My son is turning three in two weeks. How can it be that my youngest is already three? I remember wishing for the day my kids were a little bigger, a little more independent but, somehow, it’s come around all too quickly. And it’s still not a walk in the park.
In the early days of parenting when I was up at all hours of the night, only to spend my days changing dirty nappies, sterilising bottles and pushing the pram down every street of the neighbourhood until I had blisters on my feet, I dreamt of this stage: the toddler years.
Little did I know they came with tantrums, bedwetting, food throwing and general chaos. I suppose they aren’t dubbed “the terrible twos” for nothing. And it seems, if my daughter is anything to go by, “the “f***ing fours” are not going to be much easier.
Just yesterday I walked in on her helping herself to my makeup – apparently the play-play stuff just doesn’t do it for her; she prefers the Chanel eye shadow to the Barbie one. My foundation brush was also used to apply blush – and a lot of it – while my expensive red lipstick, which I don’t even wear very often (although I think I should) was smeared not only all over my daughter’s face, but also all over my white dresser.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, my son had pulled a bar stool up to the fridge, opened it and was about to start helping himself to last night’s leftovers. As any parent will know, when I insisted the make-up lesson was over and the kitchen was closed, I was subjected to a fair amount of screaming that was only stopped with the promise of a sweet – which is what my son was apparently hunting for anyway. Yes, bribery is alive and well in my house.
“More independence for them means more freedom for me (to an extent) and watching as their personalities develop is thrilling.”
Food seems to be the source of many of the arguments in our house – either I’m shouting at the kids for fighting over the last biscuit or they’re shouting at me because my homecooked meal isn’t what they feel like eating – they’d prefer said biscuit. While I’m grateful that dinnertime no longer involves a multitude of puréed vegetables, it’s certainly not without its challenges.
Now my kids can tell me what they’d like to see on the menu (or as it turns out, what they don’t want), which is most often peanut-butter and honey sandwiches (which I insist does not qualify as an appropriate dinner option) or hot dogs “with the sausage on the side please” – meaning they really just want a buttered roll with tomato sauce on. Also not a nutritious choice.
I serve them a more balanced meal and most of the time they actually do eat it but on the evenings that they refuse, I use my very well-honed bribery skills to coax them to have one more bite. It’s amazing the power a gummy sweet has over a child.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. More independence for them means more freedom for me (to an extent) and watching as their personalities develop is thrilling. The toddler years also require less stuff – you’re not weighed down by nappy bags, strollers, car seats and camp cots.
You get to go on plenty of adventures and see the world through a whole new perspective. But the toddler years don’t magically return your life to its pre-kids glory days. I still don’t get a full night’s sleep (we’re working on it), my bottle sterilising has been replaced by endless hours of laundry and, while I’m not pushing a pram, I’m now chasing after two kids on bikes.
But, despite having far less time for myself and far less money, my life is so much richer and my time is much better spent. So, while your life is irrevocably changed when you become a parent, so are you. And dare I say it, for the better.
Jessica is a writer and editor from Cape Town – and a mum of two toddlers. Suffering from major mom guilt trying to juggle life and motherhood, she recently started a blog, realhometruths.com, to celebrate the mess and the magic of motherhood.