It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Consistency? What’s that?

Thursday

9:00 a.m.
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: Not right now, sweetie. Rosie’s sleeping.

10:00 a.m.
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: No, lovie. We’re painting right now.

11:00 a.m.
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: Right now I’m making lunch.

12:00
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: No, now we are reading books, and then it is naptime.

2:00
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: Afraid not, my dear. Rosie and Josh are still sleeping.

3:00
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: You know what, lovie? Now it’s ice-rain out there. We can’t go out in that.

4:00
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: It’s all icy out there. It wouldn’t be safe or fun.

5:00
Poppy: Can we go outside?
Mary: Well, we’re getting you ready to go home, love. You’ll have to ask daddy.

Friday
8:00 a.m., as Poppy comes in my front door.

Mary: Leave your snowsuit on, sweetie! We’re going OUTSIDE!!!
Poppy: Why?

February 22, 2013 Posted by | individuality, Poppy | , | 3 Comments

Unconvinced

She sits on the end of a bench at the park, watching the children in her care. Her face is set in a frown, as it generally is. There is a quote, attributed variously to Coco Chanel, George Orwell and Mark Twain, which goes “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. But at fifty, you have the face you deserve.” Very true.

I’m in my fifties. I hope — I believe — my face shows years of warmth, intelligence, and love. I don’t have a lot of lines and wrinkles yet, and those I have are light, not deep. (Thank you, mum, for those good genes!) There are frown lines there, sure. No one gets to be fifty without times of unhappiness and struggle, but there are others, too. I truly love the laugh lines at the corners of my eyes, and I hope they just get deeper and deeper as the years go by. You can read a person’s attitudes in their face in their sixties and up. I hope, when I get there, that mine shows peace, happiness, warmth, and kindness.

I look at my same-age friends, and see the same sorts of stories on their faces: kindness, warmth, intelligence, humour.

The wrinkles on this woman’s face tell the tale of years and years of negativity. Habitual frowning. Sneers. Contempt.

How she continues to get clients is a mystery to me. Surely one look at that scowl-draped face, at the permanently etched frown lines scoured into her skin, would send any loving parent looking elsewhere? I’ve often wondered: “Who’d leave their child with a face like that?”

She doesn’t often join in conversation, but when she does, it is one long litany of complaints. Complaints about the children in her care. Complaints about their parents. Complaints about life in general. Sometimes, for variety, she moves from complaints to sneering and sarcasm.

She is abrupt, sometimes harsh, with the children in her care. She tosses out orders — part of the job — but never pulls a child in for a snuggle. Although we all encourage our children to run around and play at the park, at points over the morning, we’ll all have a child in our laps, a child who has run over for a quick cuddle before racing off again. There may be a child who’s a little under the weather that day, and needs a warm, reassuring lap for the duration of our visit. That’s okay.

Not this woman. Her small charges never come over for gratuitous cuddling.

So. Not my favourite person. I avoid chronically negative people, and goodness, she exudes negativity.

But today? Today she’s had a personality transplant. She’s not sitting on the bench, scowling and immoveable. She’s getting up! And walking around! And she’s … I’ve never seen this before! She’s smiling!

(Of course, she’s one of those people whose smile turns down at the corners. Of course she is. But it’s a smile.)

She’s smiling, and calling out words of encouragement to her kids. Friendly, conversational words instead of barked orders. Wow.

And she’s chatting with people. With the other caregivers, with the parents. Chatting, and, moreover, listening ,instead of dousing you with a deluge of complaints and sneering.

It’s startling, it really is. I’ve seen this woman in the park for a good ten years, and I’ve never seen her so friendly, animated, engaged.

What gives?

She’s looking for kids, is what. Over the conversation, it emerges that her enrollment is down. She needs to fill some spaces, asap. Now, it’s a wonder to me that this isn’t her chronic situation. That this woman is able to fill spaces, and keep them filled, has always puzzled me.

But for whatever reason, two of her clients have decamped with little warning, a third will be graduating shortly, and she’ll be down to two children. The wolf is at her door, she feels its hot breath on her heels, and so …

And so she’s out there. Networking. Smiling. Being friendly to the other caregivers, being warm with her children.

Does this warm her to me? Do I feel the shields of my frosty reserve melting away in the sunshine of this new, friendly face?

Not so much. Instead, I think to myself: So this means that you know. You know you’re unfriendly. You know it doesn’t look best when you sit, arms folded, scowling on a bench. You know you should be smiling, engaging, warm, supportive.

You know all that, and you can do it. You know how. Even if it’s just an act, even if it’s entirely faked, you know how to go through the motions. (You could try to fake it till you make it. Put on a happy face, and it will improve your mood a bit, may even become how you truly feel. Do it habitually, and it becomes natural. Really.)

You know, and you can … but unless you must do it, unless you’re forced, you don’t. Instead, you choose to be hard, frowning, cold, and negative. All.The.Time.

Nope. Still don’t like this woman. And I hope those spaces stay unfilled.

November 27, 2012 Posted by | individuality, manners, outings | , | 5 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?

Well!

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!”

Wow.

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

Reality? What’s that got to do with anything?

“I want to trade dollies with Grace,” Jazz informs me. Grace is right beside her on the kitchen floor. Jazz has a baby doll, Grace has a Groovy Girl. Seems Groovy Girls are the doll to have today.

“I don’t want to trade,” Grace responds, calmly playing with the dolly of desire. Neither girl looks at each other. I could transmit Grace’s response to Jazz, but I would rather teach Jazz to deal direct with Grace. I have no desire to be the intermediary in all their encounters, and why should Jazz want one?

“Well, I don’t have the dolly. Grace does. You need to ask Grace if she would like to trade.”

“I don’t want to trade.” Grace is not alarmed, she is just informing us of her position. She continues to play, not bothering to look up.

Given this, it’s rather surprising when Jazz goes along with my pointless exercise. “Grace, do you want to trade dollies?” Jazz asks, in her best, perky, friendly, let’s-DO-this voice.

“I don’t want to trade.” (Surprise, surprise.)

I look at Jazz, who is standing, staring at Grace as if she’s expecting something more.

“Well, Jazz. What did Grace say?”

Grace answers the question, yet again. Her tone of voice is level and not particularly interested, same as it’s been throughout all this. Her position has not changed. “I don’t want to trade.”

Jazz looks up at me, her face happily alight.

“Her said YES!”

Why fight reality when you can just re-write it?!?

(Her didn’t get that dolly. Mary is such a poop.)

September 6, 2012 Posted by | Grace, individuality, Jazz, power struggle | | 2 Comments

It’s a clue…

Daniel is a happy, cheerful, bumbling little tank of goodwill. Emphasis on ‘tank’. He means well, but he does steamroll.

I try to get the girls to come down off their injured-princess horses and cut him some slack.

“Daniel didn’t mean to hurt you, love. He’s just little, and he’s c lumsy.”
“Daniel is not hurting you, he’s hugging you. You can let him hug you. You just” I begin to prise “need to tell him” Daniel’s too-enthusiastic arms “when you’re” from her neck “done hugging. It was a c lumsy hug, but it was just a hug.”
“That was not a bite, that was a kiss. He just missed a bit. He’s little, and he’s c lumsy.”

I work equally hard at getting Daniel to develop some awareness and to TONE IT DOWN A BIT.

“When you’re standing right beside someone, you cannot swing your arms like that. See? Poor Poppy is crying!”
“Slow down, Daniel.”
“When you hug someone, you must stand still, and then let go. Let GO, Daniel. She’s done being hugged.”
“Daniel, lovie, you need to walk. WALK in the house.”
“I think you need to stop kissing people for a while, Daniel, until you can stop banging them with your teeth. No more kisses today, love, I’m sorry.”
“Daniel! Slow down!”

Most of the injuries Daniel does others are inadvertent. He doesn’t mean to bump, collide, careen, knock flying, run over, trample upon… that stuff just happens. Inexplicably. He moves from one room to another, and someone is, mysteriously, on the floor and/or crying in his wake.

Well, it’s not really even inexplicable to Daniel, because to be inexplicable, he’d have to be aware of, and confused by, it. Mostly, he’s completely unaware. Blithely oblivious. Grace may be crying, but what’s that got to do with him? Nothing he knows about.

But, sweet and amiable as he is, he’s not perfect. Some of the injuries that happen are indeed deliberate. He acts on an impulse, and BAM!, tears.

Only, when tears follow Daniel like a wake follows a duck, how do you know which is deliberate and which accidental?

Easy. If it’s an accident, Daniel is blithely unaware. Jazz may be seething in righteous indignation, but Daniel is happy, happy, happy. Happy, smiling, cheery, positively exuding bonhomie. Default Daniel.

If, however, he’s done a Bad, Bad Thing, and he knows it? When I look for him to come and deal with the flotsam and jetsam of his passage, this is what I find:

Which has got to be just about the most damned adorable picture of little-boy contrition I’ve ever seen.

Okay, so there’s a lot more “I’m in so much trouble!” worry there than there is “I shouldn’t have done that” contrition. He’s not feeling remorse for his actions so much as he knows his actions have earned him a correction, maybe even a scolding. But cute? Is that not cute, cute, CUTE?

I mean, just look at all that hair! Just look at those pudgy arms. The one hand with its fat little drooping fingers, the other in an awkward toddler fist, grinding into his eye. And see the sad, sad little lip peeking out at the bottom? Is that not too freakin’ adorable for words???

Even when he’s bad, he’s good.

I love this boy.

🙂

July 25, 2012 Posted by | aggression, behavioural stuff, Daniel, individuality, the cuteness! | 7 Comments

Blundersome Boys

“Danieeeellllllll!”

It’s a whine I hear a dozen times a day from both Grace and Jazz.

“Daaaaanielllll!”

A whine of indignation, dismay and resignation.

Daaaaniel!!”

Each time, it’s because Daniel, in his happy, blundersome way, has bumped, knocked, toppled, tumbled, banged, dinged, crumpled or otherwise discommoded their ladyships. Now, this is not to say that their protests are unwarranted. Well, some of them.

Fact of the matter is, Daniel can be a blundering nuisance. Fact of the matter also is, the girls complain far more readily than needful. And always in the same, pointless, ineffective way.

“Daaaanieeelllll!”

Time and again, I explain to them. “You have to talk to Daniel. When you just say his name, he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know what he’s done. Tell him what you want him to do.”

“I want him to not push me.”

“Then tell him, ‘Daniel, no pushing me. Daniel, hands are for hugging.’ You know he loves to hug.”

“Dannniieeeellll!”

Sigh.

Most often, Daniel’s actions are not deliberate or willful. The boy is just very active, built (as my grandfather would have said) like a brick shithouse, and clumsy. He moves far too fast for his not-quite-two years of coordination. He hasn’t pushed, he’s only bumped, jostled, careened off of.

Which is why, when Rory walks through that door, Daniel’s wee face lights right up. Well, in truth, it lights up for Grace and Jazz, too, but I think I see a particular aura of relief in the beaming face when he sees Rory. Because, though he is a sensitive and very verbal little dude, a boy who can play quietly, who ‘reads’ books for long stretches, and also talk up a storm, a boy who can play with the girls without eliciting wails of protest, Rory is also a boy. A loud and physical boy.

(I only wish, come to that, that Grace and Jazz were as versatile.)

Rory arrives, and within seconds the two little boys are in a tumbling and writhing heap on the living room floor, playing a ‘game’ Rory has labelled “Monster Chairs”.

A few minutes later, they are thundering from one end of the house to the other. They bounce off each other, they bounce off the walls, they careen around corners. Both of their faces alight with the sheer thrill of the physicality, the joy of the speed rush, the exhilaration of the noise. (Because, when you are almost-two and just-turned-three, it is not enough to BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM around the house, you must also YELL AND BELLOW while you BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. Girl or boy, this is required.)

Daniel loves Rory. They play alike. It must be a relief for the poor little guy, to play, to just play to your heart’s content, and not have someone inexplicably become fraught and indignant, over and over again. There are very rarely any shrieks of “Daaaaanieeellll!” when Rory and Dan play together.

They thunder into the kitchen, wheel around me and thunder down the length of the house, to the tiny front hall.

BAMBAMBAMBAM – giggle giggle – YELL BELLOW YELL – BAMBAMBAM …

CLUNK.

Oh. Ouch. That sounded like a head. A head against the wooden front door. A head against the wooden front door at speed.

I wait for the wails.

They don’t happen.

Instead…

BAMBAMBAMBAM, giggle giggle, YELL BELLOW YELL, BAMBAMBAM …

and they are in the kitchen with me. Rory looks up at me, dancing from one excited foot to the next, his face shining with fun … and is that a smallish red bump I see on his forehead? I glance at Daniel’s face, equally happy, equally fun-filled … and with a matching red bump rising on his forehead.

“Mary!” Rory stops dancing, but isn’t precisely ‘still’. He vibrates in place, quivering with glee. “Mary! Mary, we runned into the front door! We bonked our COCONUTS!!!”

“Yeah!” Daniel taps his head. “Bonk HEAD!!”

“You guys want some ice?”

“No fanks!” And they thunder away again.

I am truly glad, for the sake of Daniel’s psyche, that he has Rory to thunder with. I do, however, entertain modest fears for their life and limb…

Heh. Not really. I’m loving it.

June 12, 2012 Posted by | Daniel, health and safety, individuality, Rory | , | 1 Comment

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

New Shoes

I live in an old house. Well, old by North American standards. Any Europeans reading this — I know there are one or two — will be amused to know that a house that is just barely coming up on its one hundredth birthday could be considered old, but in this country? It’s ancient.

(For you history buffs: The city where I live was founded in 1826 and re-named “Ottawa” in 1855. So, my house, built somewhere between 1912 and 1920, so the experts estimate, goes back to early days.) It’s not a gorgeous house, but the ceilings are high-ish and the moldings wide-ish. It’s a nice, small house. It’s also, in the winter, drafty. Brrr.

So you wear sweaters, and put that plastic stuff up on the windows and put draft stops along the bottoms of the doors, and you wear warm, wooly socks and slippers.

Except. Slippers. I go through slippers like popcorn. I wear them all day, every day, six months of the year. And every year, within a couple of months, they’re loose and sloppy, and when I run up the stairs (and I always run), they flip off my feet.

That’s annoying.

Even the really expensive, very cozy pair of shearling-leather-suede-whatever ones I bought a couple of years ago. A few months, and they fly off my feet. Even though they started out almost uncomfortably snug. They fly off my feet when I run up the stairs, and when I walk through rooms they slide off my heels a bit, making a shuffling sound. I’ll shuffle when I’m 90, thanks. I don’t want to be doing it now.

So that was annoying, as well.

So, if it can’t be slippers, then it’ll have to be shoes. Now, I don’t like wearing shoes in the house. Not just because we live in a semi, and my poor neighbour is now going to hear my feet running up the stairs, every time. (Sorry, nice neighbour! Hope you still like me in two months…) No, it’s more than that.

In some places, I know, you leave your shoes on when you come inside, but here you TAKE THEM OFF. Because outdoor shoes track stuff in. Mud, grit, damp. You’re reasonable about it, of course. When we had workmen here, the poor fellows spend the better part of one morning carrying bags and bags of debris from the basement, through the main floor, and out the front door. Over and over again. They were all set, well-brought-up young men that they are, to take their boots off every time they entered, and put them back on every time the left that front door. All 153 times.

Of course, I told them they could keep their boots on.

But mostly? The expectation is the footwear comes off. It’s RUDE to leave your shoes on when you visit another home, and you always take them off in your own. Period. That’s ingrained in me. Wearing shoes in the house just feels wrong. So if I am to wear shoes in the house, they’ll have to be a dedicated pair, worn only in the house. Then I can call them “house shoes”, see, and they can be in the same mental category as “slippers”, and all that social training can leave my subconscious alone.

A couple of years ago, I discovered — wait. I lie. A couple of years ago Emma discovered that you can design your own Converse shoes, right there on their website. How cool is that?? She went to the website, she designed her shoe, she got to the checkout… and the things were expensive. Really, really expensive.

Sorry, love. We can’t do that.

But I remembered that idea, and I went back. Oddly enough, given how much walking I do, I’m easy on my shoes. Shoes last me a long time. If I’m to wear these things only indoors, I bet I could get ten years out of them. And if that’s the case, maybe I can justify paying a boatload of money on a pair of runners…

So I went onto the website and did a little poking around. And THAT’S when we discovered that if you’re ordering from a Canadian address, it costs a boatload of money. But if you’re ordering from an American address, it costs only a rowboat of money.

Guess what? I have a daughter living in the states!! And it only costs about $10 to mail a shoebox north of the border… mwah-ha. So I called my daughter up, we both logged into the site, and together we clicked boxes and chose options. And then she made the purchase on her Visa. And then I dropped the money into her account, right there, right then. (Isn’t the internet WONDERFUL???)

She emailed me when they’d arrived. “They’re pretty wild, mum.” And then she stuck them in the mail. When they arrived, my youngest daughter looked at them and said, dubiously, “They’re awfully loud.”

Mwah-ha. Good thing they’re both too old to be embarrassed by their mother… Yes, they are! I know this because only last week, Emma informed us, after the Wonderful Husband had said something goofy (or exceptionally affectionate or maybe affectionately goofy), “As I’ve matured, you two have moved from being embarrassing to just being funny.”

So. My girls may laugh at my shoes, but at least they’re not cringing. (And tough if they were, says I. My feet, my shoes. Neener, neener.)

Introducing Mary’s wild shoes:

Because, really. I’m a daycare lady! Daycare ladies should get to wear wild shoes.

Aren’t they great? Miss Frizzle would be proud.

October 19, 2011 Posted by | individuality, my kids, random and odd | , , , , , | 15 Comments

Gathering up that loose end

A couple of you recently asked “whatever happened to that difficult baby?” and only this morning I stumbled across a partial post in the draft files addressing that very question. Karma. For those of you who weren’t around (or just don’t remember — it was a while back!), I have a very challenging child a while back. I started out hopeful. After all, I’ve been doing this for sixteen years. I have a wealth of experience, lots of confidence, and, if not patience, the perspective that comes with experience. We could work this out! I was sure. Never doubted it for a moment.

But, when the situation dragged on for months without improvement, the hope receded. What follows is a post from my draft file, written in some month ago, and a good six months after the situation began.

Unhappy baby: I’m not so hopeful any more. She is still whiny and needy, she continues to demand far more time and attention than I can give her and still be at all present for the other children. She arrives wailing… but it’s not sincere, heart-felt unhappiness. It’s a habit. It’s just what she does when she comes up my front steps.

And I just. can’t. shake her from it. It’s a habit, but it appears to be 100% intractable. I can’t break it, I can’t distract her, I can’t provide alternate patterns. Crying is what she does. That’s it, that’s all.

She arrives, wailing. Every day, wailing. We go for an outing. She wails as we get ready to go, but calms as we proceed down the street. By the time we’ve passed a few blocks, she’s cheerful and chattering. A normal child having a normal, happy day. And when we return to the house? The wailing starts again. The second she sees the front steps, the wails commence. It’s positively Pavolvian.

Everything I’ve tried? Nothing. Or, it will work for a day or two, or even a week or two, but only that long. For a while, we used a book of nursery songs. She’d arrive, wailing, I’d put her on my knee to sing songs to her. By the time I’d sung three or four songs in the book, she was happy, ready to slide off my knee and play. After a couple of days, she’d enter, wailing, but crying for her “songbook! songbook!”

Well, that’s a good sign, right? She recognizes the tool which helps ease her into daycare. It gives her security, stability, consistency, to help her weather the transition. This has got to be good.

You’d think that. You’d be wrong.

After a few days, she would not just wail for the songbook, but she’d wail the entire way through it. Another couple of days, and she’d burst into tears whenever she saw the damned thing lying around. Instead of positive associations, it was now associated with her anxiety. Instead of reassuring her, it freaked her out.

I hid the book.

And so it went with each transitional strategy I tried: a few days of success, then decreasing success, and then, oh the bitter irony, the new strategy would become a source of anxiety. And without that transitional activity, the entire day — the entire day — was one long, long, long, long, long, long round of whining, wails, clutching, and tears. All hers, but I will tell you that at the end of a week of days full of this, some of them are mine. After hours, when I release it all to my ever-patient, wonderfully supportive husband. It’s hard.

I am at a loss. I am also, and this is more immediately worrying, out of patience. I can’t work with a child I am not liking, and I am finding it increasingly difficult to find much to like here. I feel badly for her, I ache for her misery and wish I could do something to make it right for her. But I am not liking being with her.

I am not behaving badly: no tantrums, no shouting, no freaking the kids out. I haven’t, and I won’t. But each workday is becoming more and more of a strain, I am more and more often weary to the bone at the end of my day, my work environment becomes less and less satisfying, as each and every thing I try seems to be working, and then… fails.

I have had challenging children before. I have had truly obnoxious parents more often. On one notable occasion — the only occasion on which I gave a family notice — I gave them a scant week’s notice. In this case, however, though the child was a challenge, it was the parents who were the problem, bullying me when things didn’t go their way. Despite his challenges, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t help their child. It was the parents I refused to work with.

But in this case, I love the child and quite like the parents. They are lovely people. But their child is not happy with me.

I am meeting with the parents early next week. Barring a miracle between now and then, I will be giving them notice. This is the first time in close to sixteen years of childcare that I have reached that point with a child. I am not happy about it.

That’s the end of the draft. What happened was that I met with the parents (this would have been at least our third private, after-hours meeting), and gave them notice. They were disappointed, but I think we all knew we’d reached the end of our road together. Lily was not happy with me. And I, increasingly, was not happy with her. (Though I didn’t say that last part to the parents. With them, the focus is on their child’s needs.)

“In another situation,” I said, “without the triggers and associations that she’s developed here, she will probably start afresh and do very well.” I said that as much because I wanted to believe it than because I really believed it. It was plausible, at any rate. At this point, the parents needed some hope. It was the best I could do.

She was with me for a further few weeks as her parents looked for other care. Eventually, they put her in a large-group daycare. And my hoped-for, semi-wishful-thinking outcome… happened! It’s been six months or more, and Lily is thriving in her new large-group daycare.

Why didn’t she thrive here? Damned if I know. Wish I did. I wracked my brains for months trying to sort that out, and never did come to any confident conclusions. Still, I’m happy for her… and, truth be known, relieved. Those last few months, she was hard work, that girl. It’s not the ending I’d have chosen. I wanted the original, sunny, so-delightful Lily back! But in the end, it’s a happy ending for Lily, and that’s what matters.

And am I enjoying my two new babies, who are the very picture of mellow, low-need, happy, go-with-the-flow children?

Damned straight I am. 🙂

September 30, 2011 Posted by | daycare, individuality, Lily, the dark side, whining | , , | 5 Comments

Little Miss Echo

Rory, little Rory, is not so little any more. From being a solemn watcher from the sidelines, he has become far more engaged. Not that he can’t play happily alone for long stretches, but he now knows how to interact — and he enjoys it. His language has taken a ginormous leap forward, too, which undoubtedly assists (or perhaps originates) his social efforts. He has turned from my wide-eyed Silent Boy into Word Boy. He chatters, chatters, chatters. Not a steady, unceasing narration of his life (which, I tell you now, in the hands of the right child, can drive you INSANE), but a cheerful conversation whenever he has your attention. He’s not just talking to make noise, he’s actually seeking the answers.

And, since he has a curious mind, he asks a LOT of questions. I don’t mind. I like answering the questions of a genuinely curious child.

“Mary, where are we going today?”
“We’re going to the park.”

“Is there snack at play group?”
“No. Some playgroups give you snacks, but not this one. That is why I am making a snack for us to bring.”

“Does Daniel have a green jacket?”
“Today Daniel has a black jacket, but you’re right. Yesterday, he had a green jacket, didn’t he?”

It’s not quite incessant, but Rory’s questions provide a steady thread through my day. And as I say, I don’t mind. This week, however, Grace has joined in, and Grace…

now, I want you to understand that I love Grace dearly. She is gentle, she is sweet, she has a nice disposition, and she is growing into a very pretty girl, to boot. (This despite the constant drizzle of drool suspended from her lower lip, even.) But — and I realize it’s early to make this judgment, and I’ve been wrong before (though not often) — but with all those caveats and cautions acknowledged, my gut feeling is that Grace…

isn’t the brightest crayon in the box.

And we can’t all be, can we? In fact, most of us aren’t the brightest.

Besides, I’ve been wrong before! I recall one young man who I was convinced was just a little sluggish, mentally. His dad agreed. Not that we spoke of it directly, but one day, dad was watching his son do something or other, shook his head and ruefully commented with a loving smile, “You’ll never be a rocket scientist, son.”

And you know what? He’s about eleven now, and he’s BRILLIANT. So there. What he isn’t, is verbal. To this day, he’s a quiet child to whom words come slowly. Give him numbers, give him science, give him engineering, and just step back for the brilliance. He’s very, very, very, very bright. He could feasibly be a rocket scientist, this boy. But he’s not brilliant with the words, and so much of our evaluation of very small children is, whether we’re aware of it or not, a judgment of their verbal skill.

So, when I begin to suspect a child isn’t too bright, I keep it to myself for any number of very good reasons, not the least of which is that I could very well be wrong.

But you guys don’t know me, and you guys don’t know Grace, and to you, my little collection of nameless, faceless friendly internet strangers, I will confess my suspicion that Grace is not going to burn up the road intellectually.

And that’s okay. We can’t all be rocket scientists, and the world only needs so many brain surgeons. Even if my gut is right on this one, she’ll have a happy, productive, fulfilled life, doing whatever suits her best.

If she lives that long.

Because lately, when Rory asks his question, Grace will wait quietly and politely — because Grace is generally a quiet and polite girl — she will wait, I say, until Rory has asked, and I have fully answered the question, and then…

she will ask it again. Word for word. Every.Single.Time.

Rory: Where are the muffins, Mary?
Mary: They’re still in the oven. We can take them out when the timer goes “beep!”
Grace: Where are the muffins, Mary?

Rory: Are we going to the park?
Mary: Yes, we are.
Grace: Are we going to the park?

Rory: Daniel is coming today?
Mary: No, he will be here tomorrow. Today his gramma and grampa are visiting.
Grace: Daniel is coming today?

All. Day. Long… Every. Single. Question.

For a while I was answering her, too, thinking she just hadn’t heard, but too often she was right beside Rory when I answered, so that couldn’t be it. Now I’ve taken to saying, “You know whether he’s coming, Grace. I just told Rory. Is Daniel coming today?”

I get the long, steady stare from those beautiful blue eyes, the drop of drool pooling on that pretty pink lower lip.

“Can you tell me? Is Daniel coming today, Grace?”

Stare.
Stare.
Stare.

“Is Daniel coming today, Rory?”
“No, he’s wif his gramma and grampa.”
“That’s right. He’s at home, visiting gramma and grampa. Is Daniel coming today, Grace?”

Stare.

“He’s at…” I prompt.

Blink. “He’s at…”

Mary: “hooome, visiting…”

Grace: “hooome, visiting…

Mary: Waits.

Grace: Stares.

Mary: Waits.

Grace: Stares.

Mary: Waits.

Grace: Stares. Blinks. “At home, visiting… gramma and grampa!”

Mary: That’s right! Daniel is at home today, visiting gramma and grampa, just like I told Rory.

All.Day.Long.

And that is why sometimes, when Grace mindlessly echoes Rory’s question, instead of getting her to focus on the answer that was given, instead of going through that long, drawn-out process of winkling from her mind the information that’s ALREADY THERE… I totally ignore her. La la la, I didn’t hear that! And now I think I need to be in another room, right now!!

For his part, Rory also totally ignores her. He doesn’t seem to register the echo, not in the slightest. Until…

Rory: Where is my yellow loader truck?
Mary: It is in the bucket of the stroller, so we can take it to the park this morning.
Grace: Where is my yellow loader truck?
Rory: IT’S NOT YOUR LOADER!!! IS MINE!!!
Grace: Stare. Stare. Stare. Drool.
Grace: [face crumpling]
Grace: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!

Sigh…

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Grace, individuality, Peeve me, Rory, the things they say! | , , | 10 Comments