forward the three addresses to the publisher, who will send you your book!

Congratulations to the lucky winners, and thanks to everyone who participated.

October 8, 2012 Posted by | books | , | 3 Comments

Give-away: Growing Up Brave

I am so happy about Poppy!

She is arriving, not just cheerful, but buoyant. If I’m not reading too much into a two-year-old’s psyche, it’s as if she knows she’s overcome a personal hurdle, and is psyched! Or maybe she’s just that happy not to be frightened any more. Or maybe this is just Poppy being Poppy. She’s a cutie, that one.

The point is, four weeks after NBG’s advent into the daycare, and after three weeks of focussed effort, Poppy is happy again. No more anxiety, no more demanding the escape of naps, no more tears when NBG cries, no more clinging to me, or, when that’s not available to her, hiding in corners.

(If you haven’t read the other posts, the context for all this celebration is here, here, and here.)

She does still cover her eyes when NBG cries. She does not cower in terror or try to flee upstairs to her nap room. And, increasingly? If the tears are not too loud and alarming, she will express concern for the baby. “Aw, she is sad. Poor baby!” Express concern and even come near enough to touch her, to give her a pat on the head. “Poor baby!”

This is huge! And how did we get there? Not through my own instincts and experience. This one had me thrown. I know, because I’ve seen it before and I couldn’t make it work. No, this time I needed help, and I found it in the form of the book I kept citing, Growing Up Brave.

There I learned that Poppy’s “naps” (and Lily’s before her, had I but known) were not a transitional strategy, but an avoidance strategy … which explained why they weren’t helping at all. There I learned the idea of exposure therapy: the only way to learn to deal with the thing that scares you … is to deal with the thing that scares you! But not cold turkey. We’re not throwing the kid off the dock to teach her to swim. No, because Growing Up Brave also taught me the idea of the Bravery Ladder, incremental steps to a larger goal.

With those bits of information in place, with some persistence, encouragement, and loving hardass-ness, Poppy did it! We did it!

If you have a child, or know a child, who struggles with anxiety, I strongly recommend this book. You know what? The publisher (Little, Brown and Company) has three copies to give away to you, my lovely readers, so I am hosting a give-away!

The giveaway will be open until Friday, October 5 at noon EST, and I’ll choose the winners with the highly scientific and time-tested method of drawing names out of a hat. I’ll then contact the three winners privately for your addresses, so that the publisher can send your copy directly to you.

Oops: Update: Two points I didn’t mention, but commenters showed me I should have: 1> You participate simply by posting a comment! and 2> Only the US and Canada, sorry!
Good luck!

October 2, 2012 Posted by | books, Poppy | , , | 48 Comments

She’s back!

Monday was too soon to tell you. It might have been a fluke. Tuesday I was still waiting to see if there’d be regression. But today? Today I think it’s safe to tell you: Poppy’s back!

My cheerful, chipper, happy, decisively enthusiastic little dumpling is back, back, back!

Remember how once-happy Poppy had vanished into a quivering, tentative, anxiety-stricken wobble at the advent of New Baby Girl (NBG)? And remember how, coincidentally, I was reading Growing Up Brave right then, and decided to put some of the ideas in that book to use?


It took two weeks of consistent, diligent effort. I was tired at the end of every day. It’s hard work, particularly for an introvert like me, to pour out all that positivity all day long. But we did it!

Okay, not 100%. But enough that I have hope. Enough that she spends most of her days in her usual happy way.

It’s not that NBG still doesn’t make Poppy nervous. She does. But Poppy can now come into the house with her usual verve. She trots straight to the kitchen so we can make snack together. She doesn’t ask for a nap — until after lunch, which is a real nap, a nap for genuine sleep requirement, not an avoidance strategy.

We’ve even begun to work on the empathy thing. NBG (I really need a name for this child) cries, and Poppy will now hand her her bottle. Now, she essentially drops the bottle in NBG’s lap and backs away fast, but given that her response a mere two weeks ago was to burst into a storm of noisy tears herself and beg for a nap, this is progress. Significant progress.

It could be that a baby crying will always make Poppy uncomfortable, but she is learning — by doing — that she can cope with it. She is learning that anxiety may be uncomfortable, but that she can see it through, that it won’t harm her.

I can now talk about NBG’s tears directly. “I don’t really like that noise, either, Poppy, but poor NBG. She cries because she needs help!” Or, and more commonly, “It’s very loud, sweetie, but it’s just noise. Noise can’t hurt you.” Sometimes, “When NBG is sad and cries, that makes you feel sad, but you know what? You are not sad. Only NBG.” (Which is not precisely true: NBG’s tears make Poppy genuinely sad, but what I’m trying to express in super-simple terms is that Poppy doesn’t own the sadness, it’s NBG’s.)

I can warn her when a distressed noise might be about to happen. “When I put NBG in the stroller, she might fuss a bit, because she will want to start moving RIGHT AWAY, and we won’t be ready to go right away.” Then we’ll talk about what Poppy might do if NBG fusses — stand behind the stroller where it won’t be so loud, say, or even do something kind for NBG. Napping or running entirely away is no longer an option. Even better, Poppy no longer asks for a nap.

What prompted me to tell you this, though, is twofold.

1. Poppy is beginning to take pride in her new confidence. “I didn’t ask a nap today!!” she declared to her mother yesterday evening, with evident pride. Whee!

2. Today, apropos of absolutely nothing, Poppy stopped as she passed NBG, patted her on her wee red head, and announced, “NBG is my friend!”


Now, she’s a sorta scary friend bytimes, but … friend! How about that?

We’re not out of the woods yet. Keeping her calm and stable still requires pretty consistent monitoring on my part, though I’m low-key about it, and am giving her more and more space to sort things out on her own. I’m steadily raising the bar: less matter-of-fact comfort and more “you can do it, kid, away you go and get on with it”. It’s still a struggle for her. Without support, she’d probably slip right back into panic and avoidance. She can’t quite manage on her own, yet.

And realistically, she’s only two! She may need support (and the occasional push) for years yet. So, yes, she still struggles.

BUT! It’s a struggle that she is steadily winning. Even more significantly, it’s a struggle which she now understands is worth fighting and which has rewards for her: confidence, competence, and pride of achievement.

I am so proud of her.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | books, individuality, Poppy, socializing | , , , | 9 Comments