Thursday, July 30, 2015

Phrased Out: Talking Toddler

Time is growing up, and so is my child.

In between the commutes and the tickles and the bath and bed routines, my toddler is fast shifting through the months into a fully fledged little person, with a rapidly growing vocabulary to match.
The leaps and bounds into language have provided a plethora of gorgeous moments. Slightly mispronounced words, cute songs from start to finish, muddled up versions of the ABC, and counting from one to fifteen with only twelve numbers. Just last night she told me she wanted to give me a big cuggle and kisses before requesting I sing Twinkle Twinkle one more at door Mummy pwease.

There went my heart, again.

Mastering toddler language has given my daughter the power to express herself. This a great thing, a brilliant part of growing up, an incredibly important developmental milestone, and a really big small-footed step towards an adult future of self determination, autonomous control and clarity of communication.

But for every gorgeous moment we log in the memory bank, our daughter's grasp of toddler language has the ability to throw up an equally horrifying moment, a complete linguistic juxtaposition that has the potential to return your previously stolen heart for a refund and make you feel the polar opposite of warm and fuzzy and happily parental.

The world of toddler language is peppered with exhaustingly repeated phrases, cranky toddler demands and seemingly innocent signifiers of sheer parental doom; it is the beginning of a whole new, demanding and frustrating world for Mummy and Daddy. Or Dummy and Maddy, depending on how you pronounce things at this stage of your life, and/or how well your verbalised toddler demands have been met.

I am led to believe that every parent has a list of their top most hated phrases of the week. Maybe that's just wishful thinking, but I like to dream that I'm part of some form of exhausted, grumpy club. Regardless, I press on: here are my top three 'don't ever wanna hear em again' phrases for the month, and presumably the year.

My former cherub lost her cute, fluttery wings the day that she added her high-pitched, cranky 'ME DO IT' to her budding vocab. Everyone warned me about the ME DO IT phase, but no warning could effectively convey the true horror of the ME DO IT months ... oh please tell me it's only months?!

Getting in the car? ME DO IT.
Mummy driving the car? ME DO IT.
Putting pants on? ME DO IT.
Mummy putting lip balm on? ME DO IT.
Daddy cooking dinner on the stove? ME DO IT.
Dog eating a treat? ME DO IT.
Time to vacuum? ME DO IT.
Mummy needs some quiet time. MEEEEE DOOO ITTTT TOOO!

Sometimes, I have to admit, it can be a little bit funny. A little bit amusing to watch a cranky mini-me stamp and yell and fume her way indignantly around the kitchen, having a melt down because someone else dared put the lid on her sippy cup on her behalf, or put the towel back on the bathroom rail without her knowledge, or empty the potty without her express permission.

Sometimes, it's deeply intriguing to just sit back and watch; to watch her undo and redo something and then undo it all over again, to try and try and try to do something impossibly difficult just so she can reach the toddler satisfaction nirvana of doing it ALL BY HERSELF.

But mostly, it's soul-draining exhausting. Day after day, I find myself sitting next to my car, broken, defeated, prohibited from helping, pleading with my mini control freak to please just get in the seat before Mummy loses her final marbles right ... there ... on ... the ... kerb.

If the wings fell off my cherub when independence rocked in, it's fair to say that the broken wings fell right under the twenty ton toddler truck when toilet training entered the picture. My dreams of a nappy free life were shattered as fast as you can say 'Do you need to go to the potty darling?'

My early pipe dreams of a pleasant transition to toilet training land were shot down in a barrage of wet pants, repeat episodes of faux denial, and 'parcels' sent home at the end of the daycare day for fumigation. Sure, there have been days of some success, but these are reliably unreliable and always give way to days of intermittent efforts followed by days of apparent toddler vs. toilet stand-off.

Very few things instill fear in me these days like hearing a sweet MUMMY, I DONE A WEE floating through the shared air of a pleasant, well-populated and otherwise hygienic public space. Because nothing says relaxing family day out than finding yourself standing in a puddle of wee with a sodden, foot-stamping toddler screaming ME DO IT and trying to pull their pants off, in the company of a hundred strangers trying to enjoy their Sunday morning coffee and croissant.

We've read the books, and we've spoken to day care. We've grilled other parents, we've grilled our own parents, and we've spent hours consulting the confused oracle that is Doctor Google. We've tried the little potty and the big toilet, and the big toilet with a little potty modifying device. We've tried cotton undies, and training pants, and no pants. We've tried directing the show with clear instructions, and activating the power of ME DO IT for self directed learning. We've employed embarrassing enthusiasm, and nonchalant apathy. We've tried sticker charts, reward stamps, bribery crackers and even the promise of a tropical island holiday when the big girl status achievement is finally unlocked, BAZINGA.


While I've heard plenty of success stories from other parents who's beloved children have managed to hold onto a cherub wing or two and soar their way through potty training as swiftly as germs flying through an indoor play centre, I've also heard plenty of stories like ours.

I cling to these stories the same way I still cling to solo showers and secret tubs of chocolate macadamia ice cream hidden at the back of the freezer. These stories bring me a much needed sense of universal community - we are not alone, we are not alone, we are not alone ... we're not alone are we?!

The toddler truck has also delivered the magical UH OH to our household. In the early days, crying was bad. Teething was bad. Pooplosions were very, very bad.

These days, UH OH takes the 'oh shit no' cake. Every time those two cute little syllables come wafting down the hallway on the parenting breeze, my heart skips a few shuddery beats. Such a cute, sweet, simple combination words; such a horrible  and generally accurate signifier of domestic disaster.

UH OH has delivered pen drawings all over the couch, and pen engravings in the television cabinet. UH OH has ripped the charger and charging port sheer out of the laptop and pulled the laptop off the couch more times than I want to think. UH OH has poured water in the DVD player. UH OH has broken all the ceramic tea cups that were never permitted to leave the cupboard in the first place. UH OH has explored their dirty nappy with their hands. UH OH has drawn on the novels in the bookcase instead of the paper in the drawing book. UH OH has spilt milk all through Mummy's car and failed to reveal the oopsie until the smell crept into the carpet and tried to kill us all through our nostrils.

UH OH sometimes means Mummy, I've done something so terrifying that you might need to hide in the bathroom and eat potato chips this afternoon until there is enough tinge of dusk creeping across the sky to justify opening the vodka.

As nasty as it can be, I should qualify: UH OH is infinitely better than its evil stepsister, I FIX IT. My advice? If you hear I FIX IT coming down the hall, just go straight for the vodka. Even if it's still breakfast time.

What do you never want to hear again?

M x

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lights Up and Down the Street

8pm, Saturday evening.

It's pissing down rain and howling wind like a toddler unwillingly separated from its wilted packet of teddy bear biscuits. A taxi is idling out the front, bleating it's horn at the neighbourhood one impatient honk at a time.

I briefly wonder who the shitty driver is waiting for. Who in our neighbourhood, our city, our universe, would actually go out at the ungodly hour of 8pm? And in the gusty, squalling rain of all recurrent Melbourne weather atrocities?

It must be a mistake. A booking error. A slip of the app, an accidental pocket dial from the comfortable oblivion of someone's pocket squashed against the couch in their lounge room. 

Surely no one else COULD be ready to go out and socialise at this time of night! What about the kids? What about the wind howling at the roof and the dog howling at the wind? What about the half eaten pasta dish and the cheap bottle of red on the bench? What about the unfolded laundry and the Saturday Night footy and the prospect of a soul shattering 6am Sunday morning start? What about the complete domestic madness that lies ahead?

The taxi horn squeals again. And I remember.

Other people DO actually go out at 8pm on a Saturday.

Other people, including the couple across the road who don't have kids, and the smiling couple up the street who have growing teenagers and a growing sense of returning parental freedom.

Other people, including the older couple across the road who only see their children at Christmas and when the fence needs repairs, and the seemingly displaced house full of uni students who have strange coloured hair and parties at odd times and make me feel curiously crabby and even more distressingly old.

Other people, including the disparate congregation of men from around the nearby blocks who drift together in their respective sheds for short and long stretches of night to talk about beer and the cost of things and the house of uni students and how the umpire got it so very wrong again.

Other people, including the young parents who live further down the block who usually remind us of us, but who actually managed to get it together today and arrange a babysitter, wrangle their child impressively well AND get out of their tracksuit pants. Well played, kids, well played.

Other people, including ourselves on other weekends in the past and still to come, when the preceding weeks have been kinder and the weather has been friendlier and the terrifically terrible twos have been a little less trying for the three of us.

Other people, including the old younger version of me. The old younger me, who would have been waiting for Saturday evening since Monday morning, counting down the work days until the fun days and the sun time until the night time.

The old younger me, who would have been dressed and heeled and waiting on the front verandah with a flimsily impractical umbrella to fight the herculean tempest, impatiently tracking the taxi through the app before it even turned into our street. 

The old younger me, waiting with a tiny purse and three pre-drinks tucked under the decorative belt around my not-yet-a-mother waist line, wondering why on earth there were so many lights on up and down the street at 8pm on a Saturday night.

A door slams and the taxi slides off into time.

8:03 pm, Saturday evening.

Time to fold the laundry.

M x