The Presence of Bella

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It’s been a while since my last update, but it is still clear that Bella is ever-present in Evelyn’s daily life.
When I attempt to hand things to Evelyn, or ask her to take my hand, she pauses to place Bella somewhere safe. Yesterday, I unfolded her sweaty little hand to relieve her of Bella so she was able to grab the slide with both hands for climbing.
(There they are in the photo above! I asked Evie to hold Bella out for a photo.)
What is especially cool is the fact that Bella is a fairy. Her size, and wings, make her adventures so different from Katherine’s imaginary friends. I think Bella’s “stature challenges” will be very useful to Evelyn as she, herself, is on the tiny side. And, of course, Bella is almost useless when it comes to picking up toys which keeps Evelyn on clean-up duty alone. HA!
We’ve started noticing that Bella engages in many of the naughty things that Evelyn does. She and Evelyn have each engaged in writing on themselves with pens and locking doors.
Yes, fairies have pens but they are “really tiny ones”. As each day starts anew, I’m happy to announce that Evelyn and Bella took a tubby last night and came in all clean and shiny this morning. We’ll see if the talk I had with them did any good.

One thing that Evelyn’s imaginary friend can do, that Katherine’s never could, is ride on the bubbles that we blow and swiftly flutter to safety when the crowd gets too rowdy. Oh the places we may go!
Another interesting difference is that Bella has no pets, family, or friends. Katherine’s, Zabby Eight, had a multitude of new characters almost daily!
Bella and Evelyn are going to Myrtle Beach next week and, soon after, they’ll be coming to camp. As fairies are very discreet, I’ll have to listen extra well to find out more. I promise that this is going to be fun!

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Identifying Adversaries

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Communication is a delicate matter. Some would say communicating with small children is extra difficult. They haven’t mastered language and, therefore, they cannot make their needs precisely known. This seems very logical.

What children have to offer, though, is an unbiased view of the world. Yes, they are self-centered. It is themselves against the world. Yet, their honesty is quite refreshing and often funny.
For some time, I have scoffed at the efforts in Early Childhood Education to do away with competition. My argument was that life is a competitive sport and learning to lose, with grace, cannot be taught without it. I have revisited this idea, and although I still find it valid, I am willing to see a benefit to reducing competition. Yet, the common practice of giving everyone a trophy is absolutely absurd and won’t teach them what I believe is the most important lesson. Insisting that everyone wins implies that any trophy is a fully worthy kind of goal and “fighting/competing” is never required for the BIG win. We want kids to realize that they must compete but, sharpening competitive skills, should comprise growing up to compete against problems, not directly against our comrades. We must not buy into making everyone “feel” good while reducing the motivation to DO good. No one vote, one act of kindness, or one “wrong” corrected, can change the world. Winning requires a group effort and a truthful definition, of the competition, includes identifying who/what the real adversary is, not just an “eye on the prize” trophy at all (or no) effort or cost.
What brought me to this new enlightenment was my heartfelt concern over the division in our country today. We, Americans, aren’t doing well in efforts to solve problems because we are focused on competing with each other. (Yikes…”divide and conquer” has caused the demise of other thriving societies. I hope you do not think we are impervious to that principle.)
Winning individual arguments has taken on a lopsided, more important, role than working together toward a collective victory. In politics, the largest amount of energy has been going into trumping each other’s advances. How did we lose sight of the fact that we belong to the same team and mission?
The tactic of demonizing each other’s motives is the worst of this. Time for us to ask ourselves the hard questions because any open-minded person (most of us) would admit we know ourselves better than the complexities of anyone else.

The most important question we must ask is, what do I want?
Be honest, after all, you are asking yourself.
Do I want a better country?
Can I make it better without a united effort?
Many of us are angry, who are we really angry with?
Am I buying into a media and political hype by embracing that there’s a “right” and “wrong” side to complex problems or that either/or arguments really help?
Let’s examine a few ridiculous, often not challenged, assumptions:
Republicans don’t care about poor people, gays/lesbians, women, minorities or the elderly.
Democrats hate America and would rather consort with terrorists than work with Republicans.
Really?
Break it down then…There are gay, female, poor, minority and old , Republicans. There are veterans and public servants galore who are Democrats. Oh, they must be the ignorant ones who don’t recognize evil when they see it?  Really?
So, what can we do about this?
Neither side deserves a trophy, at this moment. But if being united is essential to “winning” and getting what we want, what good does accepting “holier than thou” conclusions do?
I return you to children. Children should not even witness the current vicious (childish) behavior but I know what they would ask.
Why are you mad at each other?
Do you hate them?
Are the ones you’re mad at “bad” people?
When you’re done being mad, can we all have fun again?
My heart is sinking because the last question cuts right to the bone. What will their future, their country, look like when we are done “being mad”?

 

 

 

 

Bella Helps

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Evelyn is continuing to bring her imaginary, fairy-like friend, Bella to day care.
I want to take this opportunity to add that imaginary friends have been discriminated against for years. When Evelyn’s sister started with them (7 years ago), most of the expert opinion literature was divided about their worthiness to be encouraged. Encouraging them once they appear of their own accord, I might add. I was extremely careful not to be involved in their creation. This was handled well by only asking questions.

We (My daughter, Ellen, and I) had a blast with older sister Katherine’s friends. It was a delightful experience from which I vowed never to deem imaginary friends unworthy again.
(In fact, as an advocate, I’m waiting for just the right moment to suggest that imaginary friends might want to consider unionizing.)
The biggest benefit became clear when I was able to discuss manners and safety by including the imaginary friend. Children under 5 or 6 simply do not know what truth is, and so, when Katherine began blaming her friend, Zabby, for some of the rule infractions, I took advantage of that chance to address my displeasure. I sternly told Zabby what would happen if she OR Katherine did those things again. After all, taking responsibility for one’s actions is a very difficult, mature concept. Many of our adult public servants haven’t even learned that lesson… a small child is simply unarmed. Later on, taking responsibility was also discussed with the imaginary friend. In fact, we approached many topics from the shared responsibility Katherine and I developed in raising Zabby to be a good citizen.

Bella has already been helpful. Evelyn and I have been “showing her the ropes” for day care. We’ve told her about the danger of opening doors without permission and to watch for babies’ fingers when we close them too. Evelyn and I thought of one specific safety issue which only applies to Bella. When she flutters around on her fairy wings, we warned her not to go near Pepe’ who might mistake her for a pesky fly and swat her!
I still find myself carrying Bella in my own cupped hand longer than I need to. Ha! And you thought Bella was not real. I certainly believe.
Yesterday, Evelyn was dismayed that Bella wouldn’t take a cracker. When I asked about the size of Bella and the size of the cracker, Evelyn drew her own conclusion about the cracker being too heavy. And late yesterday afternoon, Evelyn took a “tubby” in my sink at the same time as Bella was safely in her own small Tupperware tubby.
Evelyn even treated me to a lesson in “How to kiss a fairy.” before her Mom went to work. (Incidentally, Ellen was in tears suppressing laughter during my instruction.). Every time I puckered and gently kissed the palm of my hand, it was incorrect. Then Evelyn adjusted her lips (looked like she was chewing gum) then gently brushed her lips across her own palm. I just didn’t measure up in fairy kissing all day.
I’m going to practice today…wish me luck.

Let’s Go, Bella.

It is going to be somewhat difficult to add photos to the Pa-Pa-Pa Bella posts. I’m not new to imaginary friend blogging and already know they are especially hard to pin down for photo shoots.
Today, Evelyn convinced me that Bella is here to stay. I caught her talking into the palm of her hand several times. On one occasion, I heard her sighing, “Awwww.” and kissing her hand.
Her manner was so genuine that it touched my heart.
Around noon, she walked up to me and gently slid her hand into mine asking me to watch Bella. With a cupped hand, I left the room to make lunch and this is when the phone rang. Just so you know how completely I had bought into Bella’s presence, I actually turned and put her on my kitchen table before answering. Ha! Yes, that is the absolute truth.
Later on, when Ellen showed up at day’s end, Evelyn cupped her hand and told her mother to hold Bella. Ellen was gathering boots and bags and told Evelyn she was going to let Bella ride on her head so her hands would be free. Evelyn agreed.
Moments later, Evelyn shouted, “Mommy! Your glasses are in the way…I can’t see Bella. ” (Ellen wears sunglasses on her head.)
Ellen assured her, “She’s there.”
Evelyn, not convinced, pursued her to the door on tiptoes trying to see the top of Ellen’s head.
I spoke up, “I see her! She’s on Mommy’s ponytail.”
Relieved, Evelyn grabbed her blanket and said, “Yeah…there she is. Okay, let’s go.”

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.

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.