What a difference a year makes. I was nostalgically browsing some old photos from during my maternity leave this evening and it struck me, not for the first time, that for all of my pretending (and I will carry on pretending), the baby is actually no longer really a baby *sob*. Some things haven’t changed. I still spend the days where I am not in work tired, covered in snot, and scraping food from various crevices. I am also still grateful beyond words for the armfuls of beautiful boys that I am privileged enough to enjoy on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. In other ways though, life couldn’t be any more different. So one year on, here’s an A-Z of the new good, bad and ugly of life with a now toddler and preschooler:
A is for ‘Arse wiping’ (and ‘Alcohol’)
It has been getting on for four years since that first tentative, slightly shaky nappy change. Yet despite this lapse in time, it can still feel on some days as though your job title should be ‘professional arsewiper’. Let’s assume you have a three year old who requires your best tissue in hand services once per day. That’s 365 “I said bend forward” episodes per year. Assuming your 1 year old is similarly ‘regular’, add to that at least 365 “stop rolling off the bloody mat. You are covered in your own excrement and the carpet is still cream in that spot!” episodes, an occassional “FFS it’s under my finger nail!” episode for good measure and the chances are you’ve earned yourself the second A of parenting – alcohol!
B is for ‘Baby wipes’
They might not be babies anymore, but baby wipes are still the holy-grail of parenting. Useful for aforementioned arse (and face) wiping – yes. But also for cleaning the kitchen table, floor, bathroom sink and walls in a hurry. Also a dead cert for 20 minutes of peace and quiet to enjoy a hot drink (or to fall into a coma), while the toddler empties the packet one marvelous wipe at a time.
C is for ‘Crumbs’
Feeding time at the zoo doesn’t come close. I spend so much time on my hands and knees under the dining room table that it’s genuinely starting to feel like my second home. It sounds exciting taken out of context. It’s really, sadly, not.
D is for ‘destruction’
One small child can empty a toy box and destroy a tidy lounge in 5 minutes with very little trouble. But add another child, daringly turn your back for 2 seconds, and together they will empty your draws, cupboards, handbag, drink and soul. Note that when operating in destruction mode, they will ALWAYS work in total silence so as not to rouse suspicion.
E is for ‘Energy’
Where does it come from? They have so much. If only they would share it with their energy deficient parents. Naturally they have the most energy of all at bedtime. No sooner has the C-Beebies bedtime story begun than they have transformed into running, squealing, diving, dinosaur impersonating absolute monkeys (putting it politely).
F is for ‘Forage’
A day will not go by where something isn’t lost that you will have to forage for. Most often it is the TV remote. Usually this will be in one of two places: either down the side of the sofa where you attempted to hide it from the toddler, or in a place of the toddler’s choosing. In the case of the later, be sure to mentally prepare yourself for an hour long hunt while the preschooler sulks (because they are generally a bit crap at the whole delayed gratification thing!).
G is for ‘girl friends’ (and gin…obviously)
Girl friend time is harder to come by than it used to be, but the best friends understand that life is busy – it is for them too. And when you do get together, it’s a breath of fresh air and like no time has passed at all. The second G ‘Gin’ almost always goes hand in hand with girl friends.
H is for ‘heart’
For all of the challenges, toddlers and preschoolers make your heart melty every bit as much as babies and you will still wish for time to stand still on an almost daily basis. By now, they are becoming their very own little person right before your eyes with their own traits, views, and quirky ways. This means that the time they snuggled into your shoulder and told you that you were their best friend, it was because THEY wanted to. That time they caught your eye and met it with a knowing smile, it was because they wanted to. That time they dropped everything and sprinted into your arms at nursery pick-up, it was because they wanted to. Above everything, this is what makes this stage great.
I is for ‘I’
Sometimes, in the midst of the daily whirlwind, it’s hard to remember that you exist in your own right away from your sticky fingered shadows . For me, it seems it’s only on the days that I work, or in the evenings that I truly remember this. It’s important to take some “I” or me time when you can. Treat yourself and at the very least, ditch the kids and go to the loo unaccompanied, or take time to BREATHE (at least once!) each day.
J is for ‘jam’
Once upon a time I imagined a world where every evening we’d enjoy organic home cooked dishes around the dinner table, talking about our day. The truth is, sometimes, after a busy day at work and with the craziness of the bedtime hour looming, jam teacakes are bloody brilliant (and they think so too!). You JUST have to overlook the crumbs. So. Many. Crumbs.
K is for ‘kisses’
One of my favourite things about having small children. Especially when they come with sound effects like our toddler’s currently do. Long may it continue.
L is for ‘laundry’
It’s one of life’s great mysteries. Going from one child to two, shouldn’t make that much difference to the laundry load, yet these days the ironing pile permanently resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the wash basket seems to refill, Harry Potter style, in the time it takes to blink.
M is for ‘Mommy? Mommmy? Mommmmmmmy?’
Remember how exciting it was when you first heard that five letter word come from your teeny babe’s mouth? Chances are you are so over that now. These days “Mommy? Mommmy? Mommmmmmmy?” forms a near permanent sound track to your daily life. It follows you around the house, siren-like and only stops when you muffle it with chocolate.
N is for ‘no’
The toddler’s favourite word (much to the preschooler’s glee). At almost 4, nothing is more entertaining that watching your younger brother get into trouble for breaking the rules because at 4, rules have a new weight and although you’d secretly like to, you can’t quite bring yourself to rebel with the gusto you once did.
O is for ‘Old’
There is nothing quite like a pair of under 4s to accelerate the ageing process at a rate of knots and leave you feeling and looking twice your age.
P is for ‘Peppa Pig’ and ‘Paw Patrol’
A necessary evil if you want to stand any chance of staying sane, peeing, or making lunch each day. I thought we might avoid it once. How very wrong I was!
Q is for ‘questions’
The preschooler is rapidly transforming into a question asking machine. As a teacher I usually love it when kids ask a good question – it’s how we learn. Sadly preschoolers don’t seem to have mastered the art of a “good” question yet, so when we are 20 minutes into a journey and on the 459th “are we nearly there yet Mommy?”, it’s tough not to throw them out of the window…
R is for ‘remember’
Irritating questions aside, there are so many moments that I hope I will remember about this stage. Mostly ridiculous things, like the way they are currently obsessed with walking around the lounge under a blanket together like a horse (or camel, perhaps?); the sheer excitement that permeates their expression at the most seemingly everyday thing; their cheeky grins; infectious laughs; strong meaningful cuddles; tiny hands; soft skin, still so new in the grand scheme. Memories are everything.
S is for “sick bugs”
We did quite well in terms of avoiding sick bugs in our eldest’s first year. Then he went to nursery. Then we had another baby and he grew old enough for nursery too and from that point on, ‘Germagaedon’ has been well and truly upon us. Nothing is more ‘yummy mummy’ than scraping sick out of a car seat on the side of the dual-carriageway, or from the toddler’s hair at 3am though right? Sharing little cherubs that they are…
T is for “ten” (the magic number)
As in “I’m going to count to ten and if you don’t put your shoes on…” (works almost every time).
U is for “unique”
Because having two close in age makes you realise just how unique they are. Our two look similar and there is no doubting that they are brothers, but they literally couldn’t be more different (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).
V is for “Vacuum”
After the washing machine, the second hardest working contraption in the house!
W is for “wrestling”
Our eldest is frankly not great at wrestling. I don’t think he even knew it was a thing until the youngest learned to walk, then run, then rugby tackle him to the ground and bear hug him with glee. He knows now. Good old brotherly love…
X is for “X-ray vision”
The one thing (besides eyes in the back of your head) that you wish that you had; leaving a room unwatched for longer than 20 seconds is playing with fire.
Y is for “yesterday”
Because all of these things become yesterday, then last week, then last month, then last year, and before you know it they become a vague, flickering memory. I’ve become increasingly aware lately that nothing is forever. Footprints fade and life is short. So in between crumb cleaning (and arsewiping), I intend to do my very very best to cherish it, warts and all.
Z if for “zzzzzzz”