Being Grandmother to an engaged and busy 22 month old toddler is far superior experience to winning a multi-million dollar lottery, I’d wager. At least, such has been my experience up to date. This past Wednesday, my big treat was to spend an extended five-hour period with Mousey while Glasgow Girl went to her afernoon job, and Renaissance man was to go to an after work meeting. GG and Mousey came to pick me up from home, and there was Mousey, perched in her car-seat, madly grinning and waving as I walked to the car bearing the black bag which she has to inspect as soon as we go into her house. What goodies are in there, what surprise?
Once we arrived, Mousey led me into the living room and inspected the contents of the black bag. Sun-glasses (check), wallet (check), umbrella(check) keychain(check), comb(check) and what’s this? Small cardboard boxes of mysterious stuff? (“Later, Mousey. Grandma will show you what these are.”) There is also a brown paper wrapped bottle of wine, as a treat for GG after she gets home from work, to sip with exhausted Grandma. (“This is for big people. You wait, Roxy will come and have a visit with us this evening before you go to bed. This is for Momma, Grandma and Roxy.”)
Glasgow Girl shows me what to feed the Mouse for dinner and then leads me into a section of carpeted hallway. “This is the spot for “Time-out”. We have been doing this for when Mousey hits us, something we want to discourage. She hates it and will scream and yell. You’ll have to hold her down for two minutes.” Mousey pays us no attention; she is busy pulling on her pink rubber boots, muttering “Go outside” under her breath. She drags me by the hand to the back door, and waves a distracted good-bye to her mother. She is fixated on an outdoor adventure. Glasgow Girl leaves.
Out in the yard, Mousey collects her favourite stones that she has stashed in a special spot under the emerald Cedars. She also has a stash of curiously-patterned fallen leaves which she weights down with a large stone. “Open sand-box,” she orders. “We play.” While I lift the lid from the sand-box, she ferries her collection by making several trips. She only brings the most precious ones of her stones – a large one, a medium turd-shaped one and a small round black and white speckled one. She seems to favour the turd-shaped one. The last time we were all together, when I pointed out that unfortunate similarity to Glasgow Girl, she shushed me. It seems that “turd” is not to be one of Mousey’s vocabulary words, just yet. Is it an improper term? Oh, well. There is still time to round out her increasingly extensive vocabulary, a bit later.
Mousey busies herself with pouring sand from one container to another. We discuss the concepts of full and empty. She carries on filling up buckets with sand, says “full”, pours it out into another bucket, “says “empty” and gives me a meaningful look. She tries to make a mountain out of dry sand, which doesn’t work too well. The sand refuses to keep a good form. We go off to the garden hose and fill a bucket with water. This we carry back and dump on the sand. It’s good and mucky. She happily fills a bucket with this wet sand, I show her how to tamp it down in the bucket. She pats down the additions of added sand. Then she can’t lift the bucket and looks frustrated. “It’s heavy”, i point out to her. “let Grandma help.” We upend the bucket, remove it and there she has a nice solid tower of sand. This she augments with the rocks and leaves. “Big mountain!” she announces, looking ever so pleased with the result. She steps back and inspects it, meanwhile rubbing and slapping her hands together to rid herself of the sticky sand. “I go pool now,” she says and marches off to where her new inflatable lady-bug pool sits, now empty of water. She kicks off her rubber boots and climbs inside. Lies down. “Resting” she calls out, and hides.
Soon, her little voice pipes up. “Bugs… bugs…”. I go over and there she is lying on her stomach following the path of scurrying ants on the plastic bottom. “Oh, bugs, bugs…” she cooes at them and makes to give them kisses. They run away from her mouth. She giggles. “Bugs… kiss bugs!” she announces. ( Good thing Glasgow Girl is not here. She might not like Mousey making too affectionate with crawling things.) Mouse climbs out of the pool, pulls on her boots and heads out into the garden. “Bugs!” she calls out with glee as she plicks something from the dirt. She runs back to me and hands me a round black ball of something, which I then drop on the ground. We watch it unfurl itself into its true form – a sow bug. Mousey raises a foot, and makes to stomp it. “No, no, let the bug go back to its home,” I caution her. She falls to her hands and knees and watches the bug scurry quite smartly in the direction of the garden. It makes its way under her sandbox. “Gone!” she says. “Look under the sandbox,” I suggest to her as I get down on my hands and knees. “it went under there.” We lie down on our stomachs and watch the sow-bug wend its way to the edge of the patio, and drop off back into the garden. “Bye bug” says Mousey. “Bug home.” She looks at me and asks “Cookie?” “Would you like a cookie, Mousey?” I question her. “Yep, pease.” she takes my hand and leads me to the back door.
In the kitchen we select gold fish crackers – three of them, which Mouse has to count – one, two, three. She takes them to the living room, and picks up a book about bugs. “Read” she orders. She settles herself on the couch and places the gold fish crackers on her lap-covering skirt. Pats the couch beside her, “granma, read.” She pops a gold-fish into her mouth and takes great pleasure in pointing out various kinds of bugs. Repeats with a mouth full, “ftik bug” and “bubberfwy”. She loves naming things, animate and inanimate. Her enunciation with a full mouth is quite funny. After she swallows, her speech is just a bit clearer. She goes off into her kissing phase. Insists on kissing every bug picture in the book.
(This reminds me of something funny Glasgow Girl told me a couple of weeks ago. She and Mousey went to the grocery store for toilet paper. Mousey had to kiss every package with kittens pictured on the wrapper. “It took us forever to get past the toilet paper section”, groused GG. “What’s with this blasted kissing?”)
Mousey and I segue into a Winnie the Pooh book. We read it over and over again at her insistence. She sees every little detail in the illustrations and wants to tell exactly what each thing she sees is. Soon she fixates on Pooh’s honey pot. “Honey”, she says, then looks up at me. “more cookie?”
“Let’s go get your supper ready.” We walk to the kitchen. Mousey drags a chair to the sink and climbs up. “I help” she states, matter of fact, and starts to collect her plate and spoon from beside the sink. I fish out her container of cottage-cheese noodles from the fridge ( aha! Renaissance Man has introduced her to his favourite meal as a child – Noodles Stroganoff -a dish he still equates to homely comforts, much as I always have. Another food tradition well on the way to being established!) I heat her plateful in the microwave while she goes off to climb into her high chair. I add tomato salad to her plate and place it in front of her. She digs in with relish. Although she eats well with a spoon, she soon drops her spoon and starts shoveling the food into her mouth with her hands. Seeing she is so hungry, I don’t insist on Queen’s Table Manners Rules. In minutes she polishes off her whole dish. “Done” she says proudly and hands her plate to me.
Next is halved grapes, and then a small amount of yoghurt and fruit salad. Mousey finishes off her meal with long satisfying sips of water from her sippy cup. “Finished,” she smiles, even though I am busy cleaning her sticky hands and face afterward. She pulls off her bib and impatient, slaps the table of her high-chair to be let out.
“Come help me clean up,” I call from the sink. She climbs back onto the chair there, and helps rinse the dishes. Starts to splash me. I splash her back with sprinkles of water shaken from my wet hands. She giggles and blinks her brown-button eyes, chortles and asks to be dried. “Go outside?” she asks.
Outside again, she takes care to say bye as she prepares to have a few private moments at the side yard with her sit-down elephant on wheels. I flop into a patio chair and try to regroup for the next phase of our afternoon. Mousey carries on a long, convoluted conversation, half of which I do not understand, with the neighbour’s cat which is keeping to the safety of the fence between them. Maybe she has made repeated attempts to haul the cat by is tail to her to bless it with numerous kisses. Cats are too smart to let a toddler get her hands on them and rough-house them into submission. Mousey stays in the side-yard for quite a time, chatting up a storm. I rest and just listen.
Soon enough, she reappears and wants to read more books. Back we go inside. Grandma dutifully reads a selection of books Mousey presents. At the end of reading, Mousey sits and thinks for a few minutes. She looks at me with a speculative expression, then whacks me a good one on my arm with her fist. “Don’t hit, me”, I complain. “Time out.” she announces, takes me by the hand. “Okay, then,” I tell her, “Time out for you. No hitting allowed!” She immediately drops to the ground as if her legs have given out. Drops her head and arms to the ground and starts to howl. (I recognize this pose. It’s what Renaissance Man calls her “bowing to Mecca” posture that she does whenever she is having a temper melt-down. The lamentations, entreaties and moanings have a slightly religious quality, so I see where he has equated this behaviour with religious fervour. Funny man, my son!) I lean down and whisper to her that she show me where we do time out. She smartly picks herself up off the ground, grabs my hand and leads me to the hall, where she gestures me to sit down on the carpet, then pluks herself down in my lap. She proceeds to suck on her fingers and twirl her hair, as she reclines quietly. I wait the obligatory two minutes then suggest we give each other a hug. “Are you tired?” I ask. “Yep.” she replies, nods her head.
“You can’t go to bed yet,” I tell her. “We have to wait for Roxy to arrive. Let’s start your bath and get the bath things ready.” Mousey leads the way to the bathroom. Starts the tap running while I plug the tub. We test the water for correct warmth and make the adjustments to the water temperature. She places all her water toys inside and calls out, “Bubbles!” The door-bell rings. “Is it Roxy? Let’s go see.” Mousey runs out to the front door and waits to see who’s there. It is a smiling Roxy standing there when we open the door. Roxy’s in time to share bath-time. Mousey runs off, shrugging out of her clothes. Roxy goes off to the kitchen to open the wine, and rejoins us in the bathroom, where Mouse is busy splashing with her toys in the tub. She shows Roxy all her toys, calls them by name and submits to hair-washing and being scrubbed free of all the sand stuck to her arm-creases. She then announces she is done, puts all the bathtoys away and climbs out of the tub ready for towelling down. “Wash teeth” she says and fetches her toothbrush. She makes goofy faces as she brushes her teeth. All done, she waits while I towel her off and dry her hair. Then it’s time to get the pajamas on, and she is very co-operative in doing so.
She’s all dressed for bed. “Bottle”she demands. She still drinks one bottle at bed-time. She settles with her bottle of milk, while Roxy and I sit down with our glasses of wine in the living room. When she finishes, she goes and sits on Roxy’s lap and chats away to her. When she has visited to her satisfaction, she comes back to me, settles in my lap, sucks her fingers and twirls her hair. “Are you sleepy?” I ask. Mousey nods. “Let’s say goodnight to Roxy, then.” She walks to Roxy and says to her, “Kiss, g’nite.” She comes back into my arms, thinks a minute then says “Hug Roxy.” I carry her over to deliver her hug. We go into her room, inspect for Snowy’s presence, check behind the curtains and under the bed. No Snowy cat. Mousey pats all her stuffed toys ‘nite, then orders me to the light switch where she clicks the lights off.
“Nite, granma. Kiss” She clamps around my neck and gives me a sloppy smack. Giggles. I place her in her bed and she opens her arms. In one we place Mickey, in the other Minnie. She hugs them and waits to be covered by her blanket. She turns her head to Mickey and shuts her eyes. “Nite, granma.”
“See you later, alligator. Nite nite. Sleep well.” I whisper. She whispers back, “later gater.” I leave her room.
Out in the livig room Roxy and I are catching up on our news over a glass of wine. Not a peep from Mousey. “This child is amazing,” comments Roxy. “She seems to have no problem in going to bed.”
“Well, I am bushed and ready for some z’s myself,” I tell her, laughing. “Whenever Mouse and I are together we are very busy, I think she is also exhausted. It’s hard work being a toddler.
Roxy and her husband, Mike, have been married many years and have no children. Roxy expresses that she likes children, but so many of them are brats. Yeah, I tell her, we were brats too once upon a time, a long, long time ago. And some of us, like your’s truly, are still sort of bratty. I recount to her my first experience with “TIME OUT” with Mousey, and how badly I handled it. Should I fess up to Glasgow Girl when she gets home? Roxy thinks it’s funny, and, definitely yes, I should admit to ineptness to GG. We sip our wine, and exchange our news. She leaves to go home.
Rumpole arrives before Glagow Girl does. I tell him about “TIME OUT”. “That’s not how it’s supposed to be done. Have you forgotten how to do it right?” he chides. “GG will tell you off.”
Glasgow Girl slopes in, flat-footed and weary. I smartly let her pour herself a glass of wine before giving her a rundown of how my time with Mousey was spent. I mention all the fun stuff before broaching the report of “TIME OUT”. GG just rolls her eyes when I tell her of my “TIME OUT” method. “Oh, Lorrrd! You’re supposed to leave her alone!” she pronounces with her rich Glaswegian brogue. I grin and shrug, apologetic, dotty and inept.
Mothers always know best, I figure. And maybe next time, I’ll apply the method with greater skill.