It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Some things are better in theory than practice

Three small bodies stand at my living room window, quivering with excitement.

“Dere’s another one!”
“Oh, oh, oh! The garbage truck!”
“Mary, the garbage truck is here!!”

Garbage day is VERY exciting around here. Not only do we get the garbage truck — twice! once down each side of the street! — but we also get the Green Bin truck AND the recycle truck. It is just too, too thrilling for words.

“Garbage truck! Dere’s the garbage guy! Oh, the machine is crunching it all up! Look! Some felled out onna road! He needsa pick it up! Hey, he din’t pick it up, that garbage guy is a bad man! Eeeew, the green bin is gross! Yeah, dat’s gross! Lookit all the icky stuff! Another truck! Another truck!”

Okay, maybe not so much with the ‘too thrilling for words’. It’s the sort of thrill that requires words, lots and lots and LOTS of words. For the entire morning, whenever the roar of a truck drifts in through the open windows (Open windows! Must be spring!), all play ceases, toys hit the floor, songs stop mid-chirrup, and three sets of small feet pound to the window.

“Garbage truck!
“Dere’s another one!”
“Oh, oh, oh! The garbage truck!”
“Mary, the garbage truck is here!!”

Well, this is silly. It’s a beautiful day out there AND there are garbage trucks! Why aren’t we wandering the streets making garbage truck sightings?

We hear the roar. It’s coming from… three hands point to the left. Baby Lily just bounces in the stroller. We head left, and… yes! There, around the corner and across the street… is a


I push the stroller toward the truck. It surges forward. We come to a sudden and decisive halt. Startled, I glance down. Is something stuck in the wheels?

Well, yes. If you consider Tyler a “something”. His eyes are wide, he clutches the handle of the stroller in a white-knuckle grip, he is utterly frozen.

In awe?

Nope. More like terror. The garbage guy tosses the empty bin to the sidewalk and presses the gas. The truck surges forward to the next house, Tyler’s paralysis shatters, and he makes a desperate attempt to scale the stroller and get behind it.

“It’s okay, hon. It’s on the other side of the street. It won’t come over here.”

Which may be true, but it doesn’t apply to the SECOND garbage truck now coming down OUR SIDE OF THE STREET. Tyler returns to paralysed abject terror mode.

“It’s big and it’s loud, but it’s not allowed on the sidewalk, sweetie. It will only make lots and lots of noise, but it won’t hurt you.”

I think the terror has stopped his ears. He is not crying, but he is not moving, either. I think he’s incapable. The only thing to do is squat down beside him and pull him onto my knee until the Thing of Terror Formerly Known as a Garbage Truck has passed.

It takes ten minutes and three more Terror Stops to reach the porch. Another truck is approaching. Can we reach safety before it reaches my house?

“Come on guys! Let’s get inside where it’s quiet.”

Tyler bursts into furious tears. Terror? Relief? Trauma?

Not so much.

“I no wanna go inside! I wanna see the GARBAGE TRUCK!”

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Ottawa, Timmy | | 10 Comments


“I wanna see Mary!”

1210286_exploding-heartsI’m in the kitchen, preparing dinner. On a Sunday afternoon. The clear small trail of a toddler voice is not something I typically hear on weekends. Nor, since my youngest is a teen, any children’s voices, come to that. Unless we’re talking the rude pair of brothers from up the street, or the 6-year-old shrieker a little closer, at any rate. (The shrieker’s a nice kid, but lordy! that voice… which should NOT be out on the street at 9:30 p.m. Ahem.)

In that case, I just shut the window. And grumble a bit. Razzn fratzn kids… should be in bed… running with scissors… shouting…

You know, I’m curious what kind of old lady I’ll end up being. Will I be the smiling, apple-cheeked granny type who coos over babies and praises young mothers, radiating caring and support? Because I do that now, you know. Or will I be the cantankerous sort, grousing about the lack of manners and respect in children and the lack of gracious authority in parents? Mutter, mutter, mutter. Because I do that, too.

“I wanna see Mary!”

This small voice is in my home and, it turns out, attached to Timmy, who lives a couple blocks down my street. He’d been at the park, and, passing my house, had asked his mother if he could stop in and say hi.

Emma answered the door, and is greeted with,

“I wanna see Mary!” (You understand that he is not being angry or rude. His tone of voice is cheerful. He’s just letting her know that… he wants to see Mary, you see!)

“Timmy,” mummy remonstrates. “Say hello to Emma first.”

“Hello. I want to see Mary.”

And when Mary, having put the pot of boiling water on a different burner to simmer, finally appears, does he launch himself at her?

Nope. All that anticipation, a whole 40 seconds of build-up, has served to render the boy speechless. (Timmy, speechless. Hard to fathom, I know.)

I kneel down and give him a hug, while his mother, filling in for her mute son, tells me of his happy transition to kindergarten. Timmy rests on my knee while she recounts the story told her by one of his teachers.

Between activities, Timmy raced to give Shannon, one of the assistants at the school’s daycare, a hug. “I love you, Shannon!” he declared. Shannon was delighted, of course, but curious to know what had triggered this outburst of affection.

“Why, thank you, Timmy. What makes you say that?”

And Timmy, wide-eyed with sincerity, replies, “Because I just love everybody!”

Timmy’s mother and I share a proud laugh. He really is that generous with his love. Timmy is still silent on my porch, but when I kiss the top of his head, he snuggles in closer, and we bask a bit, all three of us, in the wonder of pure and innocent love.

Meh. I think I’ll be a nice old lady, all in all.

October 5, 2009 Posted by | the cuteness!, Timmy | 1 Comment

It’s not the scissors…

scissors“These scissors don’t work!”

They sure don’t appear to. After ten minutes of unceasing efforts — give the boy points for persistance — the piece of paper Timmy’s working with shows no sign of a cut. This could be because it’s now as limp as a used kleenex, what with all the times it’s been folded within the scissor’s grip. Folded, crimped, bent and crumpled. Over and over and over again… but not a single cut. Not even a tear, though, if he keeps persisting, I’m pretty sure the paper will shortly fade into sawdust, eroded away through sheerest willpower.

Once again we do the hand-over-hand, my hand guiding his. But cutting paper’s a complicated business, a matter of precision and timing, and Timmy is just not quite there.

“It’s not the scissors, sweetie. Cutting is just a bit tricky for you right now. You’ll get it in time.”

“Here. He can try MY scissors.” Emily holds hers out. Because hers, you see, work just fine, as the fringe along the side of her paper attests. The fringe and the snowfall of paper bits on the table, floor, and bench. And in her lap, and in Nissa’s hair. And the fruit bowl and the potted plant…

We all know it’s not the scissors, but I’m not about to discourage generosity when it happens.

They trade, Timmy’s blue Crayola safety scissors for Emily’s green-and-yellow Grand and Toy number with the millimetres marked on one blade.


“Hey! Look! I cutted! These ones work!” Timmy is astounded and delighted. Sure enough, there is a short but undeniable cut in the edge of the paper.

And, from Emily…

“Mary, these scissors don’t work!”


July 21, 2009 Posted by | crafts, Emily, Timmy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

that’s what he said

“Where is my thing, Mary?”

“What thing is that, Timmy?”

“My thing that is over the other thing that goes in by a thing.”

Oh, okay then.

If there was one word I would happily remove from the English language, it would be “thing”, home and harbour of the imprecise and lazy.

Oh! Wait! My thoughts had wandered a bit there, and I was no longer talking about Timmy. Well, he’s certainly imprecise, but given that he’s three years old, I think we can cut him a little slack. But if he’s still doing that when he’s a teen? I pity his teachers.

July 20, 2009 Posted by | the things they say!, Timmy | 4 Comments

Persistence pays off

goulash“Would you like some goulash?” Anna tips the ‘pot’ (aka cowboy hat) which she has been stirring with a ‘spoon’ (aka rhythm stick) so that Timmy can see the ‘goulash’ (aka wooden puzzle pieces). Timmy loks up from the puzzle he’s completing, peeks into the pot and makes his decision.

“No, thank you.”

“Would you like some goulash?”

“No, thank you.”

“Would you like some goulash?”

“No, thank you.”

She’s hearing him just fine. Nor is there any misunderstanding. He’s answering cheerfully and very clearly, each and every time. But he is also giving the Wrong Answer. Anna tries yet again.

“Would you like some goulash?”

“No, thank you.”

Repetition is not working.

“Okay, I’ll make you some goulash!!!”

Because, come hell or high water, this boy is going to get some GOULASH, dammit! Timmy’s head come up from his puzzle yet again.

“Oh, you’re going to make me some goulash?”



Toddlers are just plain weird.

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Anna, Timmy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who’s on top?

“Daycare interferes with the parent-child bond.”
“If a child is spending nine hours a day with someone else, that will affect their relationship with the parent.”

There are those who believe these statements.

Now, I was a SAHM, a homeschooling SAHM, for years. If a family decides they want a parent home with their children, if a parent decides that’s what he/she wants to do? I’m totally onside. I loved, loved, loved being a SAHM. It was, without doubt, the time in my life when (awful marriage aside), I was happiest and most fulfilled.

(Another aside: I don’t believe ‘parenting is the hardest job in the world’. I think it’s one of the most important, and certainly not without its challenges. But not the hardest.)

And, for many years while I was a SAHM, I would also have ascribed to those beliefs. How could I possibly give up so many of the hours I spent with my child each week and not have it impact negatively on my relationship with my child? It only made rational sense.

Thing is, love isn’t always rational.

I am fond of my wee charges, and they of me. We toss around the L-word freely. There are hourly hugs and kisses and snuggles. There are shared smiles and pats on heads and unexpected gifts. There’s a lot of love in my household, and it’s wonderful.

However, in the grand heirarchy of relationships, I come a solid second to mom and dad, and everybody knows that. Heck, I’m probably well down, after grandparents, aunts, uncles, and maybe even certain neighbours and family friends.

Which is why I’m not surprised when, now and then, I’m compared to mom or dad … and found lacking. Sometimes, we know, they’re totally trying to scam me. But sometimes it’s quite sincere. And mostly, since they’re supposed to love mom and dad best and it’s totally no skin off my nose, I agree with them. Or, if it’s a matter of discipline, I simply remind them that I’m not mom or dad, and it’s okay to do things differently.

Usually, it’s an occasional, passing thing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a child who did it chronically.

Until Timmy.

For the last few weeks, every single day, that boy has been delighted to inform me of the multitude of ways in which mummy does it better, stronger, faster, smarter, nicer… than me. I like Timmy. I like his mother. But this? Is getting old.

We are walking through the park. We see the small floating dock that juts out into the river, perfect for sitting on and dangling your feet, just about the right side to step into a canoe. It’s a nice dock. A friendly dock.

Don’t know who that woman is…

“Mary?” Timmy looks up at me. “Can we go out on the dock?”

“No, sweetie. I can’t safely take four children out there.” (Well, I could if they were all three- and four-year-olds, but not with a four, two almost-twos, and a one-and-a-bit. I’d give it 12 seconds before someone was in the river.)

“MAMA takes me out onto the dock!” He’s not angry. He’s just informing me of the wonderfulness of MAMA, and particular, MAMA’s superior parenting prowess. As he did already today, about half a dozen times. As he has done, many times per day, for weeks.

“Yes, I’m sure she does. How many children am I looking after today, Tims?”

He does a careful count of himself and the three others. “Seven.”

“And how many children does mama have to take care of?”

He looks around himself, considering. “Me! One!”


We proceed along the path. Point made, I feel better.

“CAN we go on the dock, Mary? MAMA takes me.”

See? Parents have nothing to fear! Nothing!

June 23, 2009 Posted by | controversy, daycare, parents, Timmy | , , | 9 Comments

Lyrical? Or…

Four little children thunder trip around my livingroom, arms a-flapping.

“I’m a butterfly!” Anna floats by. Thunderously. Loudest butterfly I’ve ever seen, but there you have it. Imagination conquers all.

“I’m a dragon!” Emily zips past, closely followed by,

“Boo-die! Boo-die!” a small, elephantine Birdie, aka Noah, closely followed by a mute but equally thunderful flying critter, Tyler. And where is Timmy?

Here he is!

“Horsie-bat! I’m a horsie-bat!”

Which could be a cute and quirky way of expressing ‘pegasus’, something he’s seen in a book somewhere, for which he doesn’t have the word. Creative, indeed. Lyrical, even.

(No, he hasn’t been reading this book. nor about the horse-shoe bat. I asked his mother.)

Or he could mean just exactly what he said: “Horsie-bat.”

Which is kinda weird, you know?

And knowing Timmy, I’m leaning to that interpretation.

June 17, 2009 Posted by | the things they say!, Timmy | , , , , | Leave a comment

Adding to the mythos

1144994_floral___The fumes in the room are eye-watering. I dispense with the foulness under Noah’s small bottom as quickly as possible while the crowds gather.

“He gots a giant poo!” Timmy is impressed, even exultant.
“Who does?” Anna races to see. “Nissa?”
“No. Noah.” Timmy is reproving. “Nissa doesn’t poo. She is a girl.”

My husband’s voice, deadpan, from the adjacent room: “No. Girls don’t poo. They don’t fart or sweat, either.”

Timmy nods sagely. “No, they don’t.”

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Anna, eeewww, the things they say!, Timmy | , , , , | 3 Comments


“Ow!” Anna’s voice is rich with indignation, and a small measure of actual pain. “Timmy, you hurted my elbow!”

“Sorry!” Timmy doesn’t look up from his pile of tiny plastic bears. “Sorry, sorry.”

Perhaps noting a smidge less than genuine concern in his voice, Anna ups the ante.

“You need to kiss it better.” She waves her elbow near his nose. He leaps up and starts dancing around it.

“I don’t want to kiss it. I only want to say ‘Sorry’. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!” He sings the word as he dances around her. He isn’t seeking to tease, he’s just having fun.

And he’s not at all sorry.

“You know what, Timmy? I think Anna’s right. I think you do need to kiss it better. You hurt her elbow. It was an accident, but you still need to pay attention to Anna when you say sorry. Stop dancing and look at Anna’s eyes.”

He complies. And kisses the elbow.

“There!” He says, looking into her face. “Is that better?”

Ah. Success! Because that genuine attention and concern? That’s the point of a “sorry”. Anna knows it, too.

“Yes, it is. Do you want this blue bear now?”

And the play rolls seamlessly on…

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Anna, manners, socializing, Timmy | , , , | 3 Comments

She’s so wise

Emma has taken three tots to the library. As they check out their books, Timmy wants to know,

“Are we going to the coffee shop, Emma?”

They know the patterns so well. First the library, then the coffee shop. Every time. But it never hurts to double-check!

“I don’t know. Do you guys want to go to the coffee shop?” Just for the fun of…

Timmy and Anna commence to bounce. “YEEEAH! YEEEEAH! YEEEAH!”


It’s not a big voice, it’s not angry or demanding, yet somehow it cuts through the clamour.


Timmy stops bouncing, near-panic in his eyes.

“Emma! Noah says he doesn’t want to go to the coffee shop!”

“It’s okay, Timmy. Noah is saying ‘no’ because he’s almost two years old. You can ignore him.”

Timmy wilts with relief. Mother-of-toddler in line behind them asks Emma if she needs any more babysitting clients.


March 16, 2009 Posted by | my kids, Noah, our adoring public, outings, power struggle, Timmy | 3 Comments