It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Happiness Resolutions Follow-up: My surprise

A while back I shared my Happiness Resolutions for my work.

I’ve been implementing them with a respectable degree of consistency ever since. And the results?

It works! I’m feeling much happier at work. Fulfilling my Happiness Resolutions, Work Version, make me feel productive and professional. Those boring, motivation-sucking lulls are less frequent. For example:

— Getting out routinely means more exposure to sunshine (at the very least, daylight). That lifts my spirits in an immediate and positively tangible way. Really. I walk out onto the front porch, I feel a lift to my spirits, immediately.

— When I am happier and laughing more, the kids are happier and laughing more. Happy children are more fun to be around, which makes me happier. This is a virtuous circle, and we have one going most days now.

— Keeping busy means less down-time, less time for the dreaded doldrums to creep in.

And you know? None of that was really a surprise. I could have predicted all that. I pretty much did. There was one surprise on that list, though.

Hugs. I said I would hug each and every child once per hour. Frankly, I was unsure about that one. I mean, I knew it would be good for the children. They have a never-ending need to be physical… to a degree I find claustrophobic, frankly. There are caregivers out there who revel in having children climbing all over them all the time.

I am not one of them. I hug them, sure, pat their little bottoms, ruffle their hair, drop kisses on pudgy little bodies. But a hug an hour… that’s 9 hours times 5 children… 45 hugs a day. I confess I cringed a bit. It would be good for the children. It would make me feel more professional, like I was doing my Nurturing Duty. But, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it much. I feared that for my own tolerances, it would be a bit over the top.

Guess what?

Of all the resolutions I made, this one, Hug Every Child Once An Hour, has been, without qualification, the MOST FUN of the entire list. The absolute highlight. Because of those hugs, my whole day sparkles with joy.

All sorts of things can be used as triggers/reminders for a hug. I change the children on the floor, as you know. So when Daniel or Poppy have had their diapers changed, I pull them upright and then give them a hearty hug before sending them on their way. Arrival and departure are obvious times for hello and goodbye hugs. (Freebie Bonus: The parents love it. Of course. And it’s not that it never happened before, just that now it ALWAYS happens.) When we tidy a room, we get hugs. When we sing a fun song, we get hugs.

We’ve developed variations. There’s the regular hug, a quick squeeze. There’s the Squooshy Hug, an extra-long, extra-tight hug. There’s the Sandwich Hug: me, a tot in the middle, another tot on the outside. (The middle is the prime spot. Everyone takes turns being in the middle.)

If I’m approaching the end of an hour and realize I’ve forgotten and have some quick catching up to do, I’ll kneel on the floor, fling my arms out wide and call out “GROUP HUG!” Small bodies will hurtle from every direction, and fling themselves onto me, onto the kid on top of me, onto the kid on top of the kid on top of me. And everyone giggles into everyone else’s face, a writhing, wriggling, squirming heap of glee.

It is WONDERFUL.

My Happiness Resolutions, all seven of them, have been really effective at increasing my enjoyment of my work day, and as a result, making me happier. But nothing sent the happiness skyrocketing past mere happiness and solidly into JOY the way all these hugs have done.

I didn’t expect it. It’s a gift, absolutely a gift. I’m loving it.

May 9, 2012 Posted by | books, health and safety | , , , | 5 Comments

Willing, but clueless…

Daniel is a tank. We know that. We know that he’s cheerful and happy and well-intentioned, but that he’s also a big, unempathetic doofus when it comes to the other children. Other children are fun! He loves them! He loves to smile at them. He loves to watch them. He loves to run with them. Sometimes when he lumbers along runs with them, he bumps into them and the fall right over! He loves that, too, because it’s very interesting when that happens.

Yesterday, Daniel was loving the thick, chunky sweaters that everyone is suddenly sporting. He loves their colours, he loves their texture. He was particularly loving Grace’s sweater, because it had big bright wooly buttons on it. Buttons just begging to be clutched in giant meaty fists. Begging, I tell you! And Daniel? He is not the man to deny something that so obviously NEEDS TO BE DONE.

Daniel clutched Grace’s sweater-buttons. Anchored by the substantial bulk of Daniel, Grace can go nowhere. Being the passive little thing she is, she just stands there, eyes wide and alarmed, hoping that somehow, if she just stands very still and quiet and does absolutely nothing, she will magically be freed. (And yes, sometimes I just watch and refuse to bail her out, to see if I can force her to take action.) Just as she’s beginning to panic, another child — in another chunky sweater!!! — toddles by. Grace is saved. Rory, however, is now anchored. Rory, being a different sort than our Grace, does not take this passively.

“Daniel, yet go of my sweater!!!” Good for him, using his words!! Of course, his words are completely useless. (I often consider how apparently unfair it is that we insist they “use their words” when really? With young toddlers? Words don’t work. We all know that. I do it, of course, because you have to start somewhere! And if you don’t begin the expectation young, when will they learn it? Still, the irony of praising Rory for using his words when WE ALL KNOW they won’t work, never escapes me…)

So. He used his words, and his words didn’t work. Surprise, surprise. Rory grabs Daniel’s wrists and attempted to wrench himself free. A perfectly reasonable use of physical force, I figured, and a reasonable second step when the words didn’t work. Daniel holds firm, though, a wide grin stretching over his face. Rory is holding his hands! This is interaction! This is fun!!!

Rory has tried his words and has taken reasonable action. His next step will undoubtedly be equally reasonable, given the circumstances, but less acceptable. Time to intervene. I kneel down in front of them.

“Daniel. Rory said ‘Let go.’ You need to let go of Rory’s sweater.” As I say the second “let go”, I am peeling Daniel’s hands from the sweater. “Let go. Thank you.” Daniel’s hands lunge for the sweater again. I block and re-grab his wrists. Time for a redirection.

“Daniel. Daniel, hands are not for grabbing. Hands are for hugging. Can you give Rory a hug?”

Well, now! THAT is one of THE BEST IDEAS Daniel has EVER HEARD! His face lights up like someone flipped a switch. His eyes sparkle, his beaming grin widens even further. (Who knew it was possible to grin that big?)

“Huh! HuH!” He flings his arms wide and latches them onto a rather stiff and uncertain Rory.

“Isn’t that nice, Rory? Daniel is giving you a hug! That is so nice! That’s right, Daniel. Hug. Hands are for hugging.”

Rory is reassured. Somewhat. And permits the onslaught of affection.

“Huh! Huh!” Daniel is loving this. This is SO! MUCH! FUN!!!

“Hug. That’s right. You’re giving Rory a nice hug!”

Grace toodles by.

“Huh! Huh!” Daniel releases Rory and barrels toward Grace, arms wide. Happily, Grace is right in front of a chair, so she’s only knocked back into the padded cushion rather than flattened to the floor when The Hug makes impact. More soothing, reassuring noises from me, helping Grace to understand that no, this is not an attack, this is love. She smiles, more warmly than Rory managed, and gives Daniel an enthusiastic hug back. Then she pats his head and kisses his cheek.

(Oh, I could just melt from the cuteness some days.)

“Good boy, Daniel. Now you’re hugging Grace! That’s right. Hands are for hugging. Good for you!”

Well, now. Hugs, pats, AND kisses? And noises of encouragement and praise from Mary? Daniel is all over that! Who else can he hug?

Round the room Daniel goes, hugging one child after another. Now that they understand what’s going on — it’s love, not attack… well, it’s an attack of love, not aggression — the others are all into the game. Rory gets hugged again, then Jazz. Grace, then Jazz. Rory, then Grace, then Jazz.

“Oh, isn’t that nice? All those hugs! Hands are for hugging!”

And then Daniel spots Poppy, who has been playing quietly with a toy in the next room, oblivious to the hands-are-for-hugging love-fest going on in the living room.

“Huh! Huh!” He moves toward her. Except he’s surrounded by the other three huggees. “Huh! Huh!” He has Poppy in his sites, and love in his heart… but the way is blocked. What to do?

If you’re Daniel, the solution is clear.

“Huh! Huh!” Jazz staggers one direction, Grace another as Daniel bulldozes his way through. Grace plops down on her butt, Jazz grabs Rory and manages to stay upright.

“Huh! Huh!” I’m not quite quick enough. Poppy lies on the floor under Daniel, crushed by the hug.

Of five children, three are on the floor, one is staggering, and one upright but shaken.

Because hands? Are for hugging.

October 25, 2011 Posted by | aggression, behavioural stuff, Daniel, Developmental stuff | , , , | 6 Comments

Smitten and smashed

Poppy toodles about the living room, doing the usual Poppy things. She picks up a toy, looks at it, drops it. She picks up another toy, sticks it in her mouth, drops it. She pats the dog, and laughs when the dog lifts her head to see who’s patting her. She thumps the cushions on the couch. She thumps the cushions with a toy. She stuffs the toy under the couch cushion. She opens and shuts a book twenty-three times, then drops it. She is quiet, focussed, contentedly exploring. Typical 13-month-old baby.

And in the midst of all this concentrated busy-ness, Daniel enters the room. Daniel is 12 months old. Daniel is an affectionate little dude in general, and Daniel loves Poppy.

Loves her, loves her loves her.

When Daniel loves something, he wants to show that love. He wants to hug and squeeze and kiss. He sees Poppy, his face lights up with glee and adoration.

“GLAAAAH!” His arms open wide and he trundles toward her. “GLAAH! GLAAH! GLAGLGLGAGLAGLAAAA!!!” He could not be more delighted. He chugs as fast as his stocky legs will carry him, a small blond tank bearing down on the object of his affections.

The object’s eyes widen. Her mouth drops open into a perfect O as he barrels ever nearer. She backs up, and, in the jerky way of the newly-upright, attempts to turn and make a run for it.

For Poppy, poor thing, has been the recipient of too many of these barrelling hugs. Daniel’s arms fling wide, he churns toward her, gaining momentum as he moves… momentum which he just can’t quite turn off in time. As his arms curl around her chubby form, Poppy knows, from bitter experience, that he will still be going full tilt. Around here, these full-tilt, crash-smash-and-hug manoeuvres are called “commando hugs”.

Now, Poppy is no lightweight. She’s a pleasingly reubenesque little dumpling of a cherub. But Daniel? Our boy adds “square” to “solid”. In short, he is built like a brick shithouse.

And the Brick SH is about to flatten her yet again.

“GLAAAH!” Daniel’s carol of joy is matched by Poppy’s cry of terror. Her feet stamp in alarm. She’s in fight or flight mode, but she knows she can’t escape. Poor sweetie. Daniel is going to love her to a pancake, right here in my living room.

Immediate intervention is required. I kneel between the two of them, sweep Poppy into one arm and absorb the jolt of impact as Daniel thuds into my other arm. Thuds, and halts. If he were a bonier child, I’d have a bruise, I’m sure. Thankfully, he has enough padding for both of us… not that I’m so lacking in it myself…

“Oh, what a nice hug!” I say to both of them. Poppy smiles, probably with relief. Meantime, I’m thinking up strategies for teaching the boy to desist with the commando hugs.

It’s nice to be adored, I’m sure, but poor Poppy! She may not survive all this lovin’.

August 12, 2011 Posted by | Daniel, health and safety, individuality, Poppy, the cuteness! | , , , | 3 Comments