Little Girl is two and a half. Everyone knows about the ‘terrible twos’, obviously, but did you also know that there is a body of opinion that claims an ‘equilibrium/disequilibrium’ theory? When small children are in whole years, they tend to be in equilibrium, when they are in half years, they are in disequilibrium.
If you’re not a childhood behavioural expert, I’ll translate: this basically means that 2.5 year olds are total hellions.
This is the bit of the article where I should tell you to be firm, consistent and fair. Or to talk to children at their level. Or to suggest pro-active ways to head off the worst tactics. But I’m not going to, and you already know why; because if that worked, you wouldn’t be frantically googling ‘how to cope with a toddler’ at 2am whilst your offspring repeatedly shrieks I NO WANNA DO ANYFING in the background.
So instead, I am going to share a little vignette with you of a typical morning chez Ashworth. For no reason than to make you feel better about your own lives.
It is 6.30 am. Elder Daughter is slumbering in her bed, inexplicably sideways, peaceful despite her blankets being puddled on the floor and her bare feet hanging over the edge of the bed. A moat of forlorn soft toys bob disconsolately around the sleeping area. Across the corridor slumber her parents, deeply immersed in dreams of domestic debris. The house is quiet except for one piping voice coming from the Toddler Pit:
“Daddy cwokdile, Daddy cwokdile, don’ bite me! don’ bite me! GNARGH AAAAAAHHHHH YUM. <pause> Mummy cwokdile, mummy cwokdile…”
The parents, that would be me and Lovely Husband, awake and look at one another. After a significant pause, LH sighs: ‘Oh, alright, I’ll do it”, pulls on some clothes and heads into the Toddler Pit. Immediately, the happy voice morphs into a shriek: ‘NO! NOOOOOO! NO WAN’ DADDY! GO ‘WAY DADDY, I NO YIKE YOU. I YIKE MUMMY. NOOOOOOOOOOO!’.
With the speed of prey everywhere, I quickly get dressed, managing to pull on one leg of her tights before being bowled over by a tear-stained toddler running at full speed.
‘I can’t take off my nappy. You help me, Mama?’
‘Of course. Here, let me just loosen…’
‘NOOOOOOOO! MY DO IT!’
It is now 6.50am. Little Girl is now clutching her nappy, sodden with urine as it is, and glaring fiercely at the parent who might try and take this treasure away.
‘That needs to go into the bin, darling. You put it in? Or mummy do it?’
‘MY do it’
‘Alright, then. Go and put it in the bin, there’s a good girl’
‘Okay, then I will do it’
‘NOOOO! MY DO IT!’
This dialogue continues for some time. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the house, LH has cajoled the other child into its school uniform, unloaded the dishwasher, made coffee, prepared hot breakfasts, and ensured that all homework is in the correct bag. Also, I’m pretty sure the end of Western hegemony has occurred, and possibly also a tectonic shift has permanently reconfigured the geologic environment.
Upstairs, I lose patience, wrestle the revolting bundle away from Little Girl, and put it in the bin. Immediately, we go from a Cold War stand-off to the Battle of the Somme. Tears, grime, the bloodied corpses of my hopes and dreams.
After another five minutes, during which I wrestle uselessly with her before accepting that forcing a hysterical child step by step through the morning routine is impractical, and make a judicious concession.
Which, yes, is a fancy way of saying that I let her take the damn nappy back out of the bin and put it back in herself.
It is now just after 7am. I have to leave the house at 7.30. Neither of us are yet dressed.
Over the next thirty minutes, whilst Little Girl polishes off a large bowl of porridge and a cold sausage left over from yesterday (how? Where does she put it? She’s two foot tall!), we have the following arguments:
Which shoes she should wear to daycare; her sturdy, leather weather-appropriate sandals which fit well and were purchased at considerable cost, or a pair of cheap acrylic ballet flats blinged out with sequins, which are three sizes too big and belong to her sister?
Whether eating a bowl of porridge should be a static activity or one best performed while twirling around?
She needs a wee. But she can’t get her own pants off. But she doesn’t want help. But she doesn’t want to wee on the floor. Mummy should go away. Mummy help NOW.
I win one of these arguments.
It is now 7.30am. With the same mysterious alchemy that governs so many of our interactions, I am suddenly transformed from ogre to the most desirable person on the planet, merely by announcing my need to leave the house. I am firm, I am resolute; I kiss each child and drive to the bus stop, practically salivating at the prospect of forty minutes stuck in rush hour with a book.
Whereupon, obviously, I discover that Little Girl has taken my kindle out of my bag and replaced it with Mr Bump. Because that, my friends, is life with a toddler.
Admit it. You feel better now.