It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The how and how not of tattling

Tattler“Mary! Mary, Tyler ate a piece of apple!”
“Mary! Nissa’s playing with the shoes!”
“Mary! He din’ wait for his TURN!”

Malli is visiting us this week. Malli has always been a bit of a prima donna, and a year of school hasn’t lessened this tendency one whit.

“Mary! It is supposed to be MY turn with the ball!”
“Mary! Noah’s touchin’ my cup!”
“Mary! The babies are bumping into me!”

And of course I ask her “Did you talk to [whoever] about it?” And of course she hasn’t. So of course I send her off to do that thing.

“Mary! He has all the books!”
“Mary! She is stompin’ her feet and I don’t LIKE that!”
“Mary! Emily says her daddy is bigger than my daddy!”

And of course I drill her in “Is anyone hurt? Is it dangerous? Is anyone bleeding?” And of course, every time the answer is NO, NO, and NO. “Well, unless it’s DANGEROUS, or someone could get HURT, or someone is BLEEDING, you don’t need to tell me.”

Ten times an hour. All morning long. (YES, she’s gotten worse since the last time I saw her. Her JK teacher must just love her to bits…)

And then, William’s voice calls out in alarm.

“Mary! Tank’s on top of the table!”

And so he is. With this climbing machine in the house, I’ve taken to my standby response: render the tabletop inaccessible by either pushing the benches right under the table, or by tipping them upside down. So far the first solution (easier for me) is working just fine. Tank hasn’t figured out how to push the benches out again, so he just climbs onto the bench, and then complains mightily when his head bashes repeatedly into the underside of the table.

And I laugh. Mwah-ha.

So how could Tank be up on the table? Has he learned to push the benches out? No.

See, Malli is lingering at her snack. The rest of us — including the Tankmeister — have long since left the table. But Malli is … savouring her pears and apples. Sitting on a bench.

And Tank, being Tank, has seen his opportunity, scrambled up the bench and scaled the tabletop.

And now sits on the table, RIGHT BESIDE MALLI. Malli the Tattle Queen? Who tells me EVERYTHING? Every TINY infraction of even POTENTIAL rules?

Malli has not said a word. Not.One.Word.

I think she hates me.

August 19, 2009 Posted by | Malli, Peeve me, socializing, the dark side | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dinosaurs and bandaids

Malli arrives first, prances in on her pink-shod tippy toes. “See my new DRESS? My mommy got me my new DRESS! It is a PRINCESS DRESS!” She skips and spins and preens and prances, the better to elicit our cries of awe and admiration. She is delectable in a delicious confection of pink satin and white gauzey stuff, embellished with beads and ribbons.

She is truly a Sight to Behold.

And, boy, did people behold. Today we had an Outing, you see, to one of the many museums in this lovely city, so there was lots of beholding. The comments came in thick and fast. On the street, on the sidewalk, on the bus. From bus drivers through museum staff and random strangers here and there. Smiles and coos from doting adults padded our journey.

And her response to all these lovely, loving, friendly people? She pouted. Fixed each of them with a reproving glower before ducking her head and refusing to speak. The girl is not shy. Depending on her mood, she’ll readily start conversations with strangers. She’s just noticed you get a second round of coaxing from the doting adults, sometimes even a third, when you turn your nose up at them, make them really work for the privilege of your attention. And meantime, the other equally cute and possibly more receptive kids get ignored.

Sigh. It’s enough to make a caregiver wish she’d brought along a pair of jeans and a tshirt…

There are dinosaurs at the museum. Dinosaurs, it turns out, are scary. Now, they weren’t scary last time we went. Last time they were exciting! Big! Scaaary! But “scary” in a “how-exciting-to-pretend-to-be-scared” way. This time? This time, with a little more maturity, a little more imagination, a little greater concept of danger … they were scary-scary, not play-scary.

The three tots (only three today) who’d bounced ahead of the empty stroller, full of eager expectation for the wonders in the next gallery stopped dead in the entry. The gallery is dimly lit and filled with giant leafy ferns. The room is enormous, the dinosaurs huge. The tots’ eyes are wide, they scan the scene ahead of them, then, to a man, they turn on their heels. Quick! Head for the stroller!

We enter the gallery, but slowly, quietly. No one roamed far from the protective shelter of the stoller (though not one of them was riding. The stroller is merely crowd control.) They gazed up, up, up in awe-struck silence, speak only in cautious whispers.

“Is dat a dinosaur?”
“Can it see me?”

In the sun-filled, dinosaur-free coffee shop — because no outing with Mary is complete without a trip to the coffee shop!! — the children come to exuberant life once more. The nice coffee shop lady notices not Malli (hallelujah!) but Timmy. Well, she did notice Malli, but when Malli played hard to get for the 147th time that morning, Smart Coffee Shop Woman immediately turned beaming attention upon Timmy.

My experienced eye caught her experienced eye and we exchanged knowing grins. We both know from manipulation. Heh. And besides, Timmy deserves some of the attention. Not only is is sweet as can be, but he is sporting not one, not two, but FOUR bandaids on his wee forearm.

“Oh, my! Look at all those band-aids? Did you hurt yourself?”
“No.” Timmy rewards her with an ear-to-ear grin, and if you remember Timmy’s ears, you’ll know it was a killer smile.
“Oh you just like bandaids?”
“Yep.” Timmy can talk your ear off once he gets going, but he knows how to stick to essentials, too.
“What do they have on them?”
Well, that’s a fascinating question, and one which he hadn’t considered before. He lifts his arm up, holding it so they can both peer at the bits of plastic dotting his arm. “Oh, I don’t know!” he chirps, in tones of great wonderment.
“Is that Donald Duck?”
“Nooo, it’s just a duck.”
They grin, each well-pleased with the other.

June 26, 2008 Posted by | Malli, Ottawa, outings, Timmy | 2 Comments

She’s an artist. No, I think she’s a poet.

Rainy days are craft days. We’ve been doing a lot of crafts these days. Today’s craft involved largish sheets of card printed in a pale-sky and puffy-white-cloud pattern, popsicle sticks, and blue tempera paint. Dip the popsicle stick into the tiny bowl of paint, and then dab, dot and scribble the paint across the sky.

We’re making rain, of course.

Malli unloads the paint primarily into one palm-sized patch of sky, and swipes it back and forth in those four square inches. Nigels, meantime, covers his sky with dots. Dots and dots and dots. Tappa-tappa-tap, tap, tap, tap, go the popsicle sticks on the west side of the table. Anna and Timmy, meanwhile, tap once or twice, to offload their wee bit of paint, then commence to swirling the tip of the popsicle stick through the paint. Swirls and swishes of blue appear.

“I’m makin’ rain!” Nigel, he of the tappa-tappa-tappa, declares.
“I’m makin’ rain, too!” Anna echoes.
Malli considers Anna’s page, then her own. “I’m making a storm. I’m making a storm of rain and wet drops. Anna is making wind, a storm of rain and wind.”

Anna’s painting:

Malli’s painting:

You know? She’s absolutely right.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | crafts, Malli, the things they say! | | 4 Comments

The old power struggle

Almost four-year-old Malli approaches, looks up at me, silken blond hair rounding into curls on her shoulders, enormous chocolate brown eyes gazing up at me. She is a seriously gorgeous child. Her peach-pink lips open.


She wants a glass of water. However, this child will be four in a matter of days. A one-word demand is completely unacceptable. It’s also disrespectful of me. And she knows it. I play dumb. This offers her the opportunity to amend the presentation without making a head-to-head issue of it.


“Water.” She’s not accepting the evasion. I suspect the girl is in conflict-seeking mode. We’ll try it once more.


“Water.” Yup. This looks like a power struggle. She knows the expectation and is saying “piss on you”. Malli is the mistress of the power struggle, after all. However, just in case, after a solid year of knowing the form, she’s having some sort of genuine mental blip, I offer a little assistance. (If we are having a power struggle, as I am 98% sure we are, it’s still a good tactic.)

“What about water?” I blink. My tone is light, expressing genuine puzzlement. I’m giving her no indication at all that she could be getting under my skin. She isn’t really. Or, only a teeny little bit.

“I want water.” All doubts are gone. The child is spoiling for a fight. Maybe she had a squabble with a sibling before she arrived. Maybe her parents made her do something unreasonable, like, oh, put on underwear. But whatever her internal motivation, the happy contentment that has been the ruling mood of the house is NOT serving her purposes. She wants conflict, and she wants it NOW.

She ain’t getting none.

“You want water. That’s nice to know.”

“I want water.”


“I want water.”


“I want water.”

I walk away. She knows what the problem is. I know what the problem is. She wants water, she can ask for it, nicely. She doesn’t need to be told how to ask. She’s been asking nicely for a year. I start to interact with another child, and “ignore” her. “Ignore” in quotation marks, because, having been denied a fight with me, she’s primed to go off and wallop one of the other kids, just to scratch that itch.

She stands at the edge of the group, considering. It’s probably too obvious she’s under surveillance, however, so the other children remain untormented. She brings her cup to me.

“I want water.” She is not yelling, she is not pouting. But she’s also not complying. And I’ve about had it.

I look at her, long and hard. I am no longer pretending not to know what’s up. I maintain a few seconds unblinking eye contact, then spit out the words, one at a time. I am not raising my voice, I am not sneering. But I am totally and utterly implacable.

“Malli. Par.Don ME?”

She pauses. The next step is the Quiet Stair, and she knows it. Does she really want this fight, after all? Or maybe the purpose of the strived-for conflict has already been served: she has asserted for herself once again that Mary is reliable, in control, that the parameters of her world here are secure. It’s a perverse way of establishing security, but she’s not unusual.

And really? Kids who set up power struggles don’t want to win. If they win, the world is a shaky, nebulous, unreliable place. Winning power struggles means the adults around them are too weak to protect them. They are setting us up to prove that we are strong enough to provide their security.

She pauses …

“May I have some water, please?”

Human nature would have me bark at her, “And about TIME, young lady!”, but I suppress my baser instincts. (This whole exercise on her part was to try to annoy so as to provoke conflict. If I allow as to having been annoyed, she will be rewarded for this behaviour. As satisfying as it would be to stamp my feet about now, it would be counter-productive. And besides, after all this nonsense I’m not about to give the little wretch what she wants.)

I’m going to give her what she needs.

So instead, joy. My face, she beams like the dawning sun. No sarcasm, mind. This is (as far as she knows) 100% sincere.

“SURE, I’ll get you some water. Thank you for asking politely.” And I give her a wee hug, kiss the top of that silken head.

Mary, 1
Malli, 0

(And about TIME, young lady…)

May 26, 2008 Posted by | Malli, manners, power struggle, socializing | 10 Comments

House inspection by toddler

“Here, Mary! This is for you!”

Nigel, Timmy, Emily and I are building a tower in the kitchen. This takes some manoeuvring on my part. Nigel, you see, can stack blocks 10 or 12 high; Emily can manage about 4, and Timmy? Well, we’re not quite sure about Timmy, because in his wee mind, blocks are for knocking down, not building up — and why build your own when other people do it for you???

It’s kind of entertaining to watch. He knows he’s not supposed to knock them down. He knows he’s supposed to build his own towers. He knows that you can knock down your own towers but not anyone else’s. And he tries. He really does! But it’s so hard. He sees those carefully-constructed towers going up and his eyes start to gleam. He’ll stack one block atop the first. He’ll eye the three-block tower of his neighbour. He takes a third block — but his neighbour’s tower is now five blocks high! His block hovers over his two-block stack … he quivers a bit, leans toward the growing tower. It’s SEVEN blocks high now. SEVEN!!!

And the dam bursts. His hand with the block flashes out and his face bursts into radiant delight at the sound and the fury he’s unleashed. Part of the fury is the outrage of the child building the tower, of course. Timmy isn’t happy about that, he’s not a malicious child, but OH! The smashings and crashings! The chaos and cacophany! The booms and the bangs!!!

In order to prevent bedlam and bloodshed, my steadying presence is required. Obviously. When I need to move on and attend to other things, I will bring Timmy the Destructo-boy with me.

“Here, Mary! This is for you!” Malli has entered the kitchen from the living room, where she’s been working on puzzles. She hands me a pen and a cap.

“Oh, good for you. I’ll just put that in the pen-cup, shall I?” She nods and trots off. I help Timmy, who is starting to twitch in the direction of Nigel’s 5-block tower, to stack a second block on top of the first. Malli returns, 90 seconds later.

“I got a pretty necklace! See my pretty necklace?” She holds it out to me. It’s a pretty thing, big round chunky wooden beads stained with what look like natural dyes. It looks vaguely familiar. I guess she’s worn it before. I help her slip it over her head. Then quick grab Timmy’s skinny wrist as it flashes out. “That’s Emily’s tower, Timmy. You only knock down your tower.”

And Malli is back at my elbow. “Here Mary. You needa put these away.” I certainly do. Four pennies are potentially lethal in a daycare. I do not know WHY some parents keep letting their tots come with coinage clutched in sweaty fists. Normally I frisk them down upon entry and confiscate potentially lethal contraband. (I mean, who sends a two-year-old to daycare with coins? Or a container of toothpicks? Or a teeny purse-size bottle of nail polish remover?)

Nigel’s tower is now FOURTEEN blocks high! I think this is a personal best for the boy. It is very exciting.

“Mary, what are these?”

“Those are hockey cards, Malli.” And now the question comes to me, the question that probably should have occurred to me earlier, the question that you’ve probably been asking all along … “Where are you getting these things?”

“In da livin’room.”

“The living room? Can you show me?”

And we proceed out to the living room, where all appears normal … except for the couch-cushions, lifted up and tipped back, resting against the back of the couch. Ah.

Mystery solved.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | eeewww, Malli, Timmy | 4 Comments

Reality is in the eye of the beholder

“Mary! Mary, Nigel is taking my teddy’s bear’s blanket!”

They all have a bear-in-a-bag, so there is no reason for someone to take someone else’s. Malli is not distressed. She is p’d right o. I launch into the practiced pattern, the brilliance born of inertia.

“Did you tell him that was yours?”


“Did you give him a different one to play with?”

“He only wants MINE!”

Well, that’s a problem. I meander over casually to investigate. Timmy has a bear-in-a-bag, Anna has her bear, who is covered by his teddy-bag turned blanket, Emily is sitting on her bear in its bag, and Nigel? Nigel appears to be playing with the blocks, his bear lying to one side on the kitchen floor.

“Nigel, you don’t play with my bear’s blanket!” Malli stands before him, small fists planted on her skinny hips. “That’s MY bear’s blanket!”

Nigel looks up from his construction, about as confused as me. He is building with blocks. Anna’s pink teddy bag lies on the floor at her feet.

“Malli, I don’t understand. Nigel is playing with the blocks. He is not playing with any of the blankets.”

“He is taking my teddy bear’s blanket!”

“No, he’s not. Your teddy bear blanket is right there.” I point to the extra one, lying, empty, on the floor. Empty, because Malli’s teddy is, unaccountably, sitting in the large bin of blocks, half-buried under the heap. Doesn’t look like she’s playing with it at all. Her blanket’s on the floor, her teddy’s buried under a …

Ah. The light dawns.

Her teddy’s buried under a veritable blanket of blocks. Nigel reaches into the bin for another block.


The wonders of imagination, huh?

April 30, 2008 Posted by | Malli, Nigel | 1 Comment

Irresistable Force, meet Immovable Object. Just don’t expect it to come to dinner.

“Want to come to my house on the weekend?” Malli lifts her gaze from the playdough on the table in front of them, presses her forehead against Nigel’s.

He sits up straighter. Their foreheads peel apart. “I don’t know.”

“My mommy will make us playdough.” It’s a good bribe. They love playdough, these two.

“Maybe. I might have a tummy ache, though.”


“Want to come over to my house tonight?”

“My mommy is driving, and she drives too slow.”


“Want to have dinner at my house?”

“No, I don’t like the food there.”


“We could play fire engine at my house.”

“Maybe my daddy will say fire engine is not good for little boys and girls.”


“I have a playhouse at my house. Want to play in my playhouse?”

“I think I have to go to my gramma’s then.”


You have to admire the girl’s persistance. I wonder at his reluctance. They play all day with nary a ruffle. Perhaps enough is enough? Perhaps he’s just a homebody? Maybe he doesn’t like to take work home?

Whatever it is, Nigel has stood firm against a campaign of some weeks’ duration. Normally I inform parents when children are making social plans, so that the parents can support them if they choose. In this case, I think I’ll leave well eough alone. If Nigel wants to go to Malli’s house, he can take it up with his parents!


“You can play with my brothers at my house.”

“That’s okay. I have a brother at my house anyway.”

The campaign continues …

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Malli, Nigel, quirks and quirkiness, socializing | 7 Comments

Snip, snap, snippets

“I can’t DO it!”
“Of course not. Not if you’re standing on it. Get off the puzzle, and then you can do it.”

“Nigel. You can’t grab the teddy away from Anna. That makes her sad. Please give it back.”
He hands it back, giggling. Hmph. We could do with a little empathy here. I point to the teddy in his hands. (Yes, he had a teddy when he yoinked hers. He’s a toddler. They do shit stuff like that.)

“Is that your teddy?”
“You like to play with it?”
“Well, I’m going to take it away from you.”
“Yes.” And I do. The lip comes out. Tears bounce up. “How do you feel, Nigel?”
Silence, as he glares reproachfully at me and his bear.
“Are you sad? Are you mad?”
“Well, that’s how Anna felt when you took her bear. Anna was sad and mad. It’s not funny to be sad and mad, is it?”
“All right. You can have your bear back. Now you know that Anna was sad and mad, just like you. Next time, you won’t take her toy, right?”
“I won’t.”

“Hey, you three. You may run in the house, but you may not scream.”
“But it’s a scary game!”
“You may run in the house, but you may not scream.”
“Yeah! I’m the princess!”
“She’s a scary princess!”
Well, I understand that. I find them kind of disturbing, myself. But you don’t see me pelting around the house, screaming.
“If your game makes you scream, you have to play a different game. You may run in the house, but you may not scream.”
They pound off, screamless, into the kitchen.

“It’s MY bowl! I am making SALAD!”
Anna fends off the vulture from her “salad”, a collection of wooden blocks in a metal mixing bowl.
“I want to make salad, too!” Malli’s voice is a mix of cajoling and dominatrix. She does that very well, but Anna is having nothing to do with it.
“I want to make salad by MYSELF!” Ooo, good communication, girls, but then Malli lunges to grab, so I intervene.
“You know what, Malli? A few minutes ago, you wanted to look at a book by yourself, and I told Anna she had to leave you alone. Now it’s your turn to leave Anna alone.”
“But I would like to make a salad.”
“You can still make a salad. Would you like another bowl?”
“Yes!!” Jumping up and down and clapping, her face a beacon of delight. “I can make a salad with Nigel!” igel joins in with the jumping and clapping. Oh, the hair-trigger emotional flip-flp of the toddler, how I love it. Sometimes.
“Yeah! We can make a salad for the guinea pig!”

“Nigel. Good heavens. Stop beating the bowl with that block. It’s hurting my ears.”
“But I am stirring my salad!”
“There is no salad in that bowl. Put some salad in first, and then stir.”
Subsequent stirring is a rather pleasing series of rhythmic wooden clicks and clunks.

“Oh, Emily! Are your fingers stuck?” I released the poor dented digits from the craft storage drawers and pull the traumatized tot onto my lap. She subsides from shrieks to sobs.

“Oh, poor sweetie.” I drop a kiss on the blue imprint lined across all four fingers. The other children watch with wide eyes. I see Timmy is clutching a fuzzy blue pipe cleaner, meaning that he, too, has made an illicit raid on the drawers. Must nip this in the bud.

“That is why,” I explain to the encroaching masses, “you do NOT open the drawers.” Yes, indeed. The craft cupboard forbidden zone has NOTHING to do with mess, mayhem and lost supplies. Nothing to do with adult need to know where my damned stuff is, to not be stepping in sparkles or tracking glue across the kitchen floor. Or glue AND sparkles! No, no. None of that. It’s sheerest concern for their well-being. Indeed.

“If you play in the drawers,” I drop another kiss on top of quietly whimpering Emily’s head, “you might get hurt, just like Emily. I don’t want any of you getting hurt!

I lean forward, take the pipe cleaner from Timmy, pop it back in the drawer. And shut it.

“So from now on, only grown-ups open these drawers. You do NOT touch them. Understand?”

Solemn nods all round.
There. We’ll see if that takes. Is it wrong to hope that the next one who tries it will also pinch their fingers?

“Oh, Emma! Emma! Emma!”
“Yes, Emily?”
“Someday I will go POO!”

Let the bells ring out.

January 31, 2008 Posted by | aggression, Anna, Emily, Malli, manners, Nigel | 1 Comment

When is a cookie not a cookie?

I’ve lost my salt dough recipe! Fortunately, I have a computer and I have Mr. Google. In .0006 seconds, I have 47 gazillion salt dough recipes. They are all the same:

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/4 cups hot tap water
(2 t oil, optional)

We count range around the big metal bowl on the kitchen floor. “One!……Twooooo…… threeee…. fooooour!”

“We makin’ cookies, Mary?”

“No, we’re making dough. We will make pretty things for your Christmas tree with the dough.”

Then the salt. I hold up the pyrex container and the box of salt. “We need one cup of salt, guys. I’m going to pour up to this line. You tell me to stop when it’s up to the line, okay?” I pour, and pour, and stop.

“It’s not up to the line, Mary! You needa keep goin’!”

Except I can’t. One-third a cup is all that’s in the box. Nuts.

“Why are you puttin’ the flour away?”
“Isn’t we going to make cookies?”

“Yes, we are. No, not cookies, but yes. I just don’t need so much flour any more. We need exactly one-third as much as we needed before.”

“Okay!” Their famous contrariness notwithstanding, toddlers take a lot of adult inexplicability without any hesitation whatsoever. We’re making cookies but not? Mary needs a one-third of before? Okay, then, Mary! You go!

In goes one-third the flour, one-third the salt. We take turns stirring the powders. Emily swooshes the spoon gently side to side, Timmy dabs cautiously at the bottom of the bowl, Anna stirs the wooden spoon in tiny circles, Nigel (it was inevitable) manages to flip a spoon of flour and salt skyward. Malli, contrary Malli, holds the spoon upright and completely still for 90 seconds, staring at the rest of us, daring us to argue.

We don’t. Which ticks her right off, so that when I say, “My turn, Malli!”, she attempts to hang on to the spoon. Her immovable force meets my irresistable object. “It’s my turn, Malli. You can give me the spoon, or I can take it, but it is my turn now.” I’m calm but resolute. This is not a negotiating ploy; it is fact. She considers for a second, then hands it over. If reason and fairness don’t succeed, and succeed promptly, and I must take the spoon from her, I’m perfectly willing to do so. She knows this.

I reward her with a warm smile. “Thank you, hon.” And with a little extra responsibility. “Would you like to pour the water in?” She does.

The resultant ball of dough is much smaller than normal. Two-thirds smaller, in fact. A little kneading, it’s nice and glossy. Grouped round the dining table, they watch me roll it out. Then we hand out the cookie cutters.

“We going to cut out the cookies, now?”

“We going to cut shapes from the dough. But these aren’t cookies, lovie. They are going to be for your Christmas tree.”

So we cut shapes, using cookie cutters. And we put the shapes on a cookie tray. But they are not cookies!

Then I incise a hole where the ribbon will go by pressing the end of a straw into the dough and lifting it out. The end of the straw is sealed witha plug of dough, but that’s easily remedied. Pfft! A salt-dough plug bounces on the table in front of Timmy. Anna and Timmy screech with laughter. After that, each plug is eagerly anticipated. My pea-shooting days were long behind me, but this is fun. I bounce them off each child in turn, much to their delight. Timmy carefully gathers up each tiny bit of dough.

Anna tries to eat one. “Anna, don’t eat that. It tastes yukky.”

“It’s a cookie!”

“No, love, it’s not a cookie.” It’s dough, we rolled it out, we cut it with cookie cutters, we put it on a cookie sheet, and now we’re putting them in the over, but THEY’RE NOT COOKIES. ??? Yes, adults are truly inexplicable.

Anna looks at the tiny piece of dough in her hand, then gives me a suspicious glare. Yeah, right, lady. Another glance at the dough, and then – pop! – into her mouth it goes.

Her eyes squinch, her chin draws back, and she erupts in a spray of saliva and slimy salt dough.

“Those cookies is yukky!”

“That’s because they’re not cookies, love. I did warn you.”

She glares at me, scrubbing her tongue on her sleeve. Warned her, forsooth! Like that’s any excuse.

They are now cooling on the stove. After nap, we will paint them. Because they are not cookies. At all.

December 6, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, food, Malli, power struggle | 6 Comments

Power struggles and cookie crumbs

We are in a coffeeshop. (Of course we are!) Where else do I ever take these children? Because it’s for their socialization, it’s for their betterment. It’s very important that children learn to sit in one spot for 20 minutes, to observe without touching, to talk without shouting.

It’s also very important that Mary get out in adult environments at least once a week. The coffee is secondary.

So we have two complimentary agendas happening here. That’s okay. What is NOT okay, of course, is an adult who puts their own need — to have an near-adult experience — above the comfort of the other patrons (who also desire the same thing) when the child(ren) accompanying them are in no way ready to sit calmly for the required 20 minutes. That’s just selfish. And rude. If your child is being disruptive, you peel out of there as quickly and graciously as humanly possible.

So there.

This does not mean you’ll have to keep out of coffeeshops until said child is school age. A child of any age can manage this — not every day, and the younger they are the more you have to pick your moment — but it’s eminently do-able. And I aim for 20 minutes. Thirty, tops. That’s reasonable. It is not reasonable to expect a toddler to rein in their energy for a solid hour. (If you have one that will do that, count your lucky stars. You are blessed.)

So, anyway. Insufferable lecture over. Coffee shop. Sitting, talking at normal conversational volumes, eating (with mouths closed about 25% of the time; acceptable).

Malli, who does not have a huge sweet tooth, puts a good-sized chunk of her cookie back on the plate in the centre of the table.

“Are you done?”
“Are you sure? You don’t want any more cookie?”
“No. I don’t want it.”
“You really don’t want it? You’re all done?”
“Okay. I’m going to give it to Anna, then, because she dropped her cookie.”

She did, and she was very good about it, too, but she’s long done the tiny bit that remained, and has been chatting while watching the other children finish theirs. Now, I know Malli has said she does’t want it. She’s been very clear about that. But I start the mental countdown anyway. Three … two … one … wait for it …

“Hey! That’s MINE! She got MINE!”

(Was this predictable? Hoo, yeah. But does she really want it? No. I know this girl. She doesn’t want resolution, she doesn’t want the cookie. She wants a conflict. She wants a conflict because, even though she didn’t want that cookie, she feels a proprietary interest in it, and she’s pissed that she gave it up. She wants a conflict so she can express her outrage. Resolution? Cookie? Not on the agenda. Just you watch.)

“Oh, you want some? You can have a piece.” I smile, because I know, I just know …

NO.” The glower could freeze water at ten paces. Good thing my coffee’s nice and hot.

“Okay. You don’t want any more cookie. That’s fine.” I smile again. I take an unholy glee in pissing off control-freak kids. I really do. I probably shouldn’t enjoy it quite so much, but it gives my smile that much extra voltage, knowing that she doesn’t want me to smile. I’m supposed to be coaxing her to be happy. “Oh, come on, honey. You know you didn’t want it.” But I don’t enter into Power Struggles unless essential, even when issued a gold-plated invitation.

Refused an overt Power Struggle, she settles back with the Glower of Ice. At least it’s quiet. I turn my attention to more deserving behaviours, chatting with the other children, being particularly warm and inviting, hoping that Malli will be drawn in despite herself. If often works.

And when I turn back? She’s leaning towards Anna, delicately and thoroughly gleaning cookie crumbs off her sweater. And eating them.

WHAT a kid.

November 28, 2007 Posted by | behavioural stuff, Malli, Mischief, outings, power struggle | 14 Comments