As I prised a firelighter out of my 15 month old nephew's tight little grip, I wondered how I'd managed to forget so much about this stage.... I mean it wasn't that long ago - my youngest is 4. But these kind of memories of toddlerdom seem to have gone a bit hazy. Maybe I've blocked them out.
My sister has just been staying with her two little boys, both under 3. Great to have some adult company, but also rather like a mini tornado passing through the house for three days. There was no let up.
Funny though, as only last week I was thinking how fed up I was of people saying it must be easier for me, now that the children are older. I know they're doing it with the best intentions and I usually nod and mumble, because I'd feel guilty saying anything else. The kids (4, 7 and 9) go to school now, they can feed, dress and (sort of) wash themselves. Why wouldn't it be easier? But often that's not how it feels. It feels hard. Maybe I notice it more because I'm on my own, but friends who aren't have said the same thing. I've done toddlers and babies on my own too. So compared to that, why are things a bit of a struggle now?
Well, there's physical v mental challenge.
When they're little it's so physically draining. It's non stop, you need eyes in the back of your head, and sleep is a bit of a lottery.
What I find at the moment is it's mentally tiring. Don't get me wrong, they are good kids, but they challenge me every single day as I try to get them to do homework, music practice, behave, have a bath... EVERY little thing has the potential to turn into a long, drawn out battle. They can back me into a corner with nowhere to go.
Then there's the guilt that comes with this.
If your 3 year old lies down in the street and refuses to get up (tues 10am), then it's hell, but usually quite quickly forgotten until the next time (11am - playing dodgems with the chairs in Cafe Nero) The stress is in the moment - and even if you lose it completely, there's a good chance they won't remember.
Move on a few years and they do remember. Everything. And I find I do too. When I've yelled at one of them it can stay with me for ages. I worry how I've handled it. Guilt creeps in.
The choice issue bugs me as well.
Obviously there are many things a toddler can't do, so of course you do them. My kids can do a lot of stuff for themselves now: open curtains, take their books to school, put toys/clothes away, use a bin, pull the chain, LISTEN - they just choose not to.
Being consistent is so important - and it's something I've tried to do, whatever age or stage they're at. But sticking to your guns is hard if you're the only one laying down the law and they start chipping away. Sometimes when they're having a water fight in the bathroom or trying to wrap the cat in loo roll, I just want to give up and leave them to it.
Also their world is getting bigger as mine appears to be getting smaller....
Other people enter their lives who seem to have more sway than me. If I disagree with something said by a school friend/teacher/football coach, guess who they're more likely believe? I know it's part of growing up but it can be really annoying.
Looking back now, I do remember thinking that friends with children at school had it easy. A thought that kept me going? I probably said the same frustrating things to them that people have been saying to me. On the whole friends used to smile knowingly, and tell me it was just different.
A way of saying no stage is easy.
Anyhow, next stop, teenage-ville.....and that's never had good press.
So maybe whatever stage you're at is the hardest?
And if yours range from toddlers to teenagers, then Wow.