A Toddler’s Ten Step Guide to Life

  1. Dirt is a glorious thing. All of its qualities make me happy: the way it feels between my fingers and my teeth, the clouds that form as I throw it in the air, the way it tumbles onto my arms and legs and settles into the creases of my clothes. Breathtaking.
  2. When you say, “don’t do that,” I hear, “you’d better do that really fast, cause this opportunity might not come round again for a while.” Hence the quite remarkable speed with which I emptied my drink bottle onto my pasty today. The three seconds it took you to get from around the kitchen bench to my highchair was long enough for flakes of pastry to be floating! It was an impressive record, plus I had the satisfaction of ticking another life experience off my bucket list. (Making lunch float: check.)
  3. Nudity is hilarious. So are running people.
  4. If you want to blow my nose without me kicking up a fuss, you’re going to have to show me the boogers. Seriously, wouldn’t you want to know what cool stuff your nose has made today? I’m always surprised and impressed by the ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours and textures you pull out of there. Just show me the boogers, people, and I might even help by blowing a few more out for you.
  5. Every tunnel, without exception has or has had a train inside. This includes: tunnels at the playground, mouse-holes in picture books, toilet rolls and tube-shaped pasta. I find these objects quite thrilling due to their association with something I hold so incredibly dear. You can acknowledge the connection and get excited with me or you can try and tell me there is no train. Either way, there will be tooting!
  6. I need to experience all condiments on the dinner table ASAP. That mysterious bottle and bowl just out of my reach hold some kind of intriguing treasure which will, no doubt, enliven my palette and enrich my dining experience. I’m becoming familiar with the way these things work: bowls often hold material for sprinkling and bottles contain sauces for dipping stuff in. Either way, it’s going to be super fun and I really do need it on my plate now! I will scream and point while I wait for the transfer to take place.
  7. A container of water is for putting things in. Always. Some of my favourite combinations have been: Humphrey Bear in the dog’s water bowl, pizza in my cup and socks in the bath. The phone in the toilet was a thing of beauty. I could tell by the excitement in your voice that you thought so too.
  8. If you leave a marker pen lying within my grasp, I will creatively embellish the nearest clean surface. (Unless that surface is paper, of course. Duh!) Typically I gravitate towards white, particularly if the white is also shiny (hello tiles!). Sometimes, however, I do like to try out unusual surfaces (my truck was cool) or contrasting colours (the green looked rather nice on Daddy’s new orange footstool).
  9. As I can only say a few names, I find it helpful to use the one name to refer to people who are similar. So, for example, every smiling boy I encounter is called “Ben”, because that’s my cousin. And when I see a friendly-looking man, I call him “Dad”. Of course, strictly speaking, my dad doesn’t have a turban and or a long white beard like the “dad” at the library today, but the general vibe is similar.
  10. I like to wake up and call for you just a little while after you’ve gone to bed. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this special timing? My heart melts when you stumble all sleepy-eyed and messy-haired into my room, looking a little lost. I wrap my arms around you and hold you tight, thinking how safe and contented you must feel to have a lovely cuddle with me before going back to sleep. But don’t worry, sweet Mummy, I’m just next door and I’ll be sure to check on you a few more times throughout the night. You’re welcome.                                                                            Water is for putting things in

Dear Fickle Four-Year-Old

Dear Four-Year-Old,

Gracious, what was I thinking? Purple is obviously a completely unsuitable colour for knickers. Just because your favourite spoon is purple, I was misguided to assume this preference should extend to undergarments. Lying on the floor weeping is a perfectly reasonable response to the suggestion you might wear such a heinous item to bed.

You’re right: toast should be cut into squares, never triangles. What a shock it must have been to see your snack so grossly disfigured. Daddy was ignorant of the Laws of Toast and got it very, very wrong. You have pointed out his error in a direct and persuasive manner which I doubt he will forget.

I’m sorry for telling you to get on the toilet right now, when your imaginary big sister was sitting on it. It wasn’t your fault that she was taking her own sweet time, and it’s not as if you could have sat on top of her. That would have been awkward. Of course you were upset given my lack of understanding in a complex situation.

The dog should not have allowed her tail to touch the sticker on your leg. Fur against stickers against skin is extremely distressing. No wonder you screamed and lost your appetite for dinner.

I’m sorry the sun is shining on your car-seat while your brother’s is in the shade. It is very unfair and thoughtless of it to do so. No wonder you shed tears at the injustice of life.

I was foolish to offer you a banana when you only like to eat bananas at the zoo.

Please forgive me for speaking to your brother when you were composing a song, thus interrupting the inspired flow. During future song-writing sessions we will remember to wear our soft-soled moccasins and carry out all essential communication in sign language.

I should not have asked you to carry your shoes inside from the car. My arms may have been laden with two bags and a toddler, but I have a pair of perfectly good ears from which I could have hung your shoes – if I was prepared to be a bit more considerate.

Dear Four-Year-Old, thank you for clearly and articulately highlighting my mistakes, lest I ever start to become conceited. And thanks for reminding me daily that I am most certainly not the centre of the universe.

Love from Mummy.

Phases of the Baby

Since becoming a parent, I’ve found myself talking a lot about phases. He’s in a phase where he’s hungry all the time. She’s in a really clingy phase. He’s in a grizzly, unsettled phase. I‘ve noticed that other parents do it too. I think that part of the reason they use this term is to convince themselves that the challenging behaviour their baby or child is currently displaying (and every age features some kind of challenging behaviour, right?) will soon cease. It’s not a rigid habit and it’s not a personality trait, it’s just a phase. This too shall pass.

I wonder if on a subconscious level, voicing the nonchalant statement, it’s just a phase helps parents reassure themselves that they haven’t completely lost control. They’re saying, things might look and sound chaotic right now, but I know what I’m doing. As the parent of any young child will attest, daily reality has a way of changing rapidly. Maintaining even the mere illusion of serenity can be a challenge. In truth, the parent could be flailing desperately to keep her head above water and at a loss to explain why what worked perfectly yesterday doesn’t work at all today – like the poor tadpole who spent weeks merrily flitting around underwater, only to grow lungs overnight and suddenly find itself frantic for a ledge to sit on.

I spent the first four or so months of Elijah’s life quietly congratulating myself for having such a placid baby. Once a night he would gently alert me to his desire for a feed with soft little grunts and snuffles. Then, milk-drunk he would contentedly settle back to sleep. Now my little boy has hit six months and entered a phase where he’s waking a lot at night, anxious for a cuddle and a feed. This has coincided with a noisy phase, in which he’s keen to explore his vocal capabilities at all hours of the night. This month he’s learnt to say, “dada”, and he’s also learnt to shriek like a banshee.

Of course, the logical conclusion is that he’s hungry. He is however, decidedly nonplussed about the idea of solids: whatever thoughtfully prepared puree I poke in with a spoon, he immediately pokes back out with his tongue and a ribbon of bubbly spit. I’m going through the motions because it’s what I’m meant to do, but so far it seems like rather a pointless and baffling endeavour to us both.

Another topic parents like to talk about is how tired they are – which is really quite boring. So all I’ll say is that in truth I’m feeling worn out and a little defeated by this phase. Will it come to an end on its own, or do I need to take drastic action to help my baby transition to a new phase? I’m floundering about, looking for some respite from the relentlessness of broken sleep and a demanding baby.

Then last night, in the middle of a particularly long and frustrating week: a moment as sweet as it was ordinary. I’m singing to Elijah as I undress him for his bath (my own variation of “The National Association of ‘W’ Lovers” from Sesame Street). As I chorus, “Uh, uh, uh, uh,” he erupts into riotous fits of giggles. Mouth a wide, gummy “O”, chubby arms windmilling excitedly in the air. I scoop him up and cradle him in my arms: my nude, squishy, divine little baby boy. “Uh, uh, uh, uh,” I sing again, and he actually throws his head back, squealing with mirth. His bright eyes hold mine, utterly delighted with what I am doing.

And all at once, I’m the frog that’s found its ledge. My heart is full and gosh I feel SO good about myself. We’re looking and laughing at each other with pure joy and adoration. And I’m thinking, let this never pass.Image