“No, No, No!”

Tom may only be 19 months old, but it’s clear that toddler-stubbornness is already setting in. Handily, he has decided to learn the word ‘no’ in order to explain to us exactly what we are doing wrong. Which currently seems to be everything!

To add to the already long list of things Tom doesn’t like, which includes things like getting dressed, having his nappy changed, having his teeth brushed by other people, having his face wiped, having his hair washed, vegetables… we now have to add baths without bubbles, getting into the high chair, getting out of the high chair, and having to take his shoes off.

I have to assume that being sick so much lately is partly to blame – we certainly have a huge step up in tantrums when he’s tired, and his response to being ill is to sleep a lot (I know. We are very lucky. Don’t hate me). Sadly though, I suspect much of this is just the wonderful world of self-assertiveness that is toddlerdom.

Fortunately, one of the few things Tom doesn’t say no to is outdoor play. In fact, I narrowly diverted a tantrum on Saturday morning when he brought me his shoes, and then his coat, so we could go play in the garden. He was still in his pajamas, wasn’t wearing a nappy, and refused to put his blanket down…but we rolled with it anyway. After all, next door’s cat was sitting on our fence so clearly needed it’s peace interrupting!

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A Disastrous Walk

There are some really good days in parenting. Not perfect days, those don’t exist, especially when you have a toddler. But days when the house only gets mildly trashed, the toddler only has a handful of meltdowns and gets over them quickly, the whole family enjoys lots of playtime and giggles, and then the toddler goes happily to bed without a squawk.

I really like days like that. Wednesday was not one of them.

We had been in all morning, waiting for the locks to be changed after I lost the keys last week. So when Tom woke up early from his nap, I thought ‘great, we can have a lovely long walk and I can start breaking in my new walking boots’.

I should have twigged this wasn’t going to go to plan when Tom tried to bring an entire armful of toys with us. And had a meltdown when I said no. Then had another one about putting his wellies on. Finally, I got him into the sling and us both out the door.

The first ten minutes or so went fine. We got out onto the Marshes and my boots felt great. But then Tom spotted a puddle and started whining to get down. Sometimes I can do a bit of trotting and he settles back down. Not this time. He wanted out of that sling straight away. So I let him down. At which point he headed off determinedly in the wrong direction.

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After some negotiation, he did agree to turn round. Peace seemed to have returned – he had a great time stomping through puddles and terrorising a slightly older toddler who really didn’t want to play with him. He found a stick which was apparently very good for poking puddles with. At this point, I still thought we were going to have a nice afternoon. Not the one I had planned, but you get used to that when you have a toddler.

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The trouble came when we got slightly further along the path. Tom took a couple of tumbles, the last of which scraped his knee a bit. He was very upset, but didn’t want a cuddle. He stomped on a bit further, complaining loudly, then decided he didn’t want to walk anymore. He also didn’t want to go in the sling. In fact, what he wanted to do was sit down on my shoes and wail. Which was a great look with all the cyclists and dog walkers going past. One lovely old guy stopped to check we were ok, which was sweet but a bit embarrassing. Fortunately the appearance of a stranger surprised Tom enough that I was able to get him in the sling with a minor amount of complaining and back arching. Once we were walking again he settled down a bit and we got home without further drama. About a thousand stories later, he was his normal happy self again.

Normally, this kind of thing doesn’t bother me too much. We are lucky with Tom that he seems to be a fairly happy child, and the odd bad day usually has an easy explanation (teething, a cold, or, like now, dropping a nap). But this time it did bother me. Maybe because it was his first big public meltdown (he’s had plenty of minor ones, but nothing like this). Or maybe because I had woken up grumpy that morning and didn’t have the emotional resources to deal with it well. Either way, I don’t like how I handled the situation – instead of empathising and staying calm whilst he expressed his feelings, I clammed up, got embarrassed, and tried to hurry him along. Not the parent I want to be.

I know everyone has days that go wrong, and that I can never live up to my parenting ideal. So I’m trying to forgive myself for being less than perfect. And despite my impulse to pretend the whole walk didn’t happen, I wanted to share it here. Because our lives aren’t all happiness and mud pies, and it’s important to show that some days go wrong! Thanks to Chloe at Life Unexpected for her recent post emphasising this, which gave me more encouragement to write this post.

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