Glory to WHO in the Highest?

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We are all painfully aware that children between the ages of two and seven are sweepingly egocentric.  This, of course is through no fault of their own.  It is one of many super-fun stages of human development in which your small, mouthy, offspring, has absolutely no ability to view any situation from any point-of-view, other than his/her own.  The other nifty little fact for folks of this tender age, is the absolute belief that the sun, moon and stars, rise, set and revolve around just one individual…themselves, of course.  The rest of us poor saps were put upon this earth to serve, and it’s clear by the number of temper tantrums, that SOME of us could use more training.  However, one must admit, observing total egocentrism busting out of a tiny package can be pretty darn comical.

I remember one such incident following a Preschool Christmas Program.  This was a Church Preschool and the program was a musical reenactment of the birth of Baby Jesus.  As usual, the children had been practicing for weeks.  The production was completed without a hitch and family members went into the children’s classroom for a celebration.  During this celebration, parents were given a handmade gift…a round piece of wood with their child’s footprint representing the manger scene (see picture above).

My charge and I sat on the couch later that day, admiring his work.  I, of course, wanted to see how much attention he had been paying to the 30 minute Christmas Program he had just performed.  The one he had been practicing for the past month.  The one the teachers had been reading books about all month, etc., etc.

“You really did a nice job on this,  I told the boy.  Who is this baby?”

“Oh, that’s just me,” he said, casually.

“I see…and what’s this big thing in the sky?”  I asked, as I pointed to the Star of Bethlehem.

“That’s the sun shining down on me so I’ll stay warm.”  He said, nodding enthusiastically.

“Well that was lucky for you, huh?  So, what’s this round thing over your head?”  I’m almost afraid to ask.

He wrinkled his forehead, thinking.  “You know how sometimes in books, when people have something to say, words will come out of their mouths inside a circle? He asked.  This circle is here in case I have something to say.  That way, people will see the circle and will know they need to listen.”

I’m playing along now.  “Well, we all know we need to listen when you have something to say.  But weren’t there three wise men who brought the baby gifts?  Who were they and what did they bring?”

“That’s Daddy, Grandaddy and Papa.  They gave me dinosaurs cause they are my favorite.”

“Well, thank you for teaching me about the true meaning of Christmas,”  I said, giving him a little hug.

“I know a lot more than you, cause I go to school every day,” he answered, hopping down and running to play with his dinosaurs.

This is the only time in life that being a total narcissist is even remotely cute.

He Who is Always With Us

Every year I attend the Christmas programs of my charges, and this year was no exception.  Yesterday I sat through a beautifully preformed holiday musical event that left every adult eye tearful, and every heart properly full of Christmas cheer.  I too, was honking loudly into a tissue, less than three minutes into the program.  However, at any such production, I am plagued with an involuntary, neurotic eyelid twitch, coupled with an itching anxiety…and these things are attributable to one tiny, two year old boy, who was my charge many Christmases ago.

It was the day of the Christmas Sing-along for my charge’s two-year-old preschool class, and since both of his parents had to work that day, I would be attending, and filming their son in action.  It was the tot’s very first performance, and family members from all over the country were anticipating the arrival of my video…No pressure, though.

I arrived early and secured a prime spot for filming on the floor, directly in front of the seating area.  When the children were marched on stage in three rows, I was happy to discover that my charge was placed front and center.  Everything was perfect.  The lights dimmed, Christmas music began to play and a spotlight shone directly on the happy children, who all began to sing “Jingle Bells”… with the exception of one…my charge.

It appeared as though my charge had discovered his “Special Friend” with his right hand.  For this purpose, we will call him, “He who is always with us.”  Not only had my charge discovered the presence of “He who is always with us,” he had determined there were many interesting and pleasurable ways in which to manipulate him.

As I turned several different shades of red, a murmur rippled through the crowd.  It was difficult to decipher…was it a snicker, or a gasp?  I tried to make visual contact with my charge in an attempt to interrupt the innocent, yet lascivious activity.  He finally looked at me near the end of “Jingle Bells.”  Using all of the expression I could muster, I mouthed the word “S-I-N-G,” flapping my hands in encouragement.  He awakened from his trance and joined the group in singing, “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.”

Although I was thankful he was singing, and his eyes were focused on the crowd, as opposed to “He who is always with us,” I was still not able to raise the camera and film the child for his adoring family.  This was due to the fact that my charge chose to pluck at “He who is always with us” in time with the music, as though it were some type of attached string instrument, while he sang along with great enthusiasm.

The song ended and my charge smiled proudly, clearly enjoying the applause.  The music for “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” began, and the children sang, and acted-out the much loved classic.  Again, there was one exception…my charge.  He was once again “strumming” his new-found instrument and singing along with great gusto.  I noticed he was even tapping his foot along in time with the music.  I can say this for him…he has rhythm.

By this time, the murmurs have turned into outright snickers and giggles.  Cameras clicked all around me, and I noticed more than one aimed directly at my charge.  I put my forehead in my hand and waited for the song to end.  When it finally did, my charge, once again, bowed proudly, waving his hands in the air, as though he had just won American Idol.

Thankfully, the two-year-old class sang only two songs and exited immediately, which was extremely fortunate, because by this time, I appeared to a have severe  and unmedicated case of Tourettes syndrome.  I was twitching away, while shouting out small words and phrases that I tried to cleverly disguise as coughs or sneezes…”Stopdoingthat” and “Letgoofyourdinky!”  This was not one of my better ideas and very clearly did not produce the desired outcome.

I felt exhausted after the program and had no idea how to answer to blissful child who asked with pure excitement… “Did you see me, Nanny?  How did I do?”

I continued to twitch and stutter, searching desperately for positive verbiage.  “You have really great rhythm, honey,”  I said, knowing he had no idea what rhythm was.

“I know, he continued, I’ve been practicing EVERY DAY at school.” He said with a toothy grin.

“Wow…every day…I’m sure that was a lot of fun.”  I answered.

Driving the boy home, I was consumed with how to tell his family that I was unable to video even a moment of his very first Christmas program, while the tot cheerfully kicked the back of my car seat, humming “Jingle Bells.”  I settled on a condensed version of the story, apologized profusely and made up some excuse about the large crowd and complete lack of sight-lines.  The family was, of course, disappointed, but given the alternative…?

As luck would have it, a note arrive at the house from the preschool three days later, announcing the sale of Christmas program video tapes.  The child’s mother was absolutely elated and rushed to order three copies…one for the nuclear family, and one for each set of grandparents.  Again, I put my forehead in my hand and rubbed away the oncoming tension headache.  My eye began to twitch.  It was time to call the dreaded meeting.

The parents sat silently through our meeting, vacillating frequently between amusement and utter horror.  The videos arrived in a plain brown rapper, which I thought appropriate, given its X-rated content.  Two of the tapes were immediately destroyed,  one was locked away in the family safe for future viewing (and probably blackmail).  The grandparents were none the wiser, but among preschool parents and staff, my charge will forever be known as, “The Little Minstrel.”

The Unequaled Influence of the Freaky Little Elf on the Shelf

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With Christmas just around the corner, we have been reading the story of “The Elf on the Shelf,” which comes with a toy version of the elf.  Ours is called “Chippy”.  A name as irritating as his smirk.  Chippy sits quietly in various places around the house with that screwy smile on his face, and gathers counterintelligence for Santa. He then allegedly reports said intelligence to Santa personally, on a nightly basis by way of magical flight.  The point of this is quite clear, to influence behavior, turning naughty into nice out of concern for gift reduction.

In years past, I haven’t found Chippy to be particularly effective.  However, this year, my two charges (ages five and three), have stumbled upon a feature length, made-for-TV move about Chippy, Santa’s eavesdropping elf.  After the show, the five year old looked worriedly at our little elf, who sat leering down at us from a bookshelf, and then looked at me.  Wide eyed, he whispered, “Nanny…he’s really real!  I thought he was just a book!”

“He’s Weal.” whispered the three year old conspiratorially.

“That’s right, I said.  And he’s talking to Santa every single day, to let him know if you are being naughty or nice.”  Might as well ride this pony as far as it will go, I figured.

The tots looked anxious as they silently recounted their crimes for the day.  But lunchtime came, and their personal transgressions were quickly replaced by chicken nuggets…the absolute nectar of toddler-gods everywhere.

Immediately following lunch, as I bent over to pick up a dropped spoon, I spotted something strange under the table.  Sitting in an oddly perfect line, directly under the table leg, were a good number of carrots, two petrified meatballs and one mushy tomato.

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I understood the strange scenario immediately.  “Sweetheart,” I said to the five year old boy.  Have you been hiding your food under the table?”

He smiled briefly, aware that he had been caught.  Then said, as if to ease my mind, “Don’t worry, Nanny.  I don’t hide the good stuff, only the icky stuff.  Besides, Mommy and Daddy don’t know I am hiding my food, so I still get a treat every day!”

“Ah-hah, I see…good plan, good plan.”  I say, nodding my head in agreement.  “But…what about Chippy?  He knows you are doing it, so that means Santa knows.”

He freezes, drops his dinosaur and sprints to the bookshelf where Chippy sits watching.  He is panicked and breathing hard, which gives me a moment to sneak up behind him with my phone and film the desperate plea for atonement that went something like this:  “I’m sorry I was naughty.  I really want dinosaurs for Christmas.  PLEASE tell Santa to put me back on the good list.”

Okay Chipster…I’ll give it to you.  Satisfactory work, given the circumstances.  However, those of us who slave away every  day, shaping the behavior of our world’s youth, cannot afford the luxury of doing so a measly 2-3 weeks a year.  No Sir!  No more seasonal work for little Mr. Chippy!  Our house elf will sport bunny ears, turkey feathers, a tooth collection bag, and he will spy for every gift giving figure known to modern man!

Then…and only then, you might begin to earn that wildly abrasive sneer you wear upon your little plastic face.

Eat Your Greens

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Well, it’s Thanksgiving again, and my four year old charge is celebrating with out-of-town family members and friends.  The house is full of hungry people and buzzing with lively activity.  Proud Grandparents are doting on expectant children, and the enthusiastic tots screech and clamor for their attention.

My charge, who has been bellowing like some sort of injured animal, while simultaneously banging his older cousin over the head with a cardboard paper towel tube, suddenly stops in the center of the activity and begins to thoughtfully and aggressively excavate the contents of his nose.  After a good deal of burrowing, clawing and dredging, he locates a hidden treasure and holds it proudly upon his forefinger for all to admire.

At this point, there are clearly only two choices available to any four year old boy on earth:

1)  Eat it.

2)  Wipe it on one’s neighbor.

He is undoubtedly weighing his options as he looks back and forth from the gelatinous glob, to the back of his little sister’s holiday sweater.  However, number one most assuredly wins out, being the more tasty and most popular choice among most red blooded, American boys between the ages of two and ninety-six.

He slowly consumes the gooey treat right in front of the frozen, gaping group of family and friends.  The child’s achingly proper, southern grandmother clutches her chest in horror.  “Sweetheart!”  She gasps, “Don’t do that!”

He looks at her, a little startled by her dramatic reaction, and very calmly notes, “Nanny says if I want to grow big and strong, I have to eat all my green stuff.”

And there you have it…Another case of:  Right rule — slight miscalculation in the application thereof.