A year ago I wrote this piece about things you learn before baby turns one. As I’ve always honoured chronology, it seems right now to jot down some musings on what I’ve learnt before Elsa turns two next week, aside from the fact that clearly time flies far too quickly, mocking me by insisting on reminding me of my own mortality as I hurtle towards middle age. Or something like that.
1) You Have to Spell it Out
Once your little cherub begins to understand what you are saying, you need an extra level of encryption for conversing with your other half. Without wanting to alert Elsa to the possibility of strawberries being available, just in case they aren’t and the resultant disappointment triggers Toddler Meltdown DefCon 1, I find myself enquiring “Do we have the fruits that begin with S-T-R-A-W?” like we’re playing some kind of low-rent parlour game on Christmas Day.
I’m not sure how long it will take her to make the connection between my use of that not-much-of-an-Enigma code and the fact that she often receives a bowl of juicy, red fruit soon after it is uttered, but I probably need to cram a bunch of John le Carré books for inspiration before I formulate a plan B. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Nappy Changer.
See also: “Should we take her to the P-A-R-K?” and “I think B-L-O-O-D-Y Mr. T-U-M-B-L-E is on the B-L-O-O-D-Y telly again.”
2) There Was No Need to Teach Her the Word “Again” so Soon
“Elsa, we’ve read that book fifteen times already”.
I blame the Teletubbies.
3) Toddlers are Unreasonable
I like to think I’m a reasonable person. I like to think Elsa will become one too, but for now she’s a toddler and reason has not yet entered her little world. She’s so much fun at this age, but only for 99 percent of the time. During that remaining one percent, not even Kofi Annan would dare attempt a peaceful resolution to whatever it is that has incurred her wrath.
If an adult is angry, you can ask them why and then talk it through, when a toddler gets ‘THE RAGE’, you just have to ride it out. We were in the P-A-R-K the other day and she suddenly decided she didn’t want to walk. She also didn’t want to be carried or be put in the trike. I’m not sure if she was testing me with one of those ‘grain, duck and a dog need to get over the river but you can only take one at a time in the boat’-type puzzles, but if she was then I think I failed.
Unable to work out another way of getting her home, other than filling her with helium, letting her float and holding her by a piece of string tied round her finger (wish is generally frowned upon nowadays), I opted to travel in five metre bursts, cycling through the available options.
That was as much fun as it sounds.
4) Sleep Suit Manufacturers are Sadists
The number of poppers on a baby’s playsuit is neither here nor there because babies just lie there. However, toddlers are a different story, giving the latest bunch of Apprentice candidates a run for their money in the squirming stakes. I’m sure the people who design sleep suits have thoroughly researched their products and that’s what leads me to believe they are laughing at us.
It’s as if they worked out exactly how many poppers you can connect within a toddler’s attention span and then added three more just for luck.
5) There’s No Place Like Home
It doesn’t matter what has happened in your day, there is no way you can resist a smile when you walk through the door and are met with a toddler shouting “DADDY!”, dancing round in a circle and then bouncing across the room, simply in response to you coming back home.
The reason that dogs are better than cats is that cats will eye you with disgust if you have left them alone for more than ten minutes, but a dog will welcome you back like Holly Willoughby has just reunited you after 50 years on Surprise Surprise, even if you’ve just returned from popping out for a pint of milk. A toddler is that times a thousand and you’d make a fortune if you could bottle that feeling. I’ll take ten percent of the business if you manage it after reading this.