It is the eve of our third baby’s first birthday and I am surprised how quickly we are being catapulted out of the baby stage and into toddler town. He is mere days away from officially being a toddler and is exhibiting the tell tale signs. He is suddenly very taken with a book about a little train. The train does things like go through a tunnel and puff puffs on tracks, there’s even a bit were it goes ‘toot, toot’, are you excited yet? He routinely lurches out of my arms to grab it, flapping the beautiful and more imaginative story books out of my hands. It feels like it was only yesterday that I was reading ‘diggers and dumpers’ and ‘emergency vehicles’ board books every. single. day. Both cracking reads as you can imagine. They were often teamed with real life excursions too, if there was a jack hammer pounding through cement nearby, or a garbage truck or a fire engine in sight, we’d be there front row and centre, toddler in nirvana and me wondering how my life had come to this.
It’s been years since we’ve had a toddler in the house, my eldest two children are now in primary school and as we prepare to celebrate this milestone, the memories of the toddler years from baby number one (boy) and baby number two (girl) are flooding back. If you are about to embark on the toddler stage too, allow me to shed a little light, on four places you will be spending some of your time:
Ah, the park, where shall I start?
The park is the place that evokes unadulterated joy in a toddler but slightly different feelings in you. On some days it can be mind numbing, you might find yourself wishing for some tumble weeds to appear so as to at least have something to entertain yourself with. You won’t want to look at that tumbleweed for too long though, as the park can sometimes come with a side serving of anxiety and sheer terror if you have a particularly adventurous toddler. In saying that, I’ve seen the most tranquil of kids get completely taken out by a rogue swing. Toddlers and swings, like bees to honey.
At times, you may be lucky enough to meet up with friends which definitely quells the isolation but as soon as you are getting into really scintillating conversation you could well be interrupted by the sight of your little person dangling off the climbing frame inches from a broken arm or heading for the hole in the park fence that leads onto train tracks. You then have to drop the coffee and sprint for dear life. In my experience, this scenario could happen up to five times in one park visit.
The home play date
Next you try playdates with your friends and their beautiful toddlers. You’ve been friends since your kids were babies, they are like family. Surely this will be a bit relaxing, you can sit and drink tea while your cherubs play. Now that they are no longer babies, their play style has suddenly morphed into something you don’t quite recognise. They aren’t sharing and have started throwing trains at each other, one might have even bitten the other, but one of them has definitely bitten the button off the TV remote. They didn’t get the memo that you are best friends and you want them to be too. You haven’t had an uninterrupted conversation for most of the visit and the biscuit you ate is somehow stuck in your throat and won’t loosen, just like the planking toddler you are now trying to fold in half, so you can get them into their carseat and home in time for their nap. You drive home praying they won’t fall asleep as even 10mins means there will be no day nap and you sing Old MacDonald at full pelt, all the way home, to stall any drooping eyes.
The non-baby-proof visit:
A visit to a friend or relative’s house can often be a NIGHTMARE. Fancy hotels can also be in this category, so many seem to love abstract art and there is nothing quiet like a statue made out of cast iron spikes to get your toddler excited and RUNNING at breakneck speed in its direction. Then there is the visit to your great Aunty Flo’s. She has a great passion for knick knacks, especially the expensive porcelain kind, nestled all over the house on small toddler height tables, perfection. As soon as you enter the door your toddler lurches forward to swipe an entire table to the ground. You laugh nervously and proceed to spend the rest of the visit shadowing your toddler, walking inches behind them the entire time telling everyone there that you’d rather drink your tea and biscuit standing, thanks very much.
The toddler bedroom floor:
Toddlers often see no point in wearing anything more than an Emma wiggles tutu or a Batman outfit. To get your toddler out the door on time and properly attired for any event means you will have to get creative. I was often reduced to a barn animal. With one of our toddlers it was much speedier to get on all fours, twirk and cock my head to the side, ‘bow wow’, I’d pant. “Puppy wants to you to put your shoes on wuff wuff”. They in turn giggle and jump, “again, again!” they squeal. Round and round it then goes until you can hardly breathe and are sweating like a pig BUT the shoes are on, win!
Before having children I could never imagine how zipping up a simple hoodie on a two year old could leave you perspiring and as red as a beetroot. The comedian Michael Mcintyre’s side splitting bit ‘People with no kids don’t know’ showcases this scenario brilliantly. While you are there, watch the whole thing, it’s the perfect therapy after a long day with a toddler, you might want to snuffle up a box of chocolates too.
There is no doubt the toddler years are challenging. Even Robin Barker the bestselling author of Baby Love and The Mighty Toddler admits that she didn’t find the toddler years easy and preferred the teenage ones. Or maybe they will be a breeze for you and there will be other stages that pose more challenges. The thing is, the toddler years bring with them a rich tapestry of emotions but one thing is for sure, there will be moments, knock the wind out of you ones, that will be so beautiful and heart throbbingly exquisite that you will hold them in your heart forever more. I’ll gladly do all four things on this list again, just to get to see that chubby little toddler finger pointing out every single new thing with an emphatic ‘dair’ (there!), eyes shining with more wonder and excitement than you ever thought humanly possible. I’ll remember this very sentiment the next time a tumbleweed passes me by.