It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Smile, it’s Friday!

caillou-funny

(Thanks for the link, Kate!)

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Mischief | , | 2 Comments

Caillou: New Baby, or, The Weirdness

So. About that Caillou book.

Where were we? Let’s see…

Page 1: Caillou is happily anticipating the arrival of his baby sister.
Page 2: Mommy and Daddy go to the hospital. Is he excited that his sister is on her way? Is he happy to spend the night with gramma? Noooo… Drippy little Caillou plops his thumb in his mouth and is “lonely”.
Page 3: The baby appears and disillusionment sets in. The baby can’t do anything! (Drippy little Caillou’s parents obviously did a poor job of preparation.)
Pages 4 – 7: Caillou’s behaviour deteriorates, from pouting through passive aggression and non-compliance, through regression right onto to active aggression, culminating when he bites his baby sister.

Caillou’s parents are galvanized into action! Daddy comforts the baby, while Mommy tackles Caillou. And here’s where it gets weird. Just you watch.

Mommy: “You think your sister is sweet enough to eat. But if you do, you will no longer have her to love. You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

He thinks she’s sweet enough to eat?? Does this delusion nitwit honestly think her toddler bit the baby because he thinks she’s edible? Seriously?

I think Caillou’s mommy is one of those “Good Mommies”. Bad feelings don’t exist in her universe. I bet when Caillou manages to get under her skin by repeated whiny, manipulative, aggressive behaviour, she isn’t ever, ever angry, she’s only “sad”. So very sad. And Caillou is never angry, hostile, or jealous. Oh, no! He is just tired, or over-stimulated. Or, in this case, hungry.

Okay, Mommy. Time for a reality check. Caillou is thinking a whole big bunch of things about his sister, you bet. However, I would bet lots and lots of good money “my baby sister is sooooo sweet” is not one of them.

He may only be 21 months old, but Mommy? He knows the difference between a human being and an apple. That’s why, when he wanted to express his anger and aggression, he threw a doll around his room. A baby doll. Not, you will note, an apple.

“But if you do, you will no longer have her to love.”

Wait. Just wait now. You’re suggesting that Caillou is trying to ingest his sister, in her entirety?? That he wants to completely consume her? You think that bite wasn’t a simple act of aggression, but only the first morsel of lunch??

She’d rather believe her son was aiming for cannibalism than aggression?? A little bog-standard toddler aggression arising out of jealousy and anxiety?? So her thought processes were, what? “My baby would never act aggressively! Nooo. He must just have been trying to eat her. Like an apple. Yes, that’s much better.”

You know what? That’s WAY, WAY CREEPIER, Mommy. Waaaay creepier. Caillou the Cannibal. Ew.

Wonderful husband listened to me read that page and snorted. “Now, now, Caillou,” he chirped in a blissed-out Nice Mommy voice. “You can’t have your sister and eat her, too!” (Yes, I know I’ve just put down the red carpet for some seriously creepy Google-searchers. Won’t they be disappointed that it’s just whiny little Caillou and his delusional parents?)

“You can bite an apple, but not your baby sister.”

Okay. We’ll let that one alone. It’s a reasonable enough thing to say to a young toddler. Also “You are a person, not a wild animal. People don’t bite.” Or, “You may be angry, but you may not bite.” Or, “Caillou! You just hurt the baby! See how she’s crying? Poor baby Rosie! I need to go spend time with her and help her feel better. You can sit over there alone.” Or, after the above, “You can come help me make her feel better. Poor, poor Rosie!”

It’s odd how most of the book is devoted to describing Caillou’s growing unhappiness and eventual aggression, but the parents’ response does not address the issue of his feelings at.all.

In fact, and I just realized this, there is never any discussion of Caillou’s feelings. It is simply a list of actions. Caillou does this, that, and that other thing. Every one of them negative, until the very last page. Nor is there any discussion of the results of those actions on other people. (Empathy for poor crying Rosie? Noooo.)

Good lord. What an enormous gap in the narrative of this book! Caillou is a little guy. He looks to be less than two. So…
– He doesn’t know what that turmoil of feeling inside him is. He needs someone to label them for him. He needs someone to show him how to control and channel them. In simple and concrete ways. (Not someone to deny that they even exist!)
– He quite likely genuinely doesn’t know that other people have feelings, too. Not like he does, at any rate. Rosie’s tears were a prime opportunity to introduce him to the notion, and to plant some seeds of empathy.

So, in a book that’s all about a toddler’s negative emotional reaction to the advent of the attention-sucking interloper of a new baby in his perfect world, there is not one single reference to the feelings that precipitate all the actions. Only the idea that it’s understandable if you might want cannibalize your sibling because she’s so sweet.

What a weird book.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | books, eeewww, parenting, socializing | , , , | 12 Comments

My Grandmother would call it “Giving Them Ideas”

We went to the library yesterday. Brought home a great heap o’books. Now, when at the library, I do generally glance through the books they toss on the table, and discreetly remove the ones I know I would find mind-numbing beyond belief, or simply annoying. When Poppy tossed in a Caillou book, I let it stay without reading through. I know some people love to hate Caillou, but I find him generally harmless. Insipid and whiney, perhaps, but harmless.

Until today, that is.

And this book? Was Caillou: Baby Sister, which is VERY COOL, because Poppy is getting a baby sister in the summer. (We all found out it was a sister a week or so ago.) So, can Poppy bring home a book about getting a baby sister? Of course she can! How fun!

So I sit down with the children, and we start reading through the mondo pile o’books. We get to Caillou. I begin. Caillou pats his mummy’s big tummy, and looks forward to baby’s arrival. Mummy and Daddy go off to the hospital, leaving Caillou with gramma.

Is he excited about the even he’s awaited so long? Is he eager? No. He sticks his thumb in his mouth and he “feels lonely”. (Yes, Caillou’s a bit of a sap.)

Mummy and Daddy return, and Caillou is surprised. The baby can’t walk or play. “She’s just a baby.” Um, did no one tell him this? Yeesh.

Next page, Caillou is jealous.
Then he pouts.
The he refuses to look at the baby.
Then he regresses.
Wets the bed.
Wants a bottle.
Wants to be rocked to sleep.
And then, in a startling bit of active aggression (instead of his usual passive version) he
BITES the baby.
Then he goes into his room and beats up on his baby doll.

And then, on the very last page, after a whole book of Caillou being a little shit, he hands the baby her bottle, and discovers she is funny! She is very small and smells nice.

Last sentence of the book:
“Caillou likes being a big brother.”

Um, really? You know, I am not convinced by this. I very much doubt your toddler would be, either. I did not finish reading the book to the tots. After two or three pages of negativity, I had had enough. (I read it later, on my own, to discover what I’ve just shared with you.)

“Goodness, Caillou is being mean, isn’t he? I don’t think I want to read a book about someone being mean to a baby.” The children all nodded sagely, because a guiding principle at Mary’s is “Big people take care of little people.” Being mean to a baby is shocking, people! Shocking and utterly reprehensible. And then I hid the book.

Of course it is important to prepare a child for a sibling’s arrival. Let the older one know how helpless the baby will be. Disabuse them of any idea of being presented with a fully-developed playmate. Talk about crying and pooping and sour milk. And also talk about what they might do with the baby. Pat her head, fetch burp cloths, jiggle a toy…

Of course it is important to acknowledge a child’s feelings, both positive and negative, as they arise. A new baby very often does make the older child feel displaced. An older child can feel resentful, jealous, might indeed wish to be a baby again, and cause reams of delighted laughter, from the entire world, for farting. I mean, really!

But!

But while you can and should prepare the child for the helplessness of a newborn, and you can and should suggest ways that they can be involved, I do not for one second think you should be telling the child how they might respond emotionally in a negative way. Small children are extremely suggestible. Tell a child, “You might feel jealous. You might think that everyone loves the baby more than you,” and you will pretty much ensure that your child does just that.

If you’re going to plant seeds, why not make them positive ones?

“You will spend the night with grandma. Won’t that be fun? You LOVE sleepovers at Grandma’s house!”
“The baby will be soooo teeny, it will be like having a doll that wriggles and makes funny noises.”
“When the baby cries, we will try things to make her happy and stop crying. Maybe you could tickle her toes.”

I find it interesting that the author of Caillou has decided not to make these types of positive suggestions, and thus plant seeds of resilience and possibility. No, she has decided that it’s more helpful to tell your child all the ways he might hate the new baby.

Honest to pete.

(And don’t even get me started on how Caillou’s parents respond when he bites his sister. Actually, that part is screamingly funny in a dark, dry way, and deserves its own blog post.)

If, in fact, your child responds in a negative way to the new baby, you deal with those feelings as they arise. A wise parent is prepared for that eventuality … but why would you suggest to your child that you expect those behaviours? You, the adult, may indeed be expecting them. You probably should anticipate some negativity, at least for a while. For that matter, Caillou’s lengthy list of rotten behaviours is good preparation for the parent. (But, whatever you do, don’t use Caillou’s parents as role models for how to respond. Lordy.)

But to plant the seed for your child? To, in essence, actively make suggestions for how to respond negatively?

That’s just nuts.

My fall-back New Baby book is Mercer Mayer’s “The New Baby“. I don’t always like the sibling dynamic in the Little Critter books, but this one is very good. The older brother does discover that babies don’t do much on their own, that they cry a lot, and don’t play like older children do, but he makes all these discoveries in a cheerfully exploratory way, as he tries to interact positively with his new sibling. Then mom makes a bunch of helpful suggestions which he tries, and on the last page, the big brother is showing his wee sister off to his friends, who think he’s “SO LUCKY!”

Accurate information presented positively (imagine!) with a believable happy ending. Much better.

How about you? Any “New Baby” books you particularly love? Or loathe?

February 22, 2013 Posted by | aggression, books, parenting, Peeve me, socializing | , , , , | 10 Comments