Parenting: The process of turning our crotchfruit from wailing creatures that look like plucked chickens into happy, polite, well-balanced kids who become functioning adults of the kind we don't mind sitting next to on an aeroplane. It's a long, arduous, repetitive task, thankfully interspersed with moments of pure joy – the first laugh; the first steps; the first time they actually do what you ask, when you ask...
It is truly a wondrous day when all our nagging – sorry, effort – pays off and our little darlings actually learn something. Whether it's being able to tie their own shoelaces or being able to leave the park without a clump of somebody else's hair clutched in their freakishly strong little fists, we rightly allow ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done.
However, sunken in the battlefield of parenting are volatile mines that we couldn't even imagine. No sooner do our sweethearts take a concept on board than they turn it into another form of parental torture, using our carefully chosen words and well-thought-out examples against us in a barrage of bossiness disguised as “personal growth”:
1. “Me do”.
See that tiny window of opportunity you have to make your appointments on time? Wave it goodbye the second your toddler learns to pull on his own trousers. From now on, add a minimum of 5 minutes to each individual task in your 'leaving the house' routine, as they insist on taking sole responsibility for every aspect of their personal hygiene, wardrobe choices and feeding. Yay independence!
2. “Mama share”.
Toddlers resist sharing like cats resist baths. What's yours is theirs, and what's theirs is theirs too. The hallelujah moment when they first allow another child to play with their toys without attempting to gouge their eyes out will be quickly replaced with the misery of having to eat all chocolate-based products in the bathroom, or suffer the hurt bewilderment and indignation of a small child intent on shaming you into giving up the goods. And no, they NEVER want to share your broccoli. That's not how it works.
3. “I help”.
They won't help to tidy up their blocks or pick up the giant pile of books they've scattered around the living room. Oh, no. They will, however, be just DYING to assist with any intricate, dangerous or awkward jobs you're doing, preferably involving bleach or knives. If they can be steered away from imminent death or injury, their second-favourite time to assist is when you've just finished a time-consuming job. There's nothing like picking your clean, folded washing off the floor for the third time to make you rethink your emphasis on helpfulness.
4. “Don't touch!”.
Given that a huge part of parenting revolves around preventing your little ones from destroying their body parts in all sorts of bizarre ways, teaching them to steer clear of certain objects probably takes up the majority of your day. They're simple creatures, though, and the idea that it's just them who shouldn't use the oven or transport pans of boiling water is beyond them. This charming characteristic means that you'll spend a good year or two feeling like you're living with a particularly nervous drill sergeant, as your every move towards potential danger is greeted with roars of “DON'T TOUCH, MAMA!” It's OK, cold food is fine until this stage is over and ironing is overrated anyway.
5. Routine Problems.
Subject of many a heated debate, routines can make or break a parent. Once your squawking newborn has gained enough sense to realise that some things, like bedtime, happen every day, routines can be a handy weapon in your arsenal of ways to make your day easier. But toddlers can be creatures of habit, which in many cases means that slight deviations from the norm result in screaming fits and general misery for everyone within a 2 mile radius. Try skipping bath time for ONE night and not only will they not sleep, they'll make sure that the world knows that it's YOUR FAULT. Remember that festival you didn't go to when they were 7 months old because it finished two hours after bedtime? Now is the time to forcefully regret it.
I've decided – number two child will be feral. It'll be easier on everyone.