I am currently sharing my life with a nineteen-and-a-half-month old (which, ironically, is the very reason I rarely find time to update the blog that in part is supposed to be about her). It some ways it’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed since I first held that creased newborn in my arms, yet at the same time I am completely unable to remember her at any stage other than the one she is at right now.
Thank heavens for the endless photographs and the over-sharing blog posts – they are my memory.
Well what can I say: toddlers are, quite simply, fabulous.
Babies might be cute and cuddlesome, but toddlers are both cute and cuddlesome, hysterically funny and uninhibitedly joyous, madly inventive and endlessly curious, crossly independent one minute and lovingly affectionate the next.
Being witness to the enviable elasticity of their mental processes as they slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) begin to make sense of both the physical and the social world that surrounds them is a constant revelation.
It is also mind-numbingly exhausting, especially once they get into the swing of talking which is where we are at now. My daughter natters incessantly from the moment she summons me to her cot in the (far too early) morning, to the (far too short) lunchtime nap, and then on again until bedtime. About 75% of the chatting is done in English, but for every new word she casually tosses into conversation we have to execute a rapid mental-Rolodex through the three different languages, cross-checking the vagaries of her still-dodgy pronunciation against context until we hit the jackpot and can satisfy her with a vaguely coherent reply.
We are now lucky enough to have a narrator for everyone’s daily movements (and oh my, you don’t realise just how tedious those movements are until that happens). In her own sweet, but surprisingly comprehensible way she likes to ensure we know exactly what she is doing at all times, what she has just done, what she is about to do and what she would ideally like to be doing if we would just get our acts together and make it happen (ok, the last bit may be more implied than directly verbalised). We are also informed about what we are doing, what we have just done and what she thinks we should really be doing if we would just etc etc. And what she knows or imagines everyone of her acquaintance is doing, has just done and might conceivably be about to do.
She recites the names of every familiar object, creature, pet and person she spots, and enquires after those she doesn’t.
She listens to the vehicles passing along the road below our apartment, and identifies them: Bus, Mummy. Car. Moto (motorbike). Ape (Piaggio 3-wheeled jobby).
And the winsome inveigling is constant, as she tugs at my hand: Vin (come), Mummy! Play! Sit! Book! Animals! Song! Toys! Go outside!
A person in her own right. Who’d have thought it?! Admittedly still tiny – tiny little arms with tiny little blond hairs, tiny little legs and their tiny little calf muscles, tiny little feet and dinky little toes, wonderfully plumpsome cheeks on a tiny little face: an 80cm tall, 10.4kg version of the adult she will eventually become. My daughter who grew inside me for nine months, but who is an entirely separate being. It is quite a concept to get ones head around.
And then there is the independence – the frequently grazed knees and bumped forehead that speak of a combination of derring-do and still-uncertain coordination. I am torn between wanting to protect her from all harm, but also wanting her to be bold. I would like her to learn how to pick herself up and dust herself off, and I think that some lessons are actually safer if she learns her limitations/capabilities through trial and error, rather than relying on the panicky assumptions of her overprotective parents. But, oh, how poignant are those scraped plump knees…
I am hugely relieved to report that we have managed to ditch the pesky nappies, at least in the day time (bar the odd “Mummy, pee pee sofa” moment). Most of my feelings of relief stem from the fact that some months previously I had finally given up on the cloth nappies, bulk bought with such smug glee before her birth – the budget option never managing to fit her nether regions snugly enough to stop major piddle leakage. We went on to “eco” disposables, but even they didn’t manage to assuage the feelings of guilt that accompanied every dirty nappy on the first leg of its journey to the landfill.
Quite a few people have expressed surprise that we managed to crack it so early, but the entire transition was surprisingly smooth. I bought a potty when she was about 8 months old, just to see how she would react. She was unfazed at the first seating and even left a small offering, so we continued – when she woke up and after meals, usually. Sometimes she did, sometimes she didn’t; but it didn’t really matter either way. Then when the weather began to hot up, I decided to intensify things – she was mostly bare when we were at home anyway – so I put the potty out in clear view, and pounced every time she looked thoughtful and at least every hour to ninety minutes thoughtful or not. When we went out we took a little loo seat with us, and the same applied.
During the first few weeks there were a fair few spills – most memorably the turd my husband leapt forward and caught in the palm of his hand (whilst I dithered helplessly), as well as the one he tramped around the house on the bottom of his slipper.
But after about a month she seemed to have got it, and we haven’t looked back although I do have to be vigilant enough to pop her on regularly when she gets distracted by events and forgets to ask.
Discipline is another new, if slightly less welcome, component of our everyday lives. Trying to stop a toddler doing things they shouldn’t do and making a toddler do things they don’t wish to do is turning out to be a tricky business indeed. I have chosen not to indulge in any literature on the subject – the conflicting views that exist regarding almost every aspect of parenting just confuse me even further, instead I am plodding on pretty much as I have done since day one in my like-to-think-of-it-as-instinctive-but-am-mostly-winging-it, way of mothering.
Having observed other families in action, I drew the conclusion very early on that consistency is one of the keys.
Consistency is very very tedious and very very time-consuming, but I have a feeling it might pay dividends and have therefore decided it is worth all the mind-numbing repetition. We shall see. I have also opted for the explanatory route: Maya does or doesn’t do something, I explain why in fact she shouldn’t or should do it. She does or doesn’t do it a second time, so I then have to come up with some sort of undesirable outcome should she do or neglect to do it again. And then follow through.
Sometimes it’s easy: we don’t put crayons in our mouths because they might make us poorly. If you put the crayon in your mouth again we will stop colouring.
Sometimes not so easy: we don’t pick the flowers because the bees and butterflies like to eat them. If you pick another flower…ummmm… Mummy’ll bin all her balcony plants? You’ll never set foot in a garden again? No, not good. Ummmmm.
And often I just have to resort to distraction with a new and less destructive activity.
What I am trying my hardest to avoid, however, is losing the plot completely to screech variations of the following: “If I’ve told you once, I must have told you a million times – STOP PLAYING WITH THE BLOODY TOILET BRUSH!” or “BECAUSE I SAY SO!” or “If you do that again, the gentleman over there (yes, the one minding his own damn business) will get VERY cross with you!” plus the usual threats of punishments never to be carried out, and wheedling promises never to be fulfilled.
And once all you parents out there have stopped rolling on the floor laughing at my naivety, I would like to add that these are very early days. Revisit this blog in a year or two and you could well find a mother who swings between screaming like an incoherent harpy, bribing her child with an endless supply of calorific treats and turning innocent strangers into bogeymen at the slightest provocation.
So my little girl is getting bigger, and braver, and funnier, more opinionated and more recalcitrant, but also more loving. Arms are flung around my neck endless times a day, accompanied by a sighed Mummy into my ear. She scrambles across the bed in the morning, and before I know it, little hands are cupping my cheeks whilst she covers my face in kisses that make my knees weaker with adoration than any man has every achieved.
I did not know there was love like this – keep bringing it, Little One <3