Rings and Swings

May 17, 2008

When I picked up Random Granddaughter at her preschool she seemed very happy to see me and dashed to collect her things. Her fellow students were perturbed that she was leaving and asked me probing questions about why I was taking her away. One student in particular emerged from another classroom and started giving me a severe third degree interrogation. A teacher led the child back into the classroom, but after a minute he popped out again and started questioning me even more severely.

(Later, I mentioned the incident to the mommies. They knew the child in question and told me he has severe problems, one of several such children at the pre-school, whose parents are complacent about their distressing behavior. )

On the way home, we saw a large crowd of about a dozen adults congregated at a bus stop. RG steered me down a side street to avoid going through the crowd. RG’s tip of the day for pre-schoolers: Do not try to push your way through a large crowd of adults.

When we got home, I said to RG: “Here are the rules for today. Please do not do anything dangerous and please do not cause trouble. As long as you follow these rules, you will be in charge and I will do what you say. If you break these rules I will act like a mean mommy.”

She seemed to regard these as reasonable rules.

Then I asked, “What is the best way for me to get you to take your nap?”

She replied, “Take me upstairs, read me a story, and then I will take a nap.”

I said, “Before you take your nap, let’s have lunch.”

Mommy had packed a lunch. Before RG looked at the prepared lunch, she pulled a large plastic container of strawberries from the refrigerator and helped herself to a large quantity. She then suggested I take some strawberries as well. As the day progressed, RG frequently turned to the strawberries as a life-saving nutrient.

She picked her way through various parts of her lunch. There was a bowl of noodles which did not generate enthusiasm. I suggested she eat two noodles. RG was in a “placate adults” mood. She ate two noodles without argument and pushed the bowl away in a decisive manner.

We went upstairs. She picked a book about dogs. It was a clever beginning reader book with many easy words, most of which she recognized. After the story, she hugged and kissed me and promptly lay down.

I felt as if I were on the grandparent all star team.

After her nap we got ready to go to the playground. I said, “Do you want to bring some snacks?”

RG said, “No, I don’t feel hungry.”

Realizing I would be traveling in the company of a snack monster, I brought her bag of snacks anyway.

I had been told that she had made great advances in her playground skills. However, the truth was more complicated.

RG has been working on swinging from rings. She can hang from the rings, but she hasn’t quite grasped the technique of vigorously wriggling and twisting her body to get enough momentum to move her from one ring to another. Several other children (some smaller in physical size than RG) were traveling from ring to ring with considerable success. I could see RG watching the other children with irritation and frustration. She used the rings for a bit; stopped using the rings for a bit and engaged in other activities; at times went back to the rings.

After a while she decided to consume some snacks to build her strength. After devouring some strawberries, she went to work on a bowl of popcorn with single-minded enthusiasm.

A small child about 1-3/4 years of age with a mom in tow approached RG as she ate popcorn. The tiny toddler stood staring at RG in fascination and envy. It was obvious tyke considered eating a bowl of popcorn the ultimate in adult sophistication. Mom explained to tyke, “You aren’t ready for that type of food yet.” Tyke’s face expressed considerable irritation. RG looked complacent as she munched on popcorn with a look of adult sophistication on her face.

Strength restored, RG decided to return to swinging on swings, more familiar territory than swinging on rings.

After we got home, I could tell she was moody about her inability to master swinging on the rings. We sat on the porch and she began to untie my shoes. She told me to keep my feet still in a very bossy manner.

After untying my shoes, she pulled them off my feet and threw them on the grass, and looked at me with a What are you going to do about it? expression.

I thought. The situation of being without shoes didn’t seem very dangerous to me. The grass seemed fairly calm and placid, so I couldn’t really say that the shoes were causing trouble.

“I’m going inside,” I told RG. While she hadn’t caused trouble yet, I didn’t want to provoke her into pushing the limits. She is a little girl with a lot of imagination.

Shortly after we went inside, I pointed out the window. “I think Mommy just drove up,” I said. RG rushed outside to greet her Mommy, saved just in the nick of time from any more painful experiences with Grandpa’s babysitting.

When she came in, Mommy said, “I brought your shoes in.”

“She was being very bossy with me,” I explained.

“She gets very bossy with Mama and me as well,” replied Mommy. “Don’t take it too personally.”


20 Responses to “Rings and Swings”

  1. pandemonic Says:

    I love RG. Could you please start a fan club for her?

    And I also love strawberries. Yum. I was looking at my supposed bumper crop outside (if the squirrels don’t get to them first) and thought: “Strawberries – breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions.”

  2. modestypress Says:

    RG has a fan club. Four grandmothers and three grandfathers, not to mention a lot of cousins, uncles, and aunts, not to mention adopted aunts and uncles, not to mention many friends of Mommy and Mama.

    Then there’s sperm donor [dad] and [dad’s partner], who live in Chicago and visit periodically.

    RG has a bike with training wheels. A couple of weeks ago RG and mommies met [dad’s] family, including a grandma on an island (different island than ours). She was riding her bike on the same day as her trip to the playground, and I heard singing to herself quietly, “I have a dad. I have a dad.”

    Truly, RG’s family values are very spectacular. If she turns into a genius some day, it may come from the exercise her little brain gets keeping track of her family values.

    Oh, [dad’s partner’s] family lives in Colorado. RG will be visiting them this summer. There are two moms in that family as well.

    pandemonic, you are now appointed president of RG’s virtual fan club. She doesn’t know about virtual life yet, but one of these days she’ll probably log in.

  3. modestypress Says:

    In our garden, the raspberry vines are about 12 feet tall and looking very spectacular.

    Mrs. Random said, “I will have to freeze some raspberries this year.”

    Then she said, “Never mind. RG will take care of all the berries by herself.”

  4. truce Says:

    May I please join?

    I love that you asked RG the best way to get her to take a nap. That’s genius.

  5. David Says:

    I’m intrigued to know why the interrogating kid is perceived as a problem. In some way, it seems kind of healthy for a child to question the removal of another child by an unrecognized adult. I mean, I’m sure the teachers explained it to him, but still … I guess I’m missing something here.

  6. modestypress Says:


    That’s a reasonable question. The first three or four children who questioned me removing RG struck me as falling into the “healthy for a child to question the removal of another child by an unrecognized adult” category.

    The final child addressed me with a belligerence and pseudo-authority manner of a child imitating adults in an inappropriate manner. I suspect he tries to boss other children around in a similar fashion. Also, he was unusually tall for a pre-school child.

    The mommies, who are much more familiar with the pre-school and the children than I am, indicated there are several children engaging in various kinds of inappropriate behavior, and that this behavior is not being addressed. I have to trust their judgment on this, and I suspect their decision to remove RG from the pre-school as rapidly as they can, and to limit her time there in the meantime is a wise one.

    I just have to say that my brief encounter with this child triggered my intuition that he was trying to “play adult” in a disturbing way.

    When my daughter was little, she spent quite a bit of time in day care. In fact, I worked in her day care for a few months. I felt uneasy about leaving a small child in day care for long periods at the time. Although we were pretty broke at the time (and even went on food stamps for a couple of months), my wife stopped working for a year or so so she could be home with Random Daughter during the crucial formative years.

    It is something of a cliche among the religious right to question day care for small children and to promote home schooling. As far as I can tell, my daughter was not damaged by spending a lot of time in day care, but it makes me uneasy how much we depend on it in our culture.

    I tend to be careful about interfering with the mommies and their parenting style and decisions in regard to RG’s upbringing. It’s just inevitable in their careers and life style that RG gets a lot of day care, but I am glad that they monitor it carefully and make decisions about changing it as seems called for.

  7. modestypress Says:


    Thank you. I won’t claim genius, but it makes sense to me to ask small children their opinions on matters that affect their well-being, comfort, and preferences. Much of the time, we as adults do know better than little children what they need, but we overestimate our competence in this regard to a remarkable degree.

    I am not very grown up, even though I am 64, so once in a while my “child” ego state is perhaps better able to get in touch with RG, to bandy around some transactional analysis psychobabble.

    Apparently the whole “parent-child-adult” ego state system is still going strong, though much more so in the British Commonwealth than in the “states.” A brief look at the web indicates there are big conferences scheduled for South Africa and New Zealand this year.

    I may sponsor a “world games” of psychotherapy to go along with the Olympics. Freudians, Gestalt therapists, transactional analysts, and a thousand other schools of mind-tinkering with compete with each other to see who can mess you up the best, or worst, as the case may be.

    Years from now, RG will tell her therapist,

    “Let me tell you how awful it was to have two mommies. Not to mention four grandmothers and three grandfathers. And the two dads!

    “Worst of all was the crazy grandpa. It will take up the rest of this therapy session just to tell you how much damage he did to me!”

  8. Vicky Says:

    RG did get back at you, however for the suggestion she eat two noodles. Although she was complacent about that, what do you think the deal with your shoes was about?

  9. Vicky Says:

    Why do people have children and then put them in day care for so much of the time? Isn’t this a valid question?

    I don’t think it’s just the “religious right” who think about this.

    You admit to having your doubts and reservations about children spending so much time there.

  10. Vicky Says:

    Why do people have children and then put them in day care for so much of the time? Isn’t this a valid question?

    I don’t think it’s just the “religious right” who think about this.

    You admit to having your doubts and reservations about children spending so much time there.

  11. Pauline Says:

    I never got the hang of swinging on rings. Neither has either of my sons. I don’t know if weak arms runs in our family, or we just didn’t get an early enough start. (When I was little the playground didn’t have rings, only rungs a few feet about my head. I tried climbing up the ladder on the side so I could reach the rungs, but it looked like a long way to fall so I didn’t have the nerve to take my feet off the top rung of the ladder.

    It’s a valid question, though I can only answer for myself and my husband. Before we married, we agreed that when we had children one of us (whichever made less money) would quit work to stay home with them. But my husband handled the finances, and by the time we had our first son we had too much debt for me to stop working. (You can cut out expenses to save money, but once you have debt you have to make the payments.) As things worked out, my continuing to work allowed my husband to quit work to go to seminary when he felt called to the ministry. (Of course, that meant he was around even less than before, since he did get a part-time job to pay for his car as well as being a full-time student at a seminary an hour away.)

    The daycare we chose, though, was not in a daycare center but a private home, where he got loads of attention and love from a grandmother with much more experience and wisdom with children than I had. When we had to change daycare providers, we always looked for the same kind of setting – a mother who stayed home to watch her own kids and provided daycare for others so she could afford to stay home, or a grandmother who loved having kids in her home and wanted some more once her own were grown.

  12. modestypress Says:

    Why do people have children and then put them in day care for so much of the time? Isn’t this a valid question?

    Yes, it’s a valid question. I am not being sarcastic.

    My brother, a secular person (like me) home schooled his first two children.

    I didn’t use the phrase “religious right” as code for an insult. I am not a religious believer, but the phrase does describe (quite vaguely) a particular group. Although I often disagree with them, it doesn’t mean they can’t be “right” some of the time.

  13. modestypress Says:


    The daycare we chose, though, was not in a daycare center but a private home, where he got loads of attention and love from a grandmother with much more experience and wisdom with children than I had.

    What you describe is going to be closer to RG’s next day care. Not a grandmother, but a mother who will be caring for other children as well in her own home.

  14. Vicky Says:

    First of all, sorry for that double post…I don’t know how that happened.

    And my question about daycare wasn’t to criticize anyone in particular as I do understand and sympathize that there are circumstances that change our best intentions.

    And I agree that a private home setting is much nicer for the children than the school-like settings.

    My grandchildren are in “private” day care a couple days a week and as much as I dislike the idea, I have had to accept it as inevitable.

  15. modestypress Says:


    We’re close enough to take over running the world between us, as soon as everyone bows to the inevitable and puts us in charge. We will fight a lot, of course, but we will do it discreetly out of sight of the children.

  16. […] Random Granddaughter’s Virtual Fan Club. If you don’t believe me, you can read about it here if you don’t believe […]

  17. Thanks for the explanation, Random … that makes sense.

    I really question/wonder about the whole day care thing, too … although it is thought that a child can bond in a healthy way with a non-parental caregiver, as long as that caregiver is consistent. But I still wonder.

  18. vroni1208 Says:

    It sounds like she has you wrapped around that little finger of hers. She does sound so sophisticated, and adorable! My dad used to make us take off his shoes and his socks when he came in from work, I don’t think we ever “volunteered” to do that though! Maybe she thought she was being helpful? 🙂

  19. modestypress Says:

    Of course she has me wrapped around her little finger. Ability to be so wrapped is a basic requirement in the grandfather job description.

    To the extent that I can read her expression, “being helpful” was not the #1 thought on her mind when she was taking my shoes off. Vicky’s suggestion that she was getting back at me for forcing her to eat two noodles at lunch seems quite in the realm of possibility.

    In terms of the “day care” issue, I forget to mention that during my daughter’s early years, I was going to college. Part of the time I was an upper division and part of the time I was in graduate school. In that time period, I often took care of my daughter. I’m not sure my attention was as focused as it should have been, but some parent attention (however sloppy) was probably better than no parent attention.

  20. Moongirl Says:

    Lovely post, Mr. R. I’m not bragging — it’s just a fact — I was one of the best ring swingers. Until RG has longer arms, try the little trick of getting all the rings to swing so she can learn to time her responding swing forward. Next lesson: Skin the cat through the rings! (That sounds bad, yuck!) FTL, jen

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