“It is NOT breakfast time. It is lunch time.”

Swearing Black is Blue

In my last blog post ‘Planting a Seed’, I talked about the importance (for toddlers) of feeling in control. This desire is guaranteed to lead to regular altercations, frustration all round, tantrums (mostly from the little person) and sometimes, just sometimes, amusement (definitely only from the parent’s point of view).

Alongside ‘planting a seed’, a favourite strategy of mine is ‘reverse psychology’.  This ignites The Boy’s natural desire to object and want to do the exact opposite to what is being asked of him.  For example, the old trick of “So you’re not hungry; can I eat some?” when mealtimes are particularly slow, or “I don’t think we should go to playgroup today,” to spur him into getting his shoes and coat on.  I always allow myself an inward snigger when this works.

Our boy’s need for complete control has really stepped up a level now though: he is actually redefining reality! And it can pretty entertaining (when it is not completely tiresome of course).

His latest habit is making statements which he knows are untrue but that, importantly, are the exact antithesis to what we have just said. I’m not sure if this in itself is a toddler ‘thing’?  None of my real-life mummy friends seem to be experiencing it. Here, it is invading every aspect of life!

Let me provide some further examples (my personal top 10):

1.   Upon opening the curtains:
“Oh no! It’s raining!”
“It is NOT raining. It is a sunny day.”

2.   At preschool:
“The doors aren’t open yet – we’re early.”
“The doors ARE open. Everyone is inside. I want to go in NOW.”
(Everyone is actually standing outside within earshot).

3.  Reading a story:
“Can you find the toadstools?”
(Pointing to the toadstools) “Those are NOT toadstools! They are helicopters.”

4.  At lunch time:
“It’s pasta – your favourite!”
“It is NOT pasta. It is BEANS!”

Blog post 5a

5. Going up the stairs at nap time:
“Hurry up because your sister is getting overtired.”
“She is NOT tired. She is dancing.” (She is 6 months old and definitely not in a dancing mood.)

6. On the motorway:
“There’s the sign for Junction 9.” (As previously mentioned, The Boy is a number spotter.)
“It is not 9. It is ten. Ten! TEN!”

7.  Playing in his sandpit:
“Wow, that’s a big hole – have you hit the blue water [plastic] at the bottom?”
“It is not blue, it is ORANGE!”

Blog post 5b

8.  At 7pm:
“Daddy’s home!”
“Daddy is NOT home. Daddy is at work.”  (Actually Daddy is standing right in front of him, looking rather dejected.)

9.  As darkness descends:
“It’s morning time! I LIKE mornings.”

10.  At bedtime:
“Mummy loves you.”
“Mummy does NOT love me. You are NOT my mummy.”

You have to laugh…don’t you?

 

You Baby Me Mummy
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“I’VE got a good idea!”

Planting Seeds and the Quest for a Quiet Life

A successful day for a toddler is deemed as one where they’ve felt that THEY have been in control for the majority of the time. If you own a toddler, I am sure you are well aware of this and have undoubtedly developed a full repertoire of coping strategies just to get through each day without reaching for the wine bottle before wine o’clock.

Particularly savvy parents will have refined the art of planting an idea in such a way that their little person shortly afterwards presents it as their own, thus leading to a win-win scenario.

The opportunities for giving yourself an imaginary high-five or for secretly punching the air in triumph are, let’s face it, few and far between in the land of parentdom. Therefore, I feel the need to blow my own trumpet on this subject.

So far today today, I have surreptitiously managed to persuade The Boy to:

  • Choose to wear a warm jumper by alluding earlier to his love of birds, but in particular owls (his warmest jumper has an owl on the front):
    “I want to wear THIS one.”

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  • Clean his teeth in the morning (a very hit and miss affair here, I’m afraid) by selecting Clarabella Crocodile to read upon waking up: ‘She brushes and brushes and brushes her crocodile teeth.’ Thank you An Vrombaut:
    “NO! NOT downstairs yet; I haven’t bushed my teeef.”
  • Eat his breakfast in record time (The Boy’s habit of eating slowly is the cause of much personal stress and frustration) by eating mine greedily with much dramatic emphasis in role Daddy Pig. The boy does like a bit of am-dram.
  • Ride on his buggy board to our Maraca Jacks class (he loves to walk but it triples the journey time) by talking during breakfast about what a big boy thing it is to do; then being able to point out a very happy looking boy ‘racing’ past the window on the school run on one:
    “NO! I not want to walk. Buggy board, buggy board!”
  • Go upstairs to the class in the lift with me and Pipsqueak in the buggy (this lift is a particularly antiquated, noisy press-and-hold-the-button type one and he prefers the stairs) by talking on the journey about the ‘magic lift’ (he is ‘into’ magic since seeing a Meg and Mog DVD):
    “Can we go in the magic lift? PEEEASE?”
  • Leave the park after the allocated 30 mins (usually involves a tantrum) by talking about numbers and counting pushes on the swing, then reminding him of all the numbers on the houses and signs on the walk back (he is a bit obsessed ATM):
    “Can we go now? I want to do a NUMBER hunt!”

Blog post 4b

  • Happily eat eggy bread for lunch by reminding him on the walk home that he had collected some eggs from Grandma’s neighbour’s hens last week (these were not those eggs; he didn’t need to know that!).
    “Eggy bread! Yummy – I WANTED that!”

And it is only nap time!  I can definitely chalk today down as a GOOD DAY.

Of course this strategy, like all other parenting-a-toddler strategies, is relentless and exhausting and, let’s face it, cannot be maintained 24-7 unless you are properly super-human.

Factor in toddler tiredness, parental sleep-deprivation, time deadlines, siblings with their own wants and needs or any number of other challenges that occur in a standard day, and ALL control can and does go out the window. Like it probably will this afternoon. But we all have to celebrate small victories, don’t we? Happy toddler = slightly less frazzled mum.

Bottoms up!

“No Mummy NOT Incy Wincy Spider: Big FAT Spider!”

My two-year-old cracks me up.  Every day.  

If you have read my first couple of blog posts, you will probably have already realised that he can be quite vocally demanding.  Bossy, even.  Show me a toddler who isn’t.  But he is also quirky, mischievous and highly entertaining, and I love the bones of him.

Part of the reason for me starting to record his little sayings in writing is because I want to cherish them forever.  Childhood is woefully short and I know that even his most utterly frustrating outbursts will raise a smile and even have me reminiscing in the future.  His ‘little gems’ (as I call them) will have me laughing out loud.

Here is one of them.

At lunch time today I was asked to sing a song. Keen to sustain his good mood, I asked what he would like me to sing.  We started with a thankfully fairly succinct version of The Wheels on the Bus, then entered into an enthusiastic rendition of If You’re Happy and you Know It.  

So far so good.  His little legs were jigging to the rhythm under the table.  In between forkfuls he added the hand actions. His singing was endearing and even pretty much in tune (luckily it doesn’t look like he’s going to take after his dad in that department!).

Next?

Incy Wincy Spider peease Mummy,” he asked politely.  So I gladly complied. He doesn’t often request this and it brings back hazy but fond memories of my own childhood.  We sang it once through with aplomb.

“Again!” he declared happily.

Then…
“No, no, no! NOT Incy Wincy Spider: Big FAT Spider!”

But of course.  What else?  And so another traditional rhyme is creatively adapted according to the whim of a toddler.

This is not by any means the first or only musical demand I have had thrust upon me.  Also common in our household is:

“I want to dance, Mummy.”
Whereby the iPod is duly spurred into action. I have refused to download not yet got around to downloading any children’s songs onto it, but he takes great delight in boogying on down to a bit of Toots and the Maytals.  

I take great delight in watching him try to coordinate his body in time to the music.  His special move is all in the wrists!  Then his imagination kicks in:
“Look at ME Mummy.  I’m a lion!”
Priceless.

Blog post 3

His favourite trick is to reach up on tiptoes and whack the volume up REALLY loud.  When I am not sighing in exasperation, I am smiling broadly as I remember the days when I too used to have regular opportunities to get completely lost in music.

“Let’s make music, Mummy!”*
Which involves him emptying the whole box of toy instruments out onto the wooden floor with an Almighty clatter, then proceeding to bash and crash with much force on his drum, xylophone and pretty much any other hard surface within arm’s reach. If we’re especially lucky, the toy trumpet and the toy CD player will also be worked into the repertoire.

“I want a CDdvd on for breakfast. PEEASE?”
Daddy is the sucker for this one.  My morning head is not usually in the zone to comply.  I want to sometimes listen to the news like a normal human being.  But at the weekends, we are often listening to songs from his baby signing class or a number from the Julia Donaldson boxset that he got for Christmas.  Then, by default, I am singing them either out loud or (worse) on repeat in my head for at least the next 24 hours.

And when I decide to put on some chill out tunes for myself or listen to the radio?

“I NOT LIKE this, Mummy.  Mummy switch it OFF!”


* This is most often requested when I’m just getting/have got the baby off to sleep.

“I not like THAT one!”

There are some all-too-familiar phrases shouted by The Boy that must be spoken by toddlers umpteen times a day the word over. Universal toddler-speak if you will.

The Boy has been going through a bit of a negative spell recently.  At least, I hope it’s just ‘another phase’…it has been rather a while now.  Currently, his most often communicated phrases can pretty much be filed under one of two categories:

  1. His dislikes (those statements containing the all-encompassing ‘no’; phrases/sentences including the keywords ‘no(t) like’ or ‘no(t) want’).
  2.  His desires (‘I want’; ‘I do it’).

Today, just for fun,* I decided to keep a list of such declarations made by The Boy, along with a tally. Try it: it’s very satisfying, a little like crossing off numbers in bingo (I’d imagine). At the very least, it meant that with each irritating whine or shout there was a positive outcome too, in the form of a satisfying pencil mark and a smug ‘see – I’m right!’ smile.

My results are as follows, presented in categories in order of frequency from most to least often said (the teacher in me is loving this!):

1. “I not like…” (24 utterances)
Examples today included that story, that T-shirt, having to wear a jumper, tuna sandwiches, that cup, his sister’s feet touching him on the sofa during stories, that episode of Peppa Pig, shoes on, Maracajacks (the music class he’s been going to since he was 10 weeks old and always loves once he’s there), his nappy being changed, his teeth being cleaned… The list goes on and on.

Blog post 2

2. “I want…” (19 utterances)
More grapes, one more Mr Maker, Mummy’s phone, another story, to ‘do’ numbers, to go in the garden, his felt-tips down from the shelf, the volume up loud on the iPod, stickers, to bash the hell out of his toy drum (whilst his sister is napping, naturally).

3. “I not want…” (11 utterances)
To go downstairs, breakfast, shepherd’s pie, to sit at the table, to have a nap, to go upstairs.

4. “I do it!” (7 utterances)
How dare I try to unzip his sleeping bag, hurry him up the stairs by lifting him the last few, choose the game he can play on the tablet, feed the playdough into the logging machine (don’t ask!), count the triangles in his shape book or pull the bath plug?  Outrageous.

Life is so flipping black and white for these little people!
They see it as their prerogative that their wants MUST be met; after all, their needs were as a baby. The universe centres around them.  And of course it opens that whole parenting can of worms about when to indulge them (for a quiet life) and when to teach them that the real world sadly doesn’t operate that way and throw some ‘no’s right back at them!

The child in me loves the idea of playing The Boy at his own game: “Well I don’t like boys who are stroppy/unreasonable,” or “And I don’t want to sit here for another 20 minutes while you do everything in your remit to avoid eating your lunch.” But obviously that strategy always backfires and ends up with him teetering dangerously on the edge of the black hole that is tantrum central.  Also, of course, hearing these words being spoken out loud makes me shudder at what a mum I have become.  Much like at work when I catch myself doing the teacher’s raised eyebrows or telling a pupil, “It’s your time you’re wasting, not mine.” (Lie.) Fitting the stereotype and inwardly squirming as a consequence.

I know ‘they’ say that ignoring is the best strategy, and I try, really I do. And, considering the frequency of the outbursts, I think a 50% success rate in doing this is admirable. Let’s admit, it takes A LOT of effort to keep natural reactions in check, particularly when sleep deprived.

Confession time: Sometimes, whilst ‘ignoring’, I have been known to gesticulate wildly (behind The Boy’s back of course), violently mouth profanities (again, not in his eyeline) or swiftly exit the room to sit on the bottom stair and sob.  We’ve all been there…haven’t we?

Oh and guess what? Ignoring it doesn’t always work. You know, much like the ‘put them down drowsy but awake’ advice of the early baby years. Maybe this only happens under our roof, but The Boy takes such offence at not being listened to that he ends up just shouting it louder and louder and LOUDER.

It has taken a while (and hats off to the hubster here, for it was he who forged the way with this strategy, having infinitely more patience than me) but we have found that the secret to a (slightly) less shouty household lies in good old-fashioned bribery. Even this took a tonne of patience to ‘teach’; the main hurdle being finding opportunities where he actually complied to a request in order for him to see the positive consequence. Luckily The Boy considers extra stories at naptime and bedtime, Innocent smoothies and educational games on the tablet to be ultimate treats. Ha! We win. Here’s hoping that these preferences will last.

Nowadays, the usual exchange goes something like this:

Me: It’s lunch time.
Boy: It is NOT lunch time!
Me: Err, it IS lunch time. Look – pasta! Your favourite.
Boy: I not WANT pasta! No, no, no! NOT pasta!
Me: (Sigh) But you love pasta. Look – its got yummy butternut squash and chicken in it.
Boy: I not LIKE chicken. Yuk. I want to PAYY (play).
Me: (In my best teacher voice, calm and low) E, do you want a story at nap time?
Boy: (Sulkily) Yes.
Me: Well then, you need to eat your lunch. If you don’t eat your lunch, then no story. Do you understand?
Boy: Yes.
(I battle him into his seat and, with many more words of encouragement, he reluctantly proceeds to eat. VERY slowly.)
Me: (Adjusting my face into an animated, inviting smile) E, if you eat up ALL your pasta in BIG mouthfuls like a dinosaur, you can have a smoothie!
Boy: Oh yes! I LOVE smoovees!
(Eating speeds up to approximately half the desirable speed. I concede that half-speed is probably ‘good enough’ – I am tired of this cringeworthy pantomime. I manage to get The Boy down for his nap minutes before Little Miss is about to turn from smiley happy adorable bubba to ferociously eye-rubbing overtired nightmare bubba. A hollow victory is once more mine.)

Any of this sound familiar?

In conclusion, as much as it pains me to say so, it looks as though some stereotypes ARE worth conforming to. Let’s all just admit it: There is such a thing as ‘universal mum-speak’ too. And it is every bit as irritating as the little people’s negative outbursts.

* I know, I know. How my life has changed.

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