Friday, August 29, 2008

A Foreign Tongue

"Let's find the boys!" Bub pleaded as we arrived last night at the open house for the Best Start program he'll be attending every morning (with kindergarten in the afternoons). The room was buzzing with parents and children, but Bub spied a few boys in a corner playing with cars. He looked up at me excitedly, jabbing a finger in their direction.

Boys are strange beasts. I don't fully understand them. The kindergarten-aged girls are fully comprehensible to me. They come in two varieties: there are the bold ones who march up and show me their Barbies, and then there are the shy ones like Pie, peeking out from behind their mothers' knees. With boys the social cues are harder for me to interpret. The two boys Bub had his eye on were pushing cars back and forth, eyes glued to their toys. Was this parallel play or some complicated boy-game?

Bub stood behind them, carefully enunciating the words his speech therapist had taught him. "Hello. My name is Bub. What's your name?" When the boys continued to vroom softly, he shot a confused look in my direction. "Hello?" he asked, as if he were talking on a disconnected telephone. "Hello? Hello?"

If he feels pained by these moments of rejection, Bub gives no sign of it. A year ago, he was the one steadily ignoring the social gestures of others. Now he knows that he wants to play with other children. He knows that he would rather play with boys than girls. And perhaps I am over-inclined to hold him responsible for such failed attempts at communication. If I can't pinpoint what he's doing wrong, perhaps that's because he's not actually doing anything wrong. His approach, I'm sure, would work with any of the gregarious girls who buttonholed the Pie at the sand table. But I suspect that with boys first contact must always be made by the toys rather than their owners. Only after one boy's Superman has established a rapport with the other boy's Batman can further pleasantries be exchanged.

I had a chance to test out this theory this morning when a friend of mine visited with her six-year-old son. Bub was ecstatic. He trailed about after Jonathan, offering up anecdotes. "We went to the beach and saw grandpa we ate macaroni and cheese we went swimming in the water it was fun!" Faced again with a total lack of response, Bub tried another tack. "Hey Jonathan, do you want to go watch some TV?" After a suitable pause, Bub suggested a reply: "How about you say, 'Sure Bub! Let's go watch TV!'"

Bub is strongly motivated to establish social relationships; he just doesn't seem to have cracked the code that would allow him admission into the social world of kindergarten-age boys. I hover uncertainly at times like this, convinced that if I can learn the rules and impart them to Bub, he will eventually put them into practice. But I'm a grown-up, a foreigner struggling ludicrously to pass on the mangled idioms of a language I don't speak myself. My input does little more than call attention to whatever invisible gaffes my son might be making.

I made macaroni and cheese for lunch today, and by the time I had finished boiling the noodles and mixing in the margarine, Bub and his new friend had negotiated a rapprochement. "I will shoot you with my gun!" they hollered joyfully, wielding their flashlights like lethal weapons. I listened from the sidelines, bemused but glad for my son's fledgling facility in a language I will never speak.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Bub complained the whole way here.

"We need to turn!" he instructed urgently. "Our home is that way!"

I explained, for the several-hundredth time, that all our things had been taken away in the big truck. All our toys, all our chairs, all our beds, all our dressers. "But I don't want to go to the new house," Bub protested, his face tight with misery. "When we get there, I'm going to smash it!"

(At this point in the conversation, Pie would routinely dissolve into tears. "But my animals are there!" she would protest, and when I reassured her that I would protect the house, Bub vowed that I would not be able to stop him from smashing it.)

At one point, Pie mentioned her Master Monkey toy. "I think that toy's at home," Bub told her.

"At the old house?" Pie asked. Bub shook his head. "At the new house?" No, not the new house either. "Then where?"

Home, Bub insisted. Home is not a word like toy or book, something that denotes any one of several possible things. Home is home, an absolute term free of adjectives. And as Bub was dimly beginning to grasp, moving to the new house meant never being home again.

Daddy was already at the house when we pulled into the driveway. Pie, enthusiastically on board with this whole new venture, raced in the door exclaiming, "I know you're in here somewhere!" Bub followed behind her, dragging his feet. And then for awhile I was busy bringing in boxes and so I used my ears rather than my eyes to follow their exploration. They found Daddy - they looked for their bedrooms - and then Bub's astonished tones drifted down to where I was pulling off sandals and juggling boxes. "There it is! It's here!"

Home. Or, as Bub called it when we got back from our new Sunday School this morning, our new-house home.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My House Will Never Look This Good Again

All the new furniture has been delivered, but none of our old stuff is moved in yet. Everything is shiny new, except for the stuff we've been picking up at antique stores ever since I bought a copy of Flea Market Style magazine and found a whole new lease on life (now that the paint chip fixation has become obsolete). Now just add three boxes of toys and about 700 books and we'll be all moved in.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Three Phone Calls

I got home from my class at three o'clock yesterday afternoon, a stack of unmarked essays waiting for me to grade. But first I decided to place a few phone calls. I didn't call the hydro company to cancel our account or the Visa hotline to change my address; I didn't return the calls from the flooring store asking if we're satisfied with our hardwood installation (we're not); but I did make the following three calls:

Shelley at the Small Town Early Years Centre
My experience of calling day-care centres in the city has been that they courteously take all your information, and then one of three things happens:

(1) you never hear from them again
(2) you get a call a year later asking if you still want to be on the waiting list
(3) you are offered a full-time spot in mid-October when what you needed (and eventually found in home-care) was a part-time spot beginning in September.

Small Town, though, is a very different kind of place. Pie's spot has been reserved for her since I first called last spring. I pay only for the four days a week that I need, and I don't need to pay anything to hold the spot. She'll be in what they refer to as "the pink room" (a factor I've emphasized with her in conversation), along with three teachers and 23 other three-year-olds. It seems astonishing to me that she will spend her days in that kind of an environment after the laid-back pace of her home-care this year, but when I mention that to my mother or her current caregiver, their responses have been identical and immediate: "She'll be fine." And she will. She exudes a sense of capability. At the photographer's, she can hold any pose; at the Little Gym she can try her hand at any trick. She has even called an official cessation of hostilities between herself and the rest of the human race: the children at day-care whom she used to allude to dismissively as "the babies" are now rapturously identified as "my girls." She's ready for anything the Small Town Early Years Centre wants to send her way.

Bub's schedule is a bit more complicated. He'll go to a Best Start program (a kind of complement to kindergarten) in the mornings, kindergarten in the afternoons, and, as I confirmed yesterday, after-school programming on Mondays and Wednesdays. That means three separate care settings, an irregular schedule, and a new house, all within the next three weeks. Fun! Don't you wish you were Bub? Or me?

Jeff, The Guy Who Will Finish our Roughed-In Phone and Cable Outlets For a Mere $500
On Tuesday.

This I established after a long and confusing conversation about wiring for high-speed internet, given that we don't have dual access phone lines (or something). This dilemma was resolved when I recalled that since we have a WIRELESS router, we don't actually need any wires to be installed.

Laurence, The Guy Who Will Measure Our Windows For a Mere $50
Laurence was busy with an installation, so he asked me to call him back in the evening, when he would have his appointment book handy. This I blithely agreed to do, forgetting that the mental and emotional energy required for the placing of phone calls is something I can muster only until about 5 pm. By 8:30, when the kids were in bed, the task of introducing myself to a stranger, explaining to him what I needed, and writing down the appointment on the calendar seemed too overwhelming to contemplate. So instead I wrote up the exam for my course, graded two essays and recorded the marks, and went to bed.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Posts I Would Write If I Had The Time

Nuggets of Wisdom From My Students' Exams

  • Growing up is essential to the growth and maturity of every child.
  • It is a well-known fact that "good people" have higher ethical standards than "evil people."
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Voldemort is considered to be evil.

Impassioned Defense of the Twilight Series
I know everybody is having a good time trashing the series now that Breaking Wind Dawn has been published, but I have to speak up in the books' defence. And I will do so - eloquently - as soon as I am finished swooning over Edward's topaz eyes.

How obedient do you expect your children to be?
Because mine aren't very.

A Positive Parenting video I saw once had a "Compliance Routine" for parents to implement. You instruct the child to do something, and wait ten seconds. If the child does not comply, you repeat the instruction and wait another ten seconds. If there is still no compliance, you put the child in time-out, releasing him only when he has sat quietly for a set period of time. This routine applies to all requests throughout the day.

If I did this, my children would never leave time out. Our Compliance Routine goes something like this:

Me: Bub, it's time to go out to the car.
Bub: No, I'm not going, I'm never ever going.
Me: (extracting Bub from the bathroom moments before he manages to lock the door) Do you want to wear sandals or Crocs?
Bub: Nooooo!
Me: (grabbing Bub by the shoulder and marching him to the front door) Do you want milk in a straw cup in the car or no milk in a straw cup?
Bub: (caving) Okay, milk in a straw cup. (he puts on sandals and walks out to the car)

That is what I would describe as an ordinary example of compliance in our household. What about yours?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Exciting and New

First meal...

... at the new house.

We don't move in officially for another couple of weeks, but as of last Wednesday, the place is ours.