It’s Not All Mary Poppins

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

Play, learn, play

Rory has a baby sister!

Is he excited? Is he thrilled? Is he jealous?

I have no idea. He has yet to mention her. (Rory has come every day since the birth, and will for a few more weeks as mum recovers from the Cesarean, when he will come part-time.)

His parents tell me that at home he is curious and affectionate, giving her gentle kisses and delicate pats on the head.

But here? She may as well not exist. Not a whisper of the baby passes his lips. Had I not seen the pregnancy progressing day by day, and gotten the news last week, I’d know nothing. Nor has his behaviour changed in the slightest. No anger, no outbursts, no anxiety, no withdrawal. Just normal, everyday Rory.

I find it a little extraordinary, this full radio silence, but it’s not at all unusual. I think it’s a combination of things.
– Toddlers tend to live in the moment, and though you do get stories of things that have happened to them elsewhere, mostly they deal with and talk about what’s right in front of them.
– I suspect that Baby Sister isn’t quite real to him yet. Give him a week or two more and we’ll see.
– It doesn’t occur to toddlers that you don’t know something they do. He doesn’t need to tell me about something so obvious as BABY SISTER.
– Baby Sister isn’t part of the world here. Here, she’s irrelevant.

And you know what? I have a policy of not asking. If, for a few hours in his/her day, a toddler wants to leave baby and all the associated upheaval behind, I let them. Let them make their adjustment in their own time. Let this place be normal, untouched, unchanged.

In time, he’ll start to talk about her. In time, she’ll be a natural, normal, unexceptional part of his world.

All this cooperative silence on my part is not neglect, though. I’ve given him a week of silence, but this weekend I brought out the baby dolls. The baby dolls and their dolly beds, onesies, sleepers and blankets. (No bottles; mum is breastfeeding.) In the play, Rory can (and almost certainly will) act out any worries, consolidate new information, explore the new reality. In his own terms, in his own time. As he plays, the conversation will arise, conversation I can participate in, and, when necessary, guide, answer questions, give information, reassure. Whatever seems to be necessary. Or maybe just hold the doll while he wrangles the sleeper onto it.

I’m looking forward to it!

September 12, 2011 Posted by | Rory | , , , , | 7 Comments

The next sound you hear…

… will be bedlam.

Today is the first day of the week before Christmas. I am working until noon on Christmas Eve. Today is also the first day of the school Christmas break.

That means I will also have Timmy and Nigel here this week. It means that Emily and Tyler, who normally come Tuesday-Thursday, will be here Monday – Wednesday this week, so they can travel on Thursday. It means that today, I will have…

– three four-year-olds (Emily, Timmy, and Nigel)
– two two-year-olds (Tyler and Noah)
– a 20-month-old (Nissa)
and
– an 11-month-old (nameless new baby).

And tomorrow? TOMORROW I will have the same as the above, plus
– yet another four-year-old (William)
and, saints preserve me,
Gronk.

THANK GOD the school break also means that Emma will be here, and, bless his generous heart, my youngest step-son (he’s 14) has stepped up to the plate. Voluntarily. Emma, at 16, has more baby experience than most of us, and far more (deserved) confidence than I did when I started having my own.

“Congratuations, Mrs P, here’s your beautiful baby girl!”

And I popped her onto the breast, just like we learned in prenatal classes, and she started sucking lustily… and I smiled in maternal delight. It was working! I was A Mother!! And then we realized she was latched on and sucking on the side of my breast, nowhere near the site of the action, and she was getting nothing and I was getting an enormous hickey… and it took me a solid minute to figure this out. Because, what did I know? NOTHING, that’s what.

And the first time she cried? I froze. Deer in the headlights, that was me. Then the dread reality sunk in, trickling like icy water down my spine. I was A Mother. From here on in, it was up to me to do whatever needed to be done… and I hadn’t a fucking clue.

Ah, happy memories…

Obviously, I figured it out! We all do, right? But lucky Emma, with a wealth of experience to bolster her through those unnerving first few days and weeks. When the time comes. Which is not yet.

So the next couple of days will be INSANE!!! Just insane.

I am totally looking forward to it.

Today we will divide and conquer, with Emma staying home with Noah, Tyler and Nissa, and me taking Emily, Timmy and Nigel to the craft store for some necessary supplies. The baby will come with me if she’s awake, and stay with Emma if she’s sleeping.

While the small ones sleep, the big ones will make their Christmas crafts. Tomorrow, the reverse: Emma and Step-son (he’s going to need a name for this site if he keeps appearing; I will ask him) will take the olders to the park while I give the youngers a flounder in the drive and do their Christmas craft with them.

The oldest children are making wreaths from clothespegs, to hold Christmas cards. The middlers are making picture frames, and the youngest aren’t making anything. I am making a wreath for each of them, made with their very own little handprints. I’ve done this in previous years; it’s a popular craft with the parents. (Good, because it’s a bit tedious on my end… See what a nice provider I am?)

So by the end of this week, everyone will have a present to take home.

Toddlers, preschoolers and a baby. Outings and snacktimes and craft-times. Diapers and potties and paint and singing and snotty noises and laughter and Christmas lights and popcorn — DON’T EAT THAT — strands.

Fun times. Doesn’t it sound like fun?

I think so.

December 21, 2009 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, daycare | , , | 6 Comments

Name that baby

babyname1We have a new baby!

I told you about her a little while back. She has had a few half-days here, but this week is her first week of full-time, full-day care. She turned a year old this week, too.

She’s a tiny thing, delicate of bone and slender as a reed. Her eyes are a sparkling brown, always dancing with good humour and mischief.

The only thing that disturbs her effervescent good mood is my front door. The Parent-Eating Door. She comes in through that door with a parent, she rests in a parent’s arms while parent and I exchange info, and then? Then the parent goes out through that door! And doesn’t come back all day!

She KNOWS the parent out there, and if she could only get through that door, or cause it to open, she KNOWS there would be the parent, waiting on the other side of the door.

Sometimes the door does open, but it’s always someone else’s parent, dropping off another child. Not Good.

She’s easy to distract, though. This high-energy, high-stim kid does not thank you for gentle crooning and soft soothing. Nuh-uh. What she requires is hands-on rowdiness.

So, as she points, wailing, at the Parent-Eating Door, I run at her with a cry of delight. “GOT THE BAAAAAY-BEEEE!!!!” I swoop down, scoop her up, and TOSS her into the air.

Other children would be stiff with terror at this point. Not this elfin child. She squeals, she laughs, she totally forgets the Parent-Eating Door.

She’s quite the character, this child.

And I don’t have a name for her! Her real name is Scandinavian, so I thought I’d use another, but the only one I can think of is Ingrid, and that name conjures up the serious intellectual type. (The kind who makes dreary depressive art house films…) She may end up being an intellectual, this little sprite, but I can’t see her ever being serious.

So. How’d you like to name that baby? Any suggestions? I’ve thought of Sprite and Elfin, but they’re names for pets, not children.

We’re looking for a name that suits a tiny, wiry, fiery, laughing pixie of a girl.

All ideas gratefully received!

April 7, 2009 Posted by | daycare | , , | 29 Comments