It’s a chilly, damp morning in Marlay Park. The small playground is totally deserted apart from two little toddlers wandering about half-heartedly. Their mothers huddle miserably together off to one side. It’s not raining, but the sun is completely obscured by thick grey clouds. Getting the kids out for a runabout in fresh air was an awful idea in hindsight. There’s not even a glimmer of healthy sunlight to be had, and the day is rapidly getting gloomier. This is the kind of dull and dreary morning where no one feels good. The air is a heavy blanket of cold misty wetness that seeps into your lungs, making it hard to breathe. It’s a ‘should have stayed in bed’ kind of day. After half an hour we’re ready to give up. The kids look like they’re being tortured instead of having fun. We’re all chilled to the bone despite wrapping up well. Appropriate time warnings are given and there are no complaints about the thought of leaving. So we head back on the extremely long trek back to the car park with our cantankerous toddlers.
The fact that the four of us are travelling at the speed of a snail as the little people stop to explore every patch of mud or stick significantly contributes to what happens next. “SWWIIIIIINNNGGGG! Want swing. Want swing.” I have this brief moment of hope, but no, it’s my toddler that has just flipped into extreme tantrum mode. I get that sinking feeling when you just know this isn’t going to end well no matter how you handle it. Still, I go through the motions of talking, negotiating, distracting, reasoning (hah!), pleading… and that’s it. I’m all out of tactics.
We’re too far away to go back to the playground now. And I know for a fact that he’s not going to want the swing as soon as he gets there. This is not about a swing. This is about being out in the cold dark day when lunch and naptime are fast approaching. I’ve made a fatal error. I really should know better. I’d run out of snacks to bring out with us today, and did not take the extra time to stop in the shops and arrive late for our playdate. This is not the kind of day where you get away with doing that. This is the kind of day where everything just escalates.
I explain for the umpteenth time that we were finished on the swings and will come back another day. I promise we’ll go get some nice food once we reach the car. Nothing will console him. My kingdom for a flakey croissant to offer. But there isn’t even a stale crust of bread in the vicinity. It becomes clear that there’s no other way around this. I look at the angry face, brace myself, pick up the wriggling bundle, and start walking as briskly as I possibly can whilst carrying an increasingly heavy and violent toddler. I steadfastly look at the ground as we pass by the odd stranger out walking their dog for fear of judgement in their eyes. The screaming gets louder with every step I take. My friend makes no comment on the situation – she’s been in my place many times before. There’s absolutely nothing helpful to say.
There are three things I have rapidly learnt the hard way about looking after a 2 year old.
1. Never ever let them get tired.
2. Never ever let them get hungry or thirsty.
3. If you let them get hungry, thirsty and tired then, well… you may not survive what’s about to explode in your face.