A Nursery Rhyme

A SPACE DOME?  LOOKS LIKE A JUNGLE GYM TO US!

You might thing that I’m trying to turn our home into a toddler theme park.

I keep adding playground equipment to the backyard!

So here’s the equipment I’ve added so far:
-a swing set and slide,
    -a sandbox,
         -an inflatable swimming pool with slide,
and the latest addition,
               -a space dome (or jungle gym).

NOW WE HAVE A WATER PARK IN OUR BACKYARD!

When I was a child, you had to go to the city park to find all this playground equipment.

Now you can create a park in your own backyard!

The downside to having all this equipment to play on in your own backyard is that it increases the potential for accidents.

It seems like one or the other of the toddlers is always doing a Humpty Dumpty, as we say around here, that is, falling off of something.

After the latest mishap on the playground equipment, I suddenly found myself waxing poetic, in a Mother Goose sort of way (and with apologies to Jack and Jill):


Kaleb and Kenzie went out to play, 
On their brand new playground equipment. 
Kaleb fell down, down to the ground,
And Kenzie came tumbling after!

Kaleb got up, no scrape or bruise. 
‘Twas not so well with Kenzie. 
When she went down, did break her crown, 
And took four stitches to patch her! 

Cute, Cuddly, and Coy!

I want to provide some context to the story I’m about to tell by recalling the storyline of the movie, What Women Want.

If you didn’t see the movie or if you have forgotten what it is about, the movie starred Mel Gibson playing the role of an alpha male-male chauvinist.

By an accident of nature he is given the ability to read women’s minds. Because of his female mind-reading skills, Gibson’s character grows from being a contemptible, insensitive jerk to becoming like one of the girls.

His life-altering ability allows him to reach out to his daughter, stop taking women at his office for granted, and discover that monogamy and love are for real.

So here’s my story and as I tell it, I think you will see how it relates to this movie:

We have a problem with naptime on weekends around our house. I want one and the toddlers don’t!

Sunday afternoons are especially difficult because I haven’t had a chance to wear them down with outdoor play before naptime.

This last Sunday we got home from church, ate lunch, and then I started trying to get the toddlers settled down for a nap.

Kaleb had caused some problems in the nursery at church. And so the nursery workers had taken away his play keys that I had allowed him to put in his pocket and take into church. (The children aren’t supposed to bring toys into the nursery, especially something like keys, and I was stupid to think he would actually keep the keys in his pocket.)

He was really in a bad mood on the way home because I wouldn’t let him have his play keys back.

WHAT? ME TAKE A NAP?

By the time we got home I really wanted them to get a nap. But as we arrived at the house he got in a better mood, told me he wasn’t mad any more, and began to be a sweet boy again!

On this day I said they could sleep in my bed because it’s an easier way to get them into bed. So we laid down together (me in the middle) and watched one of their Nick Jr. shows.

Then I turned off the television and told them to go to sleep.

Just as I’m about to doze off, they were starting to get playful with one another. And since I’m laying in the middle, whatever happens between them involves me!

IS PRETENDING TO NAP THE SAME THING AS A NAP?

So I made them go up to their own beds upstairs. But the playing and talking continued.

I tried reasoning with them. I told them if they would hurry up and get to sleep, then they would have more time to play outside when they wake up from their naps.
But toddlers live in the moment, so they don’t understand that what they do now may have consequences for what they get to do (or don’t get to do) at a later time.

The playing and talking escalated to the point that I had to close the doors to their bedrooms. And they DO NOT like their bedroom doors closed!

They cried and screamed and I tried to ignore it to the extent that I went back downstairs to my bedroom and closed the door and laid down and tried to take a nap.

I’M FEELING BETTER NOW!

In a few minutes, the door to my room slowly opened and Kenzie came in showing me her Hello Kitty stuffed toy. She told me that Hello Kitty fell off the bed and got hurt, but now she is feeling better.

Then she crawled up on the bed, snuggled up under my arm, closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep. She’s so sweet…when she’s asleep!

So that night as I was getting her bed ready for her to go to sleep, I noticed that the Hello Kitty was missing. And I remembered that the stuffed toy was still downstairs in my bed.

So then I began to think about how sweet she was at naptime to come in and curl up with me and go right to sleep…and then IT suddenly occurred to me!

When she brought the Hello Kitty to my room and told me it had fallen off the bed but was okay now, she was really talking about herself!

It was her way of telling me that she wasn’t mad any more and was ready to lay down and take a nap.

DUH!!

But why didn’t she just come right out and tell me how she felt? Kaleb did!

No, I’ve got to figure it out for myself.

Wouldn’t it just be easier if she would tell me exactly how she feels?

So, I’ve got to somehow get inside her head and understand her thoughts and feelings.

Now wait a minute! I think I’ve been here before!

In fact, I KNOW I’ve been here before!

This isn’t just some sort of little girl thing; it’s a big girl thing!

And now I’ve discovered its origins. It starts when they’re little bitty girls!

That’s why the little boys don’t understand the little girls. Then the little boys grow into big boys (or insensitive jerks, depending on your perspective) that still don’t understand them!

If this capability women have to lead men on and make them guess what they’re thinking and feeling starts when they’re toddlers, then…

It must be hard-wired in them!

They’re designed to confound men!

YIKES!

CUTE, CUDDLY, & COY!

Why don’t girls–little and big–just tell us guys exactly what is wrong, what you think, how you feel, why you’re mad. It would be so much easier for the guys!

So guys, unless you have some life-altering experience like Mel Gibson’s character did in the movie that allows you to get inside their head, you’re destined to guess what women want!

Hopefully, every once in a while you will have an epiphany like I did and realize how wonderfully and incredibly sensitive and loving…and coy…these human beings of the female persuasion are!

Yes, even the wee ones!

I’m Leaving, Does Anybody Care?

Arriving at DayCare in their Thunder Outfits

Each weekday I drop off the toddlers at daycare on my way to work.

The normal procedure is that Kaleb and I first take Kenzie to her classroom, then I take Kaleb to his classroom.

Each drop off is usually accompanied by a certain amount of pleading for me to come back and give them another kiss or another “I love you” and from time to time grabbing on to one of my legs and begging me not to leave or not to leave them.

Admittedly, there is a certain amount of drama being played out in this routine. And, admittedly, I probably like it because I like them to need me, even if expressed disingenuously!

Kenzie’s drop off usually produces the most drama since she is only three. But maybe being a little girl has something to do with it as well. What do you think?

The teachers tell me that the moment I leave the crying, the wailing, the tears suddenly stop. As soon as I’m out of sight they are fine, playing with toys and the other toddlers in the class.

So I suppose the drama is for my benefit. I guess to make me feel guilty for dropping them off at daycare.

It seems to work…

One day recently when I dropped them off, their classes were still in the cafeteria because breakfast time was just finishing up. The toddlers were gathered in small clusters talking animatedly with one another, like toddlers do.

(Have you ever wondered what a group of toddlers could be talking about among themselves? Are they plotting to takeover the playground? Are they planning a boycott of white milk so only chocolate milk is served? I shudder to think what conspiracy those little toddler minds could devise!)

Both Kaleb and Kenzie ran over to their respective little groups and began talking with their toddler colleagues.

I stood there for a moment waiting for one or the other to run back to me and plead for me to kiss them one more time. Or to grab my leg and try to prevent me from leaving or leaving them.

But neither of them seemed to notice that I was leaving.

They just continued talking with their little toddler friends.

Hey, I’m leaving!

Is anybody going to try to stop me?

     Is anybody going to throw kisses?

          Is anybody going to wave goodbye?

               Is anybody noticing that I’m leaving?

                    Does anybody care?

                         Anybody? Kaleb? Kenzie? ANYBODY?

They just continued talking with the other toddlers…

So I slowly walked away, this day making a quiet (and lonely) exit from the toddler world and into the world of adults.

I suppose we’ve reached a crossroads, of sorts, in our new adventure. I wonder where the road to independence will lead us?

The Mommy Syndrome

The other day the toddlers pulled all the stuffed toys out of the big tub in the playroom. I don’t know what the purpose was but they really made a mess (that was probably the purpose).

But down at the bottom was a Plex doll (of Yo Gabba Gabba fame) and they fought over that for a couple of minutes.

Kaleb got it first and he’s big enough to keep it away from Kenzie.

Also in the bottom of the tub of stuffed toys they pulled out a little doll that we kept in Kenzie’s crib when she was still a baby. The little doll played music and its face would light up when you pressed on its tummy .

Continue reading “The Mommy Syndrome”

Jellyfish, Brick Walls, and Backbones

A few days ago I attended the monthly meeting of a support group for grandparents raising children and the topic of discussion was the discipline of children.

Now you might think that because one is a grandparent raising grandchildren that he and/or she knows everything there is to know about discipline and parenting.

You might also assume that because grandparents have already raised children and this is our second time around, we already know how to do the parenting thing.

But you could just as easily conclude that because one is raising his and/or her grandchildren, some of us might not have done a very good job the first time around and so that is why we are having to raise our grandchildren.

(I’m not making judgments about myself or anybody else, but “What did I do wrong?” is a question I often ask myself.)

Probably one of the greatest challenges for grandparents administering discipline to grandchildren they are raising is to make the distinction between being the child’s parent and grandparent.

When my kids first started bringing my grandchildren into the world, I told them that it’s my job to tell the children “Yes” and their job to tell them “No.” So it’s an adjustment, at least at first, to tell the grandchildren in your care “No,” “Stop,” “Quit.”

Just because I’m a grandparent raising grandchildren, I still think I have a lot to learn about parenting. And there’s more than a few things about parenting I need to unlearn!

When the discussion turns to discipline methods, I need all the help I can get. You see, parenting skills was Nanna’s area of expertise. She was a school teacher and counselor and a great mom and Nanna and knew how to handle any situation that required discipline.

So back to the grandparent support group discussion about discipline. Barbara Coloroso, in the book, Kids Are Worth It! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline, assigns the imagery of Jellyfish for an Indulgent or Permissive parenting style, Brick Wall for an Authoritarian parenting style, and Backbone for an Authoritative parenting style.

When a situation requiring discipline arises, the parent responds according to his or her parenting style.

So in the handout for the discussion we were presented with this scenario: Your child pours his milk out in his dinner plate. How do you respond? And the three alternatives are:
1) You ignore it (jellyfish);
     2) You slap his hand and tell him no and remove his dinner plate (brick wall); or
          3)  You replace his plate with a new plate containing a small amount of food and take the milk away away and say he can have his milk back after he finishes eating (backbone).

Of course, the backbone response is the best alternative.

This scenario is, I think, a good one because it’s realistic, it’s authentic. It could really happen with children, and, coincidentally, one that was recently played out at my house soon after the grandparent support group discussion.

However, there are a few more details I must add to the scenario for the sake of accuracy with how this actually occurred at my house. So let me restate the scenario in the context of what happened at my house and maybe you can tell me how I should have responded.

The toddlers are at the table eating dinner. It’s a dinner that I believe has a low potential for making a mess–pizza and fruit with a juice drink in a squeeze bottle.

So I’m standing around the corner from the dining area looking through the mail when I hear Kenzie say to Kaleb: “I’m fixing my hair with juice.”

Horrified, I dropped the mail and raced around the corner to the dinner table to find that Kenzie had squeezed all the juice out of the bottle into her plate. The first thing I see is pizza and grapes floating in the juice in the plate.

The next thing I see is both of her hands dipped in the juice in the plate.

When I looked up from the plate and looked at her head, I could see that she had been texturing her hair using the juice as a hairstyling mousse!

Here’s what her new juicy hairdo looked like:

So I’m looking at this mess and thinking: Jellyfish? Brick Wall? Backbone?

Do I ignore it then slap her hands and tell her no and take her plate away?

No, that doesn’t make sense. I should slap her hands and then ignore it?

That can’t be right. I’m not supposed to ignore it. And I don’t think I’m supposed to slap her hands. So, should I take her plate away and send her to bed early?

I don’t remember anything about going to bed early!

I know, I tell her she can never have juice to drink again in her whole life. No, that can’t be right either!

Why didn’t I pay better attention during the discussion instead of making wisecracks?

I can’t believe this is actually happening just like we discussed in the support group and I don’t remember the correct response!

Well, you look at the picture on the right and tell me what should I do? What could I do? What would you do?

The (Daycare) Class of 2012

DON’T CRY POPPY, IT’S JUST DAYCARE!

The daycare sent home a note the other day announcing they were having a graduation ceremony for all the children that were promoting to pre-Kindergarten school next year.

What nonsense! Having a graduation ceremony for toddlers? Why, it’s just ridiculous!

Besides, in my profession in higher education we don’t take graduation ceremonies lightly. They are serious business.

But to have children that haven’t even been to school yet don the cap and gown is practically an insult to my profession!

For these toddlers to participate in a so-called graduation ceremony is practically a desecration of all I hold sacred about academia.

So here I am sitting in the daycare cafeteria waiting for the toddlers to march out to Pomp and Circumstance.

AM I THE VALEDICTORIAN?

Then they are supposed to cross a platform and receive a graduation certificate.

Outrageous!

Shhhh, here they come now.

Look, they have on these little red graduation caps and gowns. They’re so cute!

And wait, here comes Kaleb. “That’s my child!”

“Stop them and let me get a picture of this!”

“Wait, I need another picture!”

PRE-K, HERE I COME!

“GET OUT OF MY WAY AND LET ME GET SOME PICTURES!”

“THAT’S MY CHILD AND HE’S SO CUTE!”

Are these tears welling up in my eyes? Nanna would have loved to see this.

Why it seems like just yesterday that he started to daycare. Now he’s graduating.

They grow up so fast…

Dueling Harmonicas

The other day I was cleaning out some drawers in the dresser in my bedroom and found two harmonicas that had been pushed back in a drawer.

You may be wondering why there were two harmonicas in the drawer of the dresser in my bedroom.

Let me explain.

Some years ago we went to eat at the Crackerbarrel Old Country Store and Restaurant. As I was browsing around the store before eating, I spotted some harmonicas and decided then and there that I wanted to learn to play the harmonica.

So I purchased one and took it home and began to practice on it.

A harmonica is an instrument you play by ear and so I began practicing, watching Dan Akroyd in the Blues Brothers to perfect my technique!

I had just become accomplished at playing Oh! Susanna when my harmonica came up missing.

After awhile I forgot about it until the next time we were in the Crackerbarrel Old Country Store and Restaurant. I was browsing around the store when, again I saw the harmonicas and my interest in playing was suddenly renewed.

And so I purchased a second harmonica.

This time I was getting pretty good at playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic when the second harmonica turned up missing. As before, after awhile I forgot about it and lost interest in harmonica playing.

By now you can probably see where I’m going with this story.

I’m guessing, of course, but I think the two harmonicas hidden in the back of a drawer clearly indicate that my wife didn’t believe I had a future as a musician in a blues band!

Apparently, she discreetly hid each harmonica away in the back of a drawer at an opportune time when I wouldn’t notice, knowing I would soon forget about it.

So now I’ve rediscovered my interest in harmonica playing and I have two harmonicas and two toddler fans that love my harmonica music.

And, they got so excited listening to me play that they wanted to play the harmonica for themselves!

But, soon my two fans turned into two whining, crying toddlers who wouldn’t be satisfied until they had the opportunity to play the harmonica for themselves.

So I gave them one harmonica to share and kept one for myself.

But, I quickly discovered that two toddlers sharing one harmonica was not a workable solution.

Once again I sacrificed my prospective musical career and I handed over both harmonicas to the toddlers.

Now I’ve got dueling harmonicas! And they expect me to enjoy their music as much as they enjoyed mine!

But I think I now understand why my wife would deliberately hide the harmonicas away in the back of the drawer.

Yes, there is a BIG difference between being the one playing harmonica music and being the one listening to harmonica music.

Especially when the player doesn’t know how to play it (and thinks he or she does)!

“I’m begging you! Please put those harmonicas down! I can’t stand it any longer!”

And to top it off, I’ve lost any and all desire to pick up a harmonica and play it after the toddlers have been blowing in it. There’s no telling what food particles or other unknown elements might be found inside those instruments.

Is there a drawer around here where I can hide those things?