Remember last week when we had our eight-month-old niece round for the day? Well, yesterday we had her older sister, who is two-and-a-half, just for the afternoon. The first thing you need to know about toddlers is that they are more difficult to take care of than babies even if they are relatively obedient, and here’s why:
– They can walk. This one could also run and climb. If you do not have a toddler living with you, look around your living room right now and imagine a one running and climbing around in it. Can you see all the potential accidents? The broken coffee table? The unprotected electric sockets? Are you visualising the A&E right now?
– They sleep less.
Actually, my brother-in-law had said that sometimes she sleeps for three or four hours in the afternoon, depending on how tired she is, but yesterday she slept for half an hour.
– They are still interested in everything. Especially the surface you’re currently using as a dresser, with all your jewellery on it, because the shelf you used to use in your bedroom broke the other day. The smaller, spikier and sparklier your things are, the more your toddler will want them. Keeping them out of reach is not enough. Toddlers are smart enough to drag a chair and several books over and climb up, but still too stupid to realise what a terrible idea it is to use a swivel chair for this manoever. Also, don’t think the oral phase is over just because they’ve learned to talk – they still put things in their mouths.
– Their attention span is still tiny. Our niece loves stories, but most often we’d get halfway through and then she’d get bored and decide she wanted another one. But she wanted us to read the other one while she was still looking at the pictures in the first one.
Note – The toddler’s tiny attention span can be used to your advantage. If, for instance, your toddler is on the brink of a tantrum because you won’t let them eat poo (random example), you can always say “OMG LOOK FINGER PUPPETS!!!” and voilà, crisis averted. (You should actually have finger puppets to show them, though.)
– They are senselessly violent. When I told her I had a baby in my tummy, she smacked it.
– They are incomprehensible. We had to insist that she come over to the table for her 4 o’clock snack, which was a chocolate cake we’d made with her earlier. She then proceeded to eat all the cherries I’d prepared for her but only one spoonful of cake, only to insist on taking the rest home to eat later. When we asked her if she was going to let her parents try it, she said no, it was her chocolate cake.
– They are rebellious. When her dad came to pick her up, she ran out into the street, and when he told her to stop, she turned, grinned at him, and started running even faster.
– They want to do things they can’t do on their own (buckling her shoes), and the things they can do, they don’t want to do (walking up stairs).
– Their poo smells way worse than that of a baby. My boyfriend was out shopping when our niece woke up with a pooey nappy, so I had to change her on my own. I’ve made a mental note not to get pregnant again until my firstborn is fully toilet trained.
Note – toddlers, although heavier, are usually easier to change because they know when to keep still and don’t wriggle or kick.
– Toilet training is a delicate process and will invariably lead to you getting pee’d on at some point. Yesterday it was my boyfriend who got pee’d on. We’d forgotten to ask her if she needed to go, so barely made it on time, and he was holding her a bit too close over the seat, so it landed on his jeans and on the floor rather than in the bowl.
The funny thing is, I used to mind babies and toddlers in their homes and I don’t remember it being this exhausting. Granted, I wasn’t pregnant back then, and they had their own toys, and their homes were mostly childproofed, but there were two of them most of the time, and one year it was one toddler and two babies. And I did that ten hours a day, five days a week. And somehow managed to get them out of the house most days and go for walks in the park, or to the play center, and bake cakes and make mother’s day cards and do educational activities adapted for each child’s age and ability level. And looking back now, all I can think is how??
Seriously, how did I do this? The last year, with the two babies and one toddler, we were on the second floor and the twin pram was kept in a cupboard out back. On top of the usual leaving-the-house rigmarole of making sure they were all changed, wrapped up in warm clothes/slathered in sunscreen, that I had their food and comforters and dodies and the small first aid kit just in case etc.; I had to leave one baby in its cot, take the other and the toddler downstairs in the tiny lift (which didn’t always work), manoever the pram out one-handed, strap the baby in, leave the baby and toddler in the care of the wine sellers next door, run back upstairs, get the other baby, lock the door behind us, run back down to the wine sellers next door, strap the second baby in, humbly thank the wine sellers (who were adorable), and then we could set off. And coming back was pretty much the same only the other way around. This minimum-20-minute ritual had been established in advance with the parents, and my babysitting agency made them sign a waver just in case the wine sellers turned out to be kidnappers or something, but that’s not to point. The point is, how the hell did I ever manage to do all that, when yesterday my boyfriend and I ended up both worn out just from taking care of one relatively well-behaved 2-yr-old for the afternoon?
And, more importantly, do I still have the advantage of that experience, or will I have to learn it all again by the time my baby becomes a toddler?