It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The new crew

There’s been a big turnover here. Poppy, Daniel and Rosie are off to other adventures — JK for Poppy and Daniel, preschool for Rosie.

(An aside: Preschool, to “get her ready” for Junior Kindergarten, don’t you know. Silliest thing ever. As I recall, JK was intended to ‘get them ready’ for SK, which, at its inception, was intended to ‘get them ready’ for Grade 1. Honestly. What’s next? Intercom to the womb, so we can ‘get them ready’ for life outside?)

But, a secret here? The only one I truly, truly miss is Poppy. Daniel, though a charmer, was also more than a handful. I could manage him, him with his aggression and defiance. Over the course of the three years he was with me, he improved tremendously, but even so, he was a lot of work. And Rosie? Sweet little Rosie came with parents who were, increasingly, a lot of work. So, while I do miss Rosie, I’m pleased to have mom and dad gone.

And in their place?

I still have Daniel’s little sister, Gwen, who is now two. She’s dawning into an absolutely lovely child. You know how some people are just naturally positive? Gwen is one of those. Now, like her brother, she is very strong-willed, but unlike her brother, she is not self-destructively, reflexively defiant. It’s probably an exaggeration to say she can be ‘reasoned with’ very much just yet, but it is fair to say she is amenable to reason. She’s two, and perfectly capable of unreasoning contrariness, but negativity is not her default. She’s sunshine, mostly. Thunderstorms are occasional, and fleeting.

I still have … Oh, gracious. Did I ever give Poppy’s baby sister a blog name? I think not. Hmmm… I think I’ll keep the flower theme in the family, and go with ‘Daisy’. Bright and sunny, but also a bit of a weed. Yeah. Daisy. Good name for this one. (And yes, I’ve given her the same name as my dog. They share a goodly number of character traits…)

Daisy is now 16 months old. She’s got a killer sense of humour for such a wee one, is bouncy and resilient — cheerfully feisty, too. She’s tiny for her age, often taken for 10 or 11 months old, but make no mistake, she’s a powerhouse, this one.

And we have two new tots, Liam (18 months) and Zoe (14 months).

Liam is a hoot. He’s got the most beautiful, engaging smile. When Liam beams at you, it’s because he’s seen something wonderful and he just knows you’ll share the joy. From time to time, he recalls the evil, parent-eating door, and has a moment of sadness, but he’s quickly distracted. He’s a big, solid boy, but gentle with it, gentle in spirit and in actions. He does charge around like a tiny moose, yes, but manages, for the most part, to avoid knocking the others over like ninepins. He’s not a blunderer. And I have yet to see him use his size to push the other children around, which he manifestly could.

Zoe is a cautious one. Though she’s capable of some lovely smiles and has bouts of good cheer,  those are not her default. Zoe, sadly, is a whiner. Zoe’s response to life’s little setbacks is to cry. And Zoe’s definition of ‘setback’ is both exceedingly broad and endlessly specific.

Did you know that toddlers fall an average of 17 times an hour? True fact. That’s an average, too, meaning a bunch of tots fall more often than that! And did you also know that in Zoe’s world, an unexpected sit-down on her well-padded butt constitutes a ‘setback’ of scream-worthy proportions? Followed by long minutes of low-intensity grizzling? The girl seems to have no other response to a setback, no matter how insignificant, but to wail. No resilience whatsoever.

She’s cautious, so she probably falls less frequently than average. We’ll say a mere 10 times an hour. Oy. And that’s only the start. She will cry for … gracious. What won’t she cry for? I say again, Oy. Someone walks by too close. I put her in the high chair. I lift her down from the high chair. Another child laughs. Another child looks at her. Or at her toys. Or doesn’t look at her. She’s offered food. She’s not offered food. I put her in the stroller.

And let us not speak of diaper changes, which she greets with screams that would have the neighbours thinking (had I not pre-emptively shut the windows) that I was removing her toenails with pliers. Rusty pliers. Lord only know what will happen should she ever get a diaper rash!

Now that I am sure she’s adjusted to the new environment,  and equally sure that the grizzling is more bad habit than genuine unhappiness, I am beginning some basic behavioural training. If I am playing with her, helping her stack blocks on the floor, say, and she begins to grizzle (because someone walked too close? because a dog scratched itself across the room? a dust mote settled on the top block?), I spin on my butt so I have my back to her. Then I ignore the wails. She is passive. She won’t crawl around to the front of me. She sits and wails at my back. *sigh*

But, after a little while, there will be a pause.  Now, I doubt she’s tired. This girl is a marathon-calibre grizzler. No, not tired of whining, but puzzled. This is not what grizzling is supposed to do. So there’s a pause, and in that pause, I promptly turn back, smile, and continue with our game as if there hadn’t been a two-minute Grizzle Hiatus. I play with her until the next dust mote offends Her Delicacy and the grizzling starts again. Without saying anything at all, I once again turn my back.

And so we go, in sessions lasting 5 or so minutes, two or three times a day. I’ll use the quick-turnaround strategy at other times when the grizzle is being used instead of communication — this happens many times in a day — but I’m making a point of squeezing in these more prolonged, specifically training sessions.

It’s only been three days, but I can see improvement. On this, the third day, I will first sit back to increase the distance between us, and then pause a moment before I turn my back on her. About a third of the time, that pause is sufficient to make the whining stop, and then we resume our play.

If she can make that much progress in three days, I’m confident that we’ll train the Default Whine out of her. She’ll probably always be the first to whine when she’s tired or hungry. That’s okay. She may never be Miss Suzy Sunshine, but, give me a couple more months and we’ll get her to Polly Peaceable, at least.

It’s a largely pre-verbal group. Gwen chatters up a storm, but she’s only here three days a week, and she’s the only truly verbal one in the bunch. Daisy has some words, her absolute favourite being “Do-GGY!”, said at least 400 times a day, always with the accent solidly on the last syllable. Liam doesn’t offer words, but will occasionally echo, or give one up if prompted. And Zoe? Zoe goes in for vowels, in a big way. A serious dearth of consonants in Zoe’s ‘vocabulary’ just yet, though I have heard an enthusiastic “BA!” when she sees her bottle.

And now Daisy has woken from her nap, and I need to bring her downstairs for a diaper change and a story.

It’s nice to be back. Even if there isn’t anyone out there any more!

🙂

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October 8, 2014 Posted by | individuality, socializing, whining | | 21 Comments

Tattling Strategy

Tattling and whining, the two banes of life with toddlers. Worse than power struggles over veggies and naps, worse than dawdling and contrariness, worse than snot, spit, puke and shit.

Of those two, tattling and whining, for me at any rate, whining is worse. Now, I loathe tattling. I loathe it almost as much as I loathe whining, but on balance, there’s just something about that off-key, see-saw, drawn-out tone of voice that just grates, you know? Gets right under the skin. So hard, nigh impossible, to tune out. (Which is THE WHOLE POINT of whining, of course.)

I have a tattler in the ranks. Ugh. All toddlers tattle at one point or another, but some kids? Some have an absolute passion for it. It’s their damned vocation. That’s what I’ve got these days. A dedicated, passionate tattler.

The only thing worse than whining is tatting done in a whine. Guess what? My current tattler is one of those. (Making her, as Hannah suggests, a whinitter? a tattlewhinge?) I think I’m going to adopt “tattlewhinge”. So evocative.

And these days, the tattling-whinging is constant. Absolutely constant.

“Grace is sitting on the beeeeh-ench! Daniel hit meeee-eee! Poppy won’t shaaaay-yare! He’s too cloooo-ooose! She’s too faaa-aar! They won’t… they will… they aren’t… they are…”

Whine, tattle, whine, tattle. All.Day.Long.

Aside: Now, some tattling is appropriate, of course. I just don’t tend to hear it from this child, but when I do, you can BE SURE that I am warmly appreciative!

“Rosie is standing on the table? Oh, no! That is dangerous! Good for you for telling me, so we can keep Rosie safe! Good job!”

I have strategies for tattling, of course. Strategies which will work, in time, so long as I have the persistence (which I do) and the patience (less bountiful some days) to see it through. Still, I can’t stop thinking about it. Not obsessing! I swear. Thinking. Mulling it over. Running scenarios through my mind. (Scenarios which do not include duct tape, I swear.) Musing. Cogitating.

Okay. Maybe obsessing, just a bit. But from much thinking comes actual insight! The insight came as I was ranting venting obsessing talking it over with Emma.

“She’s not trying to solve a problem, she’s just trying to get someone else in trouble, or use me to get herself some vengeance. I refuse to be her Enforcer.”

Suddenly I heard what I was saying: “She’s not trying to solve a problem.” I heard, and I had my lightbulb moment. When you have a problem, what should your response be? Why, to solve it, of course. To fix it. Make it better.

So, with that tiny bit of insight, I can reframe my response to a tattle into a clean, methodical, logical set of steps. It goes like this:

Kid tattles.

1. I ask “What’s the problem?”
Note: this is not said in a sarcastic tone. The question is quite sincere. Let’s get to the root of the problem — let’s identify the problem that needs to be fixed. Toddlers are often surprisingly poor at this. They know how they feel about what’s happened — NO LIKE IT!!! GRR! — they usually know what they want done in response — GIVE IT TO ME! NOW! — but they often can’t identify what event caused their feelings. And they very, very rarely manage to understand that the other party has a similar and equally valid set of needs.

So the first step is to identify the problem. Which, even if they can identify it, is often not quite as they see it. (The problem, stupid Mary, is that HE WON’T SHARE!!! No, actually, my little dumpling of sweetness, the problem is that he won’t abdicate the toy the second you demand it.) The problem, from my dispassionate adult perspective, is that you both have equally valid, conflicting desires.

I try to be sincere and kind about the problem, from their perspective. “You really, really want that toy! But you know what? She really, really wants that toy, too! And you can’t both play with it at the same time.” (We’ll assume it’s a toy that doesn’t lend itself to co-play.) “That’s a big problem!” Because, really, from their perspective of self-focus, immature empathy capabilities, and general life inexperience, it is a big problem.

All right. Having identified the problem, we go on to step two. “That’s a big problem,” I say,

2. “How can you solve the problem?”

The first proposed solution will be obvious: “He has to GIVE IT TO ME!” (Duh.)
“Yes,” says kindly party-pooping Mary, “but if we do that, you will be happy, but he will be sad. We need to try to fix this so you’re both happy.”

We continue, with me trying to draw it out of them, rather than impose it upon them. Sometimes this step is done with all children involved, sometimes with just the tattler. It depends on what the precipitating CRISIS!!!! was. (I treat their event as a Big Problem when I discuss it with them out of respect for their developmental phase. This does not mean I actually believe it’s a Big Problem. Because WHO CARES if the pink shoelace is beside the book or on top of it? Me?? I think not.)

2b. What happens if that doesn’t work?
This is preparing them for the future, when (as a result of my diligent and skilled assistance!) they are solving problems BEFORE they come tattling to me. Or even — and oh, my heart beats a little faster at the thought — INSTEAD of coming tattling to me. [Insert giggle of sheer giddiness.] So what if they come up with a solution, and it doesn’t work? They tried something, and there’s still a problem?

Because these are toddlers here. Even if, by some sudden burst of maturity, one of ’em actually manages a constructive, calm, co-operative response to a conflict/problem, that is no guarantee at all that the other kid will be equally sensible. In fact, odds make it strongly unlikely. So. If their wonderful fix-it idea doesn’t work? THEN they can come to me for help.

However, I expect them to try to fix it before they ask me to help.

So. When the child has come up with a solution that seems viable, I

3. See that it happens.
I don’t implement the solution. I watch and support the implementation, stepping in only when absolutely essential.
.
.
———————
.
.

There. That’s the initial response. Emphasis on identifying shared problem, and the expectation that they try to fix it on their own.

When we’ve been through this enough times that the drill is understood, I retreat even further from involvement, hand over even more of the process to the child.

Kid Tattles, Phase Two.

1. What have you done to solve the problem?
“You know you are supposed to try to fix the problem first, before you talk to me about it. What have you tried?” Again, not angrily. Just asking. Because of course they have tried to fix it!!!

If they have tried something, they get much praise for this. Then I help them brainstorm another response. I will intervene if their solution was perfectly appropriate and the real problem is that the other child is acting like a two-year-old. (It’s a chronic issue with two-year-olds…)

If the response is “nothing”, I instruct the child to think of some ideas to fix it, and get back to me. I often look puzzled as I say it. “You haven’t tried anything yet?

If the response continues to be “nothing” many repetitions later, well after the expectation is 100% established, the tattler will be In Trouble for not trying to solve their own problems. Now I am no longer puzzled, but annoyed.

“You know you are to try to solve your problems. You know the rule: Try to fix it first! Off you go to the quiet stair and think about how to solve this.”

I like it. It gives ownership of the problem to the child, it teaches them some clear steps for resolution, it has a trajectory of decreasing adult involvment/increasing child autonomy.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Peeve me, socializing, whining | , | 4 Comments

Dodge and weave for the win!

“Grace is TALKING to me!” Jazz’s voice soars in indignation. Talking to her? How DARE she!? We are walking to the park, the little girls trotting side by side on the grass. I have no idea what preceded this. They seemed to be getting on just fine.

“Grace is TALKING to me!!”

If you have more than one child, or have been responsible for more than one child, you’ve heard this sort of thing before. You’ve probably joined right in the dance. Even though you hate it. Even though it’s silly and petty beyond belief, and ooooooooooh, sooooooooo tedious. Because there’s a pattern here, a tried-and-true, oh-so-familiar call-and-response, and it’s hard to avoid it. But tedious? Lordy.

Boring. I know people told me about the sleep deprivation of parenting an infant, the lack of privacy, the conflict and power struggles of parenting, but I don’t know that anyone ever warned me that great tracts of it are so UTTERLY BORING.

Different parents will be bored by different things. Some parents hate reading the same book over and over and over again. Hearing the same song, watching certain television shows, changing diapers, the constant battle against clutter, cooking meals, soothing a not-quite-sick, not-entirely-well child, helping with homework … Maybe your particular tedium thing is on that list, maybe you’re bored to tears by something else.

For me?

Squabbling. Some parents find squabbling enraging. It drives them INSANE. Me, I find it boring. Boring, boring, boring beyond belief.

Not a real conflict, mind you, where honest-to-goodness problems are being addressed — more or less constructively, perhaps, but a genuine issue is being addressed directly. That’s necessary, and necessary conflict doesn’t bore me. Done properly, necessary conflict is interesting, and, ultimately, constructive. No, it’s the petty, frivolous, pointless, MORONIC bickering that is really just jockeying for power, control, and/or attention.

So, the automatic, obvious response to:

“She’s TALKING to me!” can go a few ways, depending on the personality of the adult involved.

1. Annoyance.
“For heaven’s sakes. Why shouldn’t she?”
“Oh, don’t be silly!”
“What’s wrong with that?”

2. Coaxing.
“But Grace would like to talk with you. Grace is your friend. You can talk with Grace, honey!”

3. Sweet Reason.
“Is Grace saying anything mean? No? Then you can talk to her. You’re friends, remember?”
“If you don’t feel like talking, just tell Grace, politely.”

4. Arbitrator
“If you can’t even talk together, then you can’t walk together. You come here, you stay there, and not another word till we get to the park.”

5. Mockery.
“NO! Really? How DARE she???”
“TALKING to you? How will you ever survive?”
“So, what? You want me to tape her mouth shut, now?”

So what do I do? Well, not 1 or 2. Because I find the mindless squabbling so mind-numbingly boring, I don’t want to do anything to prolong it. If I respond in annoyance, I’m not discouraging the squabble, I’m joining in. Yawn. Coaxing? Coaxing is almost as boring as squabbling. Besides, it puts you in the place of supplicant for your child’s good behaviour, a truly bad parenting strategy.

Sweet Reason is laudable, and were I a more worthy human being, I would do it most of the time, but, oh, the brain-bleeding boredom.

I have been known to indulge in some gleeful mockery. Self-indulgent, I know, but it amuses me. And divide and conquer? Certainly.

Today, though, I simply deviated entirely from the script. Any of those scripts.

“Grace is TALKING to me!!!”

The indignation is profound, the expectation that I DO something about it clear. And imperious. Jazz does ‘imperious’ extremely well. I know what my role is … and I refuse to perform. Instead, today I pretend that Jazz is a normal human being instead of a toddler. A normal human being, interacting with her best friend.

“She IS? Well, isn’t that nice? What a good friend she is!”

The look Jazz shoots at me can only be described as nonplussed (definition 1, obviously). (Victory! Keep ’em off-balance, that’s my motto.)

Nonplussed, confused, off-balance, bewildered … it’s all there. I keep smiling. “You’re a good friend, Grace, talking to Jazz. It’s fun to talk with our friends, isn’t it?” I beam at both of them.

Jazz looks at Grace, who beams along with me. Grace has no idea what’s really going on here, but she loves all the smiles and happiness!

And Jazz … talks to Grace.

We continue our walk to the park.

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, Mischief, potty tales, whining | | 7 Comments

Gathering up that loose end

A couple of you recently asked “whatever happened to that difficult baby?” and only this morning I stumbled across a partial post in the draft files addressing that very question. Karma. For those of you who weren’t around (or just don’t remember — it was a while back!), I have a very challenging child a while back. I started out hopeful. After all, I’ve been doing this for sixteen years. I have a wealth of experience, lots of confidence, and, if not patience, the perspective that comes with experience. We could work this out! I was sure. Never doubted it for a moment.

But, when the situation dragged on for months without improvement, the hope receded. What follows is a post from my draft file, written in some month ago, and a good six months after the situation began.

Unhappy baby: I’m not so hopeful any more. She is still whiny and needy, she continues to demand far more time and attention than I can give her and still be at all present for the other children. She arrives wailing… but it’s not sincere, heart-felt unhappiness. It’s a habit. It’s just what she does when she comes up my front steps.

And I just. can’t. shake her from it. It’s a habit, but it appears to be 100% intractable. I can’t break it, I can’t distract her, I can’t provide alternate patterns. Crying is what she does. That’s it, that’s all.

She arrives, wailing. Every day, wailing. We go for an outing. She wails as we get ready to go, but calms as we proceed down the street. By the time we’ve passed a few blocks, she’s cheerful and chattering. A normal child having a normal, happy day. And when we return to the house? The wailing starts again. The second she sees the front steps, the wails commence. It’s positively Pavolvian.

Everything I’ve tried? Nothing. Or, it will work for a day or two, or even a week or two, but only that long. For a while, we used a book of nursery songs. She’d arrive, wailing, I’d put her on my knee to sing songs to her. By the time I’d sung three or four songs in the book, she was happy, ready to slide off my knee and play. After a couple of days, she’d enter, wailing, but crying for her “songbook! songbook!”

Well, that’s a good sign, right? She recognizes the tool which helps ease her into daycare. It gives her security, stability, consistency, to help her weather the transition. This has got to be good.

You’d think that. You’d be wrong.

After a few days, she would not just wail for the songbook, but she’d wail the entire way through it. Another couple of days, and she’d burst into tears whenever she saw the damned thing lying around. Instead of positive associations, it was now associated with her anxiety. Instead of reassuring her, it freaked her out.

I hid the book.

And so it went with each transitional strategy I tried: a few days of success, then decreasing success, and then, oh the bitter irony, the new strategy would become a source of anxiety. And without that transitional activity, the entire day — the entire day — was one long, long, long, long, long, long round of whining, wails, clutching, and tears. All hers, but I will tell you that at the end of a week of days full of this, some of them are mine. After hours, when I release it all to my ever-patient, wonderfully supportive husband. It’s hard.

I am at a loss. I am also, and this is more immediately worrying, out of patience. I can’t work with a child I am not liking, and I am finding it increasingly difficult to find much to like here. I feel badly for her, I ache for her misery and wish I could do something to make it right for her. But I am not liking being with her.

I am not behaving badly: no tantrums, no shouting, no freaking the kids out. I haven’t, and I won’t. But each workday is becoming more and more of a strain, I am more and more often weary to the bone at the end of my day, my work environment becomes less and less satisfying, as each and every thing I try seems to be working, and then… fails.

I have had challenging children before. I have had truly obnoxious parents more often. On one notable occasion — the only occasion on which I gave a family notice — I gave them a scant week’s notice. In this case, however, though the child was a challenge, it was the parents who were the problem, bullying me when things didn’t go their way. Despite his challenges, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t help their child. It was the parents I refused to work with.

But in this case, I love the child and quite like the parents. They are lovely people. But their child is not happy with me.

I am meeting with the parents early next week. Barring a miracle between now and then, I will be giving them notice. This is the first time in close to sixteen years of childcare that I have reached that point with a child. I am not happy about it.

That’s the end of the draft. What happened was that I met with the parents (this would have been at least our third private, after-hours meeting), and gave them notice. They were disappointed, but I think we all knew we’d reached the end of our road together. Lily was not happy with me. And I, increasingly, was not happy with her. (Though I didn’t say that last part to the parents. With them, the focus is on their child’s needs.)

“In another situation,” I said, “without the triggers and associations that she’s developed here, she will probably start afresh and do very well.” I said that as much because I wanted to believe it than because I really believed it. It was plausible, at any rate. At this point, the parents needed some hope. It was the best I could do.

She was with me for a further few weeks as her parents looked for other care. Eventually, they put her in a large-group daycare. And my hoped-for, semi-wishful-thinking outcome… happened! It’s been six months or more, and Lily is thriving in her new large-group daycare.

Why didn’t she thrive here? Damned if I know. Wish I did. I wracked my brains for months trying to sort that out, and never did come to any confident conclusions. Still, I’m happy for her… and, truth be known, relieved. Those last few months, she was hard work, that girl. It’s not the ending I’d have chosen. I wanted the original, sunny, so-delightful Lily back! But in the end, it’s a happy ending for Lily, and that’s what matters.

And am I enjoying my two new babies, who are the very picture of mellow, low-need, happy, go-with-the-flow children?

Damned straight I am. 🙂

September 30, 2011 Posted by | daycare, individuality, Lily, the dark side, whining | , , | 5 Comments

Bah, humbug

I love walking the dog. The early morning sunshine, slanting through the trees by the river, the dew on the green grass, the birds chirping, the other dogs bouncing across the field.

It makes me hum with peace and contentment.

Usually.

This week, I’ve had to add to that list, “the whine of the toddler”. Damn it. There’s a dad who takes advantage of the morning dog-walk to take his baby and toddler for a walk, too. It would be heart-warming if the toddler didn’t whine, whine, whine, whine, whine. Everything that comes out of that boy’s mouth is a grating whinge.

People think I’m a patient person, and I suppose I am in some ways… but not this time. I have zip patience for this, because it’s so unnecessary. And besides, the kid is noise-polluting my zen. I daydream, every time, about approaching the dad. “You know, you can train them out of that. You don’t have to listen to that every minute of the day.”

I think he’s so used to hearing it that he doesn’t even hear it any more. But I do.

It’s time to change the time of my morning walk. I want my peace and serenity back. Dopey kid. Dopier dad.

Grump, grump, grump…

August 10, 2010 Posted by | parenting, whining | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Whining

A few of you have asked about how to deal with whining. A couple of years ago (good heavens, I just checked, and it was FOUR!!) I covered this in some detail. If you are curious, follow the link for Mary’s three-step, thee-week program to (virtually) eliminate whining.

May 4, 2010 Posted by | parenting, whining | 2 Comments

Four-year-olds

…are Rule People. I know I’ve talked about that before. And because they are Rule People, they very readily become that second-worst bane of my existence, Tattlers. (The first? Whiners. Hate whining. Hate it, hate it, hate it.)

And when tattling is combined with whining — “Maaaaaaaryyyyy, she won’t shaaay-yerrrrr” — my left eye starts twitching as I contemplate running away to Tahiti. Again.

All of which could make one think that I don’t like four-year-olds. Not true!

Four-year-olds, along with being Rule People, are very often Organizers. Emily has always been an organizer, and Emily is now four.

She is not much of a tattler, either, in part because I squelch it pretty effectively, but mostly because she just dons her big-sister-organizer hat, and sorts them right out herself.

“Tyler, you know you have to share the toys. You can have it for two more minutes, and then it will be my turn, okay?”

It usually works. And when it doesn’t, she approaches me for assistence, radiating competence and the attitude that we’re both in this together. She’s not tattling, she is information-sharing. Really information-sharing.

“Mary, Tyler is not sharing, again. (Here she rolls her eyes and heaves a “can’t-they-be-exasperating?” sigh.) I gave him two minutes, but he’s decided to keep it still. Would you tell him he needs to give it to me, please?”

And during those times when Mary has decided it’s time for a tea-break on the couch and “no I won’t help you with that, I’m having my tea now”, Emily steps into the breach.

She organizes circle times. They sing “Old MacDonald” — because, with Noah in this house NO circle time is complete without four or seven verses of Old MacDonald, and Emily knows this and indulges him. They sing “The Wheels on the Bus” — Tyler’s favourite. They sing “The More We Get Together” — Nissa’s choice.

She organizes games. “We’ll do Ring Around a Rosey. You hold Nissa’s hand, Tyler. Nissa, you have to let him hold your hand. We’re going to play Ring Around a Rosey. GOOD girl!”

If you just want to drown in cute, it’s four toddlers playing Ring Around a Rosey, completely unfettered by adult intervention. My tea-breaks last a lot longer when Emily is in charge, because it’s just so damned adorable. Lordy.

Lots of little girls take on the role of mini-mum. At my place, Emily is a mini-Mary.

Only she’s way cuter. 🙂

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Emily, individuality, the cuteness!, whining | , , , | 6 Comments

Sound and fury

… signifying nothing.

Monday: Dad comes in, looking a bit harried. “I’m 45 minutes behind where I should be, but it took us that long to get out the door. First she had to have a story, and then we had to sing some songs, and then we couldn’t find her pink boots, only the grey ones. It took forty-five minutes before everything was just right, so we could leave!”

Tuesday: Dad hands me a box of Cheerios. “Do you mind feeding her some breakfast? She wouldn’t sit down to eat, so I had to chase her with the spoon, and I think most of it ended up on the floor.”

Wednesday: Dad to daughter. “We learned something new today, didn’t we, sweetie? We learned how to sit in a Big People seatbelt!” He turns to me. “She wouldn’t get into her carseat, so we compromised with a seatbelt.”

Thursday: “I’m late! She insisted on pushing the stroller instead of riding in it, and now I have a client waiting in my office for me right now.”

Friday: Child comes wearing a jacket inappropriate to the weather. “She refused to wear her snow-suit, so we had to settle for this. I figure if you can get these tights on her under her jeans…?”

The door closes on dad. Emma looks at me, her eyes wide with disbelief.

“How old is she?”
“Not quite two.”
“And she weighs, what, twenty pounds?”
“Something like that.”
“And he can’t win an argument with her? What’s she going to be like when she’s fourteen? Geez. Come on, guy, she comes up to your knee. You can take her.”

She’s right, of course. When your opponent’s primary weapon is neither reason nor strength, but merely a loud shriek… okay, a really, really, really loud shriek… it’s just noise, guy. Noise. There are some battles you just don’t need to lose against… noise.

January 22, 2010 Posted by | health and safety, manners, parenting, parents, Peeve me, power struggle, tantrums, whining | , , , , , | 13 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

It’s all in your head. Sometimes.

1119963_meditation___“Mary, Anna took my paper!”
“Mary, Tyler is playing with the boots!”
“Mary, Emily bumped me!”
“Mary, Noah is trying to eat my plum!”

It’s a gentle whine, not a cry of outrage. Whatever the tone of voice, however, the content bears witness to the unfortunate fact:

Timmy has entered The Tattling Time. One of my all-time least favourite toddler passages.

Bleah.

It is inexpressibly tedious to be dragged into each and every teeny conflict, to be expected to mediate and chastise, my role to stand behind the tattler and put the other guy in her place.

Bleah.

I am no one’s hired bully-boy, little man.

My response is well-practiced, and in fact these three deal with their squabbles pretty well. In the case of the purloined paper, given that Timmy’s picture was directly in front of Timmy, and Anna’s in front of her, it seems this one had been resolved, too. Before he even spoke to me.

So, really, there was no need for my input at all. This is possibly the most exasperating manifestation of The Tattling Time: The Totally Pointless Tattle.

Bleah, bleah, bleah.

“Anna took your paper?”
“Yes.”
“And you told her to give it back?”
“Yes.”
“And then Anna gave it back?”
“Yes.”
“Did you say ‘sorry’ when you gave it back, Anna?”
“Yes.”
“So, there you go! You used your words, and Anna listened, and it’s all fixed now. You fixed the problem all by yourselves! Good job!” We all three beam at each other, we maybe even clap our hands and do a small happy dance, so pleased are we with ‘our’ handling of this small crisis.

There. We’ve rehearsed the protocol, we’ve reinforced their appropriate behaviour, we’ve arrived at an emotionally satisfactory ending, all without me being drawn into the Enforcer role. It’s what I do, every time. It’s an effective response, and will, in time, help to reduce the incidence of tattling.

I have tried also adding, “…so you don’t need to tell me at all!” Picture my hopeful smile, eyebrows raised, head nodding. “You can do it, kid! Have the problem, address the problem, and solve the problem, all without dragging Mary in as your Enforcer.

That has been less effective. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was 100% ineffective.

I am sooooo tired of the Totally Pointless Tattle. So very, very tired. But Timmy is driven to tell me these things. Driven, I tell you.

And therein lay the solution to my problem. Entirely within my control, too.

This morning? This morning I made a decision. I would perform a conscious and deliberate attitude shift. No longer will these exchanges be examples of the Totally Pointless Tattle. Now they are simply “Information Sharing.”

To-dah! With a simple switch of mental gears, Timmy is not begging for my punitive intervention. He is not expecting me to don the brass knuckles. No, he is merely telling me what just happened, keeping me apprised of their little exchanges.

And me, I am rehearsing and reinforcing good behaviour and appropriate responses.

He’s saying what he was saying before. I’m saying what I was saying before. It’s all exactly the same as before, and yet, amazingly, about 84% less irritating.

Mind over attitude, baybeee! Mind over attitude. Ohmmmmm…

December 18, 2008 Posted by | behavioural stuff, socializing, whining | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments