It’s Toddler time

The baby days are drawing to a rapid close and Joanne Robinson is facing the Age of Tantrums with some trepidation

The morning was progressing in its usual manner, a highly charged combination of frenzy and disorganisation, when the bombshell was dropped. All the children were seated and toying with their food in a desultory and (if you ask me) rather ungrateful manner, when Daisy, now approaching 18 months, took advantage of my temporary lack of attention (admonishing child two for heaping jam in vast quantities onto toast) to reach out a chubby paw, grab the porridge bowl and throw it across the room. Ladies and gentlemen, I feel no need to apologise for having allowed my voice to creep up an octave or two as I shouted ‘No!’ at record breaking decibels. I expected no explanation; 18 months is not a garrulous, nor a reasonable age, but what I got was a back-arching, lung-screaming, ‘make me another bowl right now’ howl.

My older daughter raised her eyes, heavy with warning, and pointed her spoon in the direction of the highchair; “We have toddler trouble, Mummy”. She’s not wrong. It seems to have happened overnight. The first steps and the toothy grins of our adorable new baby have suddenly transformed into a fist banging toddler.

I have an idea of how the Romans felt when the Visigoth hordes were rampaging through their civilised landscape, exactly the same happens in my sitting room every day. Saturday’s Guardian lies in a shredded heap behind the sofa after a self-congratulatory phone call with my mum when I, more than once, exclaimed about how good and quiet Daisy was being in the next room. Later that same day we solved the mystery of the disappearing coals (an ongoing drama in our house which has left more than one great mind bamboozled) when we found a tell tale trail of little black finger marks which led to a stash.

Daisy chose the haberdashery department of John Lewis to showcase her latest feat; turning her body to plank-like effect in order to avoid being strapped into her pushchair.

Was this for fun? Or is the hoarding of coal in case of a potential fuel price hike? So mused my husband with over-inflated ideas of his youngest’s capacity to understand the six o’clock news.  Apart from the disasters which involve hiring professional upholstery cleaners, by and large I can cope with the crazy world of the toddler within the confines of my own home. It’s when we’re out in public that I struggle to maintain my composure. The haberdashery department of John Lewis was chosen as a showcase for the latest feat; Daisy turning her small body to plank-like effect in order to avoid being strapped into the pushchair. It was my own fault. Looking cute, staring around and charming the passers by with a baby wave, I allowed a heavily protected five minute amble amongst the thimbles and tapestry kits. Filled with joy at the unexpected liberation, a jolly time was had by all until I realised that I needed to achieve a greater speed than two steps a minute and tried to clip Daisy back in. The plank motion alone was bad enough, but the screaming was quite a sound to encounter for the poor dears attempting to stock up on wool. 

Church is another corker. I blame the acoustics. I was at a wedding last weekend and felt wise to the task of keeping Daisy quiet through the vows. I had a stash of goodies that made the contents of the Charlie and Lola rucksack as close to heaven as you can get if you’re one and a half years old. Small toys, trinkets usually banned as they belong to Daisy’s older sister and brother, and of course, chocolate.

Church is another corker. I blame the acoustics. I was at a wedding last weekend and felt wise to the task of keeping her quiet through the vows.

Unfortunately I forgot that feeding sugar to a tot for the best part of an hour was only ever going to be a short term solution. The reception held its own challenges when each of the carefully packed toys had hit the floor within the first minute. I could see only one possible solution and swapped places with my husband on the pretext of helping the older two with their colouring. Selfish it may be, but it’s survival of the smartest out there and my motto is; if you can’t cope, abdicate responsibility to a spouse.

I have this dreadful feeling that we may be incubating future trouble here. The older two put up with most of their baby sibling’s bad behaviour, partly because they think its funny, but mostly because it takes the heat off their own minor misdemeanours if their toddler is pulling apart mummy’s prized orchid in the background. The gap between them is big enough that they don’t actually feel threatened by the mini hooligan’s wanderings. Unless there is a particularly precious Barbie or Dinosaur being decapitated, they pretty much hand over whatever Daisy’s sticky, chubby baby paw reaches for. All their nonsense is laughed at, which they love, whatever game they choose is played by Daisy without dissent (more or less, a few of the characters from Guess Who have been chewed recently) and on the whole, she is a very jolly little tot.

This could deteriorate rapidly when movements are less restricted by stair gates and Daisy starts to pinch their precious bits and bobs, but so far they spoil their baby Daisy rotten. But I can’t help wondering where it will all end. I should be able to reassure myself by looking at the older two, who are by no means angels but they are able to understand (if not always to act on) the instruction ‘stop that right now’ or ‘NO’ hollered in strong and decisive tones. But right now, with a good two years of ambling non-malevolent vandalism facing me, it seems a long way from that tiny baby who was here what felt like about 5 minutes ago. However it’s not ALL tantrums and tears, let me just add that Daisy’s smile can melt snow at ten paces, her little arms wrap round your neck, her tiny head buried in your hair makes for the best cuddles, and that sometimes, (quite often to be honest), we all find ourselves beaming fondly at her in the hope that our new toddler stays this cute for a while yet.