There’s a reason this period of life is commonly known as ‘the terrible twos’. We’re coming up on halfway through it, and it’s intense. Both physically and emotionally. Some days consist of nothing but lurching from one toddler crisis to the next. Could be that he’s hurt himself doing something he knows he’s not supposed to (again). Could just be that he’s changed his mind and wants his blueberries back out of the pancakes. Or a toy is not disobeying the laws of physics to do his bidding. Doesn’t matter. Pretty much any insignificant thing is sufficient call for a full-blown meltdown.
We’re living with a tiny tyrant who keeps changing the rules. And there are a LOT of rules. For the most part I try and adapt our daily routine to accommodate the growing and changing list of rituals that are apparently vitally important to the little ball of fury. Some days I’m doomed to failure as he just keeps on looking for an excuse – any excuse at all – for flipping out. My days become one long groundhog day composed of little rules and regulations that thwart productivity.
07:00 The house is woken with wails of “Maaaammmmmy!”. My presence is required for him to get out of bed. The rituals begin. He must turn on the lamp. I must turn on the main light. He must switch off the nightime lullabye. And then the lamp. He has to pick a nappy. I must dress him, not Daddy, just Mammy. Negotiations regarding what we both consider to be suitable attire are carried out.
07:35 It’s time to go in and ‘wake’ Daddy. I must go in the door first while he hides behind me. I’m helpfully shoved along by little hands because I’m moving too slowly.
07:55 Time to go downstairs. No carrying downstairs. Wait (im)patiently for him to negotiate the stairs himself. We have a temporary truce regarding the first few bendy stairs. He will barely accept that he must hold a parent’s hand for those as he precariously lowers himself down. Once he reaches the fourth (straight) step, he must be left to shuffle down himself. If any party forgets this milestone, he will remember at the bottom of the stairs and insist on clambering back upstairs to begin the descent again.
08:15 Breakfast. The porridge must be cooked correctly. Served in the right bowl, with the right spoon. The MUST be seeds sprinkled on top. But not mixed in. You touched the porridge in the wrong way? Prepare for screaming.
09:10 Time to get ready for this mornings activity. He oh so slowly climbs the stairs. As he reaches the open stair gate at the top one must stop. Wait. Close the gate. Have the following conversation with oneself. “Open the gate please!”. “Yes, opening the gate”. “Well done!”.
09:20 Ah yes, nappies. Why on earth do nappy manufacturers produce different colours? He decides that he will ONLY wear the purple ones. After several days, there is inevitable discord when the supply of purple nappies runs out and he’s faced with a mountain of unwanted orange ones to choose from.
09:40 Yep, we’re running late. Still have to get back downstairs.
09:50 To leave the house, we must locate any yellow vehicles that have been discarded in random places about the house. (Guess whose favourite colour is yellow?). Particularly one battered yellow car, and two trains imaginatively called ‘yellow train’ and ‘nother yellow train’. In a kitchen cabinet, or stuffed into the pouch on the oven gloves are popular hiding spots.
10:05 By the time you’ve got everything together, ready to leave the house (5 minutes after you were supposed to get where you’re going), you’ll be told “Poop. Poop in nappy”. Drop everything and spend ten minutes negotiating another nappy change (plus the obligatory going up and down the stairs).
10:15 Now that you’re ready to walk out the door, pause for a few minutes as he stops in the open doorway and peers outside. “Hi!”, he announces, looking out of view towards the neighbour’s driveway. “How you doing? I’m going out now!”. After a few more lines of one-sided conversation he finally steps out the door. At this point you can see that there is absolutely no one out there. Okaaay.
10:20 Can’t get into the car unless he has run around it counterclockwise at least once. Then it’s okay to ‘catch’ him and get into the car. Probably while cursing that you made any plans to leave the house today at all.
12:40 Having left the house late, arrive back late. If you were well-prepared and lucky, he will have slowly consumed the equivalent of two bread rolls whilst out and about. If not, good luck getting him down for his 1pm nap.
13:20 Toilet. Nappy change. PJs. Locate yellow car and train. Let him carefully place each in a specific drawer in your room. Locate water bottle. Convince him to climb into the bed. Recite the ‘yellow monster’ story you once made up. If you stray from the script, go back to the start. Now sing the ‘blue rocket’ song you once made up on endless repeat for about twenty minutes while eyes droop.
13:40 Congratulations. You have achieved a ‘late 1pm nap’. Find some tea. Quickly.
15:30 Tread the fine line between letting your toddler nap too late (resulting in no bedtime until midnight) or waking him too early (resulting in non-stop whinging and crying until bedtime). After repeated attempts, eventually get him back up from his nap with only an average amount of tears at being woken up. Time to dress him (again) and navigate downstairs.
16:15 Snack time. It goes similarly to the morning porridge.
17:00 Snack time complete. Oh look, it’s already time to start dinner. Whilst entertaining a cranky toddler. That should be a piece of cake.
18:30 Dinner. Another minefield of should and shouldn’ts depending on the day of the week and which way the wind is blowing. Don’t put sauce on ANYTHING without checking and triple-checking with the master that it is definitely okay. As for placing different parts of the dinner onto the same plate… objects will be flung if they’re not paired correctly. Important note – if dinner is served too late he will be too tired to eat it, too hungry to go to bed. Stuck in an infinite tantrum loop.
19:30 If you successfully made it through dinner by now, brace yourself for the lengthy bedtime routine. Locate yellow car and two yellow trains again. Don’t forget the water bottle. Nappy change, teeth, PJs, then he and he alone must choose the appropriate drawer for each yellow vehicle to ‘sleep’ in. After stories, HE must switch of the light. But only after we play out the expected dialogue where he refuses to switch it off, I threaten to do instead, he magically remembers how to do it himself at the last minute.
20:10 The sound of the door opening downstairs. “What’s that?”. Try and convince toddler that it’s just the neighbours being noisy. He looks at you dubiously. Look innocent and pretend you’re falling asleep.
21:00 (On a good day). Slowly sneak out of bedroom leaving him still tossing and turning in a restless sleep. You probably have a couple of hours break now. Maybe. Unless you start to watch anything good on TV.
23:00, 01:30, 3:30, 5:00 Hear screams from other bedroom. Stagger out of bed and try not to maim yourself on anything on your way in to toddler. 50/50 chance that he was just screaming in his sleep. For a laugh, like. If so, return back to bed and lie awake for 20 minutes waiting to see if he’s really asleep. Otherwise, console toddler who is upset for unknown reasons. Wait to see if it’s a ‘Mammy go away’ or a ‘Mammy sleep in bed with me’ event. At some future point in the night, attempt to escape back to your bed. Repeat an average of 3 times during the night.
07:00 Start the same day over again. Bonus points if you made it back into your bed for the 7am wake-up scream.
So, toddler rituals – how do you do yours?