It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Raising the Bar

We go for a walk. (Long-time readers, bear with me, as I explain the set-up.) The smallest, least trustworthy ones ride in the stroller; the middlers hang on to either side, and the big, trustworthy kids get to let go. If they’re very good, they get to “run ahead” on the sidewalk.

Now, even though he’s four now, Arthur has never been allowed to run ahead. He’s too distractable, too impulsive, and, when he’s involved in an activity – leaping out in front of a truck, say – he doesn’t respond when he’s spoken to. So, no running ahead for Arthur. Until today. At four, it’s time I raised the bar on him a bit. It may be easier for me to have him hanging on to the stroller, but he needs to learn to be a bit more independent. I’m going to have to – take a deep, brace-myself breath – going to have to give the child enough independence to develop some Common Sense. (Stop snickering. It’s not kind. Oh, that’s me…)

I confess my hopes are not too, too high. But a caregiver’s got to do what a caregiver’s got to do…

We are on a very quiet street leading down to the river. Almost, but not quite, a dead end. I see about one car a week on this stretch, which is just about the right level of risk for this endeavour.

“All right, Arthur. You and Darcy may walk ahead, if you stay close together.”

Arthur’s eyes widen in surprise. “I can let go?” Darcy’s hazel eyes are no less wide.

“Yes, you may, as long as you stay close to Darcy. You must walk close to Darcy, and when Darcy stops, you stop, all right?”

This to assure that the boy will stop when instructed. If he doesn’t hear me, Darcy will stop. Solid, reliable Darcy can be his bodyguard. Best to have as many layers of protection for Arthur as possible.

Arthur evidently feels that “staying close” means holding hands. He clasps Darcy’s hand in his. The two boys trot ahead of me. Do you know how heart-stoppingly cute tots holding hands are? I walk down the street with a perma-grin, watching their little stocky bodies, dimpled elbows, chubby hands joined. Heart-stopping, I tell you.

Heart-stopping for me, bruise-inducing for poor Darcy. Within half a dozen paces, Darcy is fending off elbows, dodging feet, having his arm wrenched repeatedly by the uncoordinated and oblivious Arthur. Uncoordinated, but with a death grip on Darcy’s hand. Darcy can dodge, but he can’t escape.

“Arthur,” I call. They are only a few paces ahead of me, so I don’t need to shout. “Arthur, please let go of Darcy’s hand and just walk close to him.”

There is no response. Darcy tries to pull his hand free, but it’s just not happening. I raise my voice. Not a shout, but the penetrating tones of an actor projecting to the back row.

“Ar-thur.” Pause a beat for the name to sink into the consciousness. “Arthur, please let go of Darcy’s hand and just walk close to him.”

No response. If the boy doesn’t loosen his grip soon, Darcy is going to start gnawing at his own wrist, I can see it in his eyes.

Arthur!” Now it’s a snap. “What did I just say to you?” This penetrates. He looks up. He knows he’s in trouble, he wants to cooperate, but “what did I say”?? What did she say? Did she say something? Is this some kind of trick question?

Darcy leans in and bumps the boy with his shoulder. This seems to jolt Arthur’s memory into gear. He starts to speak.

“Please let go…” Arthur starts, then pauses.

Darcy bumps him again. Their heads brush. Darcy’s lips move. Arthur starts again.

“…of Darcy’s hand, and just…”

More jostling, More head-to-head. More lips from Darcy.

“…walk close to him.” Arthur looks up at me, beaming. He did it! With a little help from his friend.

“That’s right, Arthur. Thank you for helping him, Darcy.”

Arthur’s smile is wide and content, happy to have successfully met the challenge. I smile back at him. There is a small pause of expectation. Darcy and I wait. Arthur continues to beam. From Darcy’s mouth to Arthur’s ear and out his mouth, the brain was left out of the loop entirely.

“Please let go of Darcy’s hand,” I say, detaching Arthur with a bit of a jerk, “and just walk close to him.” Darcy’s poor hand is mottled pink and white from all the squashing.

I don’t know. Is increasing this child’s independence a good thing? Never mind Arthur’s safety, is the world safe from Arthur? Somehow I fear there’s just not enough body armour out there.

May 26, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, health and safety, outings, quirks and quirkiness | 16 Comments

If the Elastic Doesn’t do the Trick, we Can Put this Roof on his Head So he Can Know What God looks Like

George and Darcy peer over the baby gate at the top of the basement stairs. Given its location, it is a custom-made, high, solid, thick slab of wood with heavy-duty hinges and a substantial bolt. We’re taking no chances on a tumble down those rail-less stairs to the concrete floor below. Probably because it’s such forbidden territory, the basement fascinates with mystery and horror.

George and Darcy discuss. Random boy (aka Arthur) “converses”, too. It would be too generous to say that he “joined” the conversation, but perhaps we can say he “inputted” into the conversation. (We could say that, though the English major in me recoils from it. Still, the word conveys the reality (surreality?) of the conversation reasonably well…)

G: There’s an inky, stinky monster in the basement.
A: Let’s go build a house with the blocks.
D: A monster?
G: Yes, and we have to kill it.
A: A house with a door and a window and a roof.
D: How do you kill a monster?
A: Put a roof on top.
G: With this (elastic), but he’s not dead yet.
A: A tower in the corner.
G: Oh, he’s dead now.
D: Is he sad? Is he sad because he’s dead?
G: No, he’s not sad because now he knows what God looks like.
A: I winned!
G: No, I winned!
D: No, we all winned!
G,A: YEAH!!!

The End

May 25, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, George, random and odd, the things they say! | 6 Comments

Another Reason to Love Darcy – the boy can cut to the chase

George and Darcy are sitting side by side on the couch, reading. Arthur bounds into the room.

“You gotta be joking, George! You gotta be joking!” he proclaims. George looks up at him briefly, then returns to his book.

“You gotta be joking, George! George, you gotta be joking!” This time, George doesn’t even bother looking. His equanimity is impressive.

Undaunted by the lack of response, Arthur merely tries harder. Moves in a little closer, leans towards George. Speaks a little louder (who knew it was possible?).


This time it’s Darcy who looks up. “Arthur. Why do you keep saying that, ‘You gotta be joking’, all the time?” He’s not angry, he just wants to know.

“I dunno.”

“Well then, stop it. We’re trying to read here.”

Arthur toddles off.

May 23, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, George, individuality, quirks and quirkiness | 7 Comments

You Have the Power

Three little boys pound by, one at each end and one in the middle of a long strip of fabric. Round and round and round they go. Dining room, living room, hall, dining room, living room, hall…


You tolerate these things when toddlers have been stuck indoors by the rain for three days. It’s only fair.

Oh! The child at the end is shouting in distress!

“Hey, guys!” he shouts. “Stop! Stop! Stop!”

“What’s wrong?” I ask the distressed one they pound past me where I stand in the living room door.

“I’m tired of running! I don’t want to run any more! Stop! Stop! STOP!!!” His voice trails into the distance down the hall. I wait. They’re in the dining room. They’re back in the living room. Yell at distressed boy as they pass,

If you don’t want to run, then let go!

Child vanishes into the hall, his cries trailing like a banner behind. “Stop! Stop! Stooooop!” Dining room, back to living room. He calls to me, “WHaaAaAAaat?”


Child drops his arms. “oh.” The other two thunder into the distance. There is peace.

April 28, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, George, random and odd | 5 Comments

Hugs are Contagious

There has been an altercation, and Zach is crying. Darcy stands to one side, looking very guilty. Even had I not seen what had happened, the evidence is clear. Nonetheless, I play dumb in an attempt to coax Darcy, normally a very gentle and taciturn soul, to understand and express what has just happened. I draw the sniffling Zach onto my knee and put one arm around Zach.

Darcy was the aggressor, though, so I’m not about to give him the first and best attention. I speak to Zach, but of course Darcy is really the intended audience.

“I bet that hurt, didn’t it, Zach?”

“Yeah,” a self-pitying whimper.

“It’s not nice when you get hit. Do you want me to kiss it better?”

“Yeah,” a little perkier now.

“Feel better?” He nods. “Darcy is a big boy. Soon Darcy will remember to use his words when he’s upset.”

Then I turn to Darcy.

“Were you upset with Zach?”

“Yes. He sat onna rocking chair, and that was my chair.”

“You wanted him to move?”

“Yes, and he didn’t move!”

“Did you ask him to move?”

“Yes, but he wouldn’t.”

“So then what did you do?”

Long pause. He looks down at the floor, he looks up to the level of my chin. “I hitted him.”

“You hit him. Was that the best thing to do?”


“What else can you do when you are upset and someone doesn’t listen to you?” (All right, so maybe Zach doesn’t have to vacate the chair just because Darcy demands it of him, but we’re looking at it from Darcy’s perspective just yet.) This is not the first time Darcy has participated in, or overheard, such a conversation, so he doesn’t have to be prompted for the response.

“I can talk to you.”

“That’s right. You can come get me for help. That would be a good thing to do.”

Time to wrap up. Zach is ready to move on, and Darcy has walked through the process with me. I smile warmly at the two of them, snuggled within my arms. “Okay, Darcy. I think Zach is feeling better now. Now tell me, what are hands for?”


“That’s right. Hands are for hugging. Much better than hitting!”

“I can hug Zach.”

“What a good idea!” Darcy wraps his arms round Zach, and they share a smiling hug. I give Darcy a hug, and then he trots off to play.

Zach is unwilling to give up such a good thing. “I hug Arthur now?” he asks, the first time he’s spoken since he was walloped.

“Sure, if you like.”

They hug and laugh into each other’s faces. Arthur looks down at Zach, playing the kindly big brother to the hilt.

“Did that make you happy, Zach?”


April 18, 2006 Posted by | aggression, Arthur, Darcy, Developmental stuff, manners, parenting, socializing, Zach | 10 Comments

Rules, Principles, Empathy – and a little waffling thrown in at the end

“Leave me aloooone!” Arthur’s voice rises above the steady buzz of play.

Two little boys hover around the loveseat upon which Arthur wriggles, black purse on his lap. He scootches further back into the cushions, his whole body a wail of protest.

“Leave me aloooonnnne!” George and Darcy look at each other and crowd even closer, giggling.

Hmmm. This is bullying, and I have no tolerance for that. The boys may not be doing it consciously, but the impulse is the same, and it needs to be stopped.

“George. Darcy.” My voice is calm but forboding. They stand back a pace and look at me solemnly. “What did Arthur just say?”

“He said to leave him alone.” George offers.

“Exactly. He asked you politely to leave him alone. Please listen to Arthur.” That was the rule. Now for the principle: “If you do something that makes someone sad, you need to stop if you can. Do you have to be with Arthur?”

The boys have the grace to look chagrined. “No.” Good. Rule and principle accomplished. Now for some empathy.

“If you said ‘No’ to me, and I kept doing it, would you be happy or sad and angry?”

“Sad and angry,” offers George.

“Scared.” This is Darcy. Pretty aware for a three-year-old. Good lad.

“That’s right. So Arthur asked you to leave him alone, but you kept crowding him. Do you want to make your friend sad and angry and scared?” (All evidence indicates the answer is “Yes”, but let’s move them past that, shall we?)


“Well, then, you need to say sorry to Arthur for not listening, and then you need to go off and find something better to do with yourselves, all right?”

“Okay.” The boys offer their apologies, which in this house are accompanied by hugs. They move to play with the blocks in the next room. Arthur pops up on a spring, throws the purse to one side, charges down the hall.

“Hey, guys! Wait for me!”

April 17, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, behavioural stuff, Darcy, George, manners, socializing | 14 Comments

Tact and the Daycarista

“Darcy, my father made this for me!” Arthur chirrups. The boys are playing with a toolbox filled with toy tools, many of which are handmade from wood. Arthur’s father, you see, is a carpenter as well as a contractor.

“My father made this for me!” Arthur is pleased and proud. Darcy leans over the block he is “sawing”. “My father made this for me!” Arthur repeats.

“Uh-huh,” Darcy nods.

Evidently Darcy’s response is lacking the requisite enthusiasm. Arthur looks up at me. “Mary, tell Darcy that my father made this for me.”

“You’ve already told him three times, bud. I’m sure he knows.”

Not good enough. Arthur tries again. “Darcy, my father made this for me!”

Darcy just looks at Arthur. He said “uh-huh”. What more does this kid want? I decide to see if I can reassure Arthur that he has indeed been heard.

“Darcy, do you know who made this for Arthur?” I ask.

Darcy gives me a long, steady, “are you kidding me?” look. “His father made it.”

“See, Arthur? Darcy knows.”

“Darcy, my father made this for me! Did you know that my father made this for me?”

Tonight, I will tell Arthur’s dad, “Arthur is so proud of that toolbox you made for him, he just can’t say enough about it!”

March 31, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, Darcy, parents, the dark side | 15 Comments

Fortune 500 – Look Out!

“Hey, guys, let’s play store!” Emma has a PD day today. (PD means Professional Development day. Teachers go to workshops; children stay home and help their mommas in their daycares. I love PD days.)

“Yes!” says Arthur. “And will you buy one of us?”

“No, silly. I’m going to sell one of you to the gypsies.”

“Yay! I like gypsies!!”

“No, really, what we’re going to do first, is make ourselves some money.” Emma distributes squares of white paper to the boys. “We’ll make five dollar bills.”

“I wanna six dollar bill!” George is feeling a little competitive today.

“Sorry. There’s no such thing as six dollar bills. There’s five dollars, ten, twenty, and a hundred. No six dollar bills.” No fifty dollar bills apparently, either, but if Emma doesn’t know this, a bunch of three-year-olds certainly don’t need to.

“Can I make a two dollar bills?” Darcy asks as he takes his paper.

“No. There’s no such thing as that, either. I’m not making coins today.”

Emma hands everyone a blue crayon. “Here you go.”

“Can I have a green crayon?” George asks.

“What’s the number I wrote on your bill, George?”

“It’s a five.”

“Right. And five dollar bills are blue. If you want a green one, I’ll have to give you a different paper, and make yours a twenty dollar bill. So, do you want blue or green?”


Darcy wants green. “Because green is more than blue, George.” Not bad for three, to figure out that twenty is more than five. Not bad at all. He decides to pursue this notion. “What’s more than green, Emma?”

“Purple. Ten dollars are purple.” Arthur decides to make a purple bill.

The boys happily occupied, Emma turns to Alice. “Okay, sweetie, would you like to colour some money for our store, too?” Yes, Alice most certainly would!

Darcy looks up. “Alice should have pink money!”

“That’s a nice idea, Darcy, but there’s no such thing as pink money.”

George begs to differ. “Yes, there is! My mummy gots pink moneys.”

Emma looks to me. I confirm, yes, there are pink bills. That would be the fifty she didn’t know existed.

“Fifty? That’s a lot of moneys!” Darcy is impressed. “Alice’s favourite colour is the colour of big moneys!”

Big moneys. Way to go, Alice.

March 27, 2006 Posted by | Alice, Arthur, crafts, Darcy, George, socializing, the things they say! | 17 Comments

Light-hearted bullet dodging

Thought you would enjoy this. I received this email from Arthur’s mother yesterday morning:

Thought you’d like to know about this conversation we had this morning as I came into the kitchen for breakfast:

Dad: Good morning. There’s an egg on the table for you, and a bowl of fruit on the counter.

Arthur: And a glass of wine.

Me: Wine? No, not for breakfast…

Arthur: Why not?

Me, being slightly dogmatic: Because most people don’t drink wine during the day – because they have to work and think and be sharp. Wine is for dinner when you’re going to relax.

Arthur, after a significant pause: MARY drinks wine during the day.

(Does this mean that there might be a glass waiting for me at the door some afternoon?)
Fun and cute, right? Except that I’ve had parents who have quizzed me on my drinking practices after a perfect innocuous accident involving some alcohol-free tonic water. Thankfully, Arthur’s parents are not of this ilk. (Which ilk would be “anal and suspicious”.) Still, I err on the side of caution in my doings with the parents: no joshing – and certainly not in writing! – about the amount of alcohol I might be sloshing back during the course of a working day. (Though lord knows some days I could use a stiff shot of something or other…)

My email to mom:

I’m thinking this is an example of authority one-upmanship. Just as I am regularly assured that YES, mummy and daddy DO allow all manner of activites and behaviours (you’d be amazed what goes on in your home), he’s trying the “MARY does…” with you. I guess I’m now officially an Authority Figure.


And mom to me:
Yes, that was exactly his intent and tone, no doubt in reaction to my dogmatic tone.

Cute, huh? In any other profession, you could have this exchange and you would have only one reaction: “that was fun”. My reaction is twofold: a grin at a fun exchange with a nice parent, and a sigh of relief at having dodged a potential bullet. Kids say the darnest things — and that can be a scary proposition!

March 22, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, parents, the things they say! | 10 Comments


“Arthur, it’s time for me to make lunch. You need to pick up those blocks now so I can move in the kitchen. Pick up the blocks, please.”


“No, not ‘why’. When I say ‘Pick up the blocks’, you say ‘Okay, Mary’.”


“Par.Don Meeee?”

“Ahhh… Okay.”

“Okay, Mary.”

“Okay, Mary.”

We’re on our way…

January 26, 2006 Posted by | Arthur, manners, socializing | 7 Comments