It wasn’t the latter stages of pregnancy, as I enjoyed those. It wasn’t the newborn days, as even though they were exhausting, I loved hiding away with my new family. It wasn’t the terrible twos with the foot stamping and constant shrieks of ‘NO’ and it definitely isn’t the tiresome threes with a steady stream of ‘Why?”
So when was it?
It was when my first baby turned into a boisterous toddler between the ages of 15 months and 2 years.
It was a shock to me, to go from such an easy, laid-back baby to a toddler that never stopped moving. While other mothers sat clapping along to songs at toddler classes, their child happily participating from their lap, mine was emptying my bag onto the floor to search for raisins, pulling the cord out of the wall from behind the bouncy castle, or making it as far as the reception area before I caught him on a cunning escape. I was newly pregnant with his brother, utterly exhausted, and definitely didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
During that tiring time, a lady turned to me and said: “Don’t worry, you’ll soon be the mother that gets to sit with a cup of coffee at a play area while your child explores on his own.” I can’t remember my response, but I fear it was a snort or a scowl.
But there was light at the end of the tunnel.
He turned two and things got easier overnight. He became a happy, clever, and comparatively calm child. I could take him out without the buggy and he actually wanted to hold my hand. I could take him to the theatre, on long-haul flights, and to school assessments knowing that he would sit still and be polite. He still had energy, but it wasn’t usually reserved for attempts to escape my clutches.
And guess what? I was the mother that could sit down with a cup of coffee at a play area while my child explored. It was really rather lovely for a while.
As he turned into a little boy, I forgot just how hard my crazy little toddler was. And so when his younger brother edged ever closer to the same tricky age, I was happily oblivious to the crazy stage approaching all over again.
But BAM! Here we are!
This week, I have dealt with no less than 13 toddler tantrums. His finest was yesterday at the park, when he screamed for a full 35 minutes. I try my hardest to stay calm in these situations for both their sake, but carrying a flapping, kicking, red faced, angry toddler, whilst simultaneously digging around in my bag with a free hand in the hope of finding something exciting like raisins, and yelling at his brother to wait for us as he bombed down a hill was a little challenging, to say the least.
Thankfully, he has a sibling – and on the way home in the car, with the toddler still screaming, his brother took matters into his own hands. “Stop crying Wilfred!” he said. And then a pause, followed by “Right! Let’s sing a song.” The rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that followed halted the tantrum in its tracks. It was a joy to witness on so many levels. Sometimes only brothers will do.
I know there will be plenty more challenging stages to come (I hear the age of 12 is a real cracker) – and I know I am lucky that these are my biggest challenges as so many parents have it harder.
And if I am honest, it is easier this time round for one simple reason; I know it’s a stage. It will pass. He will be a little boy before I know it. And when it happens, I won’t quite believe how quickly the time has passed.
I will be sat in a play area with a cup of coffee again before I know it.
But until then, I’ll be needing all the energy I can muster.
Bring on the strong cups of coffee. In fact, make it a barrel. I think I’m going to need it.