I recently read a very interesting article about the frustrations of being a toddler. The article outlined how we always talk about the challenges of motherhood, but rarely about the challenges of being a child. A toddler is unable to do most things for themselves despite trying (think about your child’s first several hundred attempts at eating with cutlery) and often unable to articulate their preferences and communicate them to their caretakers. Surely that’s more frustrating than trying to convince your toddler that they can’t have a third piece of string cheese because it nearly dinner time. It was a brilliant read and it got me thinking about what must go through Baby A’s mind.
My husband says time and time again how he wishes he had a window into Baby A’s mind so that he could tell what she is thinking at any moment. It truly would be magical to know what she must’ve felt when she said her first ‘I love you’ to her father while he was changing her diaper. No points here for guessing what I felt – extreme pride coupled with intense jealousy. It would be very helpful to know what she’s asking when I see her trying so hard to tell me something, but the words just aren’t there, resulting in stressed out mumbling. It would also be lovely to know what she’s thinking when she does a little dance again and again because mommy found it entertaining the first time.
Since we will never really know what the little one is thinking, I thought I’d try to guess what goes through her mind at some key moments in the day. Over to my brain’s version of Baby A’s brain!
Little eyes flutter open. Oh it’s morning now! Mommy and papa are still sleeping…hmm. Where’s my toothbrush?
Little person sits up and exclaims “teeth, teeth!” Why hasn’t anyone handed over my toothbrush yet? Oh mommy and papa are still sleeping. Maybe Papa will wake up if I poke him in the eye. Hmmm… still asleep. Okay slap in the face it is. I wish it didn’t come to this – it’s not comfortable to brush my soft hands against his beard. Oh good, he’s up now. “Teeth, teeth!” No, no good morning hug! Give me my toothbrush. No, no kisses yet either. Why is it so difficult to understand that I want my toothbrush? Maybe I should cry a little. Okay that worked. Haha, toothbrush to bite on! Maybe I should give papa his hug and kiss now.
I’m feeling hungry. I’ve been awake for 2 whole minutes now and I haven’t had my milk yet. This is unacceptable. I wish mommy was as easy to wake up as papa. Two slaps and nothing. She’s just stirred. “Doo, doo!”
Let me see if papa will give me some food. Maybe if he feels I’m really upset about mommy not being awake yet, he’ll give me some pistachios. “Papa, Ista?” Oh that didn’t go as expected – he’s trying to wake mommy up! Papa, you know she’ll eventually wake up and then she’ll say ‘no baby, no pistas before breakfast’, so just stop trying to wake her up and hand over the pistachios. “Istaaaaaaa”
Well this is just great. No pistachios and no milk and it’s been 4 minutes since I woke up. I know she doesn’t like it but she leaves me with no choice – have to pull her hair. It works like a charm! “Doo, doo!”
What’s she so grumpy about? Yeah I woke up four times during the night as well – you weren’t the only one, mommy! Come on, come on, hurry up with the milk! No, no hug and kiss for you yet. Where’s my doo doo pillow? Oh oops, didn’t mean to hit mommy in the head with that. I was just trying to speed things up. “Soddies, Mommy.” Ah, she’s ready now! Doo doo time!
When we’re about to go out
Mommy has changed her clothes and she’s putting something on her eyes. Why is she not giving it to me? How many times do I need to yell ‘eyes’ at her before she’ll hand that over to me? A brush? No, I don’t want a brush! Give me the eyes! Okay I’ll cry now – that usually always works with mommy.
Okay I didn’t get the eyes thing, but she gave me a cheek brush and a little box. Let me put this on my cheeks. Why is she looking at me and laughing? Wait, my cheeks don’t look as pink as mommy’s!
Okay mommy has changed her clothes now and taken out new ones for me. Let me try putting them on. Hand goes here, head goes… ugh. Where’s mommy? I can’t see! “Mommy!”
Did mommy say it’s diapi changing time? Ugh, no! I won’t lie down here. “Sit up!” No, I don’t want a diapi change. “Sit up!” Why doesn’t she understand? I don’t want a diapi change! Oh oh, mommy is singing papa’s ‘Itsi bitsy spider’ song, let me teach her the itsy bitsy fingers dance as well. Actually,let me help mommy clean my bum so that it’s faster. If I just swing at her very quickly, I can grab the clean clean wipe from her hand…there, done! Oh why is she getting upset? I was just trying to help her!
Diapi done, clothes changed, let me go get my shoes shoes now. Ooo… these bright red ones look very nice! Let me take them to mommy. “Mommy, shoes shoes!” What’s wrong with the ones I got? I don’t want to wear the blue sandals! Who cares if I’m wearing a frock! Must she always create such a fuss about everything? I DON’T WANT TO WEAR THE BLUE SANDALS! YOU ASKED FOR THIS MOMMY! NO BLUE SANDALS!
Now that I’m finally wearing my red sneakers with my socks socks, we should leave now. “Let’s go, baby!” I’m banging on the door, and no one is opening it. Let’s go already! I’m wearing my shoes shoes.
Oh wait, I forgot to say bye to papa. “Ba bye, papa”. I hope he heard me all the way from here. The door is finally open and there’s ‘tee too, tee too’. Have to wait for the ‘tee too, tee too’ (elevator) to come. Mommy is locking the door behind her? Where’s papa? Where’s papa? Papa isn’t coming with us?
I’m feeling a bit peckish. Did mommy say its lunch time? She’s in the kitchen, so she must be making my food. It’s taking too long. “Mommy, ista (pistachio)?” No? “Mommy, shibi shibi (strawberries)?” No? I can’t wait for 5 minutes for lunch! 5 minutes are too long. Let me try opening the refrigerator. I know where she keeps the cheese. Ugh, this is too heavy. “Mommy, cheese?” No? “Mommy, appet (apple)?” No? “Mommy, biscuit?” No? I want food now! “Istaa, Istaaaa, Istaaaaaa, ISTAAA, ISTAAAAA!” Must it always be like this mommy? Why couldn’t you have given it to me when I asked for it calmly? Just 5 istas? I want more. Let me hide these and take the empty bowl to her to get some more. “Mommy, ista?” I can’t wait for 2 minutes for lunch! I want more ista! Okay, then come on pick me up? “Aaooo!” Let me stir that pot too. Pick me up, mommy. Let me grab hold of her legs. Maybe if I pull her shirt, she’ll pick me up. What’s this dial? Turn the dial, turn the dial. Oh oops, mommy doesn’t seem too happy about me turning the dial. She’s saying that I turned off the stove. What does that mean? “Aaooo!”
Eeek, no! Pick me up so I can stir the pot, not to wash my hands! I don’t want lunch now, I just ate istaa!
This is about all that my conscience will allow me to write. I had penned down some thoughts like ‘let me just be super annoying to see how long it’ll take before mommy completely loses her mind‘, and ‘yes, of course I dislike your cooking. My hatred for your cooking is directly proportional to the amount of time you spent in the kitchen,’ but I promptly deleted them.
On a more serious note, it surely is harder being a toddler than it is being a parent. While your life is an empty page and your possibilities are endless (not to forget that you’re also super cute), you’re also completely dependent on someone else. If I have a rough day at parenting, I can hand Baby A over to my husband and tell him I need a break. If I have an argument with my husband and I don’t wish to speak to him, I can go lock myself in a room, or I can go out. What are the options for Baby A? If she’s has a terrible day because she really wanted to go to the swings, but mommy had to run errands, Baby A can’t tell me that she’s had enough with me and needs a break. She has to accompany mommy even if she’d rather be doing something else. If mommy loses her temper and snaps at Baby A because she took all the clothes out of her bag and threw them on the floor of a public toilet, Baby A can’t turn around and walk off. She can only stand there, make an apologetic face and give mommy a hug, hoping that mommy will laugh off her mischief.
They say that motherhood is the most difficult job in the world – there are no vacations, no project downtime and no breaks. Just last night, I was awoken at 4.30 am by Baby A, who was demanding milk. Usually Baby A only wakes up once at night to feed, and this was her second waking within a span of 2 hours, so I wasn’t exactly happy. When she was still awake after an hour despite two rounds of milk and a lot of cuddles, my patience was running low. I handed her over to my husband and tried to sleep while he was up with her for another 2 hours. Neither of us could figure out why Baby A had suddenly decided to wake up for a little middle-of-the-night bonding time. She didn’t have fever and we couldn’t find any visible cause of discomfort. It was only in the morning when she had a couple of terrible coughing fits that we realized that her throat was hurting and she was severely congested. It’s definitely much harder being a toddler.
Most of the time, I’m very patient with Baby A, more patient than I thought possible before I became a mother. I do have my moments though, and I’m guilty of sometimes losing my temper with Baby A without truly understanding why she’s acting the way she is. I’ve promised myself to try harder not to have these moments, and instead to stop and really focus on the ‘why’ behind the behaviour. While it’s frustrating when Baby A is doing something I think she shouldn’t be, or that I clearly told her not to, she could be feeling the same way about my actions. Surely it’s not pleasant to have someone force a spoonful of medicine down your throat despite you clearly saying ‘NO!’, or to be given a plate full of chicken and vegetables when you’d asked for strawberries. A big round of applause for the little ones doing the toughest job in the world, and making it look easy!