ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the December 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] alatefeline. It also fills the "Black Mollies" square in my 12-1-16 card for the iPod Shuffle Music Fest Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains intense material that some readers may find unsettling. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Shiv gets saddled with babysitting a toddler, which he is not prepared for and finds triggering. He actually can function while flashbacking, but it is not fun. The poem includes unwilling childcare duty, painfully inept attempts at babysitting, poor self-image, extreme anxiety causing significant physical symptoms, panic attacks, difficulty thinking, general freaking out, desperate begging for help from Dr. G, a lot of foul language only some of which is self-censored partway through, Shiv has no idea how to take care of a toddler, but he gets most of it surprisingly okay and there is no permanent damage, Shiv has utterly no grasp of how real sharing is supposed to work, boundary issues so many boundary issues, also some safety issues, lots of hints about Shiv's utterly horrible past, resistance to talking about anything remotely connected with sex, Shiv is terrified that he'll wind up abusing kids if he is around any, anxiety over making mistakes, abandonment issues, extreme potty panic due to Shiv's past sexual and other abuse, self-bullying, jealousy, age-switching, craft challenges, my supervillain has a pretty princess bathroom, half-sane half-scrambled gender issues, reference to outside teasing, inability to sit still, running on the stairs, Shiv's taste in cartoons is not entirely child-safe, children's songs are incredibly violent if you really listen to the lyrics, Buttons isn't sure whether to be grateful for the babysitting or pissed at Shiv's methods so she does both, which drives Shiv up a wall, clinginess, avoidance, clueless Shiv is clueless, aftermath anxiety, and other stress. This poem is likely to be uncomfortable for abuse survivors and possibly also parents. There is actually a lot of fluff, though, and aside from being a completely nerve-wracking experience for Shiv, it goes well enough that Jaxon likes him. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read. It's a point in Shiv's process of coping with his abusive past, so it's plot-relevant, but shouldn't leave an unavoidably huge hole in the main storyline if you skip it.


"Black Mollies"


Shiv's current schedule included
workouts every weekday, music lessons
and practice, then a movie on most weekends.
In between those, Boss White assigned him
a little deskwork and a lot of whatever else
needed to get done around the lair.

For the most part, it was tolerable
now that Shiv wasn't stuck at a desk
for the entire day. Sometimes, though,
Boss White asked for things that Shiv
was in no way prepared to do.

"You want me to what?"
Shiv said, staring at him.

"Keep an eye on the kid for
a few hours," Boss White said.
He jerked a thumb at the toddler
clinging like a burr to Buttons.

"I can't babysit," Shiv insisted.
"I don't know anything about kids!"

"I know, I know," Buttons said.
"Usually my sister Tamicka watches
Jaxon, but she's sick and I couldn't get
another sitter on such short notice.
I'll make it up to you, I swear."

"You better," Shiv muttered.

"We can't fob him off on just anyone,"
Boss White said. "It's best to keep this
in the family, and you're the one who's not
comin' on the trip and not already busy
with somethin' that can't be put down."

"Fffff--fooey," Shiv said. "Exactly what
do you expect me to do with him?"

"Keep him in one piece, and keep him
busy if he'll let you," Buttons said. "Jaxon
doesn't get along well with most adults, so
don't take it personally if he hates you."

"Oh, that's encouraging," Shiv said.
"This is going to be a complete disaster."

"Honey, this is my friend Shiv," Buttons said
as she peeled the toddler off her legs and gently
pushed him forward. "He's going to look after
you today while your Aunt Tamicka's sick."

Jaxon stuck out his lip. "I don't
like you," he said, glaring up at Shiv.

"Then we're even, because I don't
like you either," Shiv said bluntly.

Jaxon burst into giggles.

Buttons looked startled, but
she snatched the chance to say
a quick goodbye while Jaxon
was focused on Shiv.

That left the two of them alone,
and Shiv didn't know what to do.
He could hardly breathe, his heart
was galloping, and his stomach hurt.

Pretty much everything in his past
sucked, and he didn't want to do that
to anyone else, but he didn't have
a lot of other examples to try.

He knew it was going to be a disaster,
because that's what always happened.
The more he thought about what could
go wrong and how badly it could go,
the worse he felt. It was terrifying.

He needed time to think about this,
and he couldn't think while tied in knots.

So Shiv hauled Jaxon to his apartment
and plopped the kid on the black shag rug
in the living room. Jaxon scrambled off.

"Stay on the rug," Shiv said,
putting him back on it. At least
there was nothing that could hurt
Jaxon in the middle of the room.

Shiv did the only thing that he
could think of: he grabbed
his phone and called Dr. G.

"Finn residence, Halley speaking,"
came the reply. "Who's calling, please?"

"This is Shiv. I need to talk to Dr. G," he said.

"Da's in a meeting," Halley said. "Is this
just a social call, or is it an emergency?"

"Do not screw with me, Halley,"
Shiv snapped. "Boss stuck me with
babysitting, and I don't know what to do."

"I'll get Da," said Halley, and the phone
carried the sound of quick light footsteps.

A door opened and closed, there was
a whispered conversation, and then finally
the privacy field kicked on with its cushy hum.

"Hi Shiv," said Dr. G. "Halley told me that
you're babysitting today. How can I help?"

"Buttons' sister's sick and she left me
with her toddler and I know fuckall
about taking care of kids," Shiv said.
"You gotta tell me what to do!"

"Okay," said Dr. G. "First, let's
see about getting you calmer.
That will make everything else
easier. Take a few deep breaths
and try to refocus your thoughts
on something you find soothing."

Shiv breathed in, remembering
how Rosie used to talk him through
this relaxation crap. His attention
caught on the photo of Mark Turner
that he had on the wall, and the way
blue light flowed over the brass horn.

"Little better," he said after a minute.

"That's good," said Dr. G. "What is
the child's name, and how old is thon?"

"Jaxon, and uh ... I don't know, little?"
Shiv said, struggling to remember.
"He was maybe two when I left."

"Ask him then, most small children
are proud to show off their age,"
Dr. G suggested. "I'll wait."

"Hey Jaxon, how old are you?"
Shiv said, looking down at him.

Jaxon held up three fingers.
"This many," he said.

"He's three," Shiv said. "What
do I do with a three-year-old?
I don't even know where to start!"

"You started by calling me, which is
exactly right because I'm a parent,"
Dr. G said. "What's Jaxon doing now?"

Shiv glanced down. "Untying my shoes,"
he said. "Knock it off, you little twerp."

"Toddlers like manipulatives," Dr. G said.
"We'll find something better for Jaxon
to play with. Also, if you can call him by
name, or a sweeter nickname, that would
help. Most people don't like mean names."

"I told you I suck at this," Shiv snapped.
"I don't have any toys, and I'm a jerk!"

"I wouldn't trust you with my children
if you were hopeless," Dr. G said.
"What kind of things did you keep
from summer? You don't have
to share if you don't want to, but
some of that should be suitable."

Shiv's brain went off track and
landed in a ditch, wheels up and
spinning slowly. "What do you
mean, I don't have to share?"

Everyone always said he did,
which is why Shiv learned to hide
or to lock up everything that he
really cared about, to prevent
other people from getting into it.

"Your things belong to you, and
Jaxon is your guest," said Dr. G.
"Everyone needs some private things,
and it's good to have some other stuff
that you enjoy sharing with friends.
It's up to you which things you share
or not, but find something or Jaxon
will probably run wild pretty soon."

Shiv abandoned the idea of trying
to make sense out of that, and just
latched onto the idea of finding things
for Jaxon to do other than untie shoes.

"What kind of stuff?" he asked.

"If I remember right, you had
some stress toys, and --" Dr. G said.

"Great idea," Shiv said, reaching for
the plastic tray of cheap junk that he'd
been collecting. He dumped it on the rug.
"Here kid, have a ball. Don't throw it
and break my shit, or I'll kill you."

"Setting expectations is good,"
said Dr. G. "Let's try to think of
some less extreme consequences,
though. A three-minute time out
is reasonable for a toddler, or you
could simply put the toys away."

Shiv almost laughed, recalling
how Dr. G had described prison
as a "grown-up time out" when
trying to explain it to Edison.

"You can play with the toys,
but if you throw them, then they
go right back in the box," he said
to Jaxon, and the boy nodded.

Maybe it'd work better for
him than it had for Shiv, who
basically never got to play with
anything under that rule.

"That's a good start," said Dr. G.
"Did you keep any of your word cards?"

"Yeah, and I got some new ones for
my saxophone lessons," he said, glancing
at the musical display taped to his wall. "Those
are over my head, though, let alone a kid."

"The ones with pictures as well as text
should appeal to most toddlers," said Dr. G.
"They're used in prereading exercises, but
they're also fun for sorting or other games."

Shiv looked at the magnetic chalkboard
made from an old picture frame, where
he'd stuck a set of weather magnets and
some easy-reader words to fool with.
That way, he could look up the forecast
once and put it on the board, instead of
having to recheck every time he went out.

"I've got weather ones, and the fruit set
that Dr. Bloch gave me, and stuff," he said.
"I kept the spelling Legos from you, too."

"Legos may be a little old for Jaxon,
especially if he still puts things in
his mouth," Dr. G said.

"Nah, he ain't mouthy like me,"
Shiv said. "He didn't even care
for a pacifier much. Jaxon is
more fiddly with his fingers."

"All right, what's he doing now?"

"Trying to stack my fidgets," Shiv said,
laughing as the awkward tower fell over.

"Random objects, not square blocks?
How high is he getting?" Dr. G said.

"Four or five, mostly," said Shiv.

"That's ... impressive," said Dr. G.
"In that case, Jaxon may be able
to grasp Legos. You might need
to help him put them together and
take them apart, but he should like
the assembled word shapes."

"Okay, I'll go get those," said Shiv.
"Jaxon, stay here while I --"

"No, pick him up and take him with you,"
Dr. G interrupted. "Don't leave a toddler alone --
it's like turning your back on the ocean."

"Fine, whatever," Shiv grumbled
as he hiked Jaxon onto his hip and
got kicked in the crotch for his trouble.
Fortunately, the kid had no leverage.
"Cut it out or the new toys can
just stay in my bedroom."

He grabbed the baggie of Legos
and the folder of word cards, then
went back to the living room where
he dumped everything on the rug,
including the squirmy toddler.

Then Shiv leaned over to snag
his weather board and the baggie
of word magnets he kept behind it.

"Here, you can play with these,"
he said to Jaxon. "Don't eat them."

Some of the cards were all one piece,
like the fruit set Dr. Bloch gave him.
The vegetable set he'd gotten later had
one card with a picture and a name,
then the picture and the name on
two separate, matching cards.

Shiv shuffled through the pile
to find the veggies, and laid out
a short row of the labeled ones.
"Now look for the parts that go
with these," he told Jaxon.

The toddler did what Shiv always did
with new cards, feeling the edges and
trying to bend them a little, but they were
tough enough to stand up to that. Jaxon
looked at the pictures, messed the cards
around with his hands, and then started
matching up the different slips of paper.

"Okay, he's busy for now," Shiv said
to Dr. G. "What the fff -- freaking heck
am I supposed to do? I am not cut out
to be a babysitter, or a daddy, or anything."

Maybe he should have taken some of
the stupid babysitting or parenting classes
offered in the Life Skills track at the prison,
but he hated school and he hated kids
and it would've sucked anyway.

"Well, then you should use protection
if you decide to have sex," Dr. G said.
"Did you get that information anywhere?"

"I am not talking about this," Shiv said tightly.

"All right, you don't have to, just keep it
in mind in case you need it later," said Dr. G.
"You sound really tense today. What has you
so wound up? I know you feel out of your depth
babysitting, but I think there's more underneath."

Shiv looked at the little boy playing on his rug
and tried to swallow the knot of panic that
kept closing his throat. "I um, I just, you
know that my past was ... bad, right?"

"I know some of it, and I can guess more,"
Dr. G said. "Would you like to talk about it?"

The only thing Shiv liked less was sitting
on his floor playing with cards, but given that,
not talking about this wasn't really an option.

He leaned down and showed Jaxon how
to sort the fruit cards by color, then scrambled
the row to see if the kid could put it back.

"So much crap happened to me ... I look
at him and it all just comes rushing back,"
Shiv admitted. "I'm afraid I'll break him or
something, and then Buttons would kill me."

"That sounds very uncomfortable," Dr. G said.
"I think you'll come through okay, though.
Just in case, I'll stay within easy reach
this afternoon, so you can call me
right back if you get stuck again."

"But how do I know not
to do all the wrong things?"
Shiv whispered. "I mean,
my childhood sucked, and
all's else I've seen is you."

"Then you have a whole lot
of bad examples to show you
what to avoid doing," Dr. G said.
"Try thinking of the things you hated,
and don't do those, or you could
even try the opposite of them."

Shiv thought about all the times
he'd gotten smacked, and reckoned
he could at least manage that much.

"Yeah, maybe," he replied, watching
as Jaxon started sorting the cards by
some standard Shiv couldn't grasp.
"But what if I make a mistake?
This is -- he's important."

"I'm sure that you will," Dr. G said.
"Everyone does, because children are
wonderful, frustrating, and confusing. They'll
put you through every emotion you have at
some point ... every day. Even I still make
mistakes, and I've raised six. The thing
to remember is, most mistakes are fixable,
and you can learn from them."

That didn't sound like Shiv's life at all,
but then again, he was trying to make this
as much not like his life as possible.

He wished desperately that he could
just fob off the whole mess on Dr. G,
but asking the man to teleport out here
because Shiv was afraid of a toddler
went beyond ridiculous into pathetic.

Besides, maybe Dr. G would help
take care of the inevitable fuckups.

"Okay, I-I'll try," Shiv said, trying
to keep his voice from squeaking.

"How are you set for backup?"
Dr. G said. "Are you and Jaxon
alone in the building, or is there
someone else you could rely on
in case you need more help?"

"There's other people, but they're
all busy, so I'm the only one free
to watch Jaxon today," said Shiv.
"Cook's in the kitchen, and I think that
Lieutenant Brown's in the shared office."

"All right, that gives you another option
if you need help," said Dr. G. "Either
you can call me, or ask someone
local to lend you a hand."

"Yeah, Lieutenant Brown's solid,
he's like my next-up boss before
it gets to Boss White," Shiv said.

"Your supervisor," Dr. G said.
"That's good, he'll know your style."

"Enough to worry if I'm gonna
get fed up with this and flush the kid
down the can," Shiv said. Then Jaxon
reached up and yanked on Shiv's jeans.
"Back off, brat, or you're gonna get it."

"If Jaxon is bothering you, then
he probably needs more attention,"
Dr. G said. "Let's try ending the call
so you can get down on the floor
and really play with him for a while.
I promise to answer right away
if you need to call me back."

Shiv's stomach flipped over
and went splat, like the time
his foster father had tried
flipping flapjacks and one
hit the rim of the skillet.

"If I have to," he said slowly.

"I'm confident that you'll do okay,"
Dr. G said. "Probably not perfect, but
you don't need perfect, and it's not
reasonable to expect of a new skill.
Okay is plenty to aim for today,
and I know you're up to that."

Shiv wished that he could find
the confidence in himself that
Dr. G considered so obvious.
"I guess so," he said. "Bye."

Shoving his phone in his pocket,
Shiv dropped onto the rug and
looked at the sloppy pile of
picture and word cards.

"Watch this," he said as
he opened the bag of Legos.
Then he took out some bricks
and laboriously began putting
them together into words that
matched the ones on the cards.
"See, now you can feel out
the shapes of the words."

Jaxon picked up the clusters
of bricks, fingering the corners, but
he made no effort to pull them apart.
That was one less thing to worry about.

They discovered that if Shiv moved
the blocks around, Jaxon could match
them by shape but not the actual letters;
kiwi and lime looked the same to him.

When Jaxon got tired of that and
started randomly flipping cards over,
Shiv remembered a game that he
used to play with a foster brother.

He laid out the cards in pairs, using
the labeled and unlabeled pictures of
the same thing, and showed Jaxon
how to match them up. Then they
tried playing it for real, with the cards
all mixed up in a square grid.

"See how many pairs you can get
before I grab them all," Shiv said.
Obviously he'd wind up with more,
because he was bigger, but this
gave Jaxon something to aim for.

The kid wasn't bad, and once
he got the hang of the game,
then he got even better.

It took them a little while to figure out
that one turn for Shiv to two turns for
Jaxon was the best balance, but
then it worked out fine.

"I gotta pee," Jaxon announced.

Shiv panicked all over again.
"Okay, uh, there's one -- outside --"
he stuttered as he grabbed the toddler.

No way was he letting Jaxon
into his pretty princess bathroom,
and besides, Shiv had no business
helping a kid in the can, whatever
fussing around that involved.

As Shiv scrambled out the door of
his apartment, he almost bumped into
Lieutenant Brown. "The kid needs to pee,
you take him," Shiv said, pushing Jaxon at him.

"What the heck is --?" said Lieutenant Brown,
catching hold of the toddler. "Okay, fine."
They vanished into a public bathroom.

Shiv waited in the lounge area,
kicking his heels against the wall,
until the two of them came back out.

"Just so's you know, when a toddler
says he needs to go potty, he means
right now, not five minutes from now,"
Lieutenant Brown said. "We got lucky
this time, but you can't count on that."

"I'm hungry," Jaxon said, pawing at
Shiv's jeans again. "I wanna sammich."

"What?" Shiv said, baffled.

"Sandwich," Lieutenant Brown translated.
"And no, I will not take him off your hands,
I just came upstairs to pick up something
from my room. I'm still busy working."

Shiv sighed and led Jaxon downstairs
to the kitchen in search of lunch.

"We need sandwiches for two,"
he told Cook as he took Jaxon into
the kitchen. "What can you do for us?"

The big black man turned to face them.
"Reckon I can grill up some ham and cheese,"
said Cook. Then he pointed with a spatula.
"Best start with the fruit bowl, or Jaxon's
liable to get antsy 'fore they're done."

Shiv carried the wriggling toddler over to
the battered old butcher-block table and
plunked Jaxon onto an equally battered chair.
Shiv took out a favorite pocketknife, the one
with the flashy blue handle, and began
to slice a big red apple with it.

"Shiny," Jaxon said, trying to grab the knife.

"No!" Shiv snapped. "What are
you trying to do, kill yourself?
Don't touch the knife."

Jaxon whimpered and put his chin
down on the table. His lower lip
wobbled. He started crying.

Shiv felt like a dick.
He was so bad at this.

He dumped the apple slices
onto a plate. Then he added
some yellow sand cherries,
a bunch of green grapes, and
a handful of blueberries.

"Here, kid, eat a rainbow,"
Shiv said as he shoved
the plate toward Jaxon.

Amazingly, the boy stopped
crying and stuffed his face.

Thank fuck that worked.

Soon Cook brought them
their sandwiches. Jaxon's
came in four little triangles
with the crusts cut off and
stacked neatly on the side.

Shiv's was whole. "Hey,
how come you cut his all fancy,
but not mine?" Shiv said.

Cook snorted, took back
Shiv's sandwich, cut it up,
then dropped it in front of him.

"Better," said Shiv. He liked
eating his crusts last -- he ate
Jaxon's too, because the brat
wouldn't touch them -- and it
was nice to get at the crusts
without rubbing his sandwich
all over his face in the process.

After lunch, they went back upstairs.
Shiv tried to get Jaxon interested in
the picture cards and the Legos again,
but he seemed to be tired of them.

Desperate for more ideas, Shiv
called Dr. G again. "We played with
the cards and Legos. Then we ate lunch.
Now Jaxon is bored and he's getting on
my nerves again. What do I do?"

"What kind of art supplies do
you have on hand?" Dr. G asked.

"Uh ... creme pastels, a bunch
of colored pencils, the gel pens ..."
Shiv said slowly, trying to remember
what-all he had in his art box.

Jaxon was back to untying Shiv's shoes
again, but by now Shiv was used to it.

"Most of that is too old for Jaxon.
Creme pastels are relatively skin-safe
but they'll stain anything they touch.
Pencils and pens are pretty sharp,"
said Dr. G. "Do you still have
the Monet crayons I gave you?"

Those were a set of thumb-sized blocks,
each dotted with different colors of wax.
"Yeah, those are favorites," Shiv said.

"Hmm, you might not want to share
your favorites," Dr. G reminded him.

"Oh wait -- I've got this big hunk of
rainbow crayon that Mr. Bonaparte
gave me!" Shiv said. "He made it in
a loaf pan for his kids and then cut it
into slices. They didn't need them all,
so he put some in the craft room, and
gave the extras to me and Verne."

"That sounds perfect," said Dr. G.

"What about other chunky stuff?"
Shiv asked. "I got some layered ones,
like shades of blue, that are wide on top
and pointy underneath, like a gemstone."

"Those should be easy for little fingers
to hold onto," Dr. G said. "Cover part of
your floor or a table with newspapers --
remember to tape them down like we did
in the craft room -- and then give Jaxon
some scratch paper to scribble on."

"I thought kids liked coloring books?"
Shiv said, thinking back on what he'd seen.
"No! No tying knots." He pushed Jaxon
away from his shoes and retied them.

"Older children do, but usually toddlers
just make random lines," said Dr. G.
"If you have some very simple outlines,
though, Jaxon might manage those."

"Yeah, I got basic shapes in my folder
for artistic exercises," Shiv said.

"Give him a choice between those
and blank paper," Dr. G suggested.
"You can sit beside Jaxon and do
some art exercises of your own, if
you have any that'll work in crayon."

"Okay, I'll try that," Shiv said, and
then ended the call. Brat on hip again,
he went into his bedroom for worksheets
and found some on shapes, lines, and
shading. Then he added a mood one,
because faces were easy to draw.

Shiv taped old newspapers
onto the hardwood, then moved
Jaxon over to the new play area.
He couldn't fall off the floor.

"You can doodle on blank paper,
or do the coloring pages," Shiv said,
laying them out in front of Jaxon
along with the multicolor crayons.

Jaxon grabbed the loaf one with
both hands and began making rainbows.

Shiv picked up the ruby one. It was
awkward to hold, but he didn't want
to bring out his Monets and risk Jaxon
breaking them, so he made do with
the chunky gemstone crayon and
a worksheet on shading.

It wasn't five minutes before
Jaxon's enthusiastic loops went
off the paper onto the hardwood floor.

"Fuck," Shiv said, wiping it off with
his sleeve. It mostly came clean.
"Stay on the paper, you little vandal."

Jaxon headed right for the edge again.

Shiv could take the crayons away,
but then he'd have to find something else
to do, and he was out of ideas, and he
didn't want to keep bugging Dr. G.

Remembering the earlier advice about
shenanigans and wanting attention,
Shiv plopped Jaxon in his lap and
said, "Let's do one together."

He picked up the mood worksheet
and began drawing in the features,
pointing out each one as he did so.

"Eyes," Jaxon said. "Nose. Mouth.
Dontstickyourtongueout."

Shiv laughed, and drew the mouth
with the tongue sticking out.

Jaxon giggled too.

"Here, put your hair on," Shiv said.
"It's nappy, so go like this." He
demonstrated some spiral scribbles.
Then he handed the crayon to Jaxon.

"Brenda has nappy hair.
Jaxon has nappy hair,"
the boy said as he drew.

"Brenda? Oh, from the book,"
Shiv said. He remembered Buttons
reading from a book about nappy hair.
"How big do you want your hair to be?"

"This big!" Jaxon said, throwing his arms wide.

"Yeah? Go to town, kid," said Shiv.
As long as Jaxon stayed on his lap,
he could scribble as much as he wanted
but couldn't reach the edge of the newspaper.

Then the squirming got more insistent.
"I gotta go pee," Jaxon said.

"Oh shit, not again," Shiv said.
His heart whacked against
the inside of his ribs. "Ffff--fine."

He hauled Jaxon into his bathroom.
Thank fuck the nearly life-size sticker
of Elsa was behind the shower curtain
and her big bath towel was in the wash.

"I can't reach the --" Jaxon said,
hopping up and down on the mat.

"Here," Shiv said, shoving a box
under the boy's feet. "Stand on that
and you should reach the can."

He turned around and tried not to listen
to the loud tinkle, concentrating on
the importance of not throwing up.

"All done," Jaxon said finally.
"I can't reach the flush."

Shiv turned around and yanked
the handle, then realized that Jaxon
hadn't pulled his pants up yet.

"Put your peter away!" Shiv barked.

"Sorry," Jaxon said, struggling
with the soft elastic waistband.
"It's hard to do up sometimes."

Luckily he got his pants back on
without requiring Shiv to touch them.

"Great, now wash your hands,"
Shiv said, pointing to the sink.

"I can't --" Jaxon began.

"Now you can reach it," Shiv said,
lifting him onto the counter. He gave
Jaxon the snowflake-shaped soap squirter
and then ran some water into the sink.

Jaxon dabbled in the sink and
got soapy water everywhere.

"Do you like Elsa too?" he said.

Oh fucking goddamn hell.

The trash can was just snowflakes,
but he'd forgotten about the bath mat,
and also the drinking glass that Jaxon was
currently using to pour water on the floor.

"Quit that!" Shiv snapped, grabbing
the glass and putting it out of reach.
"And don't you breathe a word
about my bathroom, or I'll --"

"They tease you too?"
Jaxon said in a small voice.

Shiv stopped and really looked
at the kid, who seemed about
to cry again. "What?" he said.

"Little boys aren't s'posed
to like princesses," said Jaxon.
"They're only for girls."

Shiv rubbed a hand over his face.
If he let that one go by, Buttons and
Boss White would both skin him,
and he would deserve it.

"Princesses are for boys too,"
Shiv said. "What happens if
anyone finds out, though?"

"Then they pick on me,"
Jaxon said, pouting.

"Right, so we can like Elsa, but
we don't gotta tell the whole world
about it, yeah?" Shiv said.

"Yeah," Jaxon said, diving off the counter.

"Watch out!" Shiv yelped, and just barely
managed to grab the brat before he
could bust his head on the floor.

He carried Jaxon back out to
the living room and put him down,
but Jaxon just ran in circles
waving his arms in the air.

Shiv didn't need advice to figure out
that when a kid wouldn't sit still no more,
it's because he needed to move.

He remembered one foster mother
telling him, "If you're that full
of energy, take it outside."

Shiv glanced up at the magnet board,
which he had reset after their play.
Today it is raining, it said.

"Let's go for a run," he told Jaxon,
taking the boy by the hand.

"But it's raining," Jaxon said.

"We can use the stairs, we got
plenty of 'em," Shiv said.

So they chased each other up and down
stairs between the upper floors of the lair,
since not very many people were using
that part of the building at this time.

When Jaxon finally wore himself out --
which took longer than Shiv expected --
they went back to the apartment.

"I wanna watch cartoons," Jaxon said.

"Sure, kid," said Shiv. "Let's see,
I got Frozen, Brave, The Boondocks,
Beavis & Butthead -- that's a classic --"

"Brave," said Jaxon. "I like how
Merida can do so much stuff. She
shoots arrows and rides horses."

Shiv liked that movie because
of how it showed Merida practicing,
not just pulling skill out of her ass
the way most movies did.

"Comin' right up," he said, and put it on.

Jaxon flopped down on his belly,
kicking his feet in the air, now
and then hitting Shiv with them.

"Cut that out, or I will shut off
this show and you can watch
the wall for a while," he warned.

Amazingly, Jaxon actually stopped
kicking him and lay still like Shiv said.

If Jaxon also burrowed under Shiv's arm
and clung to him during the bear scenes,
well, that was no surprise. It was
a scary-ass bear, after all.

When the movie ended,
Jaxon acted weird -- restless
and cranky and generally
a pain in Shiv's ass.

"What the hell is wrong
with this kid?" he asked Dr. G.
"If he's getting sick, I am so
not taking the rap for this!"

Dr. G led Shiv through a set of
questions, listened to the answers,
then said, "He's probably just tired.
Try putting Jaxon down for a nap."

"How do I do that?" Shiv said.
His own memories of 'nap time'
were horrors not to be repeated.

"Turn off the lights. Set him
on the futon in your living room.
Sit down with him," Dr. G said.
"Then tell a story or sing a song,
if you know any. If not, just talk
about anything in a soft tone.
He should fall asleep."

"Okay, I'll try that," Shiv said,
and hung up the phone.

Jaxon fussed and whined and
didn't want to sit still for any of it,
which Shiv had more or less expected,
nap time not being any toddler's favorite.

So he sang "Rock-a-Bye Baby" and
"Black Mollies" and "Ring Around a Rosy"
and every other kid song he could recall
until Jaxon fell asleep with his face on
the futon and his butt in the air.

That's when someone knocked on his door.

"Open it and come in quiet," Shiv said.
"I just got him to sleep, and if you
wake him up, I will kill you."

It was Buttons, oh thank fuck,
which meant Shiv was off the hook.

But when Jaxon grumbled and
flopped onto his side, Shiv didn't
want him to wake up, so he sang,
"Hit me, mama, don't beat me, hit me,
Nobody wants to buy black mollies."

"You've been singing that to him?"
Buttons said, scandalized. "That's awful,
Shiv, it's like to give him nightmares!"

"Shut your mouth," Shiv whispered.
"Best we take this outside." He got up,
carefully so's not to wake up the kid, and
took Buttons into the hall. He kept a hand
in the crack of the door. "Now, what?"

Boss White was lounging against
the far wall, but that didn't stop Buttons
from bitching, "You can't do things like that!"

"Yeah well, next time maybe you should get
a sitter who knows which end of the kid
the shoes go on," Shiv snapped.

"What seems to be the trouble?"
Boss White drawled, suddenly
seeming a lot less relaxed.

"Buttons don't like the lullaby
I used, and I dunno why not,
because it got Jaxon to sleep,"
Shiv said. "Didn't ask for this job!"

"I know you didn't," Boss White said.
"Buttons, what's wrong with the song?"

"You sing it," she said, glaring at Shiv.

"Fine, whatever," Shiv said, and
went through "Black Mollies" again.
"I don't see what you're so upset about.
Lullabies are all nasty if you actually listen
at the lyrics. I sang 'Rock-a-bye Baby' too,
which is about a baby falling out of a tree,
and nobody ever says boo about that one!"

"Why couldn't you sing something nice,
like 'All the Pretty Horses' or whatnot?"
Buttons said, putting her hands on her hips.

Boss White rubbed a hand over the back
of his neck. "Buttons, might could be we
should just admit that Shiv's got a point,
and be grateful for his help," he said.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she said.

"Where did you learn your lullaby?"
Boss White asked. "From family, or a book?"

"My grandmother used to sing it to us,"
Buttons said. "What does that have
to do with anything, though?"

"I'm guessin' she left out the rough stuff,"
Boss White said, then sang in a low voice,
"Way down yonder in the meadow,
there's a poor little lambie,
birds and the butterflies peckin' out his eyes,
the poor little thing cries mammy."

Buttons put a hand over her mouth.
"What -- how --" she stammered.

"It's a slave lullaby," Boss White said.
"It's about a black wet nurse tending
a white baby, while her own goes hungry."

"I didn't know that," Buttons whispered.

"Most people don't," Boss White said.
"That's neither here nor there. Fact is,
Shiv done us a favor and we ought to be
thankful for it, not carp about how it got done.
We knowed it wasn't his gig goin' in."

That was ... good to hear. It helped
pick loose some of the knots in
Shiv's stomach. It wasn't enough,
but it was better than nothing.

"Great," he said. "Buttons,
go get your kid off my futon."

"I will," she said. "Thank you for
watching him. I'm sorry I snapped
at you, I was just -- surprised."

Shiv opened the door for her, but
blast it, the low creak woke the kid.

Buttons led him out of the room
by the hand, but as soon as Jaxon
spotted Shiv, he broke loose and
plastered himself on Shiv's legs.

"Shiv! Play time," Jaxon demanded.

"Oh hell no, I have had enough of this,"
Shiv said, peeling the brat's fingers
off his pants. "Your mama's back,
so you are her problem now."

Jaxon started squalling like Shiv
was trying to cut off his hands
instead of just get them loose.

Shiv let go, afraid of hurting him.
"Well, now what do we do?"

Buttons dropped her jaw.
"He likes you," she said.

"I thought you said that Jaxon
doesn't care much for people,"
Shiv said, his eyes narrowing.
If they'd played him on this,
he would be so pissed.

"He doesn't," Buttons said.
"What in the world did you do
to make him like you so much?"

"I have no clue," Shiv said.
"We played with picture cards,
and Legos, I took him to lunch --"

"I hope you didn't just feed
him candy," Buttons said.

"It would serve you right if I had!"
Shiv said. "But no, we had fruit with
grilled ham and cheese sandwiches."

"How did you get him to eat fruit?"
Buttons said, staring at him.

"I put it on a plate?" Shiv said.
What else he was supposed to do,
he had no idea, and didn't care.

"Buttons, that's enough," Boss White said,
coming to Shiv's rescue. "And you, little man,
need to hush your mouth and go to your mama."

That boss voice made Jaxon stop crying
and let go of Shiv's jeans. Finally.

"You owe me so much for this,"
Shiv said as Buttons picked up her son.

"Yes," she said in an odd tone.
"I suppose I do. Well, we can
square up later. I would love
to have you watch him again --"

Oh, now she was grateful to him?

"When hell freezes over,"
Shiv said shortly.

"But you're the only sitter he's
ever liked," she said. "Jaxon has
a few other kids he'll tolerate enough
to play with, but doesn't like any of
the adults, doesn't even seem to care
whether anyone is around or not -- except
for me and Tamicka, and we're family."

"That is not Shiv's concern, so quit
pestering him," Boss White said firmly.
"Come on, Buttons, it's past time for us
to leave. Shiv, you've got the rest of
the day off. I reckon you need it."

"Thanks, boss," said Shiv, and he
meant it, because the afternoon today
held a lot of the deskwork he hated.

He took the opportunity to flee
back into the safety of his apartment.

Then he leaned against the door and just shook.

* * *

Notes:

Shiv (Egon Harrison) -- He has fair skin and silver eyes. His blond hair is straight and silky, worn long on top so that it that flops over his face. His head is a long triangle ending in a narrow chin. He has a lot of small scars from fights, but he heals well, having survived several injuries that could easily have proven fatal. Egon is currently 20 years old.
He likes dark flavors -- coffee, cigarettes, dark chocolate. He loves fish, especially tuna and fried catfish, and anchovies on pizza. Pistachio ice cream is another favorite. He's fond of exotic sodas, whether for flavor or medicinal effect; he discovered strawberry-mint as a child and several people have been sharing others recently.
His superpower is a narrow form of telekinesis. It lets him create knives out of almost any nearby material, or take control of small bladed weapons from anyone else. He can't manage anything larger than a machete, though.
Origin: While in Juvenile Hall, he was stabbed by another inmate. Shortly thereafter, Egon developed his superpower. He believes that there was something on the knife -- or in the material itself -- which caused this to happen.
Uniform: Street clothes, but with several bandoliers of throwing knives.
Qualities: Good (+2) Ambidexterity, Good (+2) Crafty, Good (+2) Hoodlum, Good (+2) Recovering from Injuries, Good (+2) Streetwise, Good (+2) Fast
Poor (-2) Can't Keep His Mouth Shut
Powers: Expert (+4) Control Sharp Things, Average (0) Super-Immunity
Motivation: Puncture ALL the egos!

Buttons (Sheylinn Bailey) -- She has medium-brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair usually pulled back in a small bun. She has a three-year-old son, Jaxon, who usually stays with her sister Tamicka during work hours. Sheylinn used to do science as a lab technician, but as a black woman found it difficult to get work in that field.
Currently she works as a button woman for Boss White in Omaha, doing whatever odd jobs he needs in addition to bodyguard and enforcer tasks. When she first started, Boss White remarked that she was doing the work of two men -- he hadn't gotten around to replacing the second one yet -- so she replied that she ought to get paid for both of those jobs. Boss White laughed, doubled her payout, and never did get around to replacing the second guy. That's how she got the name "Buttons."
Origin: Her Super-Strength arrived at puberty.
Uniform: Usually workout clothes or a cheap business suit.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Button Woman, Good (+2) Hard Worker, Good (+2) Science, Good (+2) Smart
Poor (-2) Brokeass Broke
Powers: Average (0) Super-Strength
Motivation: Put beans on the table.

Jaxon Bailey -- He has light-brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy brown hair. He is currently three years old. He is the son of Buttons (Sheylinn Bailey) and the nephew of her sister Tamicka. Jaxon usually stays with his aunt Tamicka while his mother is working. Smart and sturdy, Jaxon learns things quickly but in his own quirky way. He doesn't get along particularly well with other children, does worse with most adults, and doesn't care. But he clings fiercely to the few people he really likes, and when he gets fussy, attaches himself to objects too. This frustrates his mother as much as his intelligence delights her, but she loves him no matter what he's doing.
Qualities: Good (+2) Durable, Good (+2) Smart, Good (+2) Tactile Learner
Poor (-2) Clingy as a Burr

Ka Ron "Cook" Campbell -- He has chocolate skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair buzzed almost down to the skin. He has a high heat tolerance, both for ambient temperature and for handling hot things with his bare hands. Conversely, he gets cold very easily. Ka Ron handles information fluently, organizing it into a mental database that makes it easy for him to cross-reference different ideas or sort out categories. He is patient and thoughtful in his activities.
Ka Ron lives in Omaha, Nebraska where he works as a cook at Blues Moon. Although not a combatant, he belongs to the Ebonies & Ivories and they treat him with respect. He also quietly teaches other gangsters about food, cooking, and kitchen safety if they want to learn those skills.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Cook, Expert (+4) Patience, Good (+2) Heat Resistance, Good (+2) Mental Database, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Cold Tolerance

* * *

"Black Mollies" is a song that I learned from Girl Scouts. A similar song, "Karami-Aki," appears on this page of banned songs, but the words I learned were different.  That version began as a Jamaican Creole song about trying to sell ackee fruit.  In case you're curious, black mollies are tropical fish that breed fast.  [personal profile] siliconshaman has pointed out that this is also drug slang, most often for medicinal amphetamines which came in black capsules that somewhat resembled the fish.  Given that context, it is more likely for a poor child to be out selling drugs than tropical fish, and it's exactly the kind of thing that Shiv would grow up hearing.  (WTF anyone was singing it to Girl Scouts for, I have no idea.)

This shows the outside of Blues Moon with the main floor and two layers of apartments. The smaller building on the right also belongs to the Ebonies & Ivories, used as storage space for artwork and furnishings which can be used in any of the apartments above the jazz joint. The two floors above the club have apartments similar to these. The hallway extends all the way to the back stairs. The central stairwell and elevator is instead a common lounge area with public bathrooms. On the lower floor, the front right "open" apartment is a flop room with multiple beds, which can sleep a total of 12 people. The front left "Mies" apartment is furnished normally, but not permanently assigned, used as temporary housing or extra function space as needed. Shiv gets the back left "standard" apartment, with the bathroom protected inside the bedroom. Popgun has the right middle semi-open apartment. On the top floor, Boss White has the back left "standard" apartment, and Lieutenant Brown has the back right semi-open apartment.

This is the butcher block table in the main kitchen, with wooden chairs.

Shiv's dining room has a quote above the table. In his living room, the black-bordered blanket is spread over a large futon. Decorations include a photoprint of saxophonist Mark Turner, several pieces of Shiv's papercut art, houseplants, a mail sorter made from old records, and decals over the light switches. Shiv's bedroom has one of his own saxophonist pictures done with creme pastels.

Shiv's bathroom has a Frozen theme with a large Elsa decal, Elsa bath mat, Elsa bath towel, Elsa drinking glass, and assorted other snowflake accessories.

Child abuse and neglect come in many forms and cast a long shadow. In Shiv's case, it's not so much attachment disorder as connection disruption -- he never had a chance to form healthy attachments, so he doesn't know how. Abuse survivors often fear that they will abuse children. This is rational to some extent, in that abuse is easily transmitted that way and abuse survivors often lack good parenting skills. However, that only happens about one third of the time; most survivors do not turn into abusers. It helps to think about the effects of abuse, learn how to form healthy relationships, and study parenting (or babysitting) as a survivor.

Anxiety attacks happens when fear triggers exceed someone's emotional regulation. There are ways to calm yourself during an anxiety attack. Shiv's approach is different; he just bulls through it. He's so used to feeling miserable that he can function close to what passes as normal for him, even while panicking on the inside.

Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion in which people feel that things are much worse than they really are. Abuse tends to cause catastrophizing. Shiv grew up in situations where horrible things happened fairly often, and some people would make mountains out of molehills. Being ECR Boy, he developed a dual response. Sometimes he goes "Who cares?" (even for serious problems) and other times he panics. It is absolutely crucial to distinguish between illusory and experiential catastrophizing. Illusory is when someone with a relatively decent life makes up wild horror stories; it's best fixed by cultivating calm and rationalizing that bad things rarely happen to them. Experiential is when someone had a crappy past, and things are better now, but their thoughts aren't catching up; it's best fixed by making plans and learning practical ways to cope with challenges if those should arrive. Because if you tell someone like Shiv that it's all in his head and bad things are unlikely to happen, that doesn't fit his lived experience at all, and he will tell you to go fuck yourself. On the bright side, when abused children move into healthier homes, it becomes possible for them to overcome catastrophizing and learn trust. There are ways to stop catastrophizing yourself and to interrupt it when someone else does it.

Building resiliency is one of the best approaches to address experiential catastrophizing. Okay, shit happens to you a lot; if you learn how to cope with it, then it will terrorize you somewhat less. Notice that part of Shiv's panic comes from his past, but another big part is simply that he doesn't know what to do. Changing your explanatory style, taking control of your life, dealing with iceberg beliefs, and capitalizing on your strengths can all help reduce catastrophizing. There are also ways to help other people build resiliency.

Help-seeking behavior is a valuable life skill, because nobody can do everything themselves -- at least insofar as genuine help is potentially available. When it is not, or the costs exceed the benefits, then people tend to learn that they can only rely on themselves. Children may not understand how to get help or have such negative experiences that they learn to avoid it. Men often avoid therapy either because they don't realize they need it or they don't consider it useful. In order to encourage help-seeking, it is essential to reduce stigma and other barriers. Shiv is just starting to become confident enough in his new support network to reach out when he's utterly desperate.

Under most circumstances, a good therapist should not tell the client what to do. That's because there's a big difference between therapy and advice; effective therapy helps a client figure out what to do instead of making demands. Therefore, counseling skills include things like asking open-ended questions and backstopping. Shiv wants someone to tell him what to do, because he has no idea how to babysit; Dr. G wants to help him think through problems instead of getting someone else to do it for him. In a crisis situation, a therapist may need to take over more control, but using force is unlikely to produce good results. Actually this list of steps for handling a computer programming crisis is a fantastic general guide to helping someone with an acute problem.

Babysitting is a useful life skill and a popular job among teens. Babysitting a toddler is somewhat more challenging than babysitting an older child. Among the ups and downs here is the fact that Shiv has little idea what is age-appropriate or not, which is sometimes hazardous but contributes to Jaxon liking him. Shiv has no interest in rules beyond safety precautions, and would not have cared if Jaxon wanted to spend all day watching TV of whatever kind.

Sharing a basic social skill. In a healthy environment, sharing and cooperation evolve naturally as children grow through different developmental stages. However, forcing children to share does more harm than good, and can be downright traumatizing. This violation of their boundaries then encourages the development of poor boundaries in general. Shiv's boundaries are a wreck, often malfunctioning by being too loose or too rigid, precisely because he grew up with people trampling his. Therefore, it is essential to emphasize that it's okay not to share, especially prized personal possessions. Explore some constructive ways of teaching people to share, and take a look at the spectrum of unhealthy to healthy boundaries. Progressive prompting to share is another option. Some games and toys encourage children to move through the stages from independent to cooperative play. Bear in mind that introverts and some other folks may prefer parallel play even as adults -- think how often you see them sitting side-by-side reading or knitting.

Fidget toys provide tactile and intellectual stimulation. It is absolutely crucial for mental health and physical development that children, especially sensory-seekers, have safe things to touch and play with. An unending stream of "No! Don't touch that!" is life-wrecking, and that's one reason Shiv has some of the problems he does. Just having fidgets has made him calmer and happier. You can find fidgets among therapy supplies for children or office toys for adults. Shiv's fidget box contains a variety of tactile and visual items. Some of those are toddler-safe, others not, and he has no idea which is which or even that this is an important aspect of childcare.

Learning modes describe how people absorb information in different ways. Usually each person has a preference for one or more modes over the others, and learns most efficiently that way. Tactile learners get the best results by touching and doing. Shiv and Jaxon are both touchy-feely explorers, but Shiv uses his mouth a lot more than Jaxon does. Here are some learning strategies for tactile thinkers.

Manipulatives span a wide range of things to play with. They are often presented in a play area at preschools. There are manipulatives for reading, math, and other topics.

Shiv's magnetic chalkboard is made from a picture frame. You can buy or make something similar.

Word walls have sets of words and pictures, often relating to a theme such as Shiv's musical word wall. These word cards are for tracing. Finished cards may be organized alphabetically. They can be used for many activities. Here is a vocabulary worksheet.

Weather cards are useful in teaching children about nature and daily changes. Combine those with some high-frequency words, and you can make sentences about the weather.

Parenting classes in prison help reduce the impact on children of incarcerated parents, while teaching the inmates valuable life skills that improve their own chances of success after release. Outcome studies demonstrate the effectiveness of such programs. In T-Lincoln, the prison also offers evidence-based and best practices in basic and advanced babysitting classes as a soft ramp up to parenting, primarily intended for inmates who have children but rarely see them and/or who have nieces/nephews they wish to visit. Good parenting skills include a variety of tasks. Learn about caring for infants and toddlers. This site offers videos on parenting skills.

Read an introduction to Lego letters. They can be written on blocks and sorted in sets. They teach the shapes of words. If you write whole words on some blocks and letters on others, you can match them up. This set of blocks uses preprinted labels stuck on them so that whole words may be sorted.

When flipping pancakes, a common failure mode is hitting the edge of the pan.

Duplo can be used the same as Lego, just easier for small hands to hold. Spell words or make sentences. Duplo is generally recommended for ages 18 months-5 years. Legos begin at age 3+ although many sets have a higher age range. Always base decisions on the individual child: some just aren't mouthy and/or develop dexterity early, most are average, and a few never quit mouthing or dropping things.

In case you want to make your own, the T-American Lego Wordplay Starter Set contains 100 pieces, comprised of several subsets:
* 26 - one complete upper-case alphabet color-coded for phonics. Vowels (AEIOU) are in red. Voiced consonants (like B and D) are in blue, unvoiced consonants (like F and P) are in yellow, and letters commonly associated with multiple sounds (like C) are in green. These are all 2x2 bricks.
* 26 - one complete lower-case alphabet color-coded for letter shapes. Tall letters (like f and d) are pink, short letters (like a and c) are lavender, and tailed letters (like g and y) are turquoise. Tall and tailed letters are on 2x3 bricks; short letters are on 2x2 bricks.
* 24 - the most common letters ETAOINSRHDLU, one set in each color code
* 14 - common punctuation marks on gray: period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, hyphen, pair of parentheses, pair of quotation marks, apostrophe, elipsis. These are all 2x2 bricks.
* 10 - white blocks for spacers. These are all 2x2 bricks.

A fruit chart helps with identification. Fruit word cards can be used for many activities. Three-part cards are popular in Montessori schools for matching. While these are recommended for children who can read, they may be used earlier for matching pictures, colors, or other preliterate features. Here are some vegetable cards. You can make three-part cards using a free template.

A block-stacking test is one of several standard assessments for toddlers. A three-year-old can typically stack 9-10 square blocks. Stacking irregular objects with any success is more difficult, and implies higher dexterity. Gravity Blocks is a simple stacking game that is surprisingly difficult due to the irregular shapes.

Abuse survivors often fear parenting or even temporary childcare. Here are some parenting tips for survivors. and ideas for people supporting them.

Memory is a simple matching game. You can buy a set of Memory cards or play the game online. This site lets you build a set of printables. You can also draw cards or make some with stickers.

Making a grilled cheese sandwich is simple, and it's not much harder to add ham.

This is Shiv's blue pocketknife.

Wild plums or sand cherries are native to Nebraska. Because they are grown from seed instead of grafts like cultivated fruit trees, traits can vary widely -- including the fruit color from yellow to red to black. Flavor can be bland, sour, or deliciously sweet. Farmers markets sometimes carry wild edibles.

Multicolor crayons are popular. Here is Shiv's set of Monet crayons, each inspired by a different painting. The giant crazy crayon has all colors. Crayon gems are chunky combinations of related colors. You can make your own in muffin tins or a loaf pan.

Children go through stages of drawing and coloring, from random marks to more sophisticated techniques. Jaxon has enough kinesthetic intelligence that he can attempt to target shapes on a page, which is quite good for a three-year-old, but he can't stay inside the lines yet. Coloring books for babies have very simple outlines. Those for toddlers may introduce educational concepts such as numbers, shapes, and colors. Adult coloring books are more detailed. You can also find free coloring pages online, for toddlers or adults. Because children love to mimic older people, capitalizing on this instinct makes playtime more fun and effective. Shiv has actually stumbled across an excellent technique for keeping a mixed-age group happy: doing the same activity with materials of different challenge levels. Here are some tips to make a mutual coloring session fun.

Shapes coloring pages include this one that Shiv offers to Jaxon. Shiv also has worksheets on line drawing, value shading, and feelings.

Afro-textured hair may be described in many ways. Some people feel that "nappy" is an insult, while others love it. One of the few parts of Shiv's life that has not utterly sucked is growing up in racially blended families and gangs. So he understands nappy hair far better than white people who've rarely seen it, and to him, it's just another normal kind of hair. Parents can teach their children to love or to hate their own nappy hair. Among the books that celebrate natural hair is Nappy Hair. There are classroom activities to teach children about hair, natural hair care tips, and thoughts on loving your natural hair.

In order for their bodies to develop normally, children need to move a lot; and if they are forcibly prevented from doing so, then nerve damage tends to result because their bodies cannot grow properly without the necessary stimulation. The way to get children to sit still is, obviously, to let them meet their need for movement; they will sit still after they get tired of moving. Congratulations, L-America, you're dumber than a severely abused supervillain. Children also need to move around and touch things in order to learn. Here are some ideas for integrating motion into the classroom and encouraging physical activity. This guide explores physical activity for young people.

Frozen and Brave are children's films. The Boondocks and Beavis & Butt-head are intended for an older audience. Shiv has no idea what is age-appropriate or not.

Toddlers often sleep in bizarre positions.

Children's songs are often incredibly violent. "Rock-a-Bye Baby" is just one of many creepy lullabies.

"All the Pretty Horses" is a slave lullaby sung by a black wetnurse to a white child. Listen to it on YouTube with guitar and string bass, or harp.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-25 05:44 am (UTC)
technoshaman: (family)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Ohhhhh, poor Shiv. He done kicked over an aunthill... yes, that was deliberate, genderflip and all.

That's okay. Three is just when they start getting interesting. Oh, and mostly self-cleaning. *whew*

I think it was our J-roo that used to sleep tummy down, butt up. IDK. Whatever makes'em comfy.

Some cats are worse. :)

My favourite cat position was one a former lover colourfully called "head up arse"... the classic donut shape with all the pink bits - *all* of'em - buried in fur.... effective when the temperature inside the ill-insulated house tries to resemble what's in the 'fridge... we don't let it get *that* cold in here, so ours usually leave the face showing when they go donut...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-25 11:14 am (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Picture of Kaylee(Firefly) with the text "Sun in the shape of a girl". (E: Happy)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
*ded of laughter* Poor Shiv. He handled that so well, though.

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-02-26 05:13 pm (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Picture of a deer and the definition of gentle. (E: Gentle)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
Compared to someone who actually knows kids, the flaws show

Of course they do. But if you told me there was a story with Shiv taking care of a toddler befor reading it, his response is way above my expectations of how well he'd be able to handle it. With the amount of damage he has, he did exceptionally well. I mean, he's flawed enough I wouldn't want him to babysit any of my kids if I could help it and he's lucky things didn't go a lot worse, but he's done really well for the damage he has and the fact that this was entirely sprung on him with neither a chance to prepare or a chance to say no. And I think the fact that one of his main worries was "I don't want to hurt this kid" is telling too.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-25 12:41 pm (UTC)
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
Oh, Shiv. You did so well and you are so broken. :(

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-25 05:29 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Way to go Shiv... might not make a parent, but he'll make a darn good uncle! No wonder Jaxon loves him though... probably the first time the kid has gotten an adults undivided attention, in a way that suits him.

So not surprised that Frozen and Brave exist in Terramagne [probably not all that different either]. Bit surprised about Bevis & Butthead, but I'd imagine that there are distinct differences. Boondocks.. eh, on the fence about that one.

And I would just LOVE to know how & why Shiv ended up with a Frozen themed bathroom!! [That has GOT to have a story behind it.]

and yeah, if people knew the origins and true meanings of a lot of nursery rhymes, they'd be appalled. The Black Mollies in the song are SO not fish...

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-02-26 03:49 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Oh yeah, I remember that now! I guess that's where his fan-boy-ism started... although I can see why because Elsa is all kinds of awesome. [hmm, I wonder if Ashley's seen it? Possibly dismissed it as 'kids' stuff without watching it...and she is so going to eat those words.]

Hmm... given the syntax of the song, I think it rather pre-dates the more modern meaning of molly, i.e MDMA, so it's far more like to mean a underage male prostitute, i.e an inhabitant of a molly house. Which makes more sense.

oh, and just to correct a minor error, it's syphilis or small pox not black death in Ring around a Rosy [or roses] as the symptoms more closely match and would be more commonly known. But, the former gets repeated more often as received wisdom.

Mind you... if you want to really blow your mind? "Green Grow the Rushes Oh!" is a corrupted pre-christian bronze age celtic counting song, relating to the star cult that predominated at the time, and gives you the points through the year when certain steller groups first rise above the horizon in Northern Europe. [so it teaches their calender, kinda, as well.]

deeper meanings

Date: 2017-02-28 08:06 pm (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
>> "Green Grow the Rushes Oh!" is a corrupted pre-christian bronze age celtic counting song <<

WOW! I did not know that. Thanks for the tip!

Re: deeper meanings

Date: 2017-03-01 12:09 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
The wikipedia article on the song is rather interesting, but rightly points out, the song has been heavily abridged over the years.

It is surprising the persistence of cultural memory in oral history/song though, despite deliberate and persistent efforts to eradicate or re-purpose songs. For example, the aboriginal people of Australia have songs about a star that fell to earth, and geologist have found the crater more or less where they said... and estimated it's age at ~14,000 years. [+/- 1,500 years] Europe has songs that easily go back that far too, despite early Christian attempts to erase any trace of pre-Christian culture.

And yet, we have myths common to many geologically dispersed cultures which are congruent on many points, and yet are dismissed. Personally, I wonder what factual basis they might have had.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-25 09:24 pm (UTC)
mirrorofsmoke: Text icon: I can't believe we're still protesting this shit. (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorofsmoke
D'awwwwww!!! This made us happy! Also, wow we didn't actually know the song Black mollies at all!

Shiv is awesome, and his bathroom is amazing. (Yep, I'm another guy who loves Elsa)

Shiv's way better with kiddos than he thinks for. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-26 12:10 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
I like the overall arc of this. At first it's funny, in the "I feel sorry for him and I know I shouldn't laugh, but it's still funny" sense -- like watching a kitten fluff up and spit. Then it starts getting more thoughtful and serious, and I love the bonding moment over Elsa. And then he finally gets the kid to go to sleep, and of course that's just when the others get back, and he reacts like every parent in the world!

Frankly, I would not be much better off than Shiv here. I have more in the way of internal resources, but zero experience with caring for kids that young, and I really don't like them until they're old enough to establish an intellectual connection with. My first thought would be to put on the first Hobbit movie -- I can't stand kiddie cartoons any more because the voices they use are like fingernails on a chalkboard. Letting the kid run, well-supervised, is also something I could do, though I wouldn't be able to run him up and down stairs like Shiv did. Or if we had access to action figures or something fungible with that (I used to do this with my best friend and our plastic horses), I could probably deal with imaginary-story play. Drawing would never occur to me because I didn't do much of that as a kid. WRT songs, I'd be more likely to use Child ballads... and spend some time explaining the context. Which is probably not really age-appropriate, but kids do need to learn how to look below the surface of stuff.

I'm not familiar with "Black Mollies" either, but the context was immediately obvious.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-28 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
As difficult as this was for Shiv, it just show how far he's come. He definitely deserves some sort of reward. Thanks for posting this. -kellyc

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-02 03:54 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Sounds a lot like me before our first kid was born.

I'd really like to see the lyrics to "Black Mollies" -- I'm not familiar with it.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-02 05:23 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
The folk process at work. See http://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=2857&c=113 -- it's about selling fruit.

The fact that "Pretty Little Horses" is a slave song doesn't surprise me at all, though I never put two and two together.

The songs that kids prefer as lullabys are often not what their parents expect. When Colleen was in the hospital recovering from her (second) C-section, one of the songs I sang to keep her spirits was "The Mary Ellen Carter". Guess what reliably put our younger daughter to sleep.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-06 08:17 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
Heh. Now, I'm waiting for Boss White to ask Shiv to do a favor for him - just listen to a request, that's the favor, he doesn't have to say yes. And, of course, the request would be from Jaxom to play some more.

It seems that could go in a lot of directions... some good instructions for Shiv, especially if Buttons or Boss White had a picture list to track activities and time targets (play time here, meal here, naptime usually here, he's ready to go home by...).

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