“Where are we going TODAY, Mummy?”

This question is one of the first to be spoken by The Boy pretty much every morning upon waking, and after every nap. Today, it got me thinking.

Are we guilty of spoiling him with activities, outings and attention?

We have just spent an entire weekend based in the house and garden. I honestly can’t remember the last time we did that. Oh, wait, yes I can: it was when we were in chicken pox isolation a few weeks back. But believe me, it hardly ever happens.

This time, we didn’t necessarily plan to stay at home; we were just busy trying to Get Things Done. Going away for a couple of weeks can often have that knock-on effect can’t it? The house desperately needed cleaning from top to bottom; our freezer of homemade meals (that’s how we generally roll folks) was severely depleted and Pipsqueak needed some purees making up; our kitchen cupboards were shouting out for a tidy (every time we opened them, tupperware lids and baby bottles would fall to the floor as we are forever shoving things away with too much haste); the garden needed weeding; the last couple of days of rainy weather had meant that the laundry pile had begun to overflow again…you know, The Usual. The Mundane.

So, The Boy has spent two days in the garden (the sun was out – hooray!). We managed to get a fair few jobs ticked off the list. Hubby deserves an award for his sterling effort in the kitchen. We now have batches of chicken, sweet potato and apple casserole (plus purée form for Pipsqueak); pea and courgette soup (plus chunkier purée version); broccoli and courgette gratin purée; tomato, cauliflower and basil purée; bolognese portions and an amazing lasagne with surprise butternut squash layer… Nom nom!

'Helping' with the food preparation.
‘Helping’ with the food preparation.

The house is clean and tidy, bedding changed and kitchen cupboards given a quick tidy. Three more loads of washing have been line dried, folded and aired. The garden is a bit neater.

But boy was it a juggling act!

It didn’t help that poor little Pipsqueak is suffering from her fifty-millionth cold and cough. She has been snotting, wheezing and grizzling away instead of being her usual smiley self. Naps have involved lots of crying and resorting to rocking for at least 30 mins in the dark a la the Olden Days. But she was happy for a fair while in the Jumperoo and then in the ball pool. In fact, The Boy was infinitely more demanding than her.

To give a flavour:

I present him with a ‘new’ (second hand) Scuttlebug.
He spends 5-10 minutes scooting around and loving it but needs our attention constantly: “This is left, Daddy. And then you go along and you turn RIGHT! Look Mummy, LEFT and RIGHT! Look! Am I right?”

"Left and RIGHT!"
“Left and RIGHT!”
Abandoned bug.
Abandoned bug.

I set up the ball pool for Pipsqueak.
The Boy dives in, sticks his tongue out and demands a photo.

Stock photo pose!
Stock photo pose!

Hubby sets to the weeding.
The Boy wants to help. He disappears into the shed and comes out wielding a garden fork with rather sharp ends. Close supervision is required from then on.

The mini trampoline is brought out.
He jumps and sings for all of 30 seconds then lies down and shouts out for Miro to join him: “Miro needs to sleep underneath with me, Mummy. Mummy, WHERE’S Miro Cat? I WANT Miro! Mummy find him? Peease?” (Despite him admitting tiredness at this point and me offering to fetch his blankie, he refuses to really have a snooze – damn!)

Miro returns to our garden.
The Boy is ecstatic and spends 5 minutes stroking him, tickling him and feeding him breakfast (grass). It’s lovely to see and Miro is very tolerant, but again a close eye is required as he will lash out if his tummy is grabbed or his tail pulled a bit too forcefully.

A toddler version of a nerf gun is brought from the shed.
This backfires (literally!) as he needs help loading it each time and insists on firing the small balls into the flowerbeds: “Where did it GO, Daddy? I can’t see it!”

"Where's my big brother gone now?"
“Where’s my big brother gone now?”

Other toys and activity stations such as the sandpit are left untouched.
This is despite much encouragement to engage with them. “I want to do something DIFFERENT Mummy. What can I do that’s DIFFERENT?”

In short, The Boy just isn’t into independent play. Is this a consequence of his upbringing to date?

We have always given him a lot of attention. Partly because it brings us pleasure; partly because we believe this is a good thing for development and self-confidence. He also gets a lot of one-on-one attention from Grandma when she has him. But has this led to an expectation of attention 24-7?

Do we spoil him with experiences? From a tiny baby, he has taken part in a huge range of classes and activities outside the home, as well as trips and outings at least twice a week. He is only 2¾ and has been to:

  • Maracajacks music sessions
  • Baby Sensory
  • Baby signing
  • Swimming lessons
  • Little Kickers football sessions
  • Toddler group
  • Play dates galore
  • Trips to local parks (inc splash pool in the Summer)
  • Soft play centres
  • Multiple trips to numerous local country parks and forests
  • Regular trips to local child- friendly garden centres
  • Rides on miniature steam trains
  • Regular visits to our local zoo, plus 2 other zoos included on the pass
  • Farm visits
  • Aquarium visits
  • Woodland walks
  • Seaside walks
  • Sandy and stony beach play
  • Marina trips (including the local ‘pink ferry’)
  • A trip to London on the train
  • A wedding in Scotland (involving a plane journey)
  • A Dorset camping trip
  • A holiday on the Isle of Wight (ferry trip and lots of cool day trips)
  • A stay at Centre Parcs (including an owl experience, seeing wildlife up close, swimming etc)
  • Our recent road trip (Scotland, Wales).

Just writing this list has exhausted me, and it’s not even an exhaustive list!

Undeniably, these experiences have helped with his learning and development, especially as they are always talked about and analysed afterwards. I also feel that another positive is that he is not afraid of new experiences. For example, starting preschool one morning a week at the age of 2½ was taken in his stride, and during his recent holiday he wasn’t phased by moving on regularly and sleeping in 5 different beds in the space of 2 weeks.

Life is one big adventure!

And don’t get me wrong, he finds a trip to the doctors and chemists just as ‘thrilling’ as many of the items on the list. As long as he has our attention 100% of the time. (Apologies to the doctor today who was constantly interrupted during our supposed 5 minute appointment: The Boy was on a high from playing with the Brio in the waiting room with full attention from myself and another elderly patient).

It is probably one of those nature-nurture questions which could be debated until the cows come home. Or perhaps we should ‘blame’ astrology – he is a Leo after all, just like his mumma!

“Let’s talk about ME.”

My boy LOVES to talk.  He may not be able to jump yet, is overly cautious on climbing equipment and is reluctant to try out his balance bike. But he’d be a champ at a 12 hour toddler chat-a-thon.  I don’t know WHERE he gets it from.

In the afternoons when I go in to get him up from his nap, as long as he is already awake, he often likes to instigate a conversation (otherwise, of course, he is a right grump).

One much-rehearsed conversation point is a(nother) recount of his day so far:  “This morning we…”.  This is a prompt for me to talk about the highlights of the morning; a story peppered with plenty of questions for him to answer – posed by me and by him. He positively digs a question and answer session: he’s going to be a right teacher’s pet when he gets to school.

I like this one as it makes me realise how much learning is going on in his little head-nod.  It also allows me an imaginary pat on the back that he is enjoying lots of memorable experiences at such a young age.  It’s often a great opportunity to praise him again for good behaviour, talk to him about bad behaviour and consequences and also of course to help him to make sense of the world.  Once a teacher, always a teacher!

Yesterday he surprised me with “Let’s talk about Daddy.  I like Daddy,” which I found endearing (but what about Mummy?!).  In response to my question “What does Daddy like?” he replied, “Going to Marks and Spencer shop and going up and down on the moving stairs!” which is, of course, one of the things HE likes doing on a rainy day with Daddy.  (Daddy just so happens to rate the M&S flat white.)

But my all-time favourite has to be the totally innocent and self-indulgent “Let’s talk about ME!” (said with the world’s biggest grin).  He loves to be reminded about how gorgeous and handsome he is; he is his father’s child through and through. We talk about his likes (currently preschool, sharks, dinosaurs, the zoo, singing, numbers, letters, shapes, digging, our cat, hugs, Julia Donaldson books and Tinga Tinga Tales on CBeebies) and dislikes (the duvet cover being on his bed, doing anything under time pressure, his sister crying and getting dressed). We talk about family and who loves him and he recites his home address. We talk about how brave and confident he has been starting preschool and how clever he is that he knows all his shapes and can count so well. And he smiles and smiles and smiles.

And so do I.

Blog post 6Yes, toddler egocentrism can be downright frustrating at times, but I can’t help but love this side of it. Long may his self-belief and confidence last before self-consciousness and social conventions squash such natural, unrestrained self-adoration.

Mummascribbles

“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
Friday Frolics