We’re driving along the road on an average day, windows down, enjoying a nice breeze. I catch the Rascal’s eye in the mirror and he grins. ” Mammy in the front. The Rascal in the back. Mammy driving.”, he tells me. For a couple of minutes it’s like we’re the perfect family in an advert, peacefully making our way along, toddler singing to himself contentedly. He particularly likes to do nursery rhyme mash-ups. Then the demands begin. One of his favourite snacks for the car is a bunch of grapes. “Rape, rape!’, he cries from the back of the car. If I’m lucky, I might actually have some in my bag. “Just wait until we stop at the next lights and I’ll get you some”, I respond. “No… rape rape!” he screams, louder and louder as we pass by random pedestrians. I roll up all the windows and hope no-one caught that conversation. The requests continue on repeat until I hand back a couple of grapes and then silence descends for a time. Then he sucks the last bit of juice from his hands, and starts waving them imperiously again. It never ends well if your grape supply runs out before the journey ends.
As we speed towards the big 02, life with the Rascal is a full-blown soap opera with lots of laughter and tears. Every emotion is big and scary, filling him up so much that it overflows out of him in unexpected ways. Like the Irish weather, we get all the moody seasons in one day. We bask in the sunny smiles. But you never know when a dark cloud lurking will suddenly drench you in a fleeting icy shower, or build to a massive thunderstorm. “Maaaaaammmmmyyyyyy!”, the cries echo through the house all day. God forbid he not have one hundred percent of my attention. “Mammy”, he prods, over and over, until satisfied that I’ve attended to his desires. Some days it feels like I’m being verbally beaten until my attention span is so bad I can’t possibly focus on anything but him.
He trails me about the house, ‘helping’ to slow down every task I undertake. Clean socks are rapidly dispensed into the laundry basket. Tops are flung to the ground faster than I can fold them. All manner of items in the kitchen are introduced to the bin. As the dinner on the stove threatens to boil over, he’s there, arms raised, sulky face upturned, demanding to be up in arms. Alternatively he potters off to play, inevitably shrieking wildly from another room when I’m right in the middle of something. I race to discover the cause. Is it a wail of frustration because two non-lego items are refusing to stick together? Or the cry of pain from when he’s gone and trapped some body part in whatever toy he’s currently abusing? He takes any little thing that isn’t going his way as a personal insult worthy of treating like a cataclysmic event.
Sleep has become much more of a struggle with all that’s going on. There’s major panic every evening as he’s put into his sleep suit, “Where toes, where toes?”. We’ve made the milestone move from cot to big bed. The ‘new bed’, as he persists in calling it, weeks later. In a full-size single bed with a padded side against the wall, and a bed rail on the other, he can now thrash and roll about to his heart’s content all night long. Of course he still prefers for me to squash in beside him so he can belt me as he tries to get comfortable, wrap an iron arm around my neck so I can’t easily sneak off. Our bedtime routine has adjusted to the new environment and after the obligatory 4 books have been read, we each lie on our respective pillows and wait, wait, wait, as breathing slows, limbs stop moving, and slowly, slowly, I extricate myself and leave him to his slumbers.
It’s not all about living with a little 22 month old tyrant though. We also have a friendly, polite little boy who likes to say Hi to strangers and tells everyone “I’m Rascal!”. He enjoys eating out and meeting people. Here and there through the day and night, he shuffles over to shyly confide that “I wuv you!” He happily distributes his toys to other toddlers that visit, and is exceptionally good at tolerating other children that want what he has. We have a funny, mischievous little boy who specifically tells us “Rascal is funny!” in case there might be any doubt. I’ll catch him red-handed in my bedroom rooting through a bag that doesn’t belong to him. “Uh oh!”, he grins, handing over the contraband before I even ask what he’s doing.
He generally loves his food, but it’s a bad sign at mealtimes if he enquires “What’s this?”. Inevitably it will be flung to the floor, regardless of the response. “Oh Rascal!’, he sighs, as he surveys the latest mess he’s created. If he’s not busy making the messes, he’s on a massive cleaning purge. Any unknown object he encounters is usually headed for the nearest bin. “Put in bin!”, he announces, and there’s no convincing him otherwise. He has strong opinions on everything, and is not afraid to express them. “All done swing! Too wet! Too cold!”, “More”, “Rascal all sad!”. It is handy to know what he’s thinking or desires, but some days the way he delivers the information makes me feel far more like an underpaid and unappreciated servant than a parent. Then he unexpectedly announces “Tank you Mama!” and it’s hard not to smile. Parenting isn’t always a thankless job.