It’s Not All Mary Poppins

She has her uses

You know, I sweep a whole lot less than I used to these days.

Lunchtime! See the patient doggy-vacuum. “It falls on the floor, it’s mine!”

Oops! Emergency clean-up, Aisle Two!

But pro-active tray cleaning is NOT allowed!
(Look at her, checking to see if she can get away with what she has in mind…)
Nope!

September 18, 2008 Posted by | socializing, the dog | , , , | 7 Comments

At least he’s consistent

Noah’s little personality is getting clearer. I’m getting a window into his little world, understanding how he ticks.

My diagnosis?

Paranoid schizophrenic.

He laughs, laughs, laughs at the dog, at the other kids. He laughs when a tower of blocks falls over, when a car crashes into a wall, when someone spills a tray of marbles. (Don’t ask.) He laughs at the food falling off his tray. Which the DOG THEN EATS!!!

THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!

The children laugh and he laughs with them. The children clap, and he squeals for joy. The children run in mad circles around the house, and he bounces and flaps his arms.

THIS PLACE IS SO EXCITING!!!

Sounds good so far, I know. Hang in there.

The children laugh, he laughs. I laugh… he stares. Long, steady, Who-The-Heck-Are-YOU (And What Did You Do With My Mother?) stare.

The children clap, he squeals. I clap, I get the WTHAY(AWDYDWMM) stare. The children run in mad circles around the house… well, I don’t do that. (Racing to the kitchen to run on the spot (HARD) while letting loose a long, silent, “AAAAAAAAAAA” does not count. Besides, I don’t let them see that. It does not do to traumatize your livelihood.)

(No, it’s NOT a tantrum. Not either. It’s “stress release”.)

When he’s sad, he reaches short round arms up for me to pick him up. (Awwww. That’s so sweet.)
I scoop him into my arms.
He leans out and away and gives me the WTHAY(AWDYDWMM) stare.
I put him down, he puts up his arms and cries.
I pick him up.
More WTHAY(AWDYDWMM).

Something makes him happy. I comment and smile.

WTHAY(AWDYDWMM)

He reaches for a cracker. I hand it to him with a smile. He takes it.

WTHAY(AWDYDWMM).

He cries to look out the window. I lift him so he can see.

WTHAY(AWDYDWMM).

I put him on my lap for a story.

WTHAY(AWDYDWMM).

Mostly, he prefers to be left alone. He’s perfectly content. So long as he can pretend I’m not here, life is good. So long as he doesn’t have to acknowledge my presence, he toodles about, he plays with toys, he eats, he drinks, he sleeps, he watches the other children, he follows the dog around. Mostly, he ignores me.

I am the woman who lifts him into the high chair. I am the woman who provides the food. After that, I can just pis… er, tend to my own affairs.

Paranoid schizophrenic. Well, it’s got to be that. If not, he just plain doesn’t like me! I’ve been weighed in the balance and found wanting. The place is nice, the toys are good, the other kids are great, and the dog is terrific… but that Mary-woman? Dubious, at best.

But I have hope. Because there’s a crack in his WTHAY(AWDYDWMM) armor, and I get to see it 10, 14, 20 times a day. The bathroom is upstairs, and I drink my 8 – 10 glasses every day. Some days more. (WATER, people. Stoppit.) And between three recently-trained tots, the potty gets filled umpteen times a day. I race it upstairs to dump it Every.Single.Time. So I go upstairs A LOT.

And every time I do, he stands at the base of the stairs, bereft. Utterly bereft. “DOOOOON’T LEEEEEAVE MEEEEEE ALL ALOOOOONE!!! I NEEEEEEEED YOOOOOU!!!” (No, he doesn’t say that in so many words — in any words at all — but I can read between the howls.)

See? He does love me. I scoop him to comfort him, and, once again the long, steady, solemn…

WTHAY(AWDYDWMM).

We’ll call it progress.

September 11, 2008 Posted by | Noah, socializing | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tap, tap, tap

That’s me, knocking wood.

I am not a superstitious person. Which is why I had NO HESITATION, none at all, nuh-uh, to tell you that little Noah had the SECOND-EVER BEST FIRST DAY EVER. tap, tap, tap (What does that mean? It was a tied-for-first-place best first day. I’ve had one other — ONE! In twelve years! — that was as good. The other was nine years ago.)

I’m not worried about jinxing myself. No concerns from me that in telling you about this amazing event, I’ve just painted a bulls-eye on my butt for the fates to come kick my ass. I “pfft!” at the very notion of an evil eye. Tempting fate? Ha!

taptaptap

Little Noah — the one who visited for a few hours a couple of weeks ago? — his first day was yesterday. A year old.

When I start a new child, I expect tears at the parent’s departure followed by intermittent (please God, not continuous) wailing throughout the day, interspersed with bouts of very solemn staring. I expect trouble with naps. I expect the child will reject food, possibly even bottles. It is quite likely that the child who is experiencing all this distress will reject comfort from me, at least for the first half of the day.

It is all quite pathetic. Poor little mites.

It is possible that I will see the occasional smile. The child might sit on my lap during circle time, or at least be fascinated by watching. They might watch the antics of the other children with some evidence of pleasure. They might take comfort in their food, they might snuggle in to me as I feed them a bottle. They might even laugh. Any or none of this might happen. I certainly don’t expect anything like this.

And I certainly don’t expect a child to not notice when his mother leaves, to play happily all day, to eat all of every food provided with gusto, to grin continuously, to toddle away from me at the park then come laughing back, to shriek with delight at the antics of the other children… and then nap for two and a half hours. And greet his dad with a crow of delight at the end of the day.

On his first day.

But that is was Noah did, every last bit of it. He was not just calm, he was outright cheerful. He was interested, happy, interactive, friendly, responsive… In short, he was a short little ton of fun. I cannot conceive of a way in which his day could have been improved upon.

It. Was. AMAZING!

There! I (tap) did it (tap, tap)! You now (tap, tap, tap) all know that Noah (tap) had a PERFECT FIRST DAY (taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap).

And if Day #2 is hell on earth, we all know why.

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hello, goodbye

Malli and Nigel are graduating Mary’s house in September, on to greater educational adventures. I’m often asked how I feel when kids move on, and every time I wonder what response the questioner expects or desires to see: Mourning? Indifference? Agony? Wistfulness? Tears? Hopefulness? Like a piece of my life has crumbled away, never to return?

In truth, the answer is … all of the above, none of the above. Well, all except that last one. I’m quite sure that has never, ever happened.

Once in a while, a child leaves and my heart gives a little lift. My job becomes easier, my home a happier place, my job satisfaction goes up, up, up when that child heads out my door for the last time. That doesn’t happen often, but I’d be lying if I said it never did. Sometimes it’s the thought that I’ll be seeing a particular parent for the very last time that causes the lift to my spirits. That happens somewhat more often than with the children…

However, I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, in this as in most aspects of my life. I like change. I find new things inspiring and energizing. When a child moves on, I’m pleased to see them take their next step on their way, and excited for their newest venture. I will miss things along the way, but by then the next child will have arrived, with his/her needs, challenges, and laughter, and I will be too busy to spend any time pining. Such is my nature, and it certainly makes the job easier!

(And yes, I’m much the same way with my own children. I did not cry when my eldest left home; I consider my second child’s current hunt for an apartment with some pragmatic maternal worries, but no tearing pangs of abandonment. We’ll see how I do when my third, my ‘baby’, leaves the nest, but so far, so good!)

I am usually delighted to have a visit from a ‘graduate’, to see how much they’ve grown and developed in the intervening months/years.

So, Malli and Nigel are moving on, taking two sets of huge blue eyes, and, from one or the other, an impish sense of humour, a predilection for long, fanciful story-telling, a tendency to break unexpectedly out into dance … and an increasing urge to boss and/or tattle with them. Now that stuff is someone else’s problem! (See? It’s not all bad…)

And as they leave, Aiden and Noah arrive. Aiden is Emily’s baby brother, who’s been coming for two hours a week for some months now. A free service, this, for I view it as much a favour to myself as to his mother — our year-long maternity leave is a great thing for families, but has the tots being dropped into daycare well after separation anxiety has reared its troublesome head, which can make the first three weeks much more difficult than they were ten years ago, back when maternity leaves were only six months long.

So Aiden has been coming to see me, and a good thing, too! His first visit with me was not one I’ll soon forget: the boy has a scream that could shatter glass. It certainly came near to shattering my eardrums. Now, however, he transfers easily into my arms, and smiles bye-bye at mummy. It’s still likely that he’ll cry for some of his first days with me: eight hours is much longer than two — but at least he now recognizes me as someone who can provide comfort. It makes all the difference.

That leaves Noah as my total newbie. Noah, who signed up six months ago. I’d offered the opportunity of a weaning-in time (though, as I’ve discussed, I see this as primarily for the parents’ benefit, not the child’s), but since there was no further mention of it, I’d thought it wasn’t going to happen.

Wrong. An email this week informed me that Noah’s mother would like to have him attend on Thursday and Friday, for an hour or so. She believes it will help his transition … two and a half weeks from now, when he starts full-time. (The time gap because I will be taking those weeks off.)

It won’t make a smidge of difference, of course. Two hours spent with mommy while in the company of a stranger and some strange kids, then, two-plus weeks later, he’ll meet the stranger and her kids again, only this time mommy will leave. For eight or nine hours. For a 12-month-old, there is no relationship between these events at all, at all.

But, shhhh. We won’t tell mommy that. She’s leaving her baby with a stranger! Yes, we’ve met, we conversed at length. I made a good impression. She’s talked to my references, and they told her all manner of great things. She’s seen my home, she’s met my family. She’s signed a well-written, professional contract. She feels she’s made a good decision (and I agree!) but really? I’m still a stranger.

Her baby needs the transition? Perhaps. Mommy needs the reassurance? Definitely. Reassurance that she’s done all she can for her baby, that the other children in my care are happy, that I am what she thought when we met six months ago… and what does it cost me to provide it? Two hours of my time. I think I can manage that.

August 12, 2008 Posted by | daycare, parents | , , | 10 Comments

Childcare choices

If you’re in the process of choosing childcare, or you know someone who is, you might find my latest article at Work It, Mom! helpful:

Nanny vs Daycare, and beyond: Large group, small group – sorting through your options

Head on over, make a comment or an observation. If you have another pro or con to any of the choices I’ve offered, feel free to add it in the comments over there! (You need to be a member, of course, but that takes about 38 seconds and is SO worth it. And when you are a member, you can rate the article, if you like.)

April 1, 2008 Posted by | daycare, Work It Mom! | , , | 1 Comment

The eternal quest

I’m not the most methodical of people. Well, in some respects I am: with children’s behaviours, I tend to have a pretty well-trodden path of responses and counter-responses charted out in my head. But my my own personal habits? I have general patterns, but nothing you could set a clock by.

I get up between 4:45 and 6:00. Between then, and when my first child arrives at 7:30, there are a bunch of things I tend to do: read for half an hour, plot out my day’s activities, maybe give a thought to dinner. I’ll throw in a load of laundry most days. Chat with my youngest as she gets ready for school. I always give the bathroom a quick wipedown and often put away the dishes that were washed the evening before, if they are still in the drying rack. Empty the blue boxes under the kitchen sink into the larger bins in the back porch.

And at the end of that, I always, always make myself a cup of tea, the idea being a quiet 15 minutes before the onslaught of the slavering hordes.

7:40. I sit down with my tea. It’s a little late, but the earliest-arrival doesn’t come on Mondays. I’ve probably got 15 minutes.

7:42 The first child arrives. We greet, chat, exchange information while peeling the snowsuit, boots, hat, scarf, and mitts off the child.

7:58 Take sip of tea. Ugh. Pop tea in microwave. Recover now steaming tea.

8:00 Greet second child, who has arrived with a book of nursery rhymes.

8:12 Sip. Ugh. Nuke tea.

8:14 Arrange self on the couch with two tots to read book.

8:18 Third child arrives, dropped by a dad this time, so deposit takes 93 seconds. Return to nursery rhyme book.

8:37 Sip. Ugh. Nuke.

8:41 We start our Spring Project, planting beans in clear plastic cups so we can watch them grow. We place the planted beans on a low window ledge and gaze with pride on our accomplishment. Well, some of us do:

“They’re not growing!”

9:03 Sip. Ugh. Nuke.

9:06 Settle tots down to free play: hobby horses, castle, blocks, cars, teddy bears …

9:10 Sip. Ah. Very nice. Second sip. “Mary! Anna grabbed my cheeks!” Conversation re: using words and hands being for hugging. Standard stuff. Then, since I’m right there in the construction zone, we have to see whether we can build a house big enough for the smallest teddy, right?

9:37 Sip. Ugh. Nuke.

9:40 Noting the time on the microwave, I set about preparing snack: fruit to be dipped in plain yoghurt. This will take about 4 minutes – the tea will be hot when I’m done, and I can sip while they snack!

Emily and Timmy decide they would like to “help”.

10:00 Snack is delivered to the table, ringed by famished, bibbed toddlers.

10:20 Sip. Ugh. Nu –no. It’s gone! No steaming cup of comfort for me. My caffeine comes in tepid dribs, little slurps of chalky bitterness, a dozen times a day. And for this, environmental me nuked the thing every time?

Oh, the shame.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | eeewww, the dark side | , , | 9 Comments