I am a child at heart and always thought I would make a great parent. Through my pregnancy I dreamed of trips to the zoo and family science experiments. My kid would definitely love books as much as I do, and maybe even inherit some of my family’s musical talent.
But when my son arrived those visions seemed so very far away. At that point all he could do was eat, poop and scream. Occasionally he slept. That new parent haze that everyone experiences started to stretch to the horizon. I wondered if it would ever clear.
Then, not long ago I noticed something. It’s fuzzy and it disappears sometimes, but it’s definitely there.
My baby – that blob I spent most of my time moving from one place to another – is becoming a person. A toddler person.
Through the tantrums, the injuries (mine – my nose still hurts from having a helicopter smashed into it – as well as his regular toddler bruises and bumps) and the fights over anything and everything, I’d much rather be here than where I was two years ago, in the land of the newborn.
That’s when I realised toddlers are actually pretty good.
They are interested in things
Okay, so he hasn’t shown a penchant for physics or classical piano, nor has he indicated if he’s more of a Marvel or DC guy. But he does love his wheels. He loves trucks and diggers, trains and cars. That boy is obsessed; he’s either looking at pictures of them, reading books and watching shows about them, or playing with them. Nothing is better than the real thing, of course, so I take great pleasure in driving him to the local construction site to peer through the fence.
They can look after themselves
He’s only beginning to master this. It starts with the little things: he can wipe his own hands, he wants to clean up his spills. Granted, he creates a mess so he can clean it up, but I put that down to ‘life skills training’. He has cottoned onto the fact that I love my tea and brings me his pretend ‘cup tea’ which I obligingly drink (if I send him back for sugar, does that count as a life skill too?).
You can see their minds working
It’s incredibly exciting watching a child’s language and comprehension develop. He’s not just parroting things anymore – he actually understands what he’s saying. I will see him learn a phrase one day and be able to use it perfectly in another situation the next. But then someone taught him how to “shoo” the cat, and we’re still trying to un-teach him that one.
So what if we’re not up to the zoo trips or science experiments yet; one day I will get to build an erupting volcano. For now I’m enjoying the sandpit days and receiving something of a response when I ask what he wants, which reminds me of a Peppa Pig episode where she meets her baby cousin.
‘How do you know what he wants?’ Peppa asks.
‘We guess!’ replies her uncle. Now, my husband and I laugh along knowingly.
Toddlers hate being bored
This can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes you need to get things done; sometimes you don’t feel well; sometimes you’re sick of entertaining your little housemate and wish you could have some time to yourself.
But the morning walks that are often a struggle to initiate later bring great smiles. I’m reminded of it every time I hear a little “whee!” from the pram as we go down the incline into the gutter.
In the afternoons he excitedly runs over to me with a watering can full of sand and asks me to hold out my hands so he can watch it all pour through my fingers.
Life through a toddler’s eyes can be pretty fun if you get down to their level and join in. Instead of insisting they go to bed at precisely 7.15pm you can spend 10 minutes in fits of laughter playing ‘scary dinosaurs’. They don’t care that your ‘scared’ reaction is terribly fake; they think it’s hilarious.
Toddlers are just so excited about life. It’s enough to help me limp through a hard evening and know that in the morning he will be all full of smiles and enthusiasm again.
The best part: It’s a glimpse into the future
Through all this, you can see their personality emerging. The kids who love people. The serious kids. The entertainers, the thinkers. The active kids, the quieter kids.
And that, for me, is the best part of this all-too-brief chaotic, energetic, sweet and funny. Bring it on.