Friday, October 22, 2010


It happened one day while the twins and I browsed the garden center at Rona.  They had just turned three.  I typically don't need to worry about the kids wandering off, they follow me like a gaggle of goslings follow their mother.  This one particular day, however, when I looked up from the planters on sale on the shelf, my daughter was gone.

I picked up my son and put him in a nearby shopping cart while scanning the immediate area.  I called out her name repeatedly, each time more frantic.  My inner voice speaks up. 

"Stay calm. Get help."

Ironically, on the way in, we had walked past a display on how to locate your child if they go missing.  The presenter offered to fingerprint and photograph each child for the bargain price of only $30 apiece.  I had balked at shelling out $60 I didn't have for something that would probably never happen to me.  Yet, here it was...happening.

I double-timed it back to the lady at the missing child display.  "I've lost my daughter," I explain to the presenter calmly but concerned.  She waves at an employee behind the store's customer service desk.  "Can I help you?" the employee asks, perhaps expecting to direct me to the aisle for paint chips.  Her expression confirms that she recognizes the urgency in my eyes before she hears the panic in my words.  "I can't find my daughter!"

The employee springs to action.  She announces over a two way radio to a select group of employees to be on the look-out for my little girl, giving out a description of hair colour, clothing as I give it to her.  Her demeanor is calm, reassuring.  She takes me back to the garden center, explaining on the way that the store policy is not to make a store wide announcement for a missing child, therefore alerting everyone that a vulnerable child is wandering around unattended.  Instead, they conduct a thorough search of each department, communicating via walkie-talkie.  A few long minutes later, I am relieved to see an employee approaching the garden center, my daughter in tow.

Soon after the Rona episode, we made almost every shopping trip a game of 'What To Do If You Can't Find Mommy'.  I handed out chocolate rewards to whomever could stay near the spot they lost sight of me (because they were the ones who darted behind racks to "hide") and find someone who worked in the store.  The kids entertained many a store clerk with exclamations of "Look, Mommy!  This person works here!"

This year, the kids have started junior kindergarten.  Last week, they each brought home a letter addressed to all parents. "...a student at a nearby school was approached by an unidentified man driving a van. Police are investigating..."  The threatening stranger seemed so much more real.  There was one in our neighbourhood.  Did Ty and Erin know what a stranger was?

Saturday morning seemed an opportune time to find out.  While Dad took care of some household chores, I took the kids out to visit our local Canadian institution of "coffee" (a.k.a. milk) and donuts.  On the way, I am entertained by the responses to "What is a stranger."

"A hairy monster with big teeth and glowing eyes", "A stinky man who lives under the ground."  In the parking lot, I spot the sole pedestrian amongst the parked cars.  A young woman standing beside a motorcycle.

"Do you know who that lady is?"  I ask.


I step out of the drivers seat to help the kids out of the back of the van, continuing the lesson, "We don't know that lady.  She isn't wearing anything to tell us who she is.  That lady is a stranger."

Both kids look at the young lady, astonished.  The young lady is looking at us, containing laughter but trying to play along.  Both kids turn to me, their eyes wide.  For the first time since they learned how to talk, they're speechless.

On our way into the coffee shop, the game continues about what to do if a stranger asks for directions to the mall.  My ever helpful son replies, "I'd tell her to go straight and then turn left..."

"No!"  corrects his sister, "You run away and yell 'Help!' as loud as you can!"

"Good job!  Adults ask adults for directions," I add, "But where do you think you should run to?"

This gives them something to mull over while we order. Once we sit down, I check to see who was paying attention.

"Did you see that lady behind the counter who gave us our donuts?"


"Is she a stranger?"

I can read the words on their horrified little faces. 'Not the coffee lady!'  I better jump in before I do lasting damage. "Did you see that shiny badge on her shirt?  That badge tells you her name.  She wants you to know who she is.  If you need help, you can go to the coffee lady."

Their relief is audible.

"So if a stranger is talking to me," my son exclaims proudly, "I can run to the coffee lady and she can help me!"

"That's right!  Well done!"

It's a proud moment for Mommy.  I had a lesson to teach and they learned it.  I've taught them how to be safe.  The young woman we saw beside the motorcycle walks past our table with her order in hand.  Both kids spot her and leap up on their chairs.

"Bye, stranger!" they sing out, waving and smiling.

Thankfully, the world is full of  good people.  Thank you, kind stranger.

Monday, February 8, 2010

50 Ways to Break a Habit

Our Saturday morning ritual includes a visit to the library. The Georgetown branch has a section downstairs dedicated to children, including two guinea pigs named Beezus and Ramona. Our visit isn't complete without a brief stop by their cage to say "hello" and offer a few sprigs of lettuce or some quarters to help the library pay for their care.

This week, in addition to letting the kids pick out a few books they found interesting, I went looking for stories I could read to one of my daycare kids who has parents in the midst of a separation and another book on honesty to curb another child's habit of misspeaking the truth. During my search in this section, I found a book entitled "50 Ways to Break a Habit." Ty and Erin both continue to suck their thumb so I thought this book might offer useful advice to get them to stop.

I was delighted when I saw in the table of contents an entire chapter dedicated to ending the habit of thumb sucking and eagerly turned to the indicated page. Paragraph number 2 offers this advice:

"Tape a Popsicle stick to the inside of their elbow so their hands cannot get anywhere near their mouth."

Wait ..... What?

I didn't check the published date, but I suspect it wasn't current.

I admit, I'm not a perfect parent and have quite possibly, in their almost 4 years, committed at least one act or another that will come up in therapy later, but tape a Popsicle stick to their elbow?!? Hell, I'm up for an award for denying them this piece of torture. Why not just rack them? Or tie them to a chair and dunk them mercilessly in Lake Ontario? Or hell, spare the hassle of constructing an ingenious instrument of malice and just haul out the Wilshires for a speedy thumb-ectomy.

I have a great idea where to tape a Popsicle stick! Perhaps the book was misfiled from it's intended location "Cruel and Unusual."

All sticks of Popsicle origin and otherwise shall remain the tools of whimsical creations. I'm even less concerned now than I was about a little soporific thumb sucking. In fact, I give thumb sucking the thumbs up!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The First Day of Spring

It's that time of year when I start counting down the days when the bitter cold of winter ends and the warm, southerly breezes breathe life back into my soul. I was looking through some photos of the kids while listening to some music and these just seemed to go together so well. Moments of fun and frivolity captured on film for all time. So many more moments to discover. Like spring, it's time that we begin again...

First Day of Spring by The Gandharvas

"My friend...
Don't just sit there and ruminate...
With your navel to contemplate...
It's a beautiful day outside...
Time's passing you by..."

"Come on out...
Don't just sit there catatonic...
I'm feeling supersonic...
A warm wind is sweeping by...
The sun's full in the sky...
And there's no way of knowing,
No way to know,
Know how long it'll last,
No way of knowing,
No way to know,
Know how long it'll last..."

"Come on out...
Don't just sit there and decompose...
Go throw on some summer clothes...
I would enjoy your company...
But please hurry...
Cause there's no way of knowing,
No way to know,
Know how long it'll last,
No way of knowing,
No way to know,
Know how long it'll last..."