It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Teeny tiny talker

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.

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October 17, 2014 Posted by | Developmental stuff, individuality, the cuteness! | , , | 1 Comment

In which Mary is Most Pleasantly Surprised

It’s birthday season here at Mary’s. Jazz first, three weeks ago; she’s now four. Then Poppy, a newly-minted 3-year-old. Grace turned four last week, and, after a few weeks’ lag, Daniel will turn three.

Jazz brought her birthday fixing with her. Cupcakes! Icing — in a separate container, so the kids could ice their own, what a cute idea! Pretty little cupcake toppers, little wee princesses on toothpicks.

And, and, and … she brought PRINCESS DRESSES! All shiny and ruffly and sequinned and pretty, pretty, princess.

Two of them.

TWO.

Let’s see. We have Jazz, Grace, and Poppy. Three little girls, all very interested in ALL THINGS PRINCESS. Thank goodness Daniel was not here that day, or there’d have been a fourth contender for two dresses. Josh and Rosie don’t care yet. (Another heartfelt ‘thank goodness’.)

Now, at the point it would be easy to mock dad. What were you thinking, to allow this? You can’t see the problems this would create? Had he allowed the dresses to make their way to my house merely because he lacked the parental balls to say “no”, I would have been annoyed. But this dad? He’s quite skilled. He can say no, and there will be no tantrum. Jazz being Jazz, there might be flouncing and fussing, but no tantrum, not with dad.

Parents who can’t say a firm, unapologetic ‘no’, and make it stick … well, they’re one of the more aggravating realities of life as a daycare provider. Parents who allow kids to bring things because they ‘can’t’ make the child not bring a thing? It happens a lot, and though I find it annoying (because seriously, your life would be SO MUCH EASIER if you just got yourself a pair) it doesn’t cause me any practical grief. Child comes with ENTIRELY INAPPROPRIATE FOR DAYCARE item — a jackknife, once, if you can imagine! Just a little one, but, people? A KNIFE? To DAYCARE??? Are you insane? And when she stabs someone in the eyeball with it, your excuse will be that you ‘couldn’t’ get her to give it to you? “Couldn’t”? As if it’s optional? It’s a weapon, woman. You are sending an armed child to daycare. You don’t want her to have a knife? You take.it.away.from.her. Yes, she’ll yell and fuss. The kid she stabs will yell louder — and with better reason.

Honest to pete. Boggles the mind.

Another time, it was a teeny-tiny china tea set. “This was my grandmother’s; it means a lot to me; I didn’t want him to bring it, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer; please see it doesn’t get lost or broken.” He ‘wouldn’t take no for an answer’? Oh, honestly. From weapons to precious family heirlooms.

It doesn’t cause me any practical grief, because the parent hasn’t hit the sidewalk before that item is in my hand, and the child being informed, as I put it away out of reach, that they can have it back at the end of the day. No screaming, no tears. It’s gone for the day, end of story. And even if there were screaming or tears, that wouldn’t change the fate of that coveted item, not for a nano-second. (Which, if you can logic it out that far, hapless parent, is precisely why there are rarely screaming or tears at Mary’s: they don’t work. If you don’t reward a behaviour, it goes away. It’s not so complicated.)

Sigh.

However. That’s them. This parent is not ineffectual or hapless. He is not off-loading his incompetence on me. In fact, he’s quite respectful of my authority and my capabilities. He explains carefully to Jazz that although she’s brought them here, it will be up to me whether they get played with here.

I know, some of you are wryly shaking your heads and accusing him off off-loading his problem. Sure he’s telling his daughter I have the final say … how does that prove that he has any say at all?

Here’s another story in dad’s favour: Jazz arrived with a ring not long ago. Just a bubblegum ring, but it was Precious. Her Favourite. “Do you want me to take this with me,” he asked, “so you will not lose it?” (Subtext: like the identical bubblegum ring you brought and lost last week?)

Jazz declared that she would keep it, and she would NOT lose it. Uh-huh. Wise daddy followed up, “Okay. That’s your choice. But here’s the deal, Jazz: if you do lose it, there will be no tears, because you knew the consequences. Understand? If you lose it, no crying. You may be sad to lose it, but that is the risk you’re taking. You’ll have to deal with it quietly and calmly.” He’s not saying this in a mean or aggressive voice. He is simply stating fact. If this, then that. You sure about this?

“I will not lose it, Daddy!” Jazz was supremely confident, cheerfully reassured her poor, worried daddy. In other words, she totally didn’t get it … but you know what? When she lost the ring — we knew she would — she did get it. His arrival reminded her of her Terrible Loss, and she raced to him with tears a-streaming. Daddy followed through on the morning’s conversation, calmly reminded her of her choice … The tears did not last long, because Dad was calm and matter-of-fact. Though he was supportive of her feelings, acknowledging her genuine disappointment, he was not supportive of the self-pity and melodrama. All this done is a quiet, soft voice, and very gentle movements, soft touches. It was masterful, frankly.

So, no. I don’t think this particular parent is wussing out and giving me his parental slack to pick up. Which is not to say those damned dresses don’t cause problems. Within five minutes of his departure, there has been one squabble and a fit of tears. It’s drop-off time, more kids and parents are arriving. I don’t have time to deal with this at the moment. The dresses, in their bag, are hung on a hook.

“We’re going to the park in a few minutes. We’ll sort out the princess dresses at lunch-time.” This also buys me some time to strategize, but there is no magical way out of this. Someone is going to have to — brace yourself here — one of those princess-obsessed, willful toddler/pre-schoolers is going to have to COMPROMISE.

Yeah. I know.

Upon our return, they are presented with Jazz’s princess dresses and another flouncy sort of dress from my dress-up box. Three dresses, three girls! Who wants to wear the one from Mary’s dress-up basket?

Yeah. Like that. NO ONE. Mary’s dress was most excessively coveted yesterday, before the advent of Jazz’s shiny new dresses, but now? Now it is Old News. No one wants that dress.

What to do?

I give them an opportunity to choose to wear Mary’s Boring Dress. Nope. Predictable, but it never hurts to give them the opportunity to surprise you. (As I’ve said before.)

Next stage? I pull Jazz aside.

Now, I know some people have the attitude on birthdays that the Birthday Girl gets whatever her little heart desires. It’s Her Big Day, so everyone defers to her wants.

I don’t.

Now, there are birthday treats, of course. The birthday child generally gets their favourite meal for dinner, and there is dessert — cake’n’ice cream, OF COURSE!! There are also balloons and streamers in the birthday child’s choice of (two) colours. There are lots of ways in which the birthday child is made to feel special.

But does the birthday girl get to run roughshod over her friends, because it’s HER DAY?!??

No, she does not. In fact, rather the opposite. When my children were having their birthdays, they were reminded that, as the host, it was up to them to make sure their guests were having a good time. So, if we were one balloon short … guess who was expected to fork over their balloon?

You got it.

[An aside: Is it any wonder that girls brought up with this mindset turn into Bridezilla on that other “Big Day”? Those people sitting in the church are not your ‘audience’ sunshine, they are your ‘guests’. Your job is not to flaunt your specialness in front of them and demand their servitude to your preciousness; your job is to see that they enjoy themselves and thank them for being there.]

I pull Jazz aside. “You know what I think? I think that YOU are the birthday girl. You have those pretty princess dresses at home, all the time. So YOU can wear them any time you like. But Grace and Poppy? They can only wear the dresses today. So I think it would be very nice if you would let your friends wear your special dresses today.”

And I wait. Because this, what I am asking, is hard, and I know it. I wait with a hopeful, encouraging, warm smile on my face. “What do you think, sweetie?”

Now, I am absolutely prepared, if she refuses, to lay down the law. “I know it’s hard, my love, but that’s what we’re going to do.” With recourse to the quiet stair and various other consequences if her objections are too boisterously anti-social. But I’m giving her the opportunity to surprise me! (I think I’ve said this once or twice already, huh?)

I wait, doing my damndest to radiate good will, and confidence in her generosity and …

Jazz, my prone-to-petulance, my little prima donna … totally goes for it. Her eyes widen, and with a dawning smile, she nods. “Okay!”

I am surprised. The congratulatory hug she gets is tinged with glee. I am SO PROUD of her!

And, because she made this choice graciously and without any hesitation whatsoever, she is rewarded. A trip to Mary’s bedroom, where she gets to choose Special Princess Accessories. Being four years old (she’s FOUR now! FOUR!) she chooses a black made-in-India shawl with long fringes at the end, covered with a swirling whorl of red sequins. Because when you are four, BLING is good. And for her skinny little four-year-old arm? A very sparkly bracelet.

a3

She gets these things not because she is the Birthday Girl. She gets these things because she was Kind, Considerate, Unselfish, and Gracious.

She is growing up.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Jazz, manners, socializing | 6 Comments

And an ‘Amen’, too

Josh, as you know, is a heavy little bruiser. Solid as a rock. Weighs a ton, and lifts like a ton.

Which is heavier, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

Neither, obviously. They’re both the same: One Pound. A pound is a pound is a pound. Physics, and your kitchen scale, are clear on that.

Except… There’s physics, there’s fact, then there’s experienced reality. There are kids who just lift easier than others, you know? Of course you do. It’s the weirdest thing. The number on the scale might say the same thing. They’re both 25 pounds, yet Child A surges up into your arms, whereas Child B drags on your lower back like a bucket of sludge. We’ve all experienced that.

What’s with that?

Josh is a charmer. Largely cheerful, with a wide, square face most often wreathed with a big, wide smile. Josh weighs over 30 pounds. And Josh?

Lifts like a bucket of sludge. Every time I pick up that kid, I feel that “Ooof!” of effort. My back feels the strain. My arms start to quiver. Josh is 13 months old, he weighs 33 pounds and he

is
not
walking.

Reasonable enough. Thirteen months is not too late to be still crawling. He is not delayed in any way.

But he is heavy. Damned heavy. Crushingly heavy. Thank GOD he’s not a needy little clinger who wants to be carried all the time. I’d be in hospital in traction if I’d had to carry that lump for more than a few minutes each day over the past month. Lordy.

Still, a non-walker needs to be carried a certain percentage of each day. It’s unavoidable. And every time I pick that child up, “oof!” goes my lower back. (I know how to lift, too. No bent-at-the-middle swoops into the air for poor, deprived, bucket-of-sludge Josh. This kid gets the proper, back-straight, lift-from-the-thighs hoist, most often accomplished by a pretty neat arm curl. My back is going “oof”, but I’m developing great biceps.)

So you will understand my reaction when Emma, who was in the kitchen, called out to me in the front hall, getting kids ready to go out. I looked down the hall and saw Josh’s shadow in the kitchen door, though I couldn’t see him.

“Hey, mum! Look at this!”

And Josh rounds the corner.

ON HIS FEET!

The boy has achieved bipedal!!!

He was WALKING!!!

I looked, I laughed, I punched the air with both fists, and I shouted out an exuberant and utterly grateful,

“HALLELUJAH!!!!”

Have you ever wondered why your kids always pick up swear words, far quicker than they pick up PG vocabulary? It’s because anything said with sufficient emotional fervor, something shoots out of mummy or daddy’s mouth with some force, that catches their attention. It makes an impact.

I just did that. (And I wasn’t even swearing! Which I never, ever do in front of the daycare, nuh-uh.)

I don’t think any of the daycare tots had heard that word before.

Poppy grabbed it first.

“Hah-lee-LOO-lah!!!”

And I laugh. Of course. So then everyone else grabs it, too. “Halleljah!” “Hah-la-loo-lie!” “Hoe-la-loo-lah!”

It was a revival meeting, right there in my front hall.

Thing is, the kids know what provoked it. So every time Josh staggers by upright, he leaves a trail of “HALLELUJAH!”s in his wake.

Hallelulah!!!

At the end of the day, Poppy was the last to be collected. I was chatting with her mother (a favourite of mine amongst the daycare parents) about the day, and happened to mention Josh’s new skill. As I described seeing him lurch through the kitchen door, Poppy, who had been industriously snarling my shoelaces into a rich tangle of mayhem, stood up, threw both hands into the air, and shouted

“HAHLEELOOLAH!!!”

Heh.

Josh is upright, and the whole house celebrates, world without end.

Hallelujah and Amen

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Joshua, Poppy | , , | 7 Comments

A step at a time

“He’s 15 months old. Shouldn’t he be doing that by now?”

It doesn’t matter what “that” is, really. You all know the question. The longer I am in this business, however, the less likely I am to give that a definitive answer. It’s not that I don’t know how children develop. I certainly do, particularly in the first three years.

When I was a new mother, I read all the books, studied the charts in the doctor’s office, and I could have told you, definitively, whether or not something should have happened at a certain time. I could have listed the windows for each developmental phase. I can’t do that any more. These days, in fact, I’m pretty fuzzy on the markers on that timeline.

I know the timeline, mind you. I know the order things occur. I just don’t recall the “official” dates so well… because in almost every case, they don’t matter. What I certainly know is what a certain child, a child I know, will be doing next. What I do know is what (if anything) I could be doing to encourage that development.

But, should he be walking at 12 months? Well, he certainly could be. That would be within normal parameters. But he might not. That, too, would be normal. Should she be jumping at 18 months? I’d say probably not, but you never know! Should they be able to string two words together at 22 months? Usually, but so long as they understand what you say to them, can follow simple directions and can express their simple needs effectively, I wouldn’t particularly worry if they aren’t.

Developmental milestones are not Rules. Your child doesn’t fail if they don’t hit the milestone at the precise moment the charts say he will. (And they’re not “exceptional” if they get there a bit ahead, either. You may of course be quietly happy if your child gets to one early, but you may not make your friend feel badly because her child hasn’t.) Developmental milestones are generalizations. Helpful generalizations, but that is all.

What is more important than when they get there, is whether they’re progressing through them. First they hold up their heads, then they roll over, followed by sitting, crawling, pulling to stand, cruising on furniture, and finally independent walking. They learn to run before they learn to jump, generally. Some children never crawl, but go straight to walking, but there is a general progression in these things. Only if a child is markedly behind — but I do mean markedly, so far behind that it looks like they’ve stalled there — is there cause for concern.

What most parents don’t realize is how broad the range of ‘normal’ is. A child might learn to walk at nine months (unusual, but I’ve seen it), but then, s/he might not start till 18 months (unusual, but I’ve also seen that). Those children are both now perfectly normal little boys, one 12 years old, one 14. The late walker plays hockey and is on his school’s track team… those extra few months crawling have made no difference at all to his physical development.

“Normal” is broad. “Normal” is huge. “Normal” encompasses a whole heap of variability. Think of the adults you encounter in your life, the different types and capabilities, and consider that, with very few exceptions, you probably consider them all to be ‘normal’. Do you know (or care) when they sat up? Or spoke their first word? Or learned to use the potty? Probably not.

In the end, it’s quality, not speed, that matters. Life’s not a race, it’s a long, meandering journey. One to be savoured.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting | 12 Comments

it’s nice when you see it all working

Jazz is easing out of naps. The transition from napper to non-napper is not an instantaneous thing, and does sometimes mean that you have a groggy, cranky child.

This morning, she was whiny. Nothing was quite right, everything was an assault on her equanimity. Fuss, fuss, fuss. (Guess who’s getting a nap today, for the first time this week?)

Grace approaches Jazz, who is sitting on the floor, a soggy mound of grizzle.

“Aw, what’s the matter? Are you feeling tired? Do you need a nap, poor lovie?” She squats beside Jazz, and puts her arm across her shoulders. (Well, she sort of knocks Jazz in the face with her elbow, causing a further burst of sogginess from Jazz, but the intent was a comforting arm around the shoulder. Full marks for intent, if not execution.) “Are you tired, angel?”

Emma and I look at each other.

“Oh, mum! That’s SO adorable! She sounds…”

But I’ve begun speaking at the same time as Emma, and our words intertwine.

“Doesn’t she sound…”

“just like you!”

“just like her mother?”

We grin at each other. I heard Grace echoing her own mother; Emma heard Grace echoing me. A nice compliment to both of us and…

lucky Grace.

And this morning?

Lucky Jazz.

January 6, 2012 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Grace, individuality, Jazz, the cuteness! | , , , | 2 Comments

Mystery Solved … by SCIENCE!

We were reading Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day yesterday. Absolute classic children’s story about a little boy exploring the snow. We will be trying out some of Peter’s ideas in the coming days.

We’ll walk with our toes pointed out, we’ll walk with our toes pointed in. We’ll drag our feet to make tracks, and make tracks with stick. We might even try snowballs!

I’ve done all that before with small children. Yesterday, though, I stumbled across something new. When Peter goes in for the evening, he puts a snowball in his pocket for the next day. When he checks on his snowball before bed … it’s gone!

“Where did it go?” I asked the children. Because of course you chat about your books as you read. “Where did Peter’s snowball go?

Blink.
Blink.
Blink.

Three pairs of eyes gaze back at me. Full of blankness. No inspiration there, at all, at all.

I point to the suspicious spot on the outside of his coat. “It sure looks like his coat is wet. Why would his pocket be wet like that?” Hint, hint…

Nope. More blankness. They truly don’t know.

Well, now. This calls for some investigation! So out we go to the front porch. Well, in the interests of efficiency, out I go. Scoop up a small bowl of snow, and bring it in. We peer into the depths and make our observations.

We discover that the snow is white, and cold, and a bit prickly under our fingers. (I think the “prickly” was their way of describing the ice crystals in there, or maybe just the intense cold on a warm fingertip.)

We put the bowl on the table and went away. Every few minutes we’d come back and have another look. And damned if the snow wasn’t getting smaller! And now there was water in the bowl, too! And maybe, maybe the snow isn’t as white as it was?

A few minutes later, we’re sure. No, the snow isn’t so white. In fact, it’s getting clearer. And there’s even more water in there!

Any ideas why?

Nope.

Not
one
single
clue.

It’s a mystery! Isn’t that exciting?!?

When the bowl is largely a small collection of watery slush, I give them each a tiny dollop of snow in their palms.

“Just hold it, guys. Hold your hands still and watch that snow. Tell me what happens to it.”

It’s a matter of seconds before each small pink palm holds nothing more than an even smaller puddle. They peer into their hands. They look at me.

“Well. Where’s the snow?”

Rory knows. “It’s GONE!”

“It certainly is! Where did it go?”

Blink.
Blink.
Blink.

“You had snow in your hands. Now you have water. What happened to the snow?”

A light goes on in Grace’s face.

“Water!! At water! The snow is gone at water!”

And lo, there is much rejoicing, for verily, Grace is right. The snow is gone at water! I toss around some more words, including “frozen”, “warm”, and “melting”, but we have got the gist of it.

The snow is gone at water.

Toddler science is so fun.

😀

January 5, 2012 Posted by | books, Developmental stuff, Grace | , , , , | 8 Comments

My baby is ANGRY with me!

Poppy is happily snuggled in her mother’s arms, on her way home at the end of the day. Mummy settles Poppy’s hat on her head. Poppy instantly rips it off and tosses it to the floor.

“Hey, silly girl!” her mummy laughs as she takes the hat I’ve scooped and handed back. “It’s raining out there. You need that hat!” She pops it back on again.

Poppy’s yowl is loud and outraged. The hat is flung again.

“Poppy!” Her mother’s face is a mixture of displeasure and confusion, her voice dismayed and scolding. “What gets into you?”

More outraged howls. Poppy’s shoves at her mother’s hand with the hat, and howls ever louder. She does NOT want to wear that thing, dammit!

Mum stops trying to put the hat on and peers dubiously at the steady downpour hammering the sidewalk. “Well, okay then. I guess we’ll just have to make a run for it.” She turns to me. “I don’t know what gets into her! She used to be so cheerful! Now she just gets so … mad!”

Parents are often surprised by their child’s first displays of rebellion disobedience independence. Though it’s expressed via rebellion and disobedience, what you’re seeing here is independence. Independence, expressed in the most primitive, unsophisticated manner possible, of course — “NO!!! AH! Shove! Flail! Struggle! Scream!” — but independence all the same. More than surprised, parents are blind-sided by it. Blind-sided and left struggling for an appropriate response.

It took me a while to register the surprise. The struggle for a response was reasonable enough. This is a new behaviour. Your previously charming and biddable 10-month-old or 12-month-old is morphing into a strong-willed, defiant, uncooperative 14- or 16- or 18-month-old. You’ll have to develop new types of responses, a different set of patterns, and that can be difficult. But surprise? I wasn’t expecting parents to be surprised by this. We all know that kids develop that push for independence and autonomy in their second year of life. We know this. Right?

Now I’ve noticed the parental surprise, though, I see it a lot. It’s not that these people didn’t know about ‘terrible twos’. Of course they did. They just naively thought that their sweet, mild-mannered, cheerful, cooperative kid was going to be the exception to that rule. Because there are mild-mannered two-year-olds out there. (No, really. There are. I’ve met a few. They’re just thin on the ground, is all.)

After all, not all babies are sweet and easy. Since their child has always been so sweet and easy, why wouldn’t they continue this way?

Well, because it’s developmentally standard to have a period of negativity, is why. Normal.

But still, a goodly portion of my clients are utterly blind-sided the first time their child shrieks in indignation, the first time their placid little dumpling screams and shoves because their madly controlling parents are attempting to rob them of their independence, thwart their will, demean and belittle them by trying to do something to them, something that MUST BE RESISTED AT ALL COSTS, something so terrible

something horrible!…
like…
like…
oh…
change their diaper.

Change their diaper. Which has only happened 800 times already in the child’s life. 800 non-eventful times. Perhaps even 800 fun-filled times. But no! Suddenly, diapers are EVIL and people who want to change them are MEAN and I AM NOT GOING TO COOPERATE WITH THIS ONE TEENY BIT HOW DARE YOU?????

Yes.

The surprised parents respond in a couple of typical ways. They either take it too seriously, or they don’t take it seriously enough. (I know. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Parenting can feel like that some days.)

Those who take the outrage too seriously tend to back off, appease, coax, negotiate. Poppy’s mother falls into this camp. Poppy resisted attempts to put the hat on, even though it’s in Poppy’s best interests that the hat stay on in the pouring rain, and mummy back down. Mummy is creating problems for herself here, but I sympathize with her confusion. Her baby is just so ANGRY!

Those who don’t take it seriously enough see it as a cute l’il stage, and assure themselves that “she’ll get over it, it’s just a matter of time”. They’re not distressed so much as amused, but the result is the same: They back down. It is a stage, true, and she will pass through it to other developmental stages, but if parents do nothing to help her learn better responses, the strategies for conflict she’s learning now will become entrenched. Tantrums, anger, rigid inflexibility and utter disregard for other’s needs will become the way she deals with conflict.

Not a pretty picture.

The best parental response to baby’s anger is the middle road: take it seriously enough to act on it, but take it lightly enough that you can laugh at it.

You take the anger seriously because this sort of behaviour is not something you want to become entrenched. “When I throw a fit, mummy backs down” is NOT the life lesson you want to teach your child! It’s a terrible precedent, and will ensure years of family stress and strife. She needs to learn consideration, that others have needs, too. She needs to learn that parents do have authority. Parents need to exercise some healthy selfishness.

However, you don’t take the anger so seriously that you feel guilty for thwarting your child. Poppy was insisting on going bare-headed into the pouring rain. Should mom feel guilty because she shoves a hat on her head and tells her it has to stay, and holds it there if need be? Or, alternately, feel guilty when she chooses to let Poppy get uncomfortably wet so as to learn from experience? (Short answer: No. Duh.)

But parents, particularly mothers, do feel this guilt! They feel guilt because their child is angry. Have you ever stopped to consider how foolish that is? Who has control over another person’s emotions? No one controls emotions but the person experiencing them. And since when are emotions necessarily rational, sensible, or fair?

Or, equally foolishly, some parents even begin to wonder about their parenting in the face of this rage. “Maybe I’m damaging our relationship! He needs to be able to trust me!” Oh, for heaven’s sakes. The child is less than two, and throwing a complete fit because she doesn’t want to wear a hat in the pouring rain. It’s totally normal that the child have absolutely no sense of perspective on this… but surely the parent can manage? Your entire relationship is going down the tubes because when she was 16 months old you made her wear a hat in the rain?

Seriously?

How about this? You expect that your child is going to get angry with you. Outrageously, spitting angry — over silly things. It’s developmentally normal. You see the anger, but you don’t take it personally. They’re not angry with you so much as with what they see as an infringement on their autonomy. (Not that they’re sophisticated enough to make that distinction… but YOU are.) You see the anger, but you don’t fret much over it. You might even laugh at them, just a little. Because it’s normal.

Just because it’s normal, however, doesn’t make it acceptable. So, you see the anger and you take action. In this example, Poppy’s mother could have plonked the hat on her head, and held it there. She could attempt to explain while she did this (but it’s likely Poppy wouldn’t be particularly open to chat just then), or she could just restate her position: “Hat stays on. ON.” And then held it while they headed outside, utterly ignoring Poppy’s attempts to rip it off. Poppy thereby learns that when mummy says something, she means it. She learns that her anger is ineffective. And maybe she learns that hats keep your head warm and dry. (Though I doubt that last one.)

Or, Poppy’s mother could have held the hat in her hand, pointed out the window to the rain, and explained. “It is raining outside. It is very wet. Really wet. If you don’t wear a hat, you will get wet. Do you want to get wet? Or do you want to wear your hat?” And then let Poppy make the decision.

When it’s her choice, Poppy just might decide to wear it. It’s been known to happen! But if she decides not to wear it, Mum respects that choice. No coaxing. No trying to get her to change her mind. So Poppy goes outside without the hat, and gets soaked. Maybe that will bother her, in which case, Mum can explain why we wear hats in the rain. Maybe it won’t bother her, in which case… oh, well. Kid’s not going to perish because she got wet on the way to the bike trailer.

And Poppy learns that some choices are hers to make. Some choices are bad ones, and you learn from them.

The point is that you don’t focus on the anger. The anger is a distractor. It is not the issue. What we want to stay focussed on is “Will she wear the hat?” Whether or not she ends up wearing the damned thing, you need to ensure that the anger is not effective.

You can certainly address the anger, but briefly. “You’re angry. Boy, are you angry! It’s okay to be angry, but you may NOT hit mummy.” And then you move on. Emotions, as they say, are never right or wrong. It’s what you do with them that matters. She can be angry … but she can’t hit, she can learn to lower her voice, and she certainly can’t use her anger to bully those around her.

Anger is not the point. Don’t get caught up in it. Address it, then move on to deal with the real issue. Eventually she will learn that screaming and flailing are not effective techniques, and they will be dropped from the repertoire.

Cave in to the rage … and it’ll be around for a long, long time.

November 15, 2011 Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting, parents | , , , , , | 5 Comments

The games we play

… are not quite the games as they are normally played.

Daniel is big into Ring around a Rosy these day, or, as he prefers to term it, “Hush-a! Hush-a! Hush-a!” With that as his rallying cry, he gathers the others around him. If I’m part of the group, holding hands in the circle, the game looks reasonably standard. I perform a number of Very Useful Functions in games of Ring Around A Rosy, including (but not limited to):

1. Singing the song. (There are more to the lyrics than “Hush-a!”, much to Daniel’s surprise.)
2. Keeping the circle as a circle. (“Hold Rory’s hand, Poppy. Hold on. Don’t let go. Atta girl.”)
3. Keeping the circle moving in a circular motion.
4. Keeping everyone upright until we “All Fall DOOOOOOOWWWWN!”
5. Encouraging everyone to get up, hold hands again, and start over.

If I’m not part of the game, but am only singing the song… Why do I sing? Well, I’ve found it useful to, you know, remind them of why they’re standing in a circle holding hands. If I don’t sing, they tend to forget, and a number of things happen.

1. Poppy forgets, drops hands and wanders off.
2. Jazz forgets and gets offended that someone is HOLDING HER HAND!!! “Why are you holding my hand? It’s MY hand! I can’t move my hand!!!” She tries wildly and angrily to get them to LET GO!!! (Huh. Writing this, I realize I should put her next to Poppy. Seems to me they have complimentary interests.)
3. Rory doesn’t forget, but gets upset that the others are NOT PLAYING RIGHT.
4. Daniel continues to hold hands in a grip like a vice, beams at all and sundry, and continues with the mantra. “Hush-a! Hush-a!”
5. Grace drops hands and stands still, watching the bedlam around her with wide eyes.

It devolves into chaos, is what I’m saying. Of course it does. Five toddlers? A structured, cooperative game? No adult assistance? Could you expect anything different??

So. Even if I’m not actively playing with them, I sing along. Which keeps it relatively game-like, and less bedlam-ish.

Because Ring Around a Rosy, as anyone with toddlers can tell you, is a WILDLY EXCITING GAME!!! It is not the singing, though that is fun. It is not the holding hands (which is a bit of a pain and a nuisance, frankly, to most toddlers). It is not the moving in a circle (challenging, but fun). No! It is the SUSPENSE!

Ring Around a Rosy, people, is a game of TENSION and SUSPENSE.

You gather round, you form a blob circle, you hold hands with your friends, you start to sing and shuffle around and around, “Hush-a! Hush-a!” (Not yet, Daniel.) and all the while you do this, you know what’s coming. “Hush-a! Hush-a!” (Not yet, Daniel.) You know what’s coming… that moment of peak excitement… you know it’s coming, “Hush-a! Hush-a!” (Not yet, Daniel.) and you can hardly wait!!! As you gather, hold hands, shuffle and sing, the suspense is intense, and builds to near-unbearable level of excitement as you approach that defining moment…

“Hush-a! Hush-a! We ALL! FALL! DOOOOWWWNNN!!!!!

Oh.
My.
Go–ooodness.

It just does not GET any more exciting.

Toddlers, as we well know, are not big into “deferred gratification”. If something is good, they WANT IT NOW. All of it. Right away.

So, without an adult propping this game up and moving it along to its climax, you get a seething mass of toddlers. Some might be holding hands, some might be shuffling in a sort of circle, some might be singing bits of the song, but they are ALL FALLING DOWN ALL THE TIME.

Let’s all hold han– FALL DOWN!!! — make a circ — FALL DOWN!!! — sing the “Ring arou — FALL DOWN!!!!” — Hush-a! Hus– FAAAAAAAALLLLLL DOWWWWWNNNNN!!!

It would be more efficient just to line them up and shove them over, I swear.

Efficient, perhaps, but far less fun.

FALL DOWN!!!

gigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegiggle
gigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegigglegiggle

🙂

November 3, 2011 Posted by | Developmental stuff | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Willing, but clueless…

Daniel is a tank. We know that. We know that he’s cheerful and happy and well-intentioned, but that he’s also a big, unempathetic doofus when it comes to the other children. Other children are fun! He loves them! He loves to smile at them. He loves to watch them. He loves to run with them. Sometimes when he lumbers along runs with them, he bumps into them and the fall right over! He loves that, too, because it’s very interesting when that happens.

Yesterday, Daniel was loving the thick, chunky sweaters that everyone is suddenly sporting. He loves their colours, he loves their texture. He was particularly loving Grace’s sweater, because it had big bright wooly buttons on it. Buttons just begging to be clutched in giant meaty fists. Begging, I tell you! And Daniel? He is not the man to deny something that so obviously NEEDS TO BE DONE.

Daniel clutched Grace’s sweater-buttons. Anchored by the substantial bulk of Daniel, Grace can go nowhere. Being the passive little thing she is, she just stands there, eyes wide and alarmed, hoping that somehow, if she just stands very still and quiet and does absolutely nothing, she will magically be freed. (And yes, sometimes I just watch and refuse to bail her out, to see if I can force her to take action.) Just as she’s beginning to panic, another child — in another chunky sweater!!! — toddles by. Grace is saved. Rory, however, is now anchored. Rory, being a different sort than our Grace, does not take this passively.

“Daniel, yet go of my sweater!!!” Good for him, using his words!! Of course, his words are completely useless. (I often consider how apparently unfair it is that we insist they “use their words” when really? With young toddlers? Words don’t work. We all know that. I do it, of course, because you have to start somewhere! And if you don’t begin the expectation young, when will they learn it? Still, the irony of praising Rory for using his words when WE ALL KNOW they won’t work, never escapes me…)

So. He used his words, and his words didn’t work. Surprise, surprise. Rory grabs Daniel’s wrists and attempted to wrench himself free. A perfectly reasonable use of physical force, I figured, and a reasonable second step when the words didn’t work. Daniel holds firm, though, a wide grin stretching over his face. Rory is holding his hands! This is interaction! This is fun!!!

Rory has tried his words and has taken reasonable action. His next step will undoubtedly be equally reasonable, given the circumstances, but less acceptable. Time to intervene. I kneel down in front of them.

“Daniel. Rory said ‘Let go.’ You need to let go of Rory’s sweater.” As I say the second “let go”, I am peeling Daniel’s hands from the sweater. “Let go. Thank you.” Daniel’s hands lunge for the sweater again. I block and re-grab his wrists. Time for a redirection.

“Daniel. Daniel, hands are not for grabbing. Hands are for hugging. Can you give Rory a hug?”

Well, now! THAT is one of THE BEST IDEAS Daniel has EVER HEARD! His face lights up like someone flipped a switch. His eyes sparkle, his beaming grin widens even further. (Who knew it was possible to grin that big?)

“Huh! HuH!” He flings his arms wide and latches them onto a rather stiff and uncertain Rory.

“Isn’t that nice, Rory? Daniel is giving you a hug! That is so nice! That’s right, Daniel. Hug. Hands are for hugging.”

Rory is reassured. Somewhat. And permits the onslaught of affection.

“Huh! Huh!” Daniel is loving this. This is SO! MUCH! FUN!!!

“Hug. That’s right. You’re giving Rory a nice hug!”

Grace toodles by.

“Huh! Huh!” Daniel releases Rory and barrels toward Grace, arms wide. Happily, Grace is right in front of a chair, so she’s only knocked back into the padded cushion rather than flattened to the floor when The Hug makes impact. More soothing, reassuring noises from me, helping Grace to understand that no, this is not an attack, this is love. She smiles, more warmly than Rory managed, and gives Daniel an enthusiastic hug back. Then she pats his head and kisses his cheek.

(Oh, I could just melt from the cuteness some days.)

“Good boy, Daniel. Now you’re hugging Grace! That’s right. Hands are for hugging. Good for you!”

Well, now. Hugs, pats, AND kisses? And noises of encouragement and praise from Mary? Daniel is all over that! Who else can he hug?

Round the room Daniel goes, hugging one child after another. Now that they understand what’s going on — it’s love, not attack… well, it’s an attack of love, not aggression — the others are all into the game. Rory gets hugged again, then Jazz. Grace, then Jazz. Rory, then Grace, then Jazz.

“Oh, isn’t that nice? All those hugs! Hands are for hugging!”

And then Daniel spots Poppy, who has been playing quietly with a toy in the next room, oblivious to the hands-are-for-hugging love-fest going on in the living room.

“Huh! Huh!” He moves toward her. Except he’s surrounded by the other three huggees. “Huh! Huh!” He has Poppy in his sites, and love in his heart… but the way is blocked. What to do?

If you’re Daniel, the solution is clear.

“Huh! Huh!” Jazz staggers one direction, Grace another as Daniel bulldozes his way through. Grace plops down on her butt, Jazz grabs Rory and manages to stay upright.

“Huh! Huh!” I’m not quite quick enough. Poppy lies on the floor under Daniel, crushed by the hug.

Of five children, three are on the floor, one is staggering, and one upright but shaken.

Because hands? Are for hugging.

October 25, 2011 Posted by | aggression, behavioural stuff, Daniel, Developmental stuff | , , , | 6 Comments

Watching your kids grow

Sentimentality. A little sentiment can be a sweet addition to your life: the ability to conjure up the whole lovely vacation when you look at a single pretty pebble picked up from a hiking trail; a fond remembrance, a wave of affection, a wisp of nostalgia. Nothing wrong with any of that, in fact, an enrichment to a contented life.

If you can’t find your dressing table because of the trinkets, if your kitchen is buried under kid art, if your dining room a mere tunnel through stacks of treasured mementos… You have a problem.

It’s about balance and perspective.

It’s September, and with it the wave of back-to-school posts. Among them, the “my baby just went to school for the first time” posts. And among them, among the sweet posts filled with anticipation, excitement, and a little wistfulness, were the FULL-ON PANIC posts.

“My baybeeeee! My baby is leeeeeeaving me! My baby is — heaven forbid! — GROWING UP.”

Goodness, ladies. Get a grip.

Wistfulness is understandable. It’s a rite of passage, a demarcation of the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. So you pack their lunch with special care, you dress them carefully, and maybe even take a few pictures. Wistfulness and possibly some fear. You watch them pass through the doors of the school (or the school bus), and hope that the institution that is swallowing them is kind, that their time there is happy. Not everyone has a happy time there. So yes, wistfulness and some level of anxiety and protectiveness, certainly.

But full-on panic? Reams of words deploring the child’s absence, wondering how mum is going to cope, and mostly, always, consistently, ruing, decrying, resisting, mourning the fact that their baby is growing up.

Um. Growing up. Well, yes. Isn’t that the point? The idea of having a baby my whole life long fills me with horror (and also immense respect for parents of handicapped children, for whom that may be their practical life reality.) Do you really want to be the parent of a baby for the rest of your life?

School is an obvious example right now, but you see this all the time, mothers (have yet to see a dad write one of these posts) writing about all sorts of stages in their children’s lives, and every time the reaction is fear, resistance, regret, and denial that their baby could be growing up, changing. (And ultimately leaving them? Is that the root fear?)

Wistfulness is fine. A little sentimental nostalgia, recalling that moment you held their sticky body for the first time… knowing that is gone, never to return. Who wouldn’t sigh a little sigh for that? There is nothing as soft as a baby’s skin, nothing as delightful as the bubbling river of baby giggles. The fat little thighs! The dimples instead of knuckles on pudgy fists! Awwwww… So sure, a little gentle wistfulness for the speed of life. But why choose to get stuck there?

So, savour the wistfulness… and also, here’s a thought… how about excitement? Anticipation? Optimism? Sure, with each stage there are things you leave behind. (Not always a bad thing, say I, as not-so-wistful memories of a screaming colicky baby and months of bleary-eyed exhaustion swim through my head.)

But along with the things you leave behind, there are things you’re gaining. Always. With every stage come new things to treasure and savour. The Panic Moms seem oblivious to that. All the phases and stages, all the passages… they’re just bad. Bad, points of regret and sorrow and grieving.

And really, if that’s how you see it, if your child’s growth is one long chain of points of mourning for the things lost… why on earth did you have a child?

Thing about kids, see, is that they GROW.

They grow up, they learn to do stuff, they move on. It never stops. One thing after another. One accomplishment after another. One new discovery, another broadening of their capabilities, an enrichment of their worlds. It never stops.

Another, and another, and another thing…
to marvel in.
To take pride in.
To CELEBRATE!

You mourning mummies? I suggest a paradigm shift. You, and possibly your children, will be much happier for it.

September 26, 2011 Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting | , , , , , | 11 Comments