Photo © MooMoo Kids
I am rapidly learning that every day with a little human is a school day. Not only are they learning new things seemingly every day, but we, as their parents, are too. We sometimes might think we’ve got it all together and have some sort of an idea as to what we’re doing, but our little ones can very quickly bring that notion crashing down.
Today was one of those days. It started off nicely. We had tea together in bed whilst she watched Hey Duggee and I caught up on some work. I made us breakfast and we had it in bed too (Daddy is away this week, so we’ve been having lovely lazy mornings together). Our Top Tots class started back today, and I was very excited at the prospect of 2 hours of playtime for her that I didn’t have to think up. I love being a stay at home mama, I really do, and I am fully aware of the privilege I have to be able to spend my time at home with her whilst others have to go back to work. However, spending your days thinking of games to play, or activities to do to keep your 2-year-old amused and not drawing pen on her belly (yes that happened yesterday) is pretty tiring. So I look forward to the days of structured play for babe, and to be able to chat to grown ass adults too. Anyway, I digress… We live a 10-minute drive away, and I worked out that as long as we left the house by 8.45am, we would arrive on time, if not a little early for the 9am start. I then worked out that in order for that to happen, I would need to start organising and getting ready by 8.15am…
That was my first mistake. Allowing myself 30 minutes to get dressed, brush teeth, do hair and make-up (don’t judge me, I look like a hobo otherwise), pack a couple of snacks for the little one, get her dressed and teeth brushed and change her nappy. You see in a normal household, with just 2 adults to consider, that is more than enough time. However, when you throw a little person into the mix, then you begin to realise you’ve underestimated how much time is needed.
I started an episode of Hey Duggee which would give me approximately 9 minutes of free time to begin getting ready, before I needed to gallop back downstairs to put the next episode on (seriously, why are the episodes so flippin’ short?!). I then went upstairs and had a wash, grabbed Olivia some clothes to wear, a nappy and her relevant creams (I was trying to save time by not having to take her upstairs). Whilst up there I grabbed a bra and t-shirt and put those on and then “folded” my PJs on my bed ready for bath time later (I’ve got into the habit of bathing with Olivia and putting my PJs straight on… at 6pm). I put my moisturiser on my face and then came back downstairs as I could hear Duggee begin his Duggee Hugs which indicates the end of the show. I put some jeans on and I then made my second mistake. I tried to change her nappy in a rush…
Anyone with a toddler, or even an active babe will understand the saying… “oh FFS”… and it is normally thought, or often said out loud in an exasperated whisper as your child begins their alligator roll. You know what I’m talking about. One minute they’re lying there all complicit as you take their bottoms off and undo their nappy. Then, just as you reach for a wipe, or some bum cream, their right arm comes across their body to grip the side of the changing mat. You quickly grab their ankles in a desperate attempt to prevent the roll, but they then muster up the strength of 4 grown men and begin to roll. More often than not they start to levitate their bottom halves whilst keeping a vice like grip onto the changing mat whilst you’ve got hold of their ankles at the same time, and before you know it your little human has flipped onto their tummy.
I try to turn her back over. Not a chance. I figure I’ll just rather try to continue with her laying on her tummy, seeing as she’s so happy she’s lying that way. I begin to attempt to put some cream on her. I kind of guess where about it should land, as at this moment, it’s all about speed rather than accuracy as she’s momentarily lying still. I think to myself that if she pees later she will probably have a protected thigh at least… then I try to put the nappy on and quickly realise it’s impossible. You can’t do it whilst they’re lying on their front. There begins my next mistake. I try again, to turn her back over. I pick her up and she begins flailing about on me with a floppy top half reaching for the sky whilst the bottom half is pedalling away like Fred Flintstone. In an effort not to drop her, I pull her close to me and now I’ve got a bum shaped smear of Sudocrem on my shirt. Awesome. In the end I just put her on the floor and off she ran, simultaneously laughing and crying like a semi-naked crazy person, whilst I’m left standing there with a smear down my top thinking… “well at least she was clean this time”.
I eventually wrangle a nappy onto her and get her dressed, teeth brushed and have combed her hair, so she at least doesn’t look as dishevelled as her Mama. It’s now 8.40am. I’ve literally got 5 minutes to attempt to put some make-up on so I don’t quite look like I’ve been dug out of the ground that morning, do something with my hair and brush my teeth. Not to mention to grab her snacks and get us both into the car. I decide I have to sacrifice either fixing my hair or wearing make-up. Make-up wins as I can do it in 5 mins and it can make me look like I made a slight effort at least. My hair however, looks like a bird’s nest and is in desperate need of a trim so to even attempt to get a tangle tease through it is a 30-minute job (I’ve long hair). I have been wearing it in braids for the last 3 days, and I literally roll out of bed, flatten it back down a bit so it doesn’t look quite as scruffy, or if I’ve time, I re-braid it. Today, time was a luxury I didn’t have, so I tidied it up as best I could. By tidy, I mean I ran my hands over the top of it to try to tame the wispy bits which were making me look a little unhinged, and then rolled up the plaits into a knot. I quickly brushed my teeth, grabbed some crackers (Mama of the year!) and hurriedly told Olivia that we were going as we were going to be late.
There was my next mistake. To mention the late word. Of course Olivia now decides that she actually doesn’t fancy leaving the house. In fact, she has found far more interest in looking at her red plastic bucket. I take the bucket, and in my rush, toss it to one side saying “come on Olivia, we are late. You can play with that later”. What a wally. She of course, reacted like any normal 2-year-old would and started shouting “bucket, bucket” as I’m trying to close the door to the house whilst try to think if I’ve actually got my keys and everything I need. I then distract her for a millisecond and we head to the car.
I then make my biggest mistake of all by simply picking her up and trying to put her into the car seat. She reacts as if it’s made from acid and starts to cry and arches her back rigid whilst siding down the car seat and out of the bottom. I take her out and explain that we’re late, and we’re going to Top Tots now to see her friends, and she needs to get into the car. She declares “no”. We try again, only for the response to now be that little bit louder. This dance continues for what seems like hours, back and forth. She starts shouting, so do I. I can feel my blood rise as I start to also lose the plot. I then grab her out of the car and sit her on the passenger seat and shout at her. Well done. She cries even harder. I look at my watch, it’s now 9.10am. I pick her up and say sorry for shouting, and then try again to get her into the car seat. Same response. In my panic I decide to just force her into it. The result, as you can imagine, was not pretty. She began screaming like I was murdering her, and I started to shout at her to just get in the bloody car seat. I eventually shoe horn her in and she is still understandably crying. I lamely offer her a biscuit which she slaps away from my hand. I simply get into the front seat and set off. And then I cry. She’s still crying in the back, and now I’m crying in the front. Who did I think I was? What on earth was I teaching her? Just because I was bigger and stronger than her I used that to get what I wanted. To get her to sit in that chair because I wanted us to leave now. How frightened must she have been? To see her own Mama not only lose her mind and begin shouting at her, but to also be rough with her and force her into the chair. (Even writing this fills me with such shame and guilt.)
I am normally pretty calm, and I try to understand where her tantrums are coming from and to try to see things from her point of view. If I’m starting to lose my mind I either walk away for a minute or take a few breaths to calm down (and sing ‘Let it Go’ to myself). How am I supposed to teach my little girl about big emotions and how to handle them, if I can’t myself? But I’ve only been doing this Mamahood job for 2 years, and I’m also still learning. This is the most important job of my life, but it comes without a handbook or instructions. All I can do is try my best and understand that I too, will make mistakes, but it’s how I learn from them that will let me grow as a Mama. I’m only human, and whilst I have promised myself and Olivia that I won’t ever behave like that again, I know that there will come a time when I lose my shit and shout and swear. However, the difference next time will be that I won’t ever use my size to my advantage, and if we’re late, then that is my fault, not hers, and I must bear the consequences of that, not her.
We rocked up at Top Tots some 20 minutes late, both of us with tear stained faces and snot, whilst everyone else was singing 2 little birds happily. What a chop.
So, I learned a few valuable lessons today. Most important was that I need to manage my time better, and to have the time to explain things to my toddler rather than to just “do things” and expect her to keep up. I find when I explain to her what’s about to happen then 90% of the time things go smoothly. The moment I try to do things for her, rather than with her, that’s when it all goes to shit. Which makes sense. In hindsight.
I also learned just how strong-willed, sassy and spirited my little girl is, and whilst at times that is absolutely infuriating, it also makes my Mama heart proud. As the Shakespeare quote goes “though she be but little, she is fierce”, so apt in my child’s case.
I also learned what not to do the next time a situation like that occurs. That even though I may feel like she is being awkward, or difficult in that moment in time, that in actual fact she isn’t. She’s learning and doesn’t yet know how best to communicate and express how she’s feeling. That more often than not, her tantrums are a result of her being hungry or tired, and to remember to think “why” she is having a meltdown and to remedy it, rather than fixate on the tantrum itself. Easier said than done, I know.
After chatting to some of my Mama friends, I’ve compiled a list of the lessons that both myself and they have learnt so far on this Mamahood journey:
- Braids are my best friend. I can literally wash my hair once a week (we’re in a drought don’t you know, plus who actually has time to blow dry their 5m of hair?)
- 2 year olds have more skills than a hostage negotiator. There’s something impressive about that when you consider they are also still learning to talk!
- People with kids are always late. They don’t do it to be irritating, and they sure don’t enjoy arriving late, but they are. I used to get so irritated with my friends who simply couldn’t keep to a time. Who seemed to faff for 3 days to just get out of the house. Then I had my own child. I try my hardest to be on time, but in reality, if I’m only 10 minutes late for something then it’s been a success. And no, I’m not a rude person, and my time certainly isn’t more important than yours.
- Things take far longer than I expect. Always, always add an additional 30 minutes onto your leaving time.
- The TV is not an enemy. When I was a naïve pregnant person I was horrified at the mere mention of my child ever watching TV… fast forward 2 years and I let my little one go goggly-eyed for an hour so I can get my work finished, or make a cup of tea or lets be honest, to go to the bathroom in peace. No she doesn’t watch it all day. No she isn’t watching something educational like David Attenborough. But can I make a cup of tea without tripping over her? Absolutely.
- My kid’s favourite word is no.
- They’re still learning life. They don’t do any of this to irritate their parents.
- I say her name at least 501 times a day. Most of the time seemingly to myself.
- Learn and memorise the words to “Let it go”. Sing them out loud when you are losing your sanity. Things that used to concern me no longer do.
- On the back of the lesson above, we’re only human. It’s absolutely natural and normal to lose your own shit as they’re losing theirs. It is frustrating, irritating and exhausting at times when you need your little one to do a simple task (such as sitting in their car seat) and sometimes our own emotions can take over our rational thoughts.
- I have learnt that although she is a little person, she is still that, a person in her own right. And I should respect her enough to listen to her rather than think I know better.
- Time is the biggest gift you can give your child. They don’t care what your house looks like, they simply love spending time with you.
- Whenever you say a sentence that begins with “Don’t”, your toddler will hear everything after the word don’t.
- When I consider the “why” behind the tantrum, rather than the tantrum itself, it is much easier to remain calm.
- Don’t concern yourself with what other people are doing or appear to be. Instagram and Facebook photos are fake, people post the edited versions of their lives. I can assure you that we’re all guilty of swearing under our breath and flipping the bird to our toddler when they’re not looking.