Possession is Nine Tenths of Toddler Law

“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can” sang John Lennon, one-time owner of a 72-acre estate in Berkshire. As the parent of a toddler, I can vaguely recall what it was like before we had so many possessions, but the memories of a time when we were able to walk around the living room without the risk of stepping on a stray piece of Duplo are slowly diminishing into the ether.

At two-and-a-half, Elsa is beginning to understand the idea of owning stuff. Obviously she’s always had cuddly toys and the aforementioned Duplo, but they were items given to her by others. She’s begun to want to source her own possessions, although her cavalier attitude to keeping them safe would invalidate even the most lax of home contents policies.

We had a rare Saturday with no plans a couple of weeks ago, so the three of us could actually spend the day together, enjoying each other’s company. It was as perfect as it sounds. Or at least it was until what shall henceforth be known as #leafgate happened.

The Leaf

There’s a big looped walk you can take from our house that takes you to the nearby river and brings you back home from a different side of the village. As it was as summery as the days get in Yorkshire (cloudy and about 18 degrees),  we decided to take the dog and let him cool down with a swim. On the way, Elsa picked three leaves from a tree – one for her and one each for me and my wife. We thought nothing more of it and continued on our way.

Alfie the labrador enjoyed paddling after a few balls and we started off on our way home. A few metres into the walk, Elsa noticed she no longer had her leaf. She’d dropped it SOMEWHERE on the walk. No problem, you might think, it’s just a leaf, it doesn’t matter.


In the intervening minutes, the leaf had become the single most important item in the entire world; more important than the crown jewels, the computer that cracked the Enigma code and whatever it is in that suitcase in Pulp Fiction all rolled into one.

The conversation proceeded in this manner:


“You can have mine.”


“You can have mummy’s”


“Let’s get you one from this tree”


“How about his tree instead?”


“There’s no way we’ll find it now, it could be anywhere”


“Oh look, here it is [picking up a different leaf from the floor]”


And so on.

We had walked a fair distance through a  wood and it would have been impossible to find the discarded leaf again. She wasn’t fooled by us offering our leaves under the guise of them being hers and there were no trees bearing similar foliage. We just had to ride the storm. There is no reasoning with a toddler when they are this worked up, they just don’t understand the concepts you are so eloquently expressing. In that way, they’re much like Geoff from Accounts in your office.

Of course, once she returned home and began playing with her toys, she forgot all about her fleeting ownership of a leaf. It will take me longer to forget her reaction to the loss. Much longer.

I guess discovering how it feels to lose items you hold dear is all part of growing up and is what will eventually teach her to value and look after her possessions. That cannot come soon enough because I can envisage a number of similar incidents occurring before that epiphany hits.

Elsa’s latest obsession is the sequins that have dropped off one of the scarecrows currently scattered around our village as part of the annual summer festival. She’s retrieved some “shiny jewels” and taken them EVERYWHERE in the last few days. I must have checked she was still holding them at least once every five minutes on yesterday’s dog walk.

Here are the said jewels:

Elsa's Precious Jewels

What could possibly go wrong?


I’ll tell you what could go wrong, because it happened. Since writing this, she lost one of the “jewels” somewhere in the house – presumably in that vortex that also lays claim to one of every pair of socks.

I found myself having to drive round to the scarecrow under the cover of darkness and nick another sequin (and one or two extra to hold in reserve) whilst trying not to be seen by the householder. I have no idea how I would have explained away my actions had I been caught.


Have you found yourself on the wrong end of an irrational toddler tantrum? Leave a comment, tell your story, get it off your chest!

About bewildereddad 390 Articles
I'm Jim Coulson, a West Yorkshire dad blogger, content writer and radio presenter who loves heading out around Yorkshire with my kids and exploring the best family activities.

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