It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I miss Emily

“Before we can go to the park, you need to put the books away. Grace and Jazz? Put the books in the bin, please.”

I turn my attention to helping Daniel and Poppy into their coats and shoes. A minute or two later, the girls appear.

“Did you put the books away?”

Oh yes. They did.

Word to the wise: Never take what a two-year-old says at face value.

“Did you put the books away?”

Well, yes. I put books away. Most of them. Some of them. One or two, at any rate. All the ones that matter.

Just not those ones…

How could I not follow up? Because I had Emily for five years, and for at least the last two of those five years, Emily would have been in there, cracking the whip, getting them organized, seeing that the job was done and done right! Or perhaps just clucking maternally and finishing it up for them.

I’ve been spoiled by a five-year-old, is what I’m saying. Yup.

I sure do hope her teacher is enjoying the Total Gem she has in her class!!!

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Emily, Grace, Jazz | , , , , | 2 Comments


Yesterday I said goodbye to Emily and Tyler.

It’s probably my social ineptness, but I find these goodbyes really awkward. You say goodbye, you say you’ll miss each other, you say you’ve enjoyed getting to know each other… and then…

You do it all over again. You say those things again, and the parents don’t leave, and they say them again, and I feel like I can’t go in the house until they do, and maybe they feel like they can’t leave until I go in… and we keep saying all those things all over again.

I know what it is. Nobody quite knows how to turn the page on this chapter in our lives. We all sort of want to say something more, something that will sum up two or three — or in this case, almost five — years of relationship. So we all stand around, each wanting to say the One True and Meaningful Thing that will make it real, sum it up, draw it neatly to a close… and at the same time, we don’t want it to draw to a close.

(Okay, so that’s not 100% true 100% of the time. Once in a while there is a client (usually the parent) I am DELIGHTED to see the last of. In one sense, those are even weirder goodbyes because I still say the same things (because I am a professional who doesn’t believe in burning bridges). I say them, but I don’t mean them. I just want it OVER. However, in those cases, after I’ve said it once, I generally smile, wave goodbye, and close the door. So it’s weird, but at least it’s quick and efficient.)

It’s when the affection is real, and the regrets sincere that it gets truly awkward.

I wish I knew a better way. Now, I’ve let them know they’re invited to the next daycare social event. And they’ve invited Wonderful Husband and me to dinner in a week. But still, that final goodbye, when we know their children will never be coming here again. It’s awkward.

This morning, I peel Tyler and Emily’s names off their storage bin, and off their coat hanger. I peel them off, and put another child’s name in their place.

And I feel … disloyal.

August 19, 2011 Posted by | daycare, Emily, parents, Tyler | , , , | 6 Comments

Stomping on imagination

Emily and Tyler sit on the dining room windowsill. Emily is making a bizarre, very fake, very falsetto giggle, repeated frenetically.


I cannot imagine the game that requires that as its sound track, and I don’t much care.

“Gah. Emily, please stop making that noise. It’s awful.”

“We are being pirates,” Tyler explains, matter-of-fact, “and window this is our boat.”

Under what circumstances, my adult mind wonders, would a pirate make that noise? Post-castration springs to mind, but he’d hardly be giggling about that. Pirate ships not being the most egalitarian of places, it’s unlikely they’ve hired a vacuous Valley Girl as one of the boys. Okay, so they’d undoubtedly have other uses for her, but she’d hardly be giggling about that, either…

Not that either of these things would occur to Emily and Tyler, of course. Not that it really matters, because “Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-EH-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-EH-EH-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-EH-eh-eh-Eh-EH-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh…” can’t continue.

“That’s fine, you can be pirates. But guys, I can guarantee you, pirates do NOT make that noise.”


There are just some things you don’t have to put up with, you know?

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Emily, Tyler | , , , , | 5 Comments

Chatter, chatter, how they do chatter…

For your entertainment. A visual representation of the wall of sound that surrounds me as I push the stroller. One of the many reasons people grin as we pass…

UPDATED TO ADD: Okay, you guys. You all found Rory’s contribution. Kind of hard to not notice the f-bomb when dropped by a two-year-old, I know, even if that’s not what he thought he was saying. But it’s time to move past that. Hunt up Emily in there. It’s too adorable. 🙂

A couple of entries there are recognizable. Can you find Emily’s words? And Rory’s? Oh, wait. Grace is identifiable in there, too!

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Emily, Rory, the things they say! | , , , , | 10 Comments

Hello, Goodbye

Children come and go in a daycare. Typically, they start with me at 12 months, give or take, and leave when they start junior kindergarten, about three and a half. Kindergarten in this city is half-day. Many of my clients would have been happy to keep their children with me during junior and senior kindergarten, except that I do not go to the bus stop. Lots of caregivers do, I know, but the thought of getting the other four children out the door to trudge ten minutes up the street so we can stand at a bus stop for ten minutes in the frigid February gloom before trudging the ten minute home, does not appeal to me in the slightest.

So I’ve never done it. A couple of parents opted to leave their children with me until grade one. Two extra years of full-time daycare. But mostly, when they get to junior kindergarten age, we say goodbye.

People have asked me, “Is it hard? Do you miss them fiercely? Do you cry?” And I have to say… no. Not usually. I know when they start that I’ll have them for a couple of years, and then they’ll move on. I enjoy my time with them, I grow fond of them, and then I say a fond goodbye when our time together is over.

I often stay in touch with a family for two or three years after, but eventually the ties fade. That’s just normal, and I don’t fret over it.

I am much the same way with my own children, for heaven’s sakes. I didn’t chase after the train as it took my eldest off to university. There were no tears of regret, no maternal angst, no panic about how I’ll SURVIVE WITHOUT MY BAYBEEEEE. I keep saying “We’re not raising children, we’re raising adults”, and I mean it. The whole point of the parenting endeavour is to get those kids launched into fully functioning adulthood. I’m supposed to crack, inches from the finish line, pulling them back, “NOOOOO, I’M NOT REEEEEEADY!”?

That’s just silly.

I want them out there. I want them forging ahead, forming their own lives. Lives in which, if I’m not a neurotic, needy lunatic, I’m much more likely to be given a space. I’ll still be their mother. To lose that role would indeed rip me asunder. I’m their mother until one of us dies, but eventually they won’t need a mommy any more. And that’s as it should be.

If I have that attitude about my own, much-beloved children, I’m going to have much the same about my daycare tots. Except that I’m not their mother, and I never anticipated being invited to their weddings. I love them when they’re with me, and then they move on to the next stage in their lives, and I love the ones who take their places. Which is as it should be.

But it is true that some children get under your skin and into your heart. Emily is one such. I love Tyler, too, but it is with Emily that I have a particular bond. Tyler is a fun, busy and friendly, bytimes moody and contrary, little boy. I’ve enjoyed my time with Tyler. He’s sweet and loveable, if a tad memory-challenged. But Emily…

Emily, who has been with me for a full five years. Emily, whose mother took on the school bus company, campaigned for an entire summer, and had them make a stop at my home so the children could be with me for an extra two years.

Emily the silly talker, the kind talker, and the Very Good Talker. Emily the hard-ass big sister, the helpful big sister, the big sister to the masses. Emily the cruise director, the realist, the artist. Emily the empath. She’s a really nice kid, even when she’s ‘bad’.

Emily’s giddy cheerfulness has pulled many a whiny toddler out of the doldrums. She has distracted many a distressed baby, soothed many a bump, organized many games. She keeps me on my toes! She’s good company. She’s just a plain old, genuinely nice person. Smart, funny, creative and kind.

I love Emily. To bits. And in two weeks, she and Tyler will move on from daycare, Emily to start Grade One and Tyler to junior kindergarten in the same school. I will miss them very much.


August 5, 2011 Posted by | daycare, Emily | , , , , , | 8 Comments


The kids love silly play. I love that the kids love it. And together, we often get silly. With words, that is. I tend to discourage silly physical play, because you can pretty near guarantee someone will get hurt. But silliness with words? No one gets hurt with word silliness!!!

Lunch is ready. The little ones are in their high chairs, the big ones are scrambling into their chairs, I am placing the food on the table. When I go to place my butt on my chair, however, it’s occupied. (The chair, obviously.) With Tyler’s butt.

“Hey, you! You’re in my chair!”
“Yeah, Tyler!” Big sister Emily chimes in. “Do you think you’re Mary?”
“That’s it! For a minute he forgot, and he thinks he’s me. Does that mean I’m Tyler?”
“Yeah! You’re Tyler and he’s Mary!”

Tyler, who to this moment has been limiting his participation in the conversation to one of his full-voltage grins, shakes his head.

“I can’t be Mary! I have the wrong skin!”
“The wrong skin? What does that mean?” I’m genuinely puzzled.
Emily doesn’t quite “tsk”, but you can hear it in her voice.
“YOUR skin is old, Mary!”


“Yeah, and it gots lines on it.” Tyler pokes my face beside my eyes.
“Those are called laugh lines. That’s because I’ve laughed a lot in my life.”
“And you’re laughing now!” Tyler is pleased. “So I can see them even more!!!”

Yeah. That’d be correct. But better than frown lines, right??? In truth, rather like my laugh lines. I figure I’ve earned them, and they say something of how I’ve leaned into my life. No ‘ouch’ there.

Emily, however, is a stickler for accuracy. “”Those are wrinkles, Tyler. She has lines on her hands.”

I do? Tyler and I look at the hands which are currently doling out their lunch. “Those blue bumpy lines?” he asks.

Oh. Ouch. Veins. Veins which, I might add, have been visible since I was sixteen or so, a result of playing the piano since I was seven. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The fact that they are now visible even when I’m not playing the piano is… is… is reality, dammit.) Laugh lines are pretty. Veins? Not so much.

Time to grab hold of this conversation before it becomes too totally demoralizing.

“Tyler does not have my skin, so he’d better shift out of my chair, or I’ll sit on him!” I make threatening motions with my butt. “Look out, little boy! Move that little bum of yours!”

“Yeah, Tyler! Look out or she will squash you with her big bum!!!”


August 3, 2011 Posted by | Emily, the things they say!, Tyler | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Word girl

“Look, Mary.” Emily points, interested. “That cyclist is standing up on her pedals.”

‘Cyclist’, she says. Not ‘bicycler’ (incorrect but common amongst pre-schoolers), ‘bike-rider’, or even ‘girl’. But ‘cyclist‘. The best, most accurate word. The English teacher in me is thrilled.

“What a good vocabulary you have, Emily!”

“What’s that?”

“‘Vocabulary’, you mean?”

“Yes. What’s a vo-ca-blue-airy.” She frowns. She knows it’s not quite right, but not sure where she’s gone wrong.


“Yes! What’s a vocabulary?” She enunciates slowly and carefully. And accurately.

“It’s all the words you know. If you know lots of words, and many of them are big words, and if you can use them properly, you have a good vocabulary. YOU have a good vocabulary. There are lots of interesting words in your vocabulary, and you use them well.”

“I have a good vocabulary!” She’s quite pleased with the notion. Her eyes widen and sparkle. “And it’s even better now?”

“It is?”

“Yes, because ‘vocabulary’ is in my vocabulary!!”

Love that kid.

June 21, 2011 Posted by | Emily, the things they say! | , , | 4 Comments

Raising the Bar

“I’m thirsty!”

“Well, that’s funny. I thought your name was Tyler, but if you say so… Hello, Thirsty. Pleased to meet you.”

Emily starts to giggle. At five, she knows what’s going on here. Tyler stares at me for a longish moment.

“But I’m thirsty!

“So I heard, and I’m pleased to meet you, Thirsty. Even though I think your name is really Tyler.”

More giggles from Emily. Another longish moment from Tyler. Clearly, the boy needs a prompt.

“You are telling me something, when I think you really mean to ask a question. Is there something you would like?”

“Yeah, Thirsty. You need something?” Big sister Emily dances around, pleased as punch to know something he doesn’t.

“Emily, that’s enough. It’s okay to laugh if something’s funny, but now you’re just showing off. Shush and let Tyler think.”

“I would like a drink!” He clearly thinks he’s conveyed this perfectly adequately. He’s not annoyed, only baffled. What on earth is my problem??

“Well, then, you need to ask for one politely.”

The puzzlement clears. THIS he knows how to do!

“May I have a drink of water, please?”

I let joy overcome my countenance. NEVER have I been happier to serve.

“OF COURSE you may, lovie! Let’s go get that drink.”

‘Polite’ is an evolving target at this age. When words are scarce, “Drink, peas” is perfectly acceptable. A little later, they can manage the entire polite sentence. And by three-and-a-half, declarative sentences intended to make the adult hop to it without being asked politely? Not acceptable.

And when a nine-year-old tries it?

They stay thirsty.

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Emily, manners, Tyler | 14 Comments

Because any time’s a good time

for a hug.

We are getting ready to go out. I am kneeling in the front hall, thrusting various bits of children into various bits of clothing. Jazz decides Rory needs some loving, flings an arm around his neck, and squeezes. Hard. A look of alarm crosses the poor lad’s face. Not wanting to discourage Jasmine’s impetuous affection, but also not wanting poor Rory throttled before my very eyes, I draw them both into a hug, casually inserting myself between them. Rory draws a largish breath.

Tyler decides he needs a piece of the hug action, and hurls himself at us. Grace wiggles in. Five-year-old Emily has the words for this. “Group hug!” she yodels, and joins the giggling mass.

“We did a group hug with mummy,” Tyler tells me.
“You and Emily?”
“Yes,” Emily concurs. “When mummy was sitting.”
“Isn’t that nice! You were all three sitting?”
“No, me and Emily were standing. Mummy was sitting. On the toilet.”

And you know? I’m guessing Mummy didn’t mind. 🙂

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Emily, Jazz, Rory, Tyler | , , | 2 Comments

Gotta keep your eyes peeled around here

“Mary, Rory has the sparkly flowers!”

“Mary, Rory is going to take the scissors!”

“Hey, little man. The glue is not for eating. Here, use the brush.”

“Rory, that is my crown. You have your own.”

“Rory, the beads do not go inside the pasta, or we can’t make it into a necklace.”

Emily looks at me as she shakes her wise, five-year-old head and smiles fondly. “That Rory. He gets into EVERYTHING!”

“Yes, he does. It means he’s smart, you know. A smart brain is interested in everything. Smart babies like to explore. That’s how they learn.”

Emily nods, pleased with my perspicacity. “Babies. It’s those smart ones you really have to keep your eye on.”

I nod and smile. I keep my eye on Emily.

March 3, 2011 Posted by | crafts, Emily, Rory | , , , | 1 Comment