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?”

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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.

 

 

 

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.

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“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.”

Get Outta Here!

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Yesterday was a 5-star day. I learned two very important things. The first, was that the mixing of a red velvet cake creates a sloppy batter that looks just like blood, so, when you have a 4 and 5-year-old helping you, this activity inspires an unavoidable discussion of vampires. The second, most important revelation, was that a person’s point of view has everything to do with his/her own happiness.

5-year-old Jasen’s last days, at my day care, happened this week. His family is moving to Florida. On Tuesday, I announced that we’d make a cake and have a “Good-bye Party” for his last day, on Wednesday. On that morning, and in spite of our marvelous “blood fest” with our red velvet concoction, there was a gloominess hanging over us that even vampires could not inspire alone.
Jasen burst into tears, for no reason, on one occasion. Of course, you don’t have to be psychic to have already realized that the impending “move” was making us sad. As we placed the cake into the oven, I  announced that I was cancelling the “Good-bye Party”. Two sets of red-rimmed eyes grew very wide and two mouths gaped in unison. As chins started to tremble, I made another announcement. “This party is going to be a “We love you…Now, get outta here!” party.” Grins and giggles filled the kitchen. Jasen added the “cherry on top” of our brand new plans with, “You probably can’t find a card for THAT kind of party at the store.”  The whole day was brighter from that moment on.

We even found time to write a story. It’s an activity that was inspired by some of the “coolest ever” discussions with this delightful pair of minds. We had imagined living on the Moon, and diving to the bottom of the ocean, in so many comical talks that Jasen, Ava and I had actually illustrated and laminated hard copy story pages. Today, just HAD to include our favorite activity.

The kids picked a title and I questioned them about it. Their answers were written down (by me), then they were asked to draw a picture that I attached to the back. We ran the whole thing through a laminating machine, complete with their own signature and the date.
Jasen’s story was, “The Pencil People” (inspired by a pencil on my table)… Ava’s was, “The Tape People” (inspired by a roll of tape on my table).

As the day’s end grew closer, Jasen opted to sit on my lap…something he seldom had time for before. We joked about me sending him off with a “get outta here” and I told him I would hug him, right then, so the flow of his exit would not be interrupted. We also decided to be pen pals.

When Mom arrived, Jasen grabbed his story and jacket, then, went out the door. He never looked back.
I hollered after him, “We love you Jasen… now, get outta here!”

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Say what?

Ah, my first post centers directly on the true Dumb Peas, which are adults. We cannot seem to talk to kids in other than ambiguous terms. I’m no better than all the rest.

Just yesterday, the kids asked for some empty coffee cans to be used to collect rocks. Happily, I retrieved two of them from an avalanche created just by opening the cupboard door beneath my sink. (Did I mention that day care providers are wonderful at recycling? )
As I set them off outdoors on one of the first warm spring days, I shouted, “Don’t collect too many.” Say what?
What does too many mean? It should have been obvious, to a seasoned professional, that “too many” translates differently in a kid’s world. Yet I distinctly heard myself say it!

While we’re at it, STOP has a clear dual meaning. We adults will never learn that “stop”, even when shouted, means “pause and wait for the adult to turn away” to children.

How about the ever popular, “Be careful.” ?  This is voiced by each and every adult when sending the kids out to play, without hesitation or embarrassment.

But my favorite will always be, “Don’t fall.” offered freely to toddlers learning to run and to bigger kids hanging from trees. Really?

When I consider all the stupid things adults cannot seem to overcome saying, it frightens me a bit and makes me wonder, who really is “in control” at my house.