It’s Not All Mary Poppins


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


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

The boy needs a memory aid

Tyler is still not 100% potty-trained. In fact, given his withholding of bowel movements and our increasing worries about the possibility of him developing encopresis, we’ve put him in Pull-Ups and backed right off the entire issue. He’ll get there sooner or later — peer pressure will do it when adult expectations won’t — and we don’t have to worry about him permanently damaging himself.

At first, he regressed entirely to the diaper. More recently, though he still refuses to do a bowel movement anywhere but in a diaper or pull-up, he has been keeping himself dry, doing all his pees in a potty. We’re calling it progress.

And even more recently, he has become very particular about the placement of the boy bits post-pee. I am usually there to help lift the pull-up onto his hips. You’d think this would do the trick, but no. He must plunge his hand in there and rearrange things. “My penis is pointing up!” Rummage, rummage, rummage…

Yes, well, whatever. He’s not indulging in lengthy sessions of fondling re-arranging, so I’m pretty sure this is nothing more than him being persnickety. Heck, what do I know? I don’t have one. Maybe it really does require this sort of careful adjustment.

Anyway. The children have been industriously building enormous and complicated Duplo creations in the kitchen for most of the morning. When lunch is ready, they are called to the table. The littles go in high chairs pulled right to the table, the bigs sit in regular chairs.

Tyler sits in his chair, then gets up onto his knees and leans into the table.

“Sit on your bottom, Tyler. We’re eating.”

Wiggly children lead to dining table spills. Children have far less wiggle room when they’re firmly seated. Tyler knows that he’s expected to keep his bottom in his chair. He sits.

And then he’s up again.

“Tyler. If you want your lunch, you need to sit. Bottom on the chair, please.”

He sits. Winces. And he’s up.

Winces? “Tyler, is it hurting to sit?”

“Yes.” Huh. We determine that no, he does not need to poo. Nor has he pooed recently. He doesn’t have a cut or a rash or a sunburn. Now, Tyler is three and a half. We are determining this through question and answer. Clearly, though, I need to investigate.

“Hop down, lovey. Let’s check that Pull-Up.”

A startled look crosses his face, and he suddenly stands on his chair and plunges his hand well past his belt buckle, down into the depths. From whence he pulls a duplo block. A hard plastic thing with eight pointy corners. Which had evidently been nestling right under the family jewels. No wonder it hurt to sit.

“Good heavens, Tyler! What on earth was that doing in there?”

“I think when I peed and I fixed my penis, I forgot I had a block in my hand.”

And you just left it there? And didn’t notice? For, oh, two hours?

Boy has balls of steel. Clearly. Balls of steel.

June 24, 2011 Posted by | eeewww, potty tales, Tyler | , , , , | 9 Comments

Naptime just got cuter

(Yes, I saw him playing with that teeny Clifford the Big Red Dog. But he must be able to play in his sleep because whenever I moved around to the front of the cot, his eyes were squinched tight, tight, super-tight shut! Amazing child.)

May 26, 2011 Posted by | the cuteness!, the dog, Tyler | , , | 3 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

Reading between the lines?

“My mommy is at work.”

First thing in the morning, and we have the usual busy scene: I kneel on the floor, greeting the child who has just arrived, the children who have already arrived trot over to greet her. One parent is just leaving, pulling the door shut behind him, another parent is hanging the snowsuit of the child I’m greeting.

Tyler is the one who’s just spoken. The parent hanging the snowsuit turns to respond. Her maternal heart pushes her to respond. The poor little guy, missing his mother already!

“Yes, mommy is at work,” she says, her voice warm and reassuring, soothing his anxieties, “but she will come back. Mommy always comes back, doesn’t she?” I wince at bit. I don’t see worry on Tyler’s face. I’m not sure why he’s telling us this, but I’d rather she weren’t projecting her assumptions onto the boy. Was he worried that mommy might not come back? Well, if he wasn’t before, he probably is now! There is such a thing as too much empathy. Mom is well-intended, but she’s leading the witness.

Tyler, thankfully, is made of hardier stuff. He gives her a blank stare, and repeats himself.

“My mommy is at work.”

“But she’ll be back at the end of the day, sweetpea. Don’t you worry!” And, giving her child a hug and kiss, off she goes. To work. From whence she, too, will return at the end of the day.

Tyler turns his attention to me. “My mommy is at work.”

Now, I still don’t know what, if anything, is his reason/agenda for his dedicated pursuit of this topic, but I’m not going to assume a negative emotional response. Let’s just chat with him about the idea and see where he takes it. When a child makes what could be an emotionally-charged statement without any sign of a particular emotion, my practice is to either be equally neutral, or to assume a positive emotion. I mean, really: If you’re going to project an emotion onto someone, why not make it a happy one?

In this case, I keep it neutral.

“Yes, she is. And Grace’s mommy is at work, and Rory’s mother is at work. All the mommies are at work!” Because they all are, and in our little world, this is perfectly standard. Nothing remarkable about it at all. Nothing exceptional, nothing worrisome, nothing negative. All the mommies are at work, all the daddies are at work, all the kids are at Mary’s. And the sun is in the sky, too. It’s just how reality rolls.

Tyler starts to grin. “Yes, all the mommies are at work,” he says, his eyes sparkling, “but MY mommy has SNOWPLOWS at her work!” His face breaks into a beaming smile. Oh, the wonder of SNOWPLOWS!!! “There are TWO snowplows! A yellow one and a big, big, big blue one!!!”

And for the next few minutes, Tyler regales us all with the wonder of the snowplows in the parking lot at mommy’s work.

So it turned out that “My mommy is at work,” carried no negative charge for him at all. It was merely a segue, his springboard to boasting. HIS mommy is at work, yes, and his mommy has the BEST WORK EVER!

Lesson for the day: When you read between the lines, make sure you’re on the same page.

March 28, 2011 Posted by | daycare, parents, Tyler | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Update, Tyler

One of you asked how it was going with Tyler.

Well, has not yet pooped at my house, after last Friday’s dramatic episode. HOWEVER, he is pooping at home in the evenings!!! Are we out of the woods with this? Since it’s been less than a week, it’s too early to tell, but it’s clear that he did NOT make a connection in his head between pooping and puking, thank goodness. I’d say things are looking hopeful.

March 2, 2011 Posted by | potty tales, Tyler | 2 Comments

Oh, the (disgusting) irony…

Tyler is pretty much potty-trained. He knows when he needs to go, he can get himself to the potty on time. He can get his pants down and back up again. He needs help with the clean-up, but all in all he’s independent.


He’s a ‘withholder’. He doesn’t like to poo. He holds it for as long as humanly possible. Correction: he holds it far longer than should be humanly possible. This is more than just an oddity. This is worrisome. Holding out for that long can make a body sick. It will certainly cause constipation. How Tyler has evaded that thus far is one of life’s little mysteries, but if he keeps it up, it’ll be inevitable.

He never poos during the day at my home. This is not all that unusual. It often happens that a child’s typical poop time occurs when they’re at home — first thing in the morning, or right after dinner, say. That’s called being ‘regular’. 🙂

Tyler is not ‘regular’. He’ll hold out and hold out and hold out. Then, on the third or fourth or fifth day, he seems to reach a point where he just can’t quite hold it any more. He’ll release a bit into his underwear. They’ll clean him up and change him. Fifteen minutes, half an hour later, he’ll do it again. When he’s put on the potty, nothing happens. Put him back in underwear, and, half an hour later, another dollop in his pants.

Not that this ever happens at my home. In fact, I had no idea this was happening until his mother called me one evening. She is at the end of her rope.

“Calm and unemotional. We’re tying to be calm and unemotional… and we just can’t do it any more! The underwear! I’ve bought ten new pairs of underwear, and it’s still not enough!”

My input, in our lengthy conversation, was that at this point I saw us as having two ways to go: cold turkey, which means they take away his night-time diaper, and we push his liquid and fibre intake (bring on the prune juice!). Yes, there will probably be more laundry, in the form of bedding as well as ALL THOSE UNDERWEAR for a few days. But we’ll try it for a week or ten days and see if we can push this past the tipping point. That’s one way.

Or, we could go in the complete other direction, and put the boy back in diapers for two or three months, let everyone calm down and get over what is obviously becoming traumatic, before trying again.

I really had no strong preference. I think either way could work. I’m worried, though, knowing that the longer this continues, the greater the likelihood that he’ll become seriously constipated. Then having a poo will hurt — which will only increase his aversion to having a bowel movement. And then we’ll really be entrenched in a vicious circle! So whichever way we go, we need to make a decision and get it done.

Mom did NOT want to go back to diapers. Her much-beloved son is driving her CRAZY!!! Eight, ten, twelve pair of underwear a couple of days a week would do that to a woman. Okay, then. Cold turkey it is.

We agree to really push the fluids. Anything the boy will drink, the boy can have. Fruit juice? Here you go! Nuclear green kool-aid? Bring it on! Lots of fibre, in any form he’ll take it. Dried apricots, raisins, grapes, peas… I suggested we institute a potty regimen, with a set time for pooping each day. The first will be about 24 hours after his last poo, and then we’ll stick with that time. We won’t ask if he needs to go, we’ll just tell him it’s time to poo. See if we can get the boy regulated.

Friday was Day One of Tyler’s new potty regimen. At the end of the day, I had both good and bad news.

1. The good news: Tyler had a very large poo on the potty shortly after noon!!! It’s an astonishment to me that one small boy could possibly hold so much ordure. But it was enormous and it was soft. Yay! Still (miraculously) no constipation!!

It wasn’t a struggle at all. A simple directive: “Time to sit on the potty and have that poo, Tyler.” See, he’d been complaining that his belly hurt, and, given that it had been three days since his last BM, I was sure I knew what that was all about.

“Your belly hurts, sweetie, because there’s a poo in there that needs to come out. You go sit on the potty and wait for it. It might take a while, but it needs to come out. When it does, you will feel so much better!”

So he went, and he sat down, and he waited. And he waited. And he waited. I gave him a few books, and a soft toy, but I largely ignored him. I’m suspecting part of this is power struggle and/or attention-seeking, so, while being cheerful, positive, and supportive, I am also leaving him to do the work on his own. I checked in at intervals.

“Has that poo come out yet?”
“Well, what a silly poo!” [Mary leans down a bit and calls out in the general direction of Tyler’s belly-button.] “Hey, you poo in there! Get out of there! Time to come out and leave Tyler alone! Come on, lazy poo! Out you come!”
By now Tyler is giggling. I hand him another book and leave for another five minutes. (See? No pressure, just cheerful support. But also minimal attention. No sitting and reading to him for 25 minutes.)

And… 25 minutes later, an enormous, gigantic, gargantuan poo. I was afraid the top of the goopy pile would scrape off on the bottom of the potty seat when I removed the bowl, but we managed to escape that extra mess. It was a near thing, though.

“There! All done! Don’t you feel better??”

He didn’t. Apparently his belly still hurt. Pfft. I know this boy. If he thought it would lose him a point to agree, he’d argue black was white. Yes, he feels better. He’s just not going to admit it. So, having cleaned and watched him get back into his pants, upstairs I go, to dump the ten-pound potty into the toilet.

When I come downstairs a minute later…

2. the bad news…

He is throwing up. All over the place. ALL over the place. Astonishing quantities of stuff. Solids, liquids, in between, splattered all over the dining room floor. I arrive on the scene in the middle of the second heave. There are two more after that. My dining room floor is awash, and the stench is making my eyes water.


“Tyler. Sit down right where you are. Don’t move, okay? I have to get the babies out of the way.”

He plonks his butt down, blinking blearily. I scoop one, two, three babies, toss them into highchairs, and scatter Cheerios on their trays. I grab my bin of rags and swab the floor before turning my attention to Tyler.

And I strip the boy down. Because everything is saturated. His sweater and the shirt underneath it stick to his skin. The thighs of his jeans are spattered with chunks. His woolly slippers have absorbed enough of the puddle he was standing in that his socks are also damp.

In fact, the only item of his clothing that did NOT require changing? Well, take a guess: After days of many, many changes of pooped-in underwear per day, guess which was the ONLY item of clothing that did NOT need to be changed after the puke of the century?


(Afterword, because who wouldn’t be wondering about this: The puke and the poo were in no way related. He pooped — yay!!! He had a stomach bug that lasted the next 30 hours or so — boo!!! Total coincidence.)

February 28, 2011 Posted by | health and safety, potty tales, Tyler | , , | 12 Comments