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.
I have long said that there are marked similarities between toddlers and dogs.
(And thus is it terribly ironic that the woman who can take 5 toddlers pretty much anywhere with no fear of public embarrassment can’t get her damned dog to stop trolling the kitchen counters. I know who to blame for the poor behaviour, of course. And it’s not the dog. On the upside, her recall in the dog park is about 95%!!)
But this? This! Replace “puppy” with “toddler”. Same thing. Exactly. You know it is!
(Thank you, Carol, for the link!)
Valentine’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. 😀
Off we go to the park. There are several parks we can walk to, spoiled city kids that we are. There is one we go to several times a week through the summer, and because we seit so often, a pattern has emerged.
Of course it has.
Toddlers love patterns.
Toddlers need patterns.
Patterns around bedtimes and meals are called “Consistency”, and parents should manipulatively maintain, cannily create, and certainly MILK those patterns for all their behaviour-shaping potential.
Patterns around favourite activities are called, variously, “cute”, “methodical”, “a pain in the arse”, or “OhmyGOD, my kid is so damned OCD!!!”, depending on the time, need for speed, agenda, and patience level of the parent in question.
You all know what I mean. Something like this:
“I KNOW you like me to make all the noises of all the animal on this page in this book — this book which we must read every morning after breakfast — but you had TWO ginormous poops today, the second requiring a mini-bath, we’re way behind schedule and have to be at daycare in ten minutes and THERE IS NO TIME!” [Cue screaming meltdown, so you can bring tear-sodden tot to daycare and feel like a total parental loser.]
Not so fun, that one.
I use the patterns that work for me, ignore the ones that don’t, eliminate the ones that are simply bad behaviour (ignoring often eliminates them, come to that), and bask in the ones that amuse me.
Today’s post is about the basking kind.
So, we’ve been at the park. Going to the park, there are not many rituals, because we are focussed on getting to the park. Coming home, though? I have learned that, done right, coming home requires a solid half-hour.
Now, I did have to learn this. At first, I fought it. I’d allow 15 minutes for the walk home (on my own, as an adult, it takes a little less than ten), and then they zigged and zagged and raced off down tangents from that agenda. I pulled them back, and redirected, called them over, called them back, hurried them up … and got pretty damned exasperated, truth be known. Because when we got home, we still had to eat, change diapers, tidy up and read stories before they could start their naps. At Mary’s house, naps are sacrosanct. We are very, VERY consistent about naps.
So. I had it all mapped out in my head. Park, walk home, lunch, pre-nap activities, nap. This was the Agenda, the goal was (and is!) NAP ON TIME, and I did not want to be distracted, deterred, held up. AT ALL.
However. The point is Naptime to start On Time. It took me a week or two of impatient prodding before I realized (duh) the trip there and back is part of the outing. It’s not simply transit time. With that wee mental shift, we could leave the park half an hour sooner, because I belatedly noticed what the toddlers knew all along: leaving early doesn’t cut down on playtime, it just shifts the venue. Duh, again.
Here is how our walk home goes, now.
We leave the playground. There is a row of trees on the path that leads from the playground to join with the path along the river. This row of trees starts maybe four metres from the park. Poppy, Grace, Daniel and Jazz must run to a tree, cup their hands around the sides of their faces, and press their noses into the bark. They stand there, tense and giggling, waiting for me to call out, “WHEEEEERE’s JAZZ?? WHEEEERE’S POPPY? WHEEEEERE’S GRACE??? WHEEEERE’s DANIEL???” And then they POP! their faces back off the tree, fling their hands out wide and giggle at me as I say, in TOTAL SURPRISED DELIGHT, “THERE you are!!!”
We have to do this on Every.Single.Tree. There are four of them. I have to call it for each child, separately, for each tree. Traversing this path to the river can take, oh, five to eight minutes. (It’s a one-minute walk for an adult; two with a walking toddler.)
But it is SO!MUCH!FUN!!!! (Yes, some days I do this on auto-pilot, my mind on other things, because (I know you will find this hard to believe) I do not find this as RIVETTING and full of UNIMAGINABLE DELIGHT as the toddlers. But I do it because there is great reward in their joy-filled faces. Even when I’m a teensy bit bored.)
We get to the junction of the two paths. There is a sign here (“Dogs must be leashed past this point on pain of $150 fine”, I think). There is a medium-sized bowl-shaped depression beside the sign. We must race into the bowl, lie down, and yell out about how “I’m swimming! Mary, I’m swimming inna pool!” Another 2 – 5 minutes spent here.
And then we are at the path along the river. There are benches at intervals on this path. And here is what happens next.
“Mary, may we run ahead?”
“Yes, you may. You may run to the next bench, and then wait for me.”
Because that is what The Script requires. Off they go, charging ahead to the bench. Then they must (the MUST, I tell you! It is TRADITION!) climb up on the bench, and then sit on it so that they face backward. They are in a train. Every bench is a train, and they must needs ride ALL THE TRAINS!
They scramble up on the benches, the arrange themselves, they sit with their feet swinging as I approach. And then they swarm down, and ask again,
“Mary, may we run ahead?”
And so on, until …
We reach the CLIMBING TREE. Scrambling around on the Climbing Tree takes, oh, a good ten minutes, often more. I watch the children, I text friends (yes! I am THAT caregiver! the one who SHAMELESSLY IGNORES the children in her care), I watch the geese on the river, I plan the afternoon’s craft. And they scramble up and down the gentle slop of the giant trunk, sit on one stump, deke around behind, pop up, ride the bus. See, while the benches are trains, this tree? Is a bus. A school bus.
You know? I do not need to give you details about ALL the homeward-bound activities. But be assured: there are rocks to inspect for pee and then jump on, there are fields to fall in, there are saplings to race around, there is one particular spot where we MUST all lie down like cordwood, so that when Mary approaches, she MUST call out “Wakey-wakey, rise and shine!!”
I could fight this. I could insist that we walk in focussed attention to get home promptly and efficiently. I did do that, for a week or two. We got home sooner, sure, but I was motivated by impatience and thus mildly exasperated the whole time.
Now, though? Once I decided to allow them their patterns? Okay, so I do sometimes feel a fleeting boredom, but mostly I revel in the JOY.
Walking home from the park … brings not just happiness, but JOY to these children.
Toddlers are wonderful for joy. (Yes, they’re wonderful for rage, too, unfiltered little primitives that they are. It’s the flip side of the same coin.) But when they do joy, they’re wonderful.
And she makes me laugh at least four times an hour.
This morning, Poppy kneels on a chair at my dining table, a tray puzzle of jungle animals in front of her. She is the only child here yet, so I am finishing the breakfast dishes before the others arrive. Poppy sings to herself as the fits pieces into the puzzle, removes them, puts them back. Only after a few minutes do I realize that she is singing “Old MacDonald”, and fitting the words to the puzzle. This Old MacDonald has a zebra, a hippo, a giraffe, a monkey, an elephant, a parrot, and a rhino on his farm. Animals which make a fairly impressive range of growls, snorts, and squawks.
Our theme for this month is Rainbows. November is a dismal, grey, drab, altogether tedious and disheartening month. How better to resist the slide into the drab by having a Rainbow theme? I went out looking for a prism to make rainbows, and came back with one of these. It makes rainbows. Really. It adheres to my living room window with a suction cup. A teeny solar panel at the top powers the motor, which spins the crystal at the bottom, sending rainbow-hued blobs swirling around the room, on the walls, floor, ceiling. Through some wonder of faceted crystals, they move in many directions. Some go left, some go right, some surge upward, some down. It’s lovely.
It takes direct sunlight on the solar panel, though, something in which November is sorely lacking. No sunshine = no rainbows. This morning, though, the sun broke through and within a few minutes, the crystal had begun to turn. It was Poppy who noticed first.
She stands in the middle of the room, her face alight. “RAINBOWS! There are RAINBOWS!!” Her arms extend above her head, her eyes wide in delighted wonder, she twirls with the rainbows. Then she chases them, laughing, before deciding that THE VERY BEST thing to do is to jump on the ones racing across the floor. Laughing, laughing the whole while. The other children, who had been oblivious to the rainbows, are drawn to her joy, and soon the room is filled with laughing, reaching, dancing toddlers.
Though I had put away the dogs’ leashes and other dog-walk accessories (poop bags, treat bag, Daisy’s harness), I had left the small flashlight on the shelf in the front hall. This is not where it belongs. Poppy noticed. She carries it to me, and declares in her usual enthusiastic, decisive tones, “This is your flashlight for looking at poo!”
Not quite how I’d have phrased it, perhaps, but the child is absolutely correct. Hard to distinguish poo from leaves from sticks from grass in the PITCH DARK of our early morning walks. (Though less so this week, now that we’ve FINALLY switched to daylight savings. Two weeks late. Ahem.) All responsible dog-owners find themselves at some point peering into the beam of their handy flashlight for the shit they KNOW is RIGHT THERE, if they could only find it.
My “flashlight for looking at poo”, indeed.
Poppy. My little laugh machine. Love that girl.
Grace has a new dog! Not a puppy, but a large, fluffy, golden-retriever mix. He’s three years old, and absolutely gorgeous. Got the wide, friendly golden face, and the easy-going disposition. They’ve had him a week.
Two days after his arrival in their home, this game started happening. That green mesh ball is one of Daisy’s dog toys. Tied to it is one of the laces from our lacing cards. But really? It is not a ball and a lace! Silly, silly people.
It is a DOG on a LEASH. Of course.
It follows her everywhere, it comes when it’s called. (A quick jerk on the
lace leash ensures prompt arrival.) And it has an EVEN MORE IMPORTANT doggie feature!
Let’s look more closely. See, inside the ball? See that slip of paper? That slip of paper which Grace has carefully coloured, then torn to the right size? That slip of paper that fits inside the ball, but will sometimes, particularly when the doggie is running, it will sometimes fall out?
That is not a slip of paper! Silly, silly people!
And then, being the responsible dog-mommy that she is, Grace picks up the poo. With another piece of paper that she has carefully folded, to be the “poop bag”.
This game is such fun! Mary laughs and laughs and laughs every time Grace plays it. Grace, and now Jazz, who, like any self-respecting toddler, will play any game that gets an adult’s so-rapt and joyous attention.
They make poo so they can pick it up. Hee.
Now I’m thinking. We’re out of playdough. Perhaps the next batch I cook up should be … brown?
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.
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.
Don’t forget to…
Each morning arrival is greeting with great enthusiasm. Poppy races to the door from wherever she is, hollering their name in tones of rising joy. “DAN-ny! DAN-ny!!!” If she happens to be standing in the entry-way already, such that racing to the door is unnecessary, she expresses her uncontrollable delight by jumping up and down while clapping and calling their name. (Given that she learned to jump about, oh, fifteen minutes ago, this is pretty damned cute in its exuberant ineptness. She gives these little stompy hops, techinically a jump because both feet do indeed leave the ground at the same time, but mostly it’s a lurch from one foot to the other. She has all the physical dexterity of Lurch — a short, cuddly kewpie-doll Lurch. On speed.)
Any entry into a room is greeted with similar enthusiasm. Matthew (my wonderful husband) comes downstairs in the morning? “MAT-thew!!! Yay, Hello!!! MAT-thew!!”
I return from having had a quick pee. “MAR-yyyy!!!”
It extends to the other children’s accomplishments, as well. Someone manages to get their own coat on? One of the big kids uses the potty? Much rejoicing. Much rejoicing from Poppy, but her enthusiasm is contagious, and soon, everyone joins in. Clapping, cheering, dancing in the joy.
It’s quite wonderful, and it all comes down to Poppy. When I lost Emily, I lost a solid source of daycare sunshine. Seems I have her replacement.
Poppy eats everything she’s served, she loves the other children (even Daniel, whom she found a tad alarming at first, with good reason), she greets bedtime with calm good cheer. “Want a nap and a soother, Poppy?” “Yeah,” she nods.
There will be moods and squalls. There will be periods of resistance, rebellion, negativity. Of course there will. She’s two. But her default is Sunshine, so those things will be passing phases.
Poppy Sunshine. Welcome to Mary’s!