“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!

“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.

“Mummy DON’T say that!”

Today, as The Boy stopped me in my verbal tracks for the umpteenth time with these forceful words, it finally dawned on me that our two-year-old really IS the boss of our family.

Surely this kind of phrase (minus the pronoun obviously) is to be expected from a teenager, not a mere toddler?

In past weeks as these words have been uttered, I have experienced surreal flash-forwards to the teenage years.  They seem so remote right now but will undoubtedly arrive in an instant.  I can imagine it so clearly:

“Muuuum, that is SO uncool.” (Or whatever the trending expression of utter distaste happens to be by the year 2025 or thereabouts – gulp).

By then, however, I will surely delight in embarrassing my charges?  The reality is that in the here-and-now I find myself all too often treading on eggshells in order to avoid that ever- bubbling and totally time-wasting toddler tantrum.

Yes boss, sure boss, whatever you say boss!

He likes to set the rules, this boss. And then change them sometimes multiple times a day.

I’m pretty certain that if The Boy was my actual employer I’d have jacked the job in out of pure frustration or at the very least filed an official complaint for unfair expectations.

This job is for life though.  For a (comparatively) easy life, I stop what I was saying and even inwardly chastise myself for causing this unhappy outburst (for now I will inevitably have to  spend the next  ten minutes distracting him from his bad mood).

The trouble is, the mind of a toddler is in equal measures both unfathomable and unpredictable.  It was perfectly fine for me to allude to The Gruffalo last time we were in the woods.  It even raised a laugh or two as I merrily quoted from the story, cowering behind a tree trunk to hide from the beast, peeking out only to point out his purple prickles and feign disgust at its poisonous wart.  The Boy loves this story.  Always has.

IMG_20150124_113114256  IMG_20150124_120825091  IMG_20150124_120759541_HDR

Today though, it is the most taboo subject imaginable.  Of COURSE I am meant to realise that. He is outraged that I have the audacity to engage in such amateur dramatics.

Sincere apologies are due.  On my behalf, clearly.  One day I will find the time to book myself on to that mind reading course.

And on that note I must end my first blog post, before The Boss chastises me for more time-wasting on the job.  He needs his personal assistant to help him with a particularly tricky part of a jigsaw puzzle.  His Gruffalo one, of course.

Friday Frolics
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