It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Why it’s called “home” daycare

“What is that baby doing in here?” Her middle-aged brows draw into a scowl of puzzled disapproval as she eyes the lone 16-month-old amongst the dozen 4-year-olds. She is an Inspector, and this is my first post-baby job. The baby is my daughter. My boss steps in adroitly.

“That’s the teacher’s daughter. Sometimes she comes in for a visit.”

Ooo, slick. In fact, she didn’t ‘visit’; she just stayed with me. (This only happened after my boss had assured herself of my ability to care for them appropriately. This was her policy with all staff with children; and no, not all staff were permitted to have their child with them.)

Fast-forward twenty years or so, to an interview in my home with prospective clients. The mom is a daycare-centre worker.

“How do you keep the toddlers and the babies separated?” she wants to know.

Short answer: I don’t.

Fast-forward to today. Composition of the household on this particular day: Emily, age 4; Tyler, 2.5; Noah, 2.75; Lily, 18 months, and New Baby Boy, 13 months.

“It’s okay,” Emily reassures a frustrated Noah. “Baby Lily can’t help it. She’s just a baaaaybee.” She pats Noah’s back, her voice rich and soothing. “She doesn’t know that hurts. I will kiss it better, okay?”

Noah beams. “Okay!”

“When you’re cleaning up the blocks, let the baby have one. That way he won’t take them out of the bin as soon as you put them away. When you are all done, then you take that last one away.”

Noah and Tyler carry the block bin together over the baby gate and into the kitchen.

“We are coming in here to play so baby Lily won’t keep smashing our building. But we left some blocks for her to play with.”

Emily carries the bin of playdough and playdough toys to the table. Baby Lily clutches one end and staggers with the bin. It looks a little awkward for poor Emily.

“Do you need help, Emily? Is Baby Lily being a problem?”

“No. She thinks she’s helping me.” She leans closer and stage-whispers to me. “She isn’t really helping, but I’m letting her think she is.” She nods wisely and smiles.

“I need that! Here, baby Lily, you can play with THIS!”

“Mary! Mary! Mary! Baby Lily said ‘DOWN!!!”” Noah’s small face radiates delight. “Did you hear? Her said ‘DOWN!!!’ ” He claps his hands. Baby Lily claps, too, and they laugh together.

Noah scoops a spoonful of stew into his spoon. New Baby Boy watches carefully, then picks up his discarded spoon and starts poking it around in his bowl. He doesn’t quite manage to capture anything on the spoon, but it’s clear what he’s trying to do… and equally clear what encouraged him to try.

“If you shout at the baby, you will frighten him. Tell him in a calm voice, ‘Those are my socks’, and then take them gently away from him… Good. Now you give him something else to play with… That’s it! Good for you! Now you are both happy!”

And THAT, Madame Inspector, is what that baby is doing in here…

May 11, 2010 Posted by | daycare, Developmental stuff, individuality, manners, peer pressure, socializing | , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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