March 2014

Today we are walking to the park. The sun is out, the sky is clear, and the temperatures are not as low as they were yesterday. As we near the apartments for disabled and elderly persons, my German speaker spies another thrill, a worker and his truck, which I explain is a glass repair or replacement truck. The worker is fussing with things in his truck, cigarette dangling from his mouth. The children have initiated a new favorite version of the name song. The spanish/english/german speaker is singing proudly, “My name is Poopy, Poopy, Poopy. My name is Poopy. I like Poop.”

Then the english speaker follows up, giggling, “My name is Pee-Pee, Pee-Pee, Pee-Pee. My name is Pee-Pee. I like Pee.”

I am wondering what to say, know extinguishing such songs is a challenge in a group of twos almost threes. I also wonder what the worker will think, wonder what the disabled and elderly persons will think. I smile at the worker as he walks from van to building beside us, sure he has overheard what I think of as our fresh talk. “They all love those words,”  I say, smiling.

“You have the best job in the world”, he replies, huge grin on his face.

And I am reminded, and reply, “It is a good job.”

Face saved, critique of children’s behavior avoided.  The children naturally move on to wondering about the owl that is resting on the veranda of an upstairs apartment, fixture of every trip we’ve taken to the park this year, and then about our friend, who they refer to as the Hi-Ho man, name passed down through generations of day care kids since the man we adults know as Michael used to sing to us from his balcony three floors up, or pop out of a door to serenade us on the sidewalk, “Hi Ho Hi Ho its’ off to the park we go”, or some variation on that Disney Snow White and the Seven Dwarves theme, who hasn’t sung that in quite awhile as far as I remember, but who keeps his name. And so we talk about the Hi Ho man, wonder what he might be up to today, off to a store, reading the newspaper, talking on the phone, watching tv, until I come to going on a bus adventure, which the German/English/Spanish speaker likes a lot, says, “Yeah, riding a bus.” And then we arrive at the park, where we are on our own for the hour, are visited by the mother of a late arrival, play in the sand and sun and wind, until it is time to go home again.

It’s a typical day in our world, and I wonder if the man who believes it’s the best job in the world had such loving care when he was a child, if he remembers it and is glad we are giving it to our children, or if he didn’t and wishes he did. Our presence in the world serves as a reminder of how our society ought to treat the children, of how childhood should be lived and revered. Not bad for inspiration from a repairmen on the sidewalk by his van.

Early this morning, I read an article from The Washington Post shared with me by two fellow providers, including a letter written by a Cambridge Public School teacher resigning her post due to not being able to live the life she believes in with the children in her classroom and school. I’ll share it here. We at WFDC are indeed lucky to have the freedom we have to live life with our children in the way we do. No tests, minimal data, all children, all the time. Lucky indeed.

I spend the morning at the play dough table with a group of twos. I am amazed at how they’ve grown this year. We are having a conversation as we work. We share the dough, take turns with the tools.

At one point I comment on how nice this new dough feels, compliment those who made it, ask one girl if she helped. She did. Another girl, one for whom language came more slowly, now in full bloom, says she watched. I point out that she was not there, that Alice made the dough on Friday, when she was with Mommy.

She beams, this girl who spent many early afternoons weeping for Mommy, who only recently learned she could accept a babysitter pickup without tears. “But I’m here now!” she beams. Is she ever. As am I.

My fingers are stiff from the cold. I’m just back from a walk around..sent the kids off in their dad’s car to a day of snowboarding at Wachussett with school, dropped the van off at the shop for some headlight investigation, having been pulled over last night for a headlamp out, only to make things worse when we tried to take it out and put it back in, after which neither low beam worked and both high beams did..go figure, plenty of light for seeing long distance, for country roads, none for close traffic in and around the city, where we live.

Walking back home from the shop, down the hill towards my home, I realized I had time for a walk, kept on going past the house, down the street, turned towards the Brook, only to shift gears again, through the church property to the path along the parkway, crossing over to the other side at the light, then down to Mass Ave, where I turned toward the coffee shop, walked along til I could smell it roasting, debated a cup, turned again along an old familiar route down Teele Street, where the houses get a little funky and I can admire a porch full of books, a purple mansard, a mirror collage Christmas tree on the front porch of a place I know well, back towards the brook on a path I rarely take, along the brook aways, then back over the parkway towards home, sky clear as a bell, sun shining bright, cold stiffening my fingers and burning my nose so much along the brook I rub it with my bare hand, thinking frost bite, having left the house for a one block walk without gloves or scarf, keeping moving, keeping warm.

At home I have just enough time to write here to sip the juice glass of leftover smoothie from my kids’ breakfast treat, to make a piece of Hungry Ghost toast from my Northampton beau, to spread it with maple cream from the farmer’s market near my mom, to drink the now cold tea, and to prepare for the day.

It’s been a rare day I’ve perambulated the neighborhood before work, after sending kids off to school. Today there were other things I could have done, but I chose this, small celebration of handing in my taxes yesterday, of having had a fine weekend in Western Mass, of having the kids back home after a week apart, of the start of another work week, shortly, downstairs.

Yesterday morning I woke up in Northampton, with time for breakfast with my beau, also tea and toast, at his kitchen table. The house was quiet when I left around 8:30 and it struck me that for 19 years in my home, 8:30 has meant day care. Five days a week, forty eight weeks a year the energy builds in my home between 8 and 9, until the place downstairs is full of action, children, teachers, parents, toys, noise, calm, whatever it is, other than weekends, snow days, and vacations, that’s a long run of a full house.

When Liana wrote this for our day care families, I thought it would be interesting to post here, as it feels like a way of expanding on the experience I described in the piece I shared last week on Conversations with Fives and Twos. Thank you, Liana, for agreeing to share your words here.

February 27, 2014

The Joy of Language

What I am noticing is just how terribly exciting and interesting the act of conversing is for so many of our twos.  Yesterday I.’s focus was on questions and the back and forth of conversation.  “I am going to ask a question.  I am going to ask E. how her vacation was, and she will ask me how my vacation in Florida was.”  All the way to and from the park I. told me about the questions she was going to ask different people at the park, back at the day care, and on our walk.  The questions were being planned in advance, and considered with great pleasure.

I learned that L. invited I. over to her house.  Before her arrival L. planned the questions and the dialogue she would like to have with I., but she is aware that her English is not strong enough yet to find out all that she would like to know, so she was preparing in advance, asking her mother to translate the words from German to English, so that she would be able to talk with I..  When I. arrived the plan was discarded.  It is hard to carry out a planned conversation.

Yesterday L. took something from I..  I cannot remember what it was, but I. came to tell me.  I suggested she go talk to L. about the problem.  Well, she did.  Poor L. tried to respond, but she was bombarded with English words.  I. is not one to hold back.  She spoke politely, and respectfully, but she must have used 500 words to describe the problem.  I got lost in all the words, and I tried to imagine what it must have felt like to L. who only must have understood some of them.  I don’t even remember if the object was returned.  I don’t think it mattered, because I. had had her say.

E. wanted to tell I. about the play she saw at the Children’s Museum.  She told her what play they had seen, and who had gone with her, and then she finished it all with “Isn’t that interesting, I.?”  “Interesting” was E.’s key word yesterday as she spoke to her friends.  Yes, that was it yesterday.  They were each speaking to their friends, not with.  The with takes more practice.

Today I. and E. spoke the entire time to and back from the park, without a break.  R. was completely silent.  I wondered what he thought about all that language flowing out of their mouths. Both girls assumed I was keeping up with all they had to say, but that was not possible. H. was with me, and he too felt the urge to talk.  He spoke of lava, and dinosaurs.  I responded to the lava part of the dialogue, and that peeked I.’s curiosity “What is lava?” she asked.  I was blown away when H. explained that it was a hot liquid.  He was the youngest two in the group.  How did he know the word liquid?  At one point he used the word “actually,” which I associate as one of the favorite sophisticated words of two year olds.  Some children just love to use it, using the word correctly each time, as often as possible.

As I changed E.’s diaper N. was having fun saying no over and over again.  I wondered if he was pretending to be Andrew in “I Have to Go.”  “No,” he answered smiling.  Then E. had to say “Yes,” and smile back.  The two of them went back and forth with no and yes, and others came to join them  The yes and no game is great fun, and hard to resist.  E. turned to me and said for the first time, “We are having a disagreement,” and she smiled with pleasure.  I. and L. have not had that kind of dispute in ages, and this was the first time that E. announced her difference of opinion.

E. has been thinking a great deal about what is funny and what is scary, and that has interested A. and F. as well.  Now they will consider whether or not a book is scary or funny, and be surprised, and delighted when one book can hold both emotions.  E. will tell a story, and she will end it saying, “Isn’t that funny?  That’s so funny.”

What strikes me is just how much talking is going on all the time.  The children are animated as they speak.  Although they are often talking to each other rather than with their friends, everyone is catching bits of the dialogue, if not all of it. They might refer to what was said by someone else later in the day, or the week, or even weeks later.  This kind of conversing feels so different from what I imagine happening in the day cares where the teachers are instructed to teach language to the children, making it a subject matter that must be covered, rather than an action that captures the attention of many so long as the participants are given the opportunity to talk about what captivates them most.  I feel so lucky to be in such a vibrant community of children.