Anne’s Parenting Column

Mrs. Connelly had been teaching in the same sunny room for years.  She loved her four-year-olds and their parents.  Each year brought her a new mix of angelic and rambunctious children. The classroom had an open, full feeling, with lots of choices for play.  Mrs. Connelly had an instinct for what children loved to do.  Often she brought in small items she thought they would enjoy.  Sometimes they were toys her grown son had played with...

Four year old Barney really knew how to wear his mother out.  He never listened.  At the park she frequently had to resort to bribes to lure Barney away from the riding toys or the sand box.  Her promises of treats in the car nearly always worked but his demands kept escalating. One day as she was buckling Barney into his car seat, Mary realized her last bag of gummy worms had been used to pry...

It was a lovely, cool Saturday in October.  Two-year-old Cubby was in his crib, sleeping soundly.  Fern, his four-year-old sister, decided she was going to get him up and show him what school is.  She lowered the side of the crib and picked up her sleeping brother.  Putting him in a big chair, she told him, “This is what you do at school.”  She pointed to paper and colored pencils that she had put out...

Jane woke up to the sound of her mother’s voice on the phone.  Elizabeth’s voice was different, trembly.  She couldn’t really hear what her mother was actually saying.  Jane sat up, to listen better. “I know Daddy.  Yes, I will bring the children with me.  They will want to see you both.” Jane got out of bed, quietly so as not to wake her brother Dylan, who slept in another bed in the same room.  In semi...

Kate and Rory Haskell lived in New York City with their son George.  Rory was a partner in an architectural firm and Kate had worked at the Museum of Natural History until the day before George was born. Kate’s days were filled with the usual things a mother of an infant does.  Time seemed to vanish and also stand still; her daily schedule would hardly fill one page of a small post-it note.  Kate slid into...

The Hogans were looking forward to getting a new car.  Their car ran well most of the time.  Sometimes, however, out of the blue, it wouldn’t start.  It was really tired looking, too.  The old green paint was dull and the car had scratches and a few dents.  This car was going to become Bill’s station car and they were buying a navy blue minivan. Eileen Hogan was excited to at last have a brand new...

On Friday the little boys got out of school at noon.  Leo’s mother had arranged to bring Leo and his friend Willy home to play.  But then during the morning, Ward’s mother, Jessie had called her. “I hear Leo and Willy are having a play date,” she began.  “Is there any way you could take Ward too?  Something just came up and I need to park him somewhere for a few hours.” Betsy didn’t know Ward at...

I liked my friend Marian very much, yet I wasn’t sold on her parenting skills.  One day, we arranged to meet at a park with our children.  Immediately, there was trouble. “Honey, we don’t play with sticks.  Chip, let’s not put that near Tyler’s face.  Okay?”  Marian’s voice lacked commitment as she spoke to her son. Chip lowered the stick for a few seconds and then went back at it.  He was waving the stick so close...

Davis and Jamie Armstrong received a package from their grandparents, containing some small, beautiful metal cars and trucks.  The boys each had a favorite.  Jamie loved a green sports car and Davis loved the red bread truck.  They were having fun racing them around the windowsills, making perfect sounds for each. Watching them, Regina was delighted with the peaceful time.  She was just about to pay a few bills when the phone rang. “Regina?  Suzy Flinn.  We’re...

On Saturday morning, two brothers, Davis and Jamie, woke up really early.  Their parents, Regina and Tad Armstrong, were still asleep, so the boys went downstairs and put on the TV.  Soon they were watching a scary cartoon called Mean Dog.  It was a show their mother didn’t like them to watch. “I’m so hungry,” Davis said after the first show. Running upstairs, they jumped on their sleeping parents.  “Mommy, Daddy, get up!  We’re hungry!” Tad rolled over...

There is no question that I like things to go well.  I also expect things to go as planned.  I am recently divorced and work from home.  Having two young boys to take care of is no snap.  Babysitters are often late, or are only interested in doing what they want, forgetting that the children are mine, that they work for me, and should comply with my requests.  I don’t want impromptu, spontaneous plans to...

Chris Miller and Joanie Crowe had been neighbors all six years of their young lives.  Their mothers and fathers were good friends.  Liz Miller and Julia Crowe enjoyed gardening and going to yard sales together.  The fathers shared a love of house projects and helped each other when they could. Everyday in the summer, Chris and Joan met at ‘their” rock which marked the property line in the middle of hilly fields. They always held hands...

Denny was working on a painting. He loved vibrant colors and for someone so young, his color sense was matched only by his love of doing art. Friends and relatives always looked forward to receiving examples of his work. Denny would paint on anything -- plywood scraps, cardboard, shells and even stones. Once he painted them, they were gorgeous. Summer was ending and Denny knew he would be beginning kindergarten soon. He had loved nursery school...

Charlie awakened to his mother’s laugh. She was in his baby brother, Finn’s room. Charlie got out of his new bed. A month before Finn was born, Charlie’s mother and father had told him that he was ready for a “big boy bed.” “You’re such a big boy now, Charlie. You’re going to be a wonderful big brother. You will love your new room.” Charlie had been mixed on the idea. He loved his crib and his...

Lizzy was drawing at a small wooden table in the kitchen. She liked to work in what she called her “office,” to be near her mother, Margaret. Tape, a few bright markers, a small box of crayons, and white paper were her “office supplies.” Lizzy drew a heart that finally met her high standard and was on her second one when the phone rang. Margaret answered the call with her usual cheerful greeting. “Good morning!” There...

Alexa and Will Morgan were excited about the imminent arrival of their second child. Their three-year old daughter, Sunny was happy to become a big sister too. She was thrilled to think that she would soon be dressing the baby and carrying her around. Plans of sleeping in the same room and walking to school holding hands were already in her head. “I can’t wait to take our baby to the beach and eat some...

Jane Reynolds was driving quickly to get Jack to his soccer game. As the last red light turned green, Jane said, “Jack, today how about thinking about what you are doing on the field?” Jack was touching the slippery fabric of his soccer shorts with his fingers. He dreamily nodded at his mother in the rearview mirror. They arrived at the soccer field as children in a variety of colored shorts and team shirts were joining their...

Backing out of the driveway, Jensen handed her son James a little red box. When he touched it, a robotic voice said, “Two and two are ___?” James dropped it on the floor. Jensen said, "Two and two are ___?” No answer. James was clearly thinking of something else. “James, tossing Number Master down will never help you.” James didn’t respond. Jensen fumed silently. “I was a math major at Harvard. I was a management consultant until a month...

Two little girls were in a luncheonette with their mother, finishing up their grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk. Their mother had planned the lunch as a treat. She also wanted to look for boots for herself at a shoe store that was having a huge sale. “This is really fun,” she said. “It is, Mommy. I love it here,” said Sally, the oldest, who was four. “Me too,” said her little sister Annie. They put on their coats...

Jane had been trying to pump on a swing for a long time. Her mother, Trish encouraged her, repeating, “Toes to the tree, heels back to me.” She wondered how long it would take Jane to learn, knowing her daughter would gain a lot of confidence from being able to swing independently. One morning, Jane ran out to the swing the minute she woke up.  As she struggled to pump, something clicked. Getting a rhythm, she...

Twin sisters, Becky and Lulu loved their mother’s collection of demitasse cups almost as much as she did. Whenever a new one was added, they all helped to decide where to place it to make it look its best. The girls would often go to the cabinet and count the cups to be sure they were all still there. The girls knew that two of the cups celebrated their birth. “Nana sent me two. The pink...

Tess and Sally were happily playing with small dolls and a dollhouse. Pretend doctor visits, diaper changes and tiny invisible meals filled this happy time. Tess’ mother was folding clothes on a couch close by. After putting the dolls to bed, the girls talked quietly. “Guess what, Tess?” Sally announced suddenly. “I’m getting a kitten this afternoon!” Tess got very excited. “A kitten? Mommy, isn’t that great? Sally is getting a kitten!” “Oh Sally, that will be fun!...

Johnny and his mother come down the school driveway in their car. Walking up the familiar brick path, they talk about what they will have for lunch. At the door, Johnny suddenly turns and grabs his mother’s coat and she picks him up. Memories of the day before return for both. The mother knows she doesn’t want to duplicate what happened yesterday. Johnny is in his mother’s arms as his teacher very cheerfully greets them. He...

A little boy is at his mother’s feet in the play yard, slapping her shiny boots with a muddy stick. She is talking to another mother about summer camp ideas. Children are running and laughing close by. An unexpected and welcome surprise of warm weather in the middle of winter provides mothers a chance to socialize while their children are playing. The shiny boots aren’t shiny any more. The little boy means business. His mother tries...

Sustaining happiness is something we all wish we knew how to do. Is there some little way that we can try to do this with and for our children? Sometimes children find their way into complete and imaginative play. Rubber people and stuffed toys suddenly are equipped with a variety of voices. The play feels completely real to the children. Parents are delighted to witness such a peaceful and productive time. It is second nature for...

As young Mothers and Grandmothers gladly and wholeheartedly comb the earth to find a very special something for a little relative, they might be surprised to know they have this present already. What the child most wants is their attention and time. A child’s heart’s desire is unquestionably just a few hours with a parent or grandparent, somewhere simple, maybe at home, a cozy restaurant or outside. Phones and all technological devices are not invited....