I’m a certified blogger on the new portal Parentcircle.com :) It’s a great initiative to try and gather the writing of Indian parenting bloggers in one space. Do check it out! Here are a couple of clipbooks of my blog pieces and column articles that they’ve put together on the site:
D, running around the room with her arms stretched out in front of her: “I’m Super Princess! If any of my toys fall into the water, I’ll save them!”
In her spare time, Super Princess also subverts gender stereotypes :)
D while watching an episode of Peppa Pig called ‘Babysitting’: “But amma, they haven’t gone to Baby city yet!”
D decides to loudly comment on our (balding but otherwise somewhat hairy) driver’s appearance while in the car today.
D: Amma! This driver uncle has no hair in the front!
Me (darting a nervous look at him): Yes, yes baby. Different people have different hairstyles, right?
D nods and pipes down. I heave a sigh of relief.
(A few minutes later)
D (thoughtfully as she sips from her bottle): Amma! All the hair on his arms…
Me (breaking in desperately): D, drink your water!
D: But Amma! All the hair…
Me (louder): Just drink your water, D.
D (determinedly): But Amma, all the hairs on his arms look like bubbles!
1. Demand band-aid for non-existent boo-boo. The operative word here is ‘non-existent’. The vociferousness with which a toddler demands a band-aid is inversely proportional to the actual need for the band-aid. Tiny bumps, barely-there scratches, invisible ant bites… and your toddler will clutch at the (supposedly) injured limb and pitifully ask for her Dora/Hello-Kitty/Princess band-aid. “I need it amma!” she’ll cry, “please, please, please!”
Of course, you give in because you can’t take the whining, and because these band-aids are just a more expensive version of stickers at the end of the day. At least she uses the band-aids just one at a time; with stickers, an entire entire sheet is dispensed with in 4.3 seconds flat.
So you put on the band-aid, and there is peace and quiet as the child admires it and declares she is much, much better. You may even receive a hug for being such a wonderful ‘band-aid doctor’, and if your kid’s into Doc McStuffins, a rendition of the ‘I feel better’ song. She’s happy, you’re feeling pretty pleased and all iz well… for about 5 seconds. Then your toddler will…
2. Demand to have the band-aid removed. Why? Why, if you love these band-aids so much, do you need to get them off so fast? Wouldn’t you want your pretty Hello Kitty band-aid to stay on for longer? You whined and whined for 15 minutes to have it put on, and now you can’t keep in on longer than 5 secs? What is the point?
So, anyway, you give in again, because this is not a battle worth fighting. This is a band-aid she didn’t even need in the first place, so why bother arguing about how long she should keep it on? Of all the random, un-winnable arguments one gets into with a strong willed toddler during the course of the day, this falls under the ‘whatever- I don’t care’ category. Yes, the stupid Princess band-aids were expensive, but, you know, whatever.
Then, of course, your toddler will…
3. Want it off but be scared of it hurting. The worst part of this stage is the realisation of how pointless the entire exercise was. Let’s do a brief review: you’re taking off the band-aid of a child who didn’t need it in the first place, but got it on after nagging you to death for it, only to want to take it off 5 seconds later. Only, now she doesn’t want to take it off. Well, she wants to take it off, but she’s scared on taking it off, so she doesn’t want you to take it off. If you catch my drift.
So you remind your toddler of how you took it off just the other day, and of how you were so good at it because you’re the best band-aid doctor ever! It won’t hurt at all, you promise, it’ll be over in seconds. She says nooooo! So you get impatient and say, fine keep it on. To which she says, nooooo! So you finally take matters in your own hands and ruthlessly rip it off. Ouch! That wasn’t so bad, was it? Only 20 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.
Now let’s fast forward ahead to a day or two later when your toddler will….
4. Refuse to put on the band-aid when it’s actually needed: So your baby has fallen and hurt her knee pretty bad. Or she needed a blood test and has sobbed her way through the whole procedure. You remember how much she loves her Hello Kitty/Dora/Princess band-aid and offer it to her as an incentive to stop crying. As a way to make her happy. Anything to bring a smile on her face. And yay! For once, the darned cartoon character band-aids are actually needed! They’re going to serve a purpose beyond cluttering the house and lying about here and there.
Caught up in the moment, you forget two important things. A) Your child does not like to put the band-aid over an actual injury. Those she likes to leave open, so she can pick at them and make them bleed B) You’ve forgotten what will transpire once you actually get it on.
5 a. Return to Step 2: You’ve gotten the band-aid on at actual injury!!! Score one for the Mommy team! Hurray! Or, you know, not. Because we now go straight back to No. 2, bypassing the joy and 5 seconds of peace and quiet at the end of Step 1 altogether. Because your toddler wants the band-aid to be removed. Now.
But it’s worse this time. Because she actually kinda needs it. You want her to keep it on for a bit. This is not an argument that falls into the ‘whatever, suit yourself’ category. You make deals. You offer incentives to keep it on. You remind her you’re the band-aid doctor.
Of course, two minutes later, you cave and agree to take it off. Only… she doesn’t want you to take it off. But she also does. And this time it actually hurts her for real when you do. And she cries and cries and looks pitiful.
5 b. Return to Step 1: So after all that drama surrounding removing the band-aid, you’d think they’d be off the favourites list, right? Wrong. Because the next time she sees Princess/Hello Kitty/Dora band-aids anywhere in the house or the store, she will demand that you put it on for her, on the invisible boo-boo on her elbow, right now. Because: “I really need it, amma! Please, please, please!”
A little over a year ago, when I started doing this column, my daughter was two and a half, and in the throes of full-blown Terrible Twos.
It’s been an eventful year since, a year in which she has transitioned (amidst a whole lot of hand-wringing and soul-searching on my part) from preschool to LKG at her ‘big-girl’ school. Along the way, she got potty-trained (hang in there moms-of-young-toddlers, it does happen… eventually), learned to go to school without amma for a few hours (I think amma was more stressed about it than she was, on the whole) and outgrew a whole bunch of clothes I’d spent way too much on. The toughest part was the constant illnesses (since germs are pretty much all they pick up in preschool). But it was all worth it to watch as she left babyhood behind step by step, and turned, somewhere along the way, into this little chatterbox who talks/asks questions 24/7 and has her own, very colourful take on the world around her.
Some things, of course, haven’t changed. We still negotiate (toddler style) on everything from bath time to the clothes to be worn after bath time, the food she (barely) eats to the number of cartoons she’s allowed to watch (far too many, but clearly she doesn’t think so), all day long. Barney and Dora have been phased out, but Peppa Pig still reigns supreme. The tantrums and melt-downs are fewer, but no less spectacularly dramatic when they do occur. We’re still co-sleeping, and I still wake up in the mornings to find a toddler elbow or knee wedged into the region of my right kidney (so much for her much celebrated transition from crib to ‘big-girl bed’). And, of course, my life is still filled to the brim with too many toys, and too many loud and badly-sung nursery rhymes (‘Finger Family’ in bhangra style, anyone?), courtesy Youtube.
Through it all, I’ve remained the epitome of the over-anxious first time mom, reading too many parenting articles online and generally making myself crazy over every parenting decision, from vaccines to hair-cuts to schools. Writing this column was the best possible therapy I could have asked for. It helped me laugh about that things that might have had me in tears otherwise, and more importantly, it gave me a way to reach out and talk about the general craziness involved in raising this generation of toddlers with others who’re in the same boat. Thanks to ‘Toddler Talk’, I’ve spoken to and heard from so many moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have similar stories to share regarding the toddlers in their lives. It’s been a wonderfully cathartic experience – nothing is better than realising you’re not alone in your imperfections, especially as a stay-at-home-mom who spends too much time over-thinking everything child-related.
Now as my daughter gets ready to outgrow toddlerhood, it’s time for me to bid goodbye to ‘Toddler Talk’. It’s been a fun ride sharing my parenting experiences with you all in the past year. To those of you still battling on in the toddler-parenting trenches, dealing with the terrible twos or threenager battles of will, hang in there. It does get better (or so I’ve heard). And then we get a breather of a whole decade until the teenage years.
In between the battles, don’t forget to enjoy your little munchkin. Because as much as we complain, the truth is that life would be very boring indeed without these frustrating yet adorable little people in it, with their big personalities and bigger hearts, their endless enthusiasms and energy.
And to toddlers at large – I know you sometimes got a bad rap in this column. But I hope we can let bygones be bygones. You know I love you guys!
This article originally appeared in The Hindu MetroPlus.
D: Amma, where do dinosaurs live?
Me: They’re not alive anymore, baby. They’re gone.
D: But where have they gone?
Me (stumped): Uhm…
D: Have they gone to a hot beach?
Me: No, no, baby, they’re not on a beach. They’re… they’re not anywhere on Earth.
D: Then where are they?
Me (completely at a loss): Uhmm… (Suddenly struck by inspiration) They’ve become fossils! You remember those dinosaur bones and fossils we saw? That is where they are… they’ve become bones and fossils in the ground.
D (thoughtfully): Ohh.
Me: *feeling pleased with myself*
D (after a few moments): But how did they become fossils, amma?
Me (heart sinking): Uhmm… (hyperventilating because I’m heading into dark territory) that happens when… when they… when they’re not alive any more.
D: What does alived mean, amma?
Me (totally out of my depth now): Uhm… it’s when you can walk and run and talk and everything.
D (thoughtfully): Oh. Is teddy biddy alived?
Me (relieved to have a question I can actually answer): No, darling. See how he can’t talk or move by himself?
D (hugging teddy): I think teddy is better than being alived. He’s better for hugging because he’s cuddly!
Me: *phew* Yes baby, he is!
That moment when you realise you’re living with a threenager…
A friend recently introduced me to the term ‘threenager’. It was a bit of an ‘Aha!’ moment for me. You see, no one had prepared me for the sheer drama that enters the household once your toddler turns three. Terrible twos and tantrums, sure. But this was a whole other ballgame. My kid, more often than not, was acting like she was three going on thirteen. What was going on? Well, now I had my answer: I was living with a threenager.
My first inkling of the fact came one night when the two of us had a showdown over something relatively minor (I wanted her to drink her milk. She didn’t want to.) What began as a typical toddler “Nononono!” type argument mutated and I was suddenly faced with a pouting threenager who informed me that she “didn’t like it here” and that she was going to “go away” all by herself to her grandma’s house. She even set off determinedly, clutching her dolly, and was only deterred by the fact that she couldn’t reach or unlock the front door by herself. Nevertheless, she folded her arms, averted her face and refused to talk to me for the rest of the night.
Since then, there have been declarations of, “I don’t like you, amma!”, and outbursts of “Everyone’s cheating me!” in over-the-top mega serial style (I don’t even watch that stuff… where’s she picking it up from?). We’ve even had that teenage staple cry of “It’s not FAIR!” with me shooting something back like, “Life’s not fair, kid, deal with it,” before remembering that I’m talking to a three-year-old. A three-year-old. I didn’t think I’d be hearing this stuff or dealing with it for another decade or so.But then I started thinking about it, and I realised that three-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds actually have a lot in common. One’s on the cusp of childhood, outgrowing babyhood rapidly. The other’s on the cusp of adulthood, outgrowing childhood. They want to do everything all by themselves, their way (clothes, food, you name it). Except, when they don’t. They’re dealing with this whole new world of big feelings. They feel deeply wronged against because they can’t do all the stuff adults do yet (stay up late, drink coffee, drive cars, wear make-up) and they have the vocabulary to express it. Strongly. The thing that makes teens tougher to handle, of course, are all those hormones coursing through their brains, wreaking havoc with their emotions. But I’m starting to suspect that if you studied three-year-olds closely, you’d find pip-squeak versions of those hormones swimming about in their little noggins too.
The other major difference is size and cuteness. You can physically pick up your pint-sized drama queen and prevent her from running out the front gate in a fit of pique (and I’ve had to do it too) but you can’t do that with an angry 13-year-old. Well, you could, but it would require significantly more upper-body strength. And – I mean no offence whatsoever to teenagers the world over here – I have to say that three-year-olds get away with a whole lot more just by virtue of still being cute little munchkins. A threenager throwing a hissy fit and declaring that “no one likes me!” – is kind of adorable, and more likely to get cuddled and reassured. A teenager doing the same – is more likely to get sent to her room. Unfair, but then, you 13-year- olds already knew that, right?
So, upon further consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the threenager phase is nature’s way of preparing parents for what lies ahead. Like giving you a tiny, toy-version of a gizmo to practise on before taking on the scarier, full-sized version in the future. And helping you to enjoy and treasure the (relatively) drama-free childhood years all the more. This way, when your kid hits the teen years, you’re not completely untried. You’ve had the trial run, a significant cooling off period, and now you’re good to go.
That’s my theory, anyway. I guess it’ll be verified in, oh, a decade or so.
‘Toddler Talk’ is a weekly column that appears in The Hindu Metroplus,
1. You re-discover the joy of walking in long, adult-sized strides without having a pint-sized person’s pace slowing you down every step of the way. And you can actually stop and look at whatever you want to! Clothes! Interesting people! Books! You even get to look at yourself in the occasional mirror and realise to your horror that you forgot completely to comb your hair before you left home.
2. You can walk past toy-stores or shelves filled with colourful trinkets or candy without dread striking your heart and without having to engage in a passionate, 15 minute argument with a three year old as to the merits of the fluorescent pink toy camel she really, really wants. Of course, you end up hovering around the store indecisively anyway, torn between wanting to pick up a little something for the kid, and not wanting to add any more to the already enormous pile of junk in your home…
3. You can walk down the street without having to stop to point out and discuss in depth the double-decker buses, cute pets, pretty flowers, and irregularly shaped reflections and shadows you pass along the way. Unfortunately, you find yourself noticing them anyway and longing to point them out to someone.
4. You can unthinkingly jab lift buttons without having to worry about a little person having a meltdown and yelling, “Nooooo! Meeee! I want to press!” You can also actually make the choice of whether you want to take the lift or the stairs, and do either in complete zoned out silence without having to make eye contact or conversation with another person for a change.
5. You come home and get the world’s most wonderful welcome from a little person who makes you feel like the centre of their universe. Perfect ending to the perfect outing! Though maybe you should have picked up that pink camel for her after all…