The Sarah Fitzgerald Guide to Raising Toddlers

I would like to reiterate that prior to having my beautiful daughter, I knew nothing about children. I didn’t know anything about pregnancy, childbirth (I now think this worked to my advantage) or caring for a newborn. In fact some evenings, when I tell my husband that I’m working or ‘studying’, my mind wanders and I somehow end up on Google looking up ridiculous things such as ‘normal three year old development’ and ‘how to encourage your toddler to read’. Yep, I’m a little crazy, but Ali didn’t come with a manual and I don’t always know what I’m doing. Do ye?

The best teacher, of course, has been Ali herself. Of course, it’s my job to teach her right from wrong and how to be a sensible, well-rounded person, but she has also taught me so much about the world around me and how to best respond to her needs. I’m not sure if any of the following skills can be applied beyond the privacy of our house, but for those of you with kids that are three or younger, you may/may not find the following advice useful:

*The following is copyright of yours truly and cannot be found on any internet site*

  • You will suddenly find yourself unashamedly fascinated by your child’s toileting behaviour. Pervy? A little, but unfortunately necessary. If you are lax it may result in a disgusting accident that I imagine my childless friends would have nightmares about. For parents of toddlers, it’s just another day at the office. My daughter won’t let me into the bathroom until she has done her business, but the conversation between her, and I standing patiently outside the door, usually goes like this:
    Me: What are you doing, wee or poo?
    Her: Wee
    Me: Did you wipe your bum?
    Her: I’m already dry.
    Me: WIPE YOUR BUM. I’m coming in to help.
    Her: Don’t look at my bum.

On a related note, the luxury of privacy is not afforded to me when I need to go for a piss.

Me: Can you wait outside please?
Her: Mummy, I love you.
Me: I know. I’ll be out in a sec.
Her: Wee or poo? Oh I hear a wee, good girl mummy!

On another related note, sniffing a stain to ascertain if it’s chocolate or poo. Without reservation.

  • Toddlers are particular. Sometimes Ali gets a notion that she can only drink out of a pink cup. She has to have a special pink teddy going to bed. And if you tell them to eat three more bites, they will only eat three more bites.
  • Toddlers don’t understand ‘Mummy’s tired/sore/too lazy to play with you’. Not only do they want you to play with them, they want you to become fully involved in their imaginative play. Now don’t get me wrong, kids are kids, but there is something degrading and plain wrong with crawling on your hands and knees around the garden and mewing like a cat/barking like a dog. What, don’t tell me I’m the only one that does that? Ye haven’t lived!
  • Young children tend to imitate what they see and hear. I was getting a little frustrated the other day and said to Ali, ‘Right, let’s swap places. I’m Ali, you’re mummy.’ Excited by this new game, Ali readily agreed. When ‘mummy’ asked ‘Ali’ to eat her dinner, I said ‘no, don’t like it,’ and pushed away the plate, and  ‘mummy’ responded by saying ‘right. No Jumping Jacks and no playschool any more’ and I just thought to myself,  ‘wow, I am so annoying.’
  • It’s against every rule in the book, but occasionally you will have to resort to bribery. Recently, I promised Ali a few Buttons when she ate all her dinner, and by God, the second the last morsel crossed her lips, she instantly asked for the Buttons. Sometimes, Ali can be disappointed. For example, just tonight I was encouraging her to put on her own PJs and hearing my hubby come into the house, I said, ‘I have a surprise for you’. she put her pyjamas on faster than lightening and her daddy came in, delighted to have made it home for bedtime. Ali looked at him and said ‘where’s the surprise?’ to which John Paul replied ‘I am the surprise’. Thinking we were joking, Ali smiled and said, ‘No, really.’ I felt the love. I know JP did too.
  • Toddlers/young children can be a little economical with the truth. A few months ago, I caught Ali drawing on the floor behind the couch in the sitting room. I of course hit the roof, but Ali said, ‘no mummy, it wasn’t me, it was my friend’. (Ali was holding the marker in question in her hand at the time, and her friend wasn’t in the house, at all). She also told an elaborate lie one evening about a cat who broke into the house and stole her good flowery jacket and carried it off to his family. Damn you, neighbour’s cat and your jacket-stealing tendencies.
  • Toddlers can also be very sensitive. Around the time of my mother’s anniversary, I was a bit teary and Ali discovered me crying in the kitchen. ‘Mummy, what’s wrong?’ she asked. ‘I miss my mummy’ I explained. ‘Oh, here’s a big hug and a magic kiss, and now you feel all better.’ Little hug. Silence. ‘Mummy, are you okay now?’ ‘Yes hon’. ‘Great, you’re Elsa, I’m Anna’. (on a bad day, I’m Olaf the snowman).

Ultimately, raising a toddler has been one of my most interesting and insightful experiences to date, and while I may not always get it right, we all have fun learning through our mistakes. And Alison has tremendous fun testing the boundaries. Well, they say kids learn when they’re enjoying themselves, right?

Alison has not only taught me how to be her mummy, but also how to be a better person. I’ve become more patient, more understanding, gentler (to Alison, anyway. JP may beg to differ). Most importantly of all, she gives me great hugs and superb writing material, so thanks hon. Love you! xxx