Disclaimer: This is a post about children and ting. If that ain’t your bag, then move along, come on, I haven’t all day.
My friends have toddlers. Not all of them. Some have babies. Some have babies AND toddlers. Some have none. Some have cats. But, my friend’s with toddlers have all, at some point, recounted tales of The Appalling Crap My Kid Did. And believe me, it is always appalling. Sometimes it involves redecorating with Sudocreme; my then ten month old did this, she was ever so pleased with herself. The best way to get Sudocreme off a pure wool carpet is to shut the door, ignore it, and never go in that room again. (P.S. It doesn’t come out of clothes either). Toddlers are also, would you believe it, fond of pens. Permanent markers, usually. And walls, TVs, Tables and chairs. Even if you don’t own any permanent markers, or pens at all actually, if you have a toddler then at some point they will find one and do a Picasso on your Ikea coffee table. More than once, it has involved pooing in the bath, my daughter was the one to do this. We bathed her and her brother together and he was absolutely disgusted. Obviously, I mean, it was POO. In the BATH. Weeing in the bath is absolutely fine, by the way. It is if you’re either a three year old boy or an almost two year old girl. Destruction of the home by your children: It WILL happen, just accept it. Your baby will also fall off the bed at some point by the way. If it hasn’t already. Humm. Where IS your baby right now?
Tantrums and challenging behaviour (that makes you drink heavily before Tree Fu Bloody Tom has come on Cbeebies) are really bloody difficult to deal with. What the HELL do you do? How do you address it? Tough love, naughty step or a more measured ‘I understand you are frustrated’ approach. I always thought I would fall into the latter category. I’m pretty much a massive hippie, you know. In some ways, at least. I breastfed my youngest until last month, so 22months. AND EVEN THEN, I felt guilty that I hadn’t made it to two years. 22 months of constant breastfeeding is a lot though. So maybe I can have a bit of a proudface about that. My eldest co-slept with me for ages and ages, and still naps in The Big Bed, he’s 3.5 now. My softly-softly-hippie ideals went out of the window when it came to dealing with standard toddler behaviour. Maybe it was because when my eldest was becoming more, ah, challenging I was already pregnant with my second. There are 19 months between them. What’s that like, you say? Bloody fucking difficult, that’s what it’s like. I was looking at photos of them both, from when we bought the baby home from hospital. My eldest was also a baby. Just a baby. A bigger baby, but a baby nonetheless. They’re very, very close now though, and my eldest refers to the baby as “My little sister, that’s my sister, oh no, what’s my sister doing?”. Cute.
Pregnancy hormones, and toddlers. That was fun. I had a very short crap threshold, with all things, but especially when trying to not lose my cool and cry whenever my eldest was playing up. When Baby came along, he (quite understandably) displayed lots of fairly difficult behaviour. I mean, who wouldn’t? What a huge change for someone so little to deal with. We did try to explain that soon there would be a new baby, his sister, but we loved him so very much, and he was our Grown Up Boy, and we were so proud of him. Read the books (The Baby Dances, made me do crying that, absolutely beautiful though) He was 18 months old. He couldn’t talk, he didn’t understand. He went through a stage of refusing to eat. Anything, at all. I knew he was hungry, because I could hear his stomach rumbling. But he wouldn’t eat. Refused everything. I became more and more hysterical, and finally after about three days of just drinking milk and water, my mother in law got him to eat. It was shaky ground, he still refused food from me but started to waver and eventually he started eating properly again. It wasn’t anything physically wrong with him (some idiots suggested he had ‘a twisted stomach’, I don’t think this is even possible) it was all a behavioural response to the huge changes. I just couldn’t keep my cool, I was so frustrated. I had taken advice from everywhere, but nothing was working. Coercion, bribery, compromise, consequences, nothing. In a similar vein, my son also stopped sleeping when he had just turned two. If he napped in the day, his nights would stretch out to him falling asleep at around 11pm. So, I cut his naps out. He’d fall asleep around 7pm, lovely jubbly. Then he’d wake around two hours later and NOTHING could convince him to go back to sleep. I don’t even know how we got round this, or dealt with it, but I do remember bedtime looming upon me and filling me with absolute dread. I remember being in tears, were we back to newborn sleep patterns again? Sleep training would have had to come from a professional; there was lots of short courses, books and support for sleep issues in a baby, under a year. Nothing for a toddler. I felt utterly lost. I started to really panic. A friend of a friend suggested that stronger and more consistent discipline in the day might then roll over to night times and she was most probably correct. I found the measured, calm, voice impossible. My son would scream and tear away from me and I would think “Look how STUPID you are making me look! I really cannot do this”, normally whilst trying to stop the baby from crawling into bushes of stinging nettles (every single playground I’ve ever seen has stinging nettles in the bushes. Why is this? Why? Why?) I’ve watched other parents since then, not in a critical fashion, and actually that’s how most people felt. You can say “I realise how frustrated you are, but it really is home time now” until you are blue in the face, but if your toddler still continues to lie on the floor and scream then it must be as fruitless as if you lay on the floor and cried too. Sometimes there is no why, or how, there just is. That’s just how it is, and it’s all you can do to keep each day ticking over, until you have an almost four year old and can look back and say ‘We got through this, but I don’t know how. Sorry’.
I was telling a friend how difficult it was parenting a toddler of around 2.5, and she had my every sympathies, my son was an absolute angel now and hers would be too, this too shall pass, you know – that kind of thing. She asked how I dealt with it, and my honest answer was, and is: I didn’t. I didn’t know what to do, and I don’t think I managed anything very well. We just scraped along, with no eating, sleeping, plenty of tantrums and tears but I don’t think I handled any of the situations I did particularly well. But, we’re both alive and well, and reasonably well adjusted. I think that’s the most important thing to take from this.