Whatever you do, don’t sit on the throw pillow with the glowing eyes. Thank you!
Hanley is done with dance classes for the summer. I thought she was finished after her recital, but there were still two more classes afterward, for some unknown reason. Most of the parents ditched the final two classes, but I still fought traffic and time to get Hanley to class. Why? I’m not sure. My parents were raised with frugal Depression Era values and did their best to imprint those values on me, so maybe I wanted to make sure the tuition H’s parents paid wouldn’t be wasted. Or, maybe I wanted to impress upon H that it’s important to finish what you’ve started. Or, more likely, I couldn’t think of anything else for us to do and why not stick to the usual schedule? At any rate, there was only one other girl in Hanley’s class who also showed up for the last two classes. I was hoping the two girls would get forty-five minutes of special attention from their teacher. Unfortunately, other classes also had fewer kids, so three of the teachers decided to combine their classes. But Hanley loved being in a new class with older kids, as well as having new teacher to impress, so it all worked out for the best.
After the final class, she pointed to two girls–neither of whom were in her class–and said, “Those girls have tap shoes.”
I had no idea she knew what tap shoes were. “Do they?” I asked while passing her a shirt to wear over her leotard.
“Yes,” she replied while squirming into her shirt. “When can I get tap shoes?”
“I don’t think you’re going to get tap shoes, Miss.” I said. I’ve taken to calling her Miss, like a British nanny.
“Can we go buy tap shoes?” Hanley asked.
“No, Miss. Buying tap shoes isn’t on the agenda for today. Put your shoes on, please, and we’ll go to the park.”
While she put on her shoes, I heard Hanley whisper to herself. “I don’t know how I’m going to get tap shoes.”
The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival was last weekend, which meant I was in New Orleans from last Thursday until Monday afternoon. Prior to that I was taking care of somebody’s home and dog for three days, which meant I’d been away from home for quite some time. I missed my dogs terribly and was as happy to see them. It may not look like it in the above photo, but Pixie is very happy to see me. She’s seconds from slithering down the sectional to lick my face, or the camera lens. Whichever she reaches first.
I’ve been seeing a lot of mistreated animals lately, which compelled me to gather my pups for a hug and to tell them how much I love them.
About a month ago Hanley had an “off” day in ballet class. Which isn’t to say she had a day off from ballet class. She was physically there, but something in her brain was saying, Screw this. We’ve all been there, right? But I couldn’t let it slide by. The girl loves ballet and she’s always talking about dancing on a stage like the “real ballerinas.”
She ran out of class and while I was putting on her street shoes I said, “I have a problem with the Hanley I saw in ballet class today.”
“Oh,” Hanley said. She assumed her sad face, which is just what you think it is–a sad face, yes, but this is the sort of sad face normally worn by an orphan on the side of a deserted road in the middle of the Dust Bowl with no food or water whose kitten was just snatched by a vulture. She knows I’m immune to the sad face, but she does it anyway. Especially in public.
“The Hanley I saw in class today wasn’t listening to the teacher,” I continued. “She was playing with her hair, talking to the kids next to her, and she was barely dancing. That’s not the Hanley I know.” Here, I hugged her tightly, to remind her that I still love her, which she wasn’t expecting, and it made her giggle and momentarily ruined her sad face. “You know that you don’t have to take dance class if you decide you don’t want to, right?” She nodded. “But the Hanley I know loves to dance. The Hanley I know wants to make her teachers proud of her, always listens to them, and always does what they say. I’d like to see that Hanley in dance class from now on.”
“Okay,” Hanley said, already sounding like an exasperated teenager at four years old.
“I really want you to understand that when you’re in school, or at swim class, or at ballet class, your teachers are there to help you and your friends learn new things. But you can’t learn new things if you’re not paying attention, or if you’re talking to your friends. You have to pay attention and listen. If you don’t, you’re not respecting your teacher and you’re wasting your teacher’s time. And you’re wasting your parents’ money, because they’re paying for you to be there. I know these are heavy concepts to drop on you, but this is really important stuff that you have to comprehend now, so you don’t end up as a dog walking nanny. So tell me what you’ve picked up from our serious talk.”
“You have to listen in class to learn and when friends talk you say, ‘I’m trying to learn,’ and listen not to them but to the teacher, otherwise you don’t learn and that’s not good.”
“Fair enough. And I like that part about telling your friends that you’re trying to learn. That’s a good idea. But I’d say, ‘Please stop talking to me, because I’m trying to learn.’ That’s probably a more polite way of saying it.”
“Please, stop, I’m learning–what do I say?”
“Please, stop talking to me, because I’m trying to learn.”
“Please, stop talking to me, because I’m trying to learn!”
“You don’t have to yell, but very good. Am I angry with you?”
“That’s correct. Do I love you?”
“Yes. Can we go to the park?”
From then on, before I send her in to ballet or swim class I’ll hold her on my lap and say softly in her ear, “Are you going to have fun in ballet class?”
And she’ll say, “Yes.”
And I’ll ask, “Are you going to listen to your teacher?”
And she’ll answer, “Yes.”
“Are you going to pay attention?”
And then I try to trip her up. “Are you going to talk to your friends in class?”
“Y–I mean, no.”
“Good! Are you going to goof around with your friends in class?”
Then I try to make her laugh. “Are you going to feed cupcakes to squirrels in class?”
“NO! That’s silly!”
“Okay, go learn and have fun.” And then I watch her go into class and wonder what she’s going to be like when she grows up.
Hanley’s ballet recital was today. I told her she’s a real ballerina now.
For some reason the traffic in Houston has been horrendous this week, which made me late the other day. I was supposed to stop by Hanley’s house before I picked her up from school to grab the tote bag with her accoutrement for swim class, but there wasn’t going to be enough time for that because of one traffic jam after another. Collecting the The Big H first would save me time, but it meant letting Hanley’s mother know we’d be stopping by, because she’d decided to work from home that day and would have to hide from her daughter. If you don’t have kids, I’m sure that sounds awful, but I bet there are lots of moms out there who understand. It’s sometimes easier to altogether avoid the bargaining, whining, and tantrums that go along with trying to get your young child out the door on time, or when you have other important things to do. We nannies certainly understand, because we’re the ones charged with bolstering the child’s tiny psyche after said tantrum while trying to get them where they need to be on time, usually without a degree in child psychology and without a sports car.
Since I was sitting in traffic it was safe to send a text to Hanley’s mother to let her know I had to stop by with H. She replied and said it would be no trouble for her to put the swim tote on the porch outside so we’d both be tantrum free and I could get H to swim class on time. Excellent! The traffic finally moved and I made it to Hanley, Inc. moments later. I stopped in the driveway and said, “I’ll be right back!” I grabbed the tote, jumped back in the CRV, and was whipping back onto road as Hanley said, “That’s Mommy’s car!”
“Why, yes, it was,” I said. “Very observant!”
“Was she home?”
“Nope,” I lied.
There was a long pause, until Hanley asked, “Did she take Daddy’s car?”
“Huh? No. Your daddy’s car is probably at the airport.”
“Did she walk?”
My favorite white lie to date has to be The Environment. Hanley used to love playing in the bathtub with the water running when she was two years old. This went on until she was three and about a year ago, perhaps, Hanley’s mother grew tired of bath time taking so long. Not to mention the bargaining it took to get H out of the tub. So, H’s mom said, “Hanley, water is a valuable part of our environment and we’re wasting it. We need to take better care of our planet. Don’t you think?” They had a big talk about the environment and what they could do to take care of the earth. The next time I gave Hanley a bath she pretty much had a meltdown when I ran her bath. It takes a while for the water in her bathtub to heat up and after three minutes she was wringing her hands and dancing in place, saying, “Timothy? Timothy? The water! Can you turn it off, please? The Environment!” I was all, What the hell? Who expects a three year old to be worried about the environment? Now she’s four and I have no idea what The Environment is in her imagination, but it’s become an entity that concerns her daily. She’ll absentmindedly pluck a leaf from a tree and then gasp, “Oh! The Environment!” It’s cute. I hope her future therapist thinks it’s cute, too.
Another golden era has ended. For four years there’s been a pink car seat in whatever car I’m driving, which has been a constant source of amusement, both for myself and my friends. Whoever would’ve thought I’d have a need for such a thing? As of today, it’s gone. We’ve moved on to the booster seat phase. Exciting, no!
I’ve been housesitting in various parts of the city, walking dogs, taking care of Hanley–all while reading and editing stories for Best Gay Romance 2014–and it seems as though I’ve barely been home at all for the past month. So it was nice to wake up in my own bed today. Pixie seemed to think so, too.
Hey, that’s not Pixie. It’s McGrady. McGrady is a Hanley, Inc dog. Becky asked why I hardly ever take pictures of McGrady, so I thought I’d try today. I say try because McGrady is very camera shy. I guess he thinks the camera will take his soul. McGrady needs soul, because he has no rhythm whatsoever.