There's a light at the end of the baby and toddler tunnel - I promise!

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I have been back in toddler land for around four and a half years, watching and celebrating my little grandchildren as they grow from babies through toddlerhood to becoming "sometimes-capable" kids.

So if are you still in that tunnel where you could be very sleep deprived as you have a baby completely dependent on you – which is exactly how it should be  – I have some good news.

You know the tunnel – where there seems to be an endless mental load involving your child needing a feed or a nap or a nappy change, when they're due for a poo or even more worrying they're overdue for a poo? Well it has a light at the end (no really it does!).

These are the days when your conversations may seriously feel like a mindless rotation of discussion about meeting the unique needs of your defenceless little one.

Some days it works out well and other days you get a "shituation" at the worst possible moment – waiting at a doctor's surgery, the supermarket checkout or as you are semi-naked in the change room trying to buy something decent to wear that doesn't have vomit stains on it.

Then our babies are able to sit up and begin solids! How much fun is that? There can be the endless food refusal over your perfectly pureed vegetables – made with tender love!

The sensory exploration of said pureed food – on their fingers, their face and of course through their hair – is so good isn't it? I deliberately left some pumpkin that one of my wee lads had flicked on to our kitchen wall for many years – just to remind me how wonderful it was when he actually did start eating his food.

No doubt many of you who have babies know how excitedly you wait until they can crawl – and suddenly you can't find them. You can't wait until they can walk and then they run. And that can be scary and very exhausting even though it's developmentally wonderful.

Meeting those milestones

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You also so look forward to them being able to talk – and then when the toddler turns up the only word they seem to want to say is NO! Again, it's another sign that they are developmentally progressing perfectly. It is just incredibly frustrating.

Then when our wonderful two-year-olds begin to meet other children, you enjoy the frustrating moments of hitting, biting and stealing each other's toys. Oh and that piercing scream or shout that can often be a part of or a prelude to a massive meltdown.

It doesn't matter how many times well-meaning parenting educators like me remind you that these things are very normal and developmentally appropriate, they create serious stress and angst and some days these moments happen 1000 times!

I admit I hid myself in the toilet some days when I had three boys under five – the noise, the chaos, the endless mess – drove me to hide, sometimes in tears.

The very real struggle of getting toddlers to leave a playground or beach where they have been having so much fun is something that only experience can teach you.

Often you need to sprint like Usain Bolt to try to catch them before you even begin the journey of getting them into their car seats. Some days there's only one way to do that. You will look like the world's worst parent as you battle with the arched back, the screaming child who sounds like you are really hurting them and force them into the seat – often getting a smack in your the face for your efforts!

Then you'll try keep them awake on the drive home so they'll have a good sleep that night – but no so often within seconds they're sound asleep!

Mentioning the word sleep is enough to fill most parents of babies and toddlers with a quiet dread. If you thought getting a baby to sleep was hard work, you ain't seen nothing until you have a two to  three-year-old who wants to give up the afternoon nap. Wow they can fight fiercely despite really needing a nap.

I confess I have been a "good" nanny and offered to take one of our feisty granddaughters for a drive. It used to work a treat but as she got a little older she wised up to what I was doing and refused to fall asleep. Instead she just sang really loudly the whole trip.

The good news…

So much growth and development happens after our little ones turn three. Yes there are days they'll be dressing themselves – and it may not be quite the outfit you planned, however they are dressed.

Before you know it they can get themselves out of the bath and dressed in their PJs. They can also sit longer while they eat instead of running around the house in between mouthfuls. They can play by themselves for ages, and often even with a sibling without any screaming.

Yes you will start hearing "please" and "thank you" without prompting and you will begin to have conversations that will stagger you, make your heart melt and make you so proud of this little person.

I am so loving meeting my grandchildren as they grow older. They get themselves into the car, do up their own seatbelts, remind me which way to drive to get to a shopping centre and the conversations we have are often sublime.

So please don't lose sight of that light at the end of the tunnel. It's not a train – it is your completely dependent little baby transforming into an independent, interesting shining little person. Finally.

Maggie Dent is one of Australia's favourite parenting authors and host of the ABC's new Parental As Anything podcast. Maggie is bringing her one-day conference Calming Today's Anxious Kids: Understanding and Supporting Children With Anxiety to Perth and Brisbane in August.  www.maggiedent.com