Bella and Raya

DSC_0466

Evelyn and Raya

¬†It’s been a long while since I spoke of Evelyn’s imaginary friends. Bella has been showing up from time to time but fairies, as you know, tend to make brief entrances.

There’s been a new friend lately. Her name is Raya and she is the same size as Evelyn.

Raya appeared at bath time a few months ago. Evelyn wanted her tiny Bella around but Bella’s size and delicate wings kept her out of rough and tumble play. Raya is the same size and age as Evelyn. She rides behind Evelyn on her tricycle and takes “tubbies”with her. Of course, Raya is the messy one and usually creates the splashes that go over the edge.

The names of Evelyn’s friends came from her. What, or who, inspired them is as mysterious as where they came from. Evelyn is posing (above) while hugging Raya.

There was one startling bit of news about Bella last week. Evelyn claims that she has lost her wings. Although she seems to have retained her 2” height, one ponders if she may be evolving in some way?
I’ll be following these three closely and add updates. ūüôā

Advertisements

The Presence of Bella

DSC_0332 (2)

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!

Identifying Adversaries

DSC_0159 (2)
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”?

 

 

 

 

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.”

What do YOU mean?

newt eye (2)
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.

 

“That’s Why I’m Easy”

 

100_2557

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. ūüėČ

 

 

 

 

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. ūüėÄ )

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.”

comedy-tragedy-theater-masks-21958013

 

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

surprised-child-big-surprise-22096179

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!

jasen

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!”

009008