Pa-Pa-Pa Bella goes to Day Care

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It’s official. Pa-Pa-Pa Bella arrived at day care this morning. Evelyn walked in with Bella in her cupped hand.
According to reliable sources, Bella went to bed with Evelyn dressed in an orange t-shirt and a diaper. But, when they got up, they were dressed in identical sleepers.
Evelyn introduced Bella with her full name, Pa-Pa-Pa Bella, and placed her delicately in my hand.
The photo above was a capture of their first hot dog lunch. (Bella’s on the right.) Upon asking Evelyn how they enjoyed their lunch, Evelyn said,” She didn’t eat her’s lunch up.”
We talked about it some more and agreed that Bella’s tiny bites and teeny tummy were the problem.
Happily Evelyn discovered that they enjoy the same morning programs.
As I write, they are watching Tree-Fu-Tom and, of course, Bella’s love of trees was brought up too.

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What do YOU mean?

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You cannot notice things if you are talking. Makes me wonder if Nature’s wisdom runs even deeper than WE notice?
Babies cannot talk. We take that for granted, in fact, we take many things for granted.
The greatest joy of the presence of small children is the innocent wonder they bring to the world. Babies notice everything!
Kids draw connections between “ordinary” things which frequently make us laugh. Even when they begin to talk, their misuse of language shows an understanding of language principles and points out just how many rules are not written in stone.
I’ve had many frustrating conversations with toddlers. Many times they take on the same humor as the Abbot and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine.
“What’s your name?”
Child: “Me.”
“I’m talking about your name. Who are you?”
Child: “You Susan.”
“You are Evelyn.”
Child: “I’m me. You are Susan.”
“Yes, me is Susan.” UGH!
Child: ” You is Susan…me is Evelyn.”
“That’s right. My name is Susan and yours is Evelyn.”
Child: “NO! Your’s Susan …Me’s Evelyn.”
Okay, what’s Mommy’s name?
Child: “Ellen.”
“Does Daddy have a name?”
Child: “Kory. Daddy is Kory.”
“Who are you?”
Child: “Me.”
The hard part to wrap your head around is the kid is not incorrect. She is just thinking about the world in a more simple way. The rules of language are the barrier in this case.
We all knew what she meant, though, and we laughed because she was right.
How nice it would be if we adults would stop quibbling about words and realize that meanings are more important. They are there. We just need to stop talking and listen more often.

 

Here we go…

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Just yesterday, I announced that I was “divorcing” Facebook. The experience had drained me and had dragged me into a defensive role which was changing me.
Whether you believe in divine intervention or the “closing of a door, opens a window” principle, something remarkable happened moments ago. In my Sillyfrog’s Blog, I had documented my oldest granddaughter’s imaginary friend. This was a very happy and funny experience. Ellen (my daughter and mother of my two granddaughters) just called to announce 2 1/2 year old Evelyn has an imaginary friend. We’d been watching for this.

I’d like to introduce, Evelyn’s friend,Pa-Pa-Pa Bella. Here’s Ellen’s description:
Bella (for short) fits in the palm of Evelyn’s hand. She has wings and lives in a tree. She’s a lot like Tinkerbell but, according to Evelyn, not exactly like her.
Bella’s favorite food is hot dogs and Ellen was busy setting a place for Bella at the lunch table when we concluded our phone call. The lunchtime menu is hot dogs!
I asked Evelyn over the phone, if Bella will be coming to day care.
“No, she stay at us house.” was her answer.
I said, “So I’ll meet Bella at your house?”
“I don’t know.” said Evelyn.
This grandma is hoping Bella comes to my house! I’ll be careful not to lead the imaginary friend experience but will keep an anxious “ear” on Evelyn for updates.
Here we go!
This is going to be FUN!

Here’s a link to big sister, Katherine’s, imaginary friends experience:
https://sillyfrogsusan.wordpress.com/category/zabby-eight-updates/

Snack Time Survival Tactics

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The behavior of children is 99% reaction and 1% action. This comes primarily from their lack of premeditation and clearly represented in my afterschool daily onslaught of victim riddled complaints. Three kids jump off of the bus smiling and, by the time they reach the backdoor, there’s an argument.
I know they are the same kids that I, moments ago, viewed through the front door. Aren’t they? Now they are screaming, crying and shoving as they enter. I cringe knowing whatever the heck has happened, is going to hit me in the face in the form a rumbling thunder of multiple complaints when I open the door… incidentally, there is no statute of limitations on victimhood. Some are carry-overs from the day before!
I know how small claims court judges must feel because it is now my job to give a ruling on an emotional web of nonsense. Seldom is everyone happy with my decision and, even less often, do I feel justice was served.
I don’t know why I bother but I meet them with a finger to my lips and a whisper about sleeping babies.
“She got off first yesterday!” …”He tripped me!”…”She’s laughing ‘cuz I fell!”
Now, in theory, we warriors of justice must never, ever reward poor behavior AND never use food for a reward.
This thought is usually on my mind as a declare, “Snack time!” (I’m sorry…I am weak and it works so well! )
The snacks vary according to a sophisticated equation. I measure my strength… times the babies’ needs for an uninterrupted nap… divided by the day of the week. (On Fridays, I’m a mere two hours from a glass of wine. Dealing is easier.)
Only the most desperate moments call for ice cream…usually we have P, B & J or a bowl of cereal. Thank goodness, they haven’t figured this out!
Snack time now over, a hush falls gently over my kitchen…homework is pulled out…and then,
“Hey, that’s my seat!” …”I LOST MY PENCIL!” …” Sue, yesterday you told me that you’d help me with my work first.”
I just smile.

“Anyone for an apple?”

Winning…One battle at a time.

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The hardest thing I have to do is to inform parents about their kids’ “undesirable” behavior. Especially when we are battling a period of repeating offenses, I can see the parent watching my demeanor, as I greet them at the door, with defeated hopefulness. Sometimes it’s all too clear by my appearance of utter “frazzledom”, that the day has not gone well. Actually, what can they really do?  The battles are for me, alone, to win or lose.

Parents and I must be “on the same page” and take moments of private strategy planning . There is an upside though. Usually the retelling of the tales of  “bloody battle” are quite funny once I’m away from the skirmish. This is why the private part is so crucial…the child must NEVER know how humorous they really are. Many a time we’ve had to hide our faces and pretend we’re coughing to cover-up our reaction to these encounters. I can’t help but find a child’s wilfulness admirable even when my own strength is sapped. Spunk is a positive trait.

Oh yes, some kids have moments and others have periods of battling. Sometimes, I envision a wall of infamy representing the Best of the Worst during my day care years. I still remember who took the longest to toilet train, who gave me nightmares and who were evil geniuses.

One child, in the top three all-time geniuses, recently battled with me over an entire afternoon. The battle started with me denying her the opportunity to walk around in my living room while eating a bowl of cereal with milk. Eating in my living room is allowed when it’s a peanut butter sandwich. (Yes, the crusts vacuum up nicely once dried in the baseboard heating grills.) But, spilled milk is nasty.
First, I had 20 minutes of screeching demands. When I offered her a compromise of a tray table, and she refused, I knew it was going to be a very long day.
Next, I had her sitting on the floor swiping at everyone who ventured too close. I redirected traffic and the screeching started again. The demand, by this time, was for Mommy.
Soon the child moved in front of the TV and the gang joined in with complaints. By now, it was nap time and I had to remove the child to another room. Yet, her loud cries for compliance went on.
All I did was use the bathroom for 3 minutes and I return to the child standing in front of each child, in rotation, while creating bubbles of saliva that were dripping from her chin. <<GENIUS>>The 8-year-old was gagging and the others were crying about the mess and commotion. By this time, the babies were awakened early from their nap. Time elapsed…about two hours.
I took all the kids to an area to play and put up a baby gate to barricade the tyrant in the living room. Soon the rants slowed and the house calmed.
At about the third hour, I heard the child (in a calm voice) ask for some cereal. In the perkiest voice that I could muster, “Okay dear, it will be at the table when I take down the gate.” She slid into her place then promptly rested on the couch and fell asleep when she was done. She’s not a napper…wonder why she might be tired?

Hurray! I had won a decisive battle.
Later that day, I retold the story to her Mom.  I was a frazzled sight to behold as I met her at the door but we had a real laugh about the “spittle maneuver” …later that night, I went to bed early with a headache. I wonder why? LOL

Dealing with Monsters

 

There’s a common woe that all kids have and it’s being small. Not only in stature, which is daunting on its own, but in power. Feeling powerless is scary!

Once in a while, I get on my knees and look at my toddlers’ world from their viewpoint. Whoa! Everything seems an obstacle. How courageous they are to navigate this world of giant things. An adult, in that situation, would probably cower in a corner. Now add loud noises that you have never heard and places you don’t know how to get to. Then there are bigger humans saying “No” and “Don’t touch”. There are so many things you want but(like a stroke victim) you can’t find the words to ask for them.
Well, this is the world of a two-year-old. Frankly, I think they handle things far better than I would.

You may have thought that this post’s title would be about the “monsters” which are commonly known as misbehaving children. In the real world we adults, and the unknowns, are the “monsters” to kids. It’s so often unintentional yet stems from the forgetting of our own powerless days of childhood. How many of you pretended to be Superman or Wonder Woman as a child? Do you think there’s a connection? I do.

Today’s efforts to relieve children from every thought of violence are not all positive. Many child care “institutions” disallow kids the opportunity to feel empowered when they exclude super heroes and the battling of monsters from “positive play”.

Just yesterday, a little fellow in my care, burst into tears recounting a recent event when his uncle repeatedly threw him into a swimming pool against his wishes. I hugged him first and then told him to start a “Kick Your Butt” list. This list would hold all the names of those who had hurt his feelings. We agreed that he would not always be small and powerless, and one day, he’d be capable of kicking each of them in the butt! He smiled and his posture straightened.
He changed from a curled up defeated little boy to a Super Hero who would weld his power to place people on that “list” when he was cornered. I told him that he probably wouldn’t really kick anyone because he was such a kind boy but the list was his only choice for the “monsters” and they’d better be careful not to be at the top! You should have seen his smile.

There’s a wonderful book about this :

indexI’m afraid the current trend of totally “disarming” kids, may be more harmful than good. I wonder, if the recent teenage violence might be, in part, to a sense of powerlessness? How are we helping kids feel powerful if we take the “pretend” violence away? Certainly, worth considering.

 

 

 

“That’s Why I’m Easy”

 

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More than any other child care situation, Family Day Care mimics a family. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the kids grow from infancy to Junior High under my roof. During this time, there is an intimate bond created among all of us.
If you remember your high school years with a magic of a time and place…with deep relationships of friends from a common history and group, then you may understand (in a small way) our clique.

What’s very interesting to me is, once grown, the kids see each other and reminisce about the “good old days” much like siblings. I’ve yet to hear of any of them dating either. “Ewww…she’s like my sister.” has been the common phrase when asked. On several occasions, teenagers have knocked on my door for a visit to their old stomping ground. Of course, I’m flattered and happy to see them but after they offer me a hug, they then toss me aside and flop on the couch. Their attachment is primarily to the place and they wince if they find major changes in the house itself.

Some parents, through the years, actually referred to me as the “second mother” of their children. Many grandparents, upon a “pick-up”, have expressed a small envy when their grandchild clung to my leg asking to stay, instead. These can be ticklish moments. I’ve learned to handle them well by acting excited to send them off. Yet, the warm role of “motherly auntie” is an important one that some parents can not ever embrace but the wise ones cherish. The familiar shoulder for tears offers real comfort and the watchful involvement of an adult (who also loves them), is priceless.

There’s a scene in The Breakfast Club, when Carl the janitor says, “I am the eyes and ears of this institution my friends.” I feel that encapsulates my role. In the parents’ absence, I listen to their children and I watch them from the “wings”. So familiar, I do what stay-at-home Moms have always done. I notice.

Once I saw an eight-year-old day care friend, crossing the street with his nose in a handheld video game. I called his parents secretly. I assume they addressed this dangerous behavior and chalked it up to the “all-knowing” nature of parents because they never ratted me out.
Recently, I heard a first-grader describe a TV character as “hot”. I secretly told the parent. She knew immediately which friend had introduced the phrase to her child and said the friend had already been discouraged from play dates. I am an informer.

I am, also, a detective. One child, who was about 8, decided he’d had enough of a 5-year-old’s taunting. Everyone knows biting is a big no-no and he had decided to get the little “demon” in BIG trouble. He came to me with crocodile tears and showed me a red bite mark on his arm. I examined the bite. It was on the inside of his arm and the pattern showed a recognizable space between the front teeth. He claimed that “little miss nemesis” had bitten him during their most recent argument. As I turned away, he beamed with satisfaction that his diabolical plan was working until I remarked that it was very naughty to try to “frame” some one. I took his arm and explained that no one, who attacks someone, ever bites them on the inside of the arm. Then I pointed out how exactly the pattern matched his own teeth. His chin just about hit the floor. He’s now a college graduate and still remembers the incident, as clearly as if it just happened. I’m wondering if those kinds of events teach kids to be honest or just make them into more careful “criminals”. LOL

The hardest thing that I am called upon to be, several times a day, is judge and jury. The Supreme Court has nine brilliant minds and months to decide. I have only myself and must form decisions in moments. I’m aware that I don’t always get things right and my default decision is usually in favor of the younger child. The older kids are asked to develop defense mechanisms. Usually, this is in the form of ignoring and/or removing themselves from the skirmish. These lessons will serve them best. The younger kids are initially gratified and rewarded for being “stinkers” but will soon learn that being a “stinker” is a lonely profession.

Being the arbitrator of many conflicts, can keep my hands tied, though. Especially when an older child displays too much sensitivity to the “goings on”. Sometimes, it becomes clear that the constant complainer is looking for my attention, too. One day, a few weeks ago, a school aged child kept hitting me with complaints every five minutes! “They are being mean.”…”It’s not fair!” … “I want a turn.”…”I don’t like these kids!”…etc. After two hours of complaints and my door opening and closing like a buzz saw, I’d heard enough. I told the child to stay inside. When she protested my decision, I told her, “I think you’re right. Those kids ARE mean and unfair. Stay here and sit awhile so that I can protect you from them.” HA! She wanted to argue with me but I was on her side! Needless to say, twenty minutes later she wanted to rejoin the group…there were no more complaints that day.

Child care isn’t as mundane as it appears. To some, what I’ve done in choosing to be a Family Day Care provider, is to become a mindless drone. Changing diapers, finding socks and making snacks sounds very boring. I knew early in life, that whatever I chose to do would need to be stimulating. When I groan as I feel the sweet relief of removing my shoes in peace and quiet at day’s end, I know that I chose very wisely. Trouble is, I sometimes make this career look easy. 😉

 

 

 

 

Just a pinch…

Mother Nature became a passionate subject for me early on.  As a kid, I watched Wild Kingdom with my nose pressed to the TV screen (Psst…I didn’t go blind.). I also spent many summers wandering alone on my grandparents’ farm… observing, examining, and internalizing her example. Once grown, I realized two very important things. There’s much to learn about ourselves from Nature and, of course, that Marlin Perkins is an embarrassing character to watch as an adult. Very nice man but what a “goober”!

I’ve also trained several dogs in my life. There’s one effective pattern of training which centers around the interruption of “bad” behavior. We’ve all watched films of mother bears with their cubs. When those babies act up, she immediately cuffs them…end of lesson. This works. After all, how many bears end up living forever with their adult parents, sponging off of them?

There’s a trend among young mothers to not set a double standard, so hitting a child or spanking is taboo. I don’t like the idea of “beating” a child, at all. It certainly is taboo for day care providers. BUT, sometimes we have to let kids know there is one double standard…Adults are in-charge and kids are not. The savvy adult finds ways to redirect behavior. This magic show works to stop unwanted behavior but often leaves the lesson of the “unacceptable” stuff unlearned and in a gray area. Ignoring minor infractions is sometimes the better way but adults are around to teach not simply to organize and “smooth” things out.

We adults are also human. Frustration isn’t an emotion only owned by two-year-old’s. We are wise enough to know our own strength and need to use it once in awhile.

My own granddaughter is part of my day care. I take a few extra liberties in her upbringing, so please don’t call the Office for Children.
About 6 months ago, I caught Katherine in a bold-faced lie. Her indignant face was raised in a “What ya gonna do about it?” fashion. I did what mother bear had taught me. I pinched her. (Oh, it was a perfectly timed pinch…Not too hard, not too light.) After an initial “Ow!”, she turned to me with her mouth agape and said,” GRANDMA, don’t you know grandmas are not supposed to pinch their granddaughters?!”
I leaned in and firmly whispered in her face, “Katherine, don’t you know that granddaughters are not supposed to lie to their grandmothers? I think we’re even.”
She grinned and walked away. ( A few times since, I’ve formed my fingers into a pinch symbol and have had great results. 😀 )

I surprised Katherine’s mother, once upon a time, with the “mother bear” technique. It really works.
Ellen was about 16 and had begun to use the word “ain’t” in her everyday language. I’m sure half of it was to push my buttons but she was developing a real habit. After many corrections to her grammar and the sixteen-year-old answer of, “Whatever.” I struck!
We drank instant coffee at the time. It came in a firm plastic jar. Ellen’s forehead was introduced to that jar. Surprise on her face and speechless, we both laughed at the dent in my coffee jar. (Ummm…she has yet to use ain’t since then and is 34 years old.) Thanks Mother Bear!

Here’s a story that I wrote for my other blog. It is an example of why I feel kids should not be overly protected.

http://wp.me/pTYEI-28Y

“Loose lips sink ships.”

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It takes a while to build a tight trust between parents and a Family Day Care provider. Because of that, I value my longtime parents, as much as, they value me. When the cost of living rises, often my rates stay the same because keeping these parents means more to me than a steady income. (My husband doesn’t mind eating spaghetti twice a week anyway.)

At pick-up time, the kids are usually asked about their day by their parents. It’s truly refreshing that young kids are the only people capable of pure honesty. But, couple that, with faulty reasoning and small vocabularies, and the results can turn a caregiver into a criminal.

Below are some ordinary day care events followed by the kid translated versions :

Two siblings come into day care. One is going off to school soon and the “baby brother” goes into the playpen so he can be safe while I greet the bus with the “big” kids. Later on, the bus returns and the big kids race into the house from school. Little brother is just awakening in the playpen from his nap. They have a snack and play until Mommy arrives. Mommy asks, “How was your day Honey?

Older child says,”Great Mommy! But I’m worried about my baby brother who was in the playpen ALL day.

Once in a while, day care food demands exceed their supply. Milk is the hardest commodity to keep on hand. One day, I saw it was necessary to tell the kids to drink water when they were thirsty. Actually, I tell them this for their own good too. We have milk just for meals and sometimes for snacks like cereal. On this day, a child was told to drink water with his extra piece of toast.

Susan says, that we can’t have milk anymore… just bread and water.

In the summer, I started having a naked from “the waist up” painting time for 4-year-old’s and under. The clean-up is easier and they think it is fun. I tell them that they don’t have to worry about getting too messy this way because I can wash their bodies afterward.

Susan says, we have to get naked to paint because she likes to wash our dirty little bodies.

A 3-year-old , was sitting right by the back door on my newly waxed floor. As I am walking to the sink with a messy baby in my arms, I see a parent arrive and realize the toddler will get hit with the opening door. With no time to waste, I use the instep of my foot to slide the child a safe distance away. The child starts to cry, in protest to this rude interruption of his play, just as the parent enters. Simultaneously, a child asks…

Why were you kicking my brother, Susan?”

And the scariest one happened shortly after the Day Care Witch Hunts of the early 1990’s. My husband had kept his distance from the kids during this time, but as the worry began to subside, he returned to interacting on a small level. One day, he walked past one of my 4-year-old girls and patted her playfully on the head. The kids had missed his attention.

She giggled and said, “I like it when Ed touches me.”  (My husband almost fainted and walked out the door.)

I believe in the saying  that “there’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy” and because of this, I absolutely treasure my trusting, longtime parents. The taking of the “words of kids”, too seriously, can create another thin line (especially with nervous, new parents)… the one between freedom and jail!

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta Love Well-Timed Screeches

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By the time my day care friends enter school, we have a routine of discussing word origins, outer space and why worms need to be slimy, so questions are generously encouraged. There are two ticklish subjects that come up from time to time, one is “death” and the other is “having babies”. My default answer, when asked directly, is “You should ask mommy and daddy what they think.” But this is real life and those subjects have a way of coming up when I least expect them. Once in a while, I get zapped with zingers.

Just recently, it was “pick up” time and I was telling a parent about my desire to retire in 5 years. It was more of a speech than a conversation and I (even though I should know better) became focused on what I was saying, while ignoring the fact that kids were in the room.

“If my daughter decides not to have more children, I’ll be able to relax and feel freer to retire.” The parent nodded her understanding .

Then came a squeal from behind me, followed by a high-pitched, “People can decide NOT to have babies?!” I turn around and there stands a wide-eyed  6-year-old frozen with interest. The question is still hanging and my expression is like a deer caught in headlights. (Remember that scene from Jaws, when Roy Scheider sees a shark, and floats toward the screen, as the whole outside world races away from him?) That was me.

Meanwhile, the parent has turned away in a phony search for her child’s jacket. Her shoulders are shaking with a vigor that appears like early onset Parkinson’s, but I can tell, she’s trying to contain a belly laugh. I, also know, she didn’t find the question that funny, it was entirely about my predicament.

This was no time for too long of a pause because extra long pauses inspire the lengthiest of inquiries. The “I’ve got to fully explore this dangerous subject” kind.

“Oh yes dear, most babies come when parents want them.”
Then the child asks,”What about the others?”
At that, I can see out of the corner of my eye, that the parent’s shakes have turned into spasms.
“Well, sweetie, they are happy surprises.”

In that instant, one of the toddlers screeches from the other room…as I turn to “run” away, I shout,
“Uh-oh, Evelyn’s stuck in the shopping cart again! You should ask Mommy about this when you get home.”