Motherhood, Olive

The tyranny of toddlers

The Tyranny of Toddlers-

NO smiling, mummy!

It occurs to me that for the benefit of those who do not currently live out their days at the mercy of the ever-changing tyrannical whims of a maniacal despot, that I ought to explain in detail what it is like living with an almost-two year old. 

First you have to know that I have no choice in the matter, I literally have to do what she asks. It’s a very basic part of this parent-child relationship. What, am I supposed to just not feed her when she’s hungry? Not give her water when she asks for it? Not carry her up the stairs every single time because she has apparently lost the ability to do so herself? 

Exactly. It is my DUTY as a parent to meet her needs. And you know what? Stockholm Syndrome, is what. I happen to have grown fond of this little demon, this needy caterwauling tyrant. Would you like an example, to determine for yourself how advanced the situation is?  She accidentally bit me the other day in a fit of hysterical laughter. 

Do you know what I did? I asked her to say sorry and kiss it better. I INVITED HER BITING MOUTH CLOSER TO ME, AS PUNISHMENT FOR HER

And then I hugged her and smelled her hair. 

Lord god help me.

People are sometimes amazed by her manners. Olive says please and thank you on cue almost every single time without being reminded, and even sometimes where it makes zero sense at all, which is even better. I lap these compliments up like rich cream because it’s all I have right now, it’s all I have! Compliments about the behavior of an entirely separate human being currently serve as my performance review, awards ceremony, and paid vacation all in one. Bring on the accolades! I need this!

But what these lovely complimenters don’t know is that the only reason I am so strict about the manners is because it allows me to delude myself that I have any sort of control over this situation. 

Guys, I am not allowed to sing or dance anymore.

I mean, I didn’t really sing or dance all that much before anyway, but now, now it is expressly forbidden and inspires great rage in the demon. 

“NO Mummy sing!” she shrieks if I happen to belt out the lyrics to a song on the radio. “NOOOOO Mummy dance!” she bellows if she happens to catch me swaying my hips as I am elbow-deep in sudsy dishwater (which is at least three times a day, we don’t have a dishwasher at this house. Ha! What? Another post, oh sweet jesus another post I promise, as soon as my fingers aren’t so pruney anymore.)

So, deprived of these small joys, living in this soulless, quiet, grey place where I whisper songs to myself in secret under the noise of the shower spray, and dance silently by myself in the basement after she’s gone to sleep – in this place, the manners keep me going. They turn demands into requests, and allow me the brief delusion that I am able to choose an option other than blind obedience.

I am fooling no one.

What else? Oh, I have to carry her. Every day. “Up please, mummy!” is played on repeat at our house. She’s allergic to legs, apparently? Or walking? Or the pressure of the ground against her feet displeases her? One of her great pleasures in life is to go walking outside, except after precisely seven steps it’s “Up please, mummy!” and then a pleasant evening stroll with my daughter devolves into a slow march through the neighbourhood where I’m forced to lug a sack of squirmy sweaty potatoes yelling about fire trucks while my neighbours laugh at me from behind the curtains. 

Also: I have to read to her. I know, I KNOW. I created this monster, nurtured it into the beast it is today, and can blame no one but myself for its existence. But put my child within five metres of a book and she is leaping around yelling “Deed it! Deed it!”. And I DO deed it, because we don’t have TV in these parts and I love reading deeding and I want her to love it too. But today? Today we read the instruction book for our vehicle first aid kit? And yesterday we had to leaf through an entire issue of one of those free magazines they hand out at the grocery store about natural health products, and she made me explain every advertisement to her. It was excruciating.

(Excruciating except for the part where she pointed at the beautiful laughing blonde couple shilling macca powder and said “Mummy! And Papa too!” That was pretty cute. She’s so smart. And funny! And seriously her hair I mean her shampoo is unscented so i mean it’s just her natural awesome baby-smell, how is it even possible to smell that good I just can’t get enough.)

(Stoc!holm syndrome, I wish I knew how to quit you!)

So, to the soon-to-be-parents out there: Enjoy your freedom while it lasts. Soon (sooner than you think!)  you too will be living out your days beneath the iron fist of a child wearing underpants decorated with cartoon donuts. 

And for my fellow sufferers? My fellow hostages, here deep in the trenches feeding and wiping and clothing and comforting our tiny wardens? Solidarity! 

(And maybe just a few moments spent hovering over them smelling their necks while they sleep! JUST A FEW. Remember: You still have your dignity.)

(For now.)

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  • Reply Lindsay August 19, 2014 at 3:27 AM

    This toddler raising business is no joke, eh? I’m actually struggling with all of it. I think I recall you writing something about your energy levels/keeping up with a toddler. I feel the same way. Oh, how I LOVED the infancy stage. But my toddler smells pretty good, and she’s GREAT at giving hugs and kisses!

  • Reply Mary August 19, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    Please let this stage pass quickly. Bossy Britches over here doesn’t allow me to sing or dance either. One minute she’s loudly demanding “NOW PLEASE MUMMY” followed swiftly by smoochy kisses and arms tossed lovingly around my neck. It’s crazy town here and I’m losing what little mind I have left.

  • Reply mamabethbarnes August 19, 2014 at 5:21 AM

    This made me smile and chuckle for so many reasons, but the image of you dancing silently with yourself in how basement made me burst out in an uncomfortable LOL mid-Braxton Hicks and I almost peed myself. But dude, oh how I can relate. Especially with the carrying and the deeding and the lapping up of the manners. Couldn’t have said it all better myself!

  • Reply natasham August 19, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    haha this made me laugh…especially “carry me up mama” and “no singing mama”….wait, what happened to my singing? You loved my singing!! But his bear hugs and his little “bletch you mama” when I sneeze make up for it!!

  • Reply jamieramirez August 19, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    i bet you could turn the singing/dancing into a game, like a simon says/stop/go type of thing. toddlers are just playing around with their boundaries between themselves and others and testing limits of their control over their environment, which is totally necessary for healthy growth and development of independence and autonomy. it’s super awesome that you have so much respect for her. so many parents trample all over their kids’ needs with this “i’m the parent, you do what i say” crap.

    but i bet you could make a game out of it, which amuses her, but still allows her to feed her need to play with these concepts of boundaries and control… like where you pretend to be trying to sneak a movement when she’s not looking, then pretend to freeze in place like you think she didn’t see you moving, all with a pretend-serious look on your face; or, where when her arm goes up, you have to stop singing as quickly as possible, and she lowers her arm so you start singing again, then when she raises it (and she’ll try to raise it really fast to trick you) you try to stop instantly, and overshoot, and she feels like she’s not only got control, but also like she’s winning… those kind of things.

    this approach TOTALLY worked with my nephew, too. though, be warned: you will spawn a game and they will love it and want to play ALL the time! you’ll get SO sick of playing it, but then you just need to invent new games… though you will of course have no control over which one will be their favorite! 😮

    • Reply sweetmadeleine August 29, 2014 at 2:14 PM

      You always have such lovely, thoughtful replies, Jamie. Thank you for always sharing your thoughts and suggestions with me. I love it.

  • Reply elizabethjulia August 19, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    This really made me smile! Especially the donuts-on-the-underwear part! Oy vey, this is what I have in store, I know it-my daughter just turned 14 months and already stands on my lap (when I’ve finally found a moment to sit down and relax), throws her arms around my neck, then points up to the ceiling with a little dictator finger…my signal to lug myself up and carry her somewhere she’s suddenly decided she wants to go (and yes, she can walk). You are a great mama, and I know exactly what you mean about the hair 😉

  • Reply Raz December 16, 2015 at 1:43 AM

    I like to see a woman having fun in her articles instead of trying to twist her anecdotes to put down men, but to be quite honest, the swearing seems forced, you don’t need it to make yourself edgy or whatever, just write as SWEET Madeleine. It’s hard to respect anyone who swears, male or female, it just makes them look like uneducated rednecks, which I’m sure you are not. Sometimes I think women do this to make a statement that “if men can swear, then so can I, I’m a feminist and I can do whatever I want”, but most men don’t swear, only lazy uncouth ones do, so that is who you are emulating.

    Otherwise, you have won me over. and I look forward to reading more of your motherhood adventures and please keep feminist rhetoric out of your articles, it’s so refreshing.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine December 16, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      Hey Raz, I like to write in a conversational style, I write how I talk. And, (perhaps unfortunately in your opinion 😉 I do swear when I speak in real life. I’m definitely not littering every sentence with profanity, but there’s something innately satisfying about a well placed FUCK! and I don’t think I’ll ever give it up! You mayyy just have to get used to it if you choose to read here 🙂

      I responded to your other comment re:feminism. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it.

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