It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I just work here

caution“FAAAAATTY-CAT!!” Timmy aims a two-handed shove at the substantially larger Nigel, and manages to set him back a pace. They grin gleefully at each other.

“FAAAAATTY-CAT” Nigel charges at Timmy, back arched, and they slam into each other, belly to belly. They both shriek with delight upon impact, staggering like a pair of miniature drunks around the living room.

“FAAAAATTY-CAT!!!” Nigel waits, tense with thrilled anticipation, for Timmy to take another almighty shove at him. They careen into a couch.

“Mary, we’re playing ‘fatty-cat’!!!” Timmy hollers at me.

Evidently. I have no idea what “fatty-cat!” means. Neither do they. (“Wherever did that come from?”, asked a bemused parent later that day. Only the depths of their imaginations, I’m sure, and the fact that “fatty-cat” is a collection of sounds that bounce nicely off the tongue, perfectly suited to a game where you bounce off your friend. Things don’t have to “come” from anywhere. A three- and a four-year-old are perfectly capable of making stuff up!)

(And who but a three or four-year-old could make this one up?)

I scan the room, assessing risk. The only sharp edges accessible to the kids are those of the brick fireplace. I shove a (soft, upholstered) chair in front of it. The worst that’s going to happen now is that they’ll fall over. I let them have at it.


Attracted by the uproar, the girls join in. Within 90 seconds, Anna is in tears.

“He pushed me, Mary! He pushed me and I fell dooooown!”

“Well, that’s the game, lovie. If you don’t want him to push you, don’t play the game. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. But if you decide to play, you’re going to get shoved.”

Well, that settles that. Anna trots off to the kitchen.


Twenty-three more seconds, and Emily approaches, wailing.

“I fell down and hurted myself!”

“I see that. You landed with a bump on your bum. But you know what? That’s what kind of game it is. If you want to play that game, you’re probably going to get bumped. If you don’t want to get bumped, you don’t have to play. But if you want to play, you can’t complain about a bump.”

“I want to play.”

“Okay, then, but no complaining about a little bump.”


“FAAATTY-CAT!” Emily belly-bumps Timmy right onto his butt.
“FAAATTY-CAT!” Timmy hip-checks Nigel.
“FAAATTY-CAT!” Nigel shoves Emily who dominoes into Timmy. They cling to each other, teetering, and land in a heap.

And Emily laughs into Timmy’s gleeful face.

It’s a seriously weird game, but they’re having fun. And learning to assess a small risk while they’re at it. (In case you’re wondering, Babies Noah and Tyler stayed with me. Gravity alone is enough of a challenge to their powers to remain upright just yet.)

I figure the Big Kids can play fatty-cat for another 4.3 minutes until I just can’t stand it any longer. Not the risk. Not the falling down. Not the crashing to the floor. Goodness, it’s only a bump or two at issue. No, no, it’s the NOISE. My LORD, the NOISE!


Because, worthy as it is to let them evaluate and experience risk, the risk to my sanity is even more real and immediate.


Four point two minutes…

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Anna, Emily, health and safety, Nigel, Timmy | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I’m so proud

blocksNigel is visiting this week. Nigel, Timmy, Anna and Emily are building with blocks in the kitchen. A howl of protest from Timmy surges into the dining room, where I am setting up a craft.

“Nigel! Don’t knock down my tower!”

“Oh, sorry Timmy. I didn’t mean to!”

“Nigel, you shouldn’t knock his tower down.” Emily is concerned with The Rules.

“Yes, but I said I was sorry.”

“Okay.” So long as protocol has been observed, Emily is satisfied. Timmy, however, is NOT.

“Nigel! Don’t knock down my tower!”

“He SAID he was sorry, TImmy!” Anna is concerned with the social facts.

“I said I was sorry!” Nigel is concerned with justice. And freedom from the indignation. Mostly, he’d like to get back to building, thanks.

“Nigel! Don’t knock my tower down!”

“I SAID I was sorry!”

“Nigel! Don’t knock my tower down.” Timmy is not letting go.

Anna has had enough. She lays an authoritative hand on Timmy’s shoulder.

“Timmy. It was a accident. He didn’t mean to knock it down, and he said sorry already. That’s all he can do. This conversation is over.”

(Heh. ‘This conversation is over’ is not something I say. I hear her father in that sentence. I’m sure it’s a sentence she’s had cause to hear a great deal. As measured as our Anna is being here, she’s more than capable of great heights of righteous indignation and equally vast depths of hard-headed self-pity.)

“But he –”

“Timmy?” Her tone is full of warning. “This conversation is O-VER.”

“Oh, all right.” He picks up a block.

Play continues, towers are (re-)built, there is the hum of happy conversation. All without a single interjection from me. They didn’t even know I was listening.


March 11, 2009 Posted by | Anna, Emily, Nigel, socializing, Timmy | , , | 6 Comments

When silence is not so golden

436456_red_plastic_scissorsLittle voices waft up the stairs and into the bathroom, where I am… Where I am. With the door ajar. Of course.

Timmy: “Those are paper scissors.”
Anna: “Yes. I am cutting paper.”
Timmy: “They are not for cutting hair.”
(One presumes this is the Voice of Experience speaking.)
more silence, perhaps a little shuffling

Me, from above:
“They are not for cutting hair! Put them down on the table!”

Noah: “Uh-oh.”

March 9, 2009 Posted by | Anna, crafts, Mischief, Noah, Timmy | | 6 Comments

He’s not lyrical, but…

balletThe luscious, gracious strains of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty waft through my living room.

The children dance.

Noah and Tyler jump, cavort and giggle. The concept of “beat” is a bit beyond them, but they’re loving the music in their own ways.

“I’m a fairy!” Anna exclaims, sweeping her arms from side so side in front of her. Gracious, smooth swoops in response to the gracious, swooping music.

“I’m a princess!” Emily extends her arms and swirls them through the air. Gracious (mostly) smooth twirls in response to the gracious, swirling music.

“I’m dancing like A AIRPLANE!” Timmy bellows.


But yes. Timmy stands carefully on one leg, then leans forward, extends his arms straight out from his sides, and lifts one leg a few precarious centimetres off the ground behind him. A wobbling, precarious, ungainly, but undeniable… arabesque.

Guess which one has actually watched a ballet?

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Anna, Emily, individuality, the cuteness!, Timmy | , , , , | 3 Comments

There’s sad and there’s sad

newt1I am baking brownies for dessert. Which, if you knew our family at all, would tell you we’re having guests over to dinner. Tell my children we’re having company, and the response is not “Who’s coming?” but “Yay! Dessert!”

Timmy and Anna are playing quietly at my feet. They have woken up a little earlier than the other children, and are thus allowed to play in the kitchen (the furthest end of the house from the stairs), and QUIETLY. If they don’t play quietly, they must go lie down again until the others wake.

Thus, they are playing quietly. Which is little short of a miracle, since they are my two loudest children. Though, come to that, Tyler is emerging as a considerable auditory force. Once he gets some actual vocabulary, the windows, they will be a-rattling. (And my eardrums, oh, mercy me, my poor eardrums.)

They are playing quietly, and I am making brownies. And, because these are brownies for guests, and, because our oven is stuck at 400 degrees (as it has been for the last four years), I am diligently cutting off the slightly-too-dry edges. (The hostess double-standard: For my own family? They can crunch their way into the centre. For company? Perfectly soft’n’chewy brownies, from edge to edge.)

Apart from crunchiness, there is nothing wrong with the centimetre-wide strips of brownie I’m left with…

Lucky Timmy and Anna.

“Here guys. You want some brownies?”
(That, boys and girls, is what is called a “rhetorical” question.)
“Now, be careful. Chocolate is bad for dogs. You mustn’t give any to Indie. It could make her sick.”
“And maybe even DIIIIEEE!” Which could have been said with far less exuberant relish, perhaps, but the content is accurate enough.
“Yes, Anna. Enough chocolate could even make her die. That would be very sad.”
“That would be very sad.” Timmy is showing a more appropriate level of concern, perhaps because he’s had some personal experience in pet-bereavement. Or, as it turns out, second-hand experience. “My mummy’s newt died, and she was very sad.”
“Your mummy had a newt?”
“Yes, and it died. And she was very sad.”
“Not as sad as for a dog, I think.”
He doesn’t lose a beat.
“No. Prolly not.”

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Anna, food, health and safety, the dog, Timmy | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay…

Here we have a small boy.


A small boy in his FIRE CHIEF shirt, who loves to do all manner of small boy things: running, jumping, climbing, shrieking, hugging soft toys, baking cookies (and eating the batter!!), picking his nose (and eating the… oh, never mind), building towers to knock them down — the louder the crash the better!! — driving trucks, throwing balls, shovelling snow, sliding down hills, bombing around the house on the skut bike, swinging sticks perilously close to other children’s eyes, discussing poo, making loud and meaningless sounds…

And of course, all these things are so much more fun if you do them…

…while wearing your tutu.

February 18, 2009 Posted by | individuality, Mischief, the cuteness!, Timmy | , , , | 12 Comments

Have dress, WILL wed

bride1“Let’s get married, Timmy!”
“I don’t want to get married, Anna.”
“I have my wedding dress, see?”
“Oh, it is white and it has flowers on it.”
“Yes, it is my wedding dress. Let’s get married!”
“I don’t want to get married.”
“Let’s have a dance, Timmy.”
“We can have a dance, because we are gettiing married.”
“But I don’t want to get married!”
“Mary, we are getting married!”

February 6, 2009 Posted by | Anna, power struggle, Timmy | , , | 3 Comments

Just do it! Or not.

dripdrop2Timmy climbs up on the bench beside me, where I am diligently blog-surfing playing Facebook Scramble tidying up after crafts.

“Maaaarryyyy….” his voice is a tremulous quaver. “Emily did something to meeee…”

This is not an example of Information Sharing. This is just plain old tattling. And it’s whiny tattling, at that. The kind that makes you want to poke your eardrums out, because that would be less painful than listening to it.

I have had three nights of insufficient sleep. The children are VERY LOUD today, due to my decision (borne of insufficient sleep, obviously), that I am TOO TIRED to take them outside. So now I am trapped in the house with five children under four DESPERATELY IN NEED OF EXERCISE. Kill me now.

No, never mind. I’m obviously doing a fine job of that all by myself.

“Timmy, I’ll do something to you if you don’t go talk to Emily about it. Go on, now.” (What? We’ve been working on this “don’t tell me, tell the one who’s involved” for weeks now. And I’m tired.)

He wanders over to the kitchen door, and calls into the kitchen.

“Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily? Emily?”

She must’ve looked up eventually, probably with the feeling that she’s undergoing some kind of personalized Chinese water torture (can I say that? that’s not way non-PC?), because lord only knows that’s how I’M feeling about it right now. Death by a thousand mosquito bites. No! Insanity by a solitary mosquito whining in your ear that just. will. not. die.

She must’ve looked up, I say, because he stopped with the water torture, and continued.

“Emilyyyyyy, don’t do iiiiiiit.”

I am quite sure that Emily has no more idea than I what “it” might be, and evidently she decided not to sweat it. There was no discernable change in the activity level in the kitchen. Timmy paused a moment… then went, humming a slightly mangled version of “Rudolph”, to the living room to pull stuff out from under the couch cushions.

For today, that’s good enough for me.

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Peeve me, the dark side, Timmy, whining | , , , | 1 Comment

Empathy 1, self-sacrifice 0

“And one for you!”

Timmy beams as he cuddles his small brown teddy. Anna has a mid-sized fuscia teddy, and Noah a teeny white one. I can’t find our other bears. Good thing Emily’s not here today.

“We all have teddy bears!” Timmy is delighted.
“Yeah! You have one, and Baby Noah has one, and I have one!”

“What about me?” My voice oozes confused dismay. “Anna has a teddy, and Timmy has a teddy, and Baby Noah has a teddy. Where’s my teddy?”

(What am I up to? Well, it could be I’m fostering awareness of others, or nudging them in the direction of compassion. I might be encouraging generosity, setting up a social game to raise their emotional IQ. I could be doing any or all of those thoroughly noble things, but really? I’m just playing with their heads. You all do it, you know you do.)

If Emily were here, I know what would happen. She would hand me her teddy. Without hesitation. Because Emily is exceptionally, amazingly, genius-level (for a not-quite three-year-old) empathetic. Good thing she has that cruise director streak to keep her from being a total pushover.

Baby Noah is oblivious, of course. He’s busy poking his teddy’s shiny eyes, miles away from the emotional conundrum I’ve just tossed into the room.

“You don’t gots a teddy,” Timmy laughs. Funny, silly Mary! (Emotional conundrum? What emotional conundrum? ‘Oblivious’ must be such an easy way to glide through life…)

Anna is not oblivious. She suffers with the dilemma. Her gray eyes dart from her bear to my empty hands, then at the other childrens’ teddies, and back to my empty hands, her brow wrinkled in concern. She sees the problem. Then her face clears. She has the solution!

“Here, Mary. Here is a bear for you.”

Aw. Isn’t that so sweet? She heard what I said, she understood the problem, she is concerned and wants to resolve the dilemma. Houston, we have empathy!

“Here, Mary. Here is a bear for you.”

Too bad it’s Timmy’s.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Anna, Developmental stuff, individuality, socializing, Timmy | , , , | 8 Comments

Who are you calling ‘baby’?

“Night-time, baby!”
“I’m not a baby any more. Last time I was a baby, before when I was born, but I’m bigger now. Mary, Timmy says I’m a baby.”
(Mary ignores this.)
“It’s time for sleeping. Let’s go sleeping, baby.”
“I’m not a baby!”
“Just in the GAME, Anna. We can be babies inna game.”
“I’m not a baby!”
“It’s just for sleeping. It’s time for sleeping.”
“I will be sleeping with you, but I’m not a baby.”

(Hold that thought, Anna, for another fifteen years or so…)

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Anna, the things they say!, Timmy | , , | 2 Comments