This morning we made our weekly trip to Gymboree class. As usual, before we left, I was in a state of high anxiety lest the Mini-Beast decide to let loose in the middle of class! In fairness to her the worst thing she has done so far is try to steal someone else’s juice cup (followed by wails when said juice cup was returned to its owner!). In fact I once missed a class because she had spent the entire twenty minutes before it started having a temper tantrum and I couldn’t face having to deal with in in front of an audience! So we stayed home and painted instead. I felt a little guilty but hey she was happy, I was happy and no one had to see her red-faced with rage beyond myself and my husband.
Today she was in a very good mood. She has recently discovered the joys of the swimming pool and I think she expected she would be going again this morning. My aunt and I go with her so there were lots of ‘Dee Da’ (this is what she calls my aunt) and a garbled version of ‘splash’! So I was a little worried she would turn feral when she realised we weren’t going to the pool. I was pleasantly surprised. She sat quite happily on my lap and even clapped her hands during the introductory song. From there we progressed to musical instruments and dancing with scarves and tapping our rhythm sticks (the Mini-Beast took both mine and hers so I was left to tap noiselessly on my knees).
It was towards the end of the class that the incident occurred. And surprisingly the Mini-Beast was entirely innocent. She was playing with a toy microphone when out of nowhere another wild toddler descended on her and grabbed her hair before I could stop him. His mother pulled him off and the Mini-Beast was silent. I picked her up and cuddled her. Still silence. I raced to my bag where the emergency soother was stashed. I was just in time. Cutting through the music and children’s giggles, the Mini-Beast’s wail of fury was loud and laced with hurt feelings. Why had this happened to her? I tried to calm her down. The other mothers gathered around. And then my Saviour appeared. “Would she like a rice cake?” Oh yes, yes please! Rice cake in hand the tears disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. In fact I think she actually forgot anything untoward had happened as usually it takes quite some time for our little drama queen to let go of something. Thank goodness for that mother! I couldn’t stop thanking her when the class ended. And I made a mental note to myself to buy a bag of rice cakes and leave them in my bag!
It is recommended that small children get as much fresh air as possible…unfortunately nobody provides the necessary valium needed for the parents who have to undertake such excursions on a regular basis! The first battle begins with clothes. The Mini-Beast has a particular abhorrence of clothes and even in sub-degree temperatures is perfectly content just to wear her nappy…or better yet nothing at all. So getting ready for a walk can take up to half an hour, mama losing her cool before ever leaving the house.
Once dressed there is the Battle of the Car Seat, one I’m sure all parents of small children are familiar with. There are two ways to handle this battle; you can simply get kicked, bitten and scratched in your attempt to restrain them or there’s the old favourite – bribery. Before I became a parent I would have been horrified to use bribery as a parenting tool…I have learned much since then! Now I’m a big fan of bribery. Thankfully the Mini-Beast has recently become infatuated with, of all things, an old calendar. I tell her she is going to get ‘something nice’ and she immediately relaxes enough to be strapped in. Soon she is engrossed in looking at (okay sometimes eating) the pictures.
Upon arrival at the park or garden area one must then struggle to get the little terror into a coat and hat (the hat will only remain on for about five minutes but we have to look as if we take this parenting thing seriously). For the majority of the walk you, the parent, will be forced to carry the hat (scarf or gloves) while enduring judgemental looks from all and sundry for allowing your child to go hatless in such bad weather.
I have recently attempted to let the Mini-Beast roam free rather than bring a buggy. Get rid of all that pent up energy before dinner time (and save on my blushes when she inevitably refuses to get into it). These walks always begin the same way – the Mini-Beast takes my hand and beams up at me. For all of two minutes, my little girl and I peacefully take in our surroundings and I (foolishly) allow myself to smile and think how pleasant this all is. This doesn’t last. Once the Mini-Beast sights other people the drama begins. “Man”, yes that’s a man, “man” the man gets closer, “Man, Man!” as we come head to head with the man I frantically check I’ve remembered my wedding rings. Nothing worse than looking as if I let my toddler man-hunt for me! Most men simply look petrified when they see us looming into view. The odd one will smile, the smile turning to horror when the Mini-Beast declares “dada”!
The Mini-Beast is also fascinated with dogs! But they have to be small dogs. Big dogs or slightly scary looking ones means Mama has to carry her until they are at a safe distance where they can be admired but not interacted with. Small dogs, however, are a different story. They are looked at, yelped at and generally cause much excitement. Some of them even have the pleasure of getting chased. This is not good for Mama. I have had many struggles trying to stop the Mini-Beast eagerly chasing hounds- one poor fellow actually ran away from her. And don’t even get me started on what happens if we pass a man with a dog. Believe me nobody looks good panting after a toddler who is chasing a dog calling out “Man” “Man”! Between the physical exertion and the embarrassment I look like a giant beetroot!
Once the hat starts being thrown off one too many times (and all the dogs and men have run away) we decide to call it a day.
It seemed a good idea at the time. A nice leisurely brunch followed by a stroll through town. Our mistake was in thinking this would be possible accompanied by a toddler. Our smiling, happy baby had recently morphed into a mini-beast and such outings were now a lot less relaxing than they used to be. And I had assumed it was the teenage years I had to dread.
All was going well (if you ignored the usual protest over the car seat) until we entered the restaurant. That was when the mini-beast decided she wasn’t going to go along with the plan. A shriek erupted out of her and suddenly she was stiff as a board in my arms, head thrown back, cheeks red and fists curled up, ready to fight. A waitress threw me a sympathetic smile as I attempted to look calm and collected. Grace under pressure must have been a phrase invented by the parents of toddlers. I kept my cool and made my way over to the table, praying a change of scene would prove a helpful distraction. I was wrong. As my husband struggled with our coats and my over-flowing bag, I produced some water. Mini-beast grabbed the bottle from my hands and glugged it back as if we had been purposely depriving her. This provided a very brief reprieve. We were handed some menus as well as some crayons and paper (these crayons were later dumped unceremoniously on the ground). For one brief moment my husband and I relaxed. Mini-beast must have noted our as she then decided to kick things up a notch. She pointed at random into space and started to yell. We frantically searched for a solution. Did she want a toy? Was she hungry? Had we mistakenly showed some form of weakness (one must be careful to never show any sign of weakness in front of the mini-beast). Nothing soothed her and the random pointing continued unabated. Finally, some breadsticks arrived and mini-beast was momentarily sated. We hurriedly ordered and prayed our breakfasts would arrive before further mayhem could break out. Our coffees came first and I threw mine down my throat, previous adventures with the mini-beast having thought me to drink quickly or be content with cold coffee.
Our breakfasts appeared along with some sausages for the mini-beast. Normally she is a big fan of sausages, in fact she usually becomes very hyper after eating them. Today the vast majority of carefully cut pieces ended up on the floor. She ate her hands instead. After consultation with the husband, I decided to make a mercy dash to Boots. Sweaty and panicked I searched the baby section for Calpol but where was was it? I’m sure the sales assistant was frightened by my manic demeanour. Inspiration struck and I bolted to the pharmacy section, barely containing my rage when the pharmacist took slightly too long to serve me. lI cringed as I re-entered the cafe, sure I would hear the screams of my precious darling ringing through the place! I was very surprised to find both husband and toddler quite calm. One spoon of Calpol later we managed to shovel in some cold eggs and toast while mini-beast watched from her high-chair throne, satisfied we wouldn’t be taking her good moods for granted again. Sadly my husband and I admitted we had become that family. The one everyone avoids sitting next to in restaurants. The one other parents watch half smug/half sympathetic while gratefully cuddling their own well-behaved monsters. The one no-one wants to be…but it seems the one we are all destined to be at some point. My only comfort is telling myself this is something every parent must go through at some stage right? And perhaps the teenage years might not be so hard now we have experienced the horrors of the toddler years?