A Toddler Flashback...


Lex with Poppy - my Dad - around three
A friend invited us to a BBQ recently in our condo and we happily headed down with the lads for a swim and a sociable drink. My friend is the mother of a beautiful, happy little lad, Tom - around 16 months old - and from an outsiders’ perspective, he’s a very chilled bubba.  His Mum mostly agrees with me, although his recent climbing antics have been a bit of a shock to her, as her daughter Molly (nearly four) has never been a climber. There was another Mum at the BBQ, with a son around the same age, and watching her personal experience brought me right back to those days when Lex was in the 16 month range – which was nothing short of hell.

My friend’s baby Tom could be compared to Jax at that age. Tom was happy to be picked up and cuddled by all of the maternal women attending the BBQ – and there was a large gaggle of willing cuddlers on tap. As such, his mum was free to kick back, have a chat and enjoy a drink, because she practically didn’t see him. The other mum was not so lucky. Her little fella DID NOT want to be picked up and cuddled, in fact, kids like this rarely want a cuddle when there’s adventuring to do. Kids like this are also never happy with the immediate vicinity – they want to explore it all.  This is how Lex used to be, and Steve always explained his need to explore as ‘the fart in a room’ syndrome - aka the smell permeates into every corner possible. Lex needed to be everywhere, checking out everything. It’s just who he was and I suppose still is to an extent. Hey, he’s a curious little fella and we love him for it.

But those intense days have mostly passed, and at this BBQ I got to watch another Mum experience it – I actually find it’s often when you observe something in another that you realise you’re no longer in the middle of it yourself! Her son was in the pool, around the pool, climbing anything that could be climbed, up the stairs, on the gym equipment, and he kept going and going and going. Mum could not talk for anymore than a couple of minutes, because he was off again, doing something new and potentially life threatening. In the meantime, Tom was enjoying his next cuddle.

Dad eventually broke away from the BBQ (it was his work mates) and gave Mum five minutes to have a break, get in a quick bite to eat, and then she was back to work, monitoring her son. When her son was near or in the pool, I took over and gave her a break. Everywhere else, she was on point, making sure her son was safe and happy. No one else stepped up to give her a break, and the truth is, she probably couldn’t have trusted anyone else to do the job anyway. She’s the only person that really understood what her son needed, and she knew that you couldn’t take your eyes off him, even for a second – he did tumble into the pool a couple of times to prove the point. I know she is not able to enjoy social conversations when she’s out with him at the moment, because that’s exactly how it was for me.

Jax heading in the other direction with Nan at two
I tried to reassure her, tell her that this time would eventually be over, and give her the sense of peace you get when you know you’re not alone. I always found it really difficult, because other parent’s didn’t seem to comprehend the challenges we were facing. Parents would swan up, fully intent on having a conversation and Steve or I would look at them and think, are you bloody serious? HOW DO YOU CHAT? You’re a parent?! But their kids stayed close, made sand castles, tentatively explored slides or required a gentle push on a swing. One of mine wanted to climb to the highest point of a tree, get on the roof of the playground equipment, climb to the top of a light pole, or be independent in the swimming pool. Lex wanted to do these things, and he needed to do these things. I wanted him to explore his body and understood his need to do it... so I let him, but I ALWAYS had to be there, 100 percent focused, and ready with two arms to catch on the rare occasions he fell. Steve was the same when it was him in charge – we did split the responsibilities evenly.

I’m glad I recognised his need to be free because his athletic ability today is astounding, as is his judgement of physical danger. But it was never easy, and it meant a very unsociable Mumma in the mix. Because of course, we had another rambunctious little lad, who often wanted to go off in a different direction, because while Jax was not as extreme in his physical pursuits, he was no less determined in his exploration desires. My stupid bloody fault having two boys 15 months apart I know! We had a good couple of years of intensity taking the boys to playgrounds, because you just couldn’t be in two places at once and you needed to be. I always had to make a judgement – who needs me the most right now? AKA who is in the most immediate danger?

I’m definitely glad those days are over. They were exhausting. It’s actually quite a magical day when “the change” happens. For no reason you can fathom, your little toddler becomes aware of where you are, and from then, everything changes and the power comes back to you. I always say to Mum’s that is the day – the magical day – when you start to get a little bit of you back.

Thankfully I was never in this parenting game alone, Steve has always been there whenever he is at home. But other than Steve, no one else seemed on the ball to take on the mantle of safety supervisor, because of course, the first thing anyone else wants to do is stop your child from doing what you let them do because it’s too dangerous. Well that just doesn’t work when you’ve let them do these things, and so you just get a pissed off toddler, having a very bad time, because they’re not allowed to do something they’ve always done because this stranger said so! And attention span is another issue – not the child’s, the adults. You turn your back on a child like this for a second and they’re off.

If you have a Mummy friend, and you can recognise these qualities in her child, and if that mother is looking a bit worn out, or maybe a bit lonely and she’d love nothing more than a decent conversation, why not offer her a five or ten minute break, so she can take a breath, enjoy a peaceful drink, knowing her little love is OK? It really means the world to Mums like this – I promise. But make sure you stay focused, 100 per cent, and take your guidance from the Mum. What she allows, you allow, even if it freaks you out, because trust me, if you don’t, you’ll get a pissed off and frustrated little toddler, who’ll head straight back to Mum.

In the very early years with our boys, Steve and I would turn up at BBQs and from that point, Steve went one way, I went the other. We never got to speak to anyone and we definitely didn’t get to speak to each other. We missed each other keenly back then and in many ways, are only now enjoying time together again when we are with the boys. It’s been intense but then I wouldn’t have my little loves any other way.

Can anyone else relate?

Yours, without the bollocks
Andrea


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