The Days are Long but the Years are Short
By the time it’s all done… Everyone has been fed their breakfast. They’re both scrubbed clean of peanut butter smears. Porridge cement scraped off the tables and chairs. Floors swept of debris and crumb trails. Dishwasher unloaded into cupboards, then reloaded with dirty dishes—removing the toddler as he attempts to climb inside or steal a sharp knife. Nappy change done. Followed by the inevitable bowel movement of one or both children just as I finish stirring that fresh cup-of-tea caffeine jolt I’ve been dying for. Add in a couple of spats that require an adult to intervene. By the time that’s all done… the toddler will be rubbing his eyes. Nap time beckons, but not quite yet or he will power doze and be back up in ten minutes time.
This toddler is a climber, unlike his brother. There is NOTHING he won’t attempt to mount. Chairs, beds, boxes, toy garages… I can’t walk into a room but I find him perched on top of something, wobbling. Cackling to himself in the knowledge that he is engaged in forbidden behaviour. Once he’s confident of an audience he begins to bounce. He grins as I rush over to pluck him from imminent disaster. Wails of anger as the object is relocated elsewhere. Out of reach of an amateur climber who has yet to realise the logistics of getting back down from the heights he scales. There hasn’t been a serious incident yet. Yet. It’s only a matter of time. Meanwhile my nerves are shot. He has the height and reach of a 2+ year old with the coordination and depth perception of a 15 month old. It’s a terrible combination.
He toddles around after me shrieking, face contorted. Arms lifted in the usual “I WANT TO BE CARRIED” pose. Yet try to remove him from trouble or change a nappy and he folds out–stiff as a board–to ensure maximum difficulty picking him up. Gather the laundry and he’s in there, wading through the baskets, flinging clothing to the floor indiscriminately. His older brother has disappeared to his room, uninterested in playing. I’m watching the clock while I wrestle the toddler. Minutes of getting nothing constructive done tick by. Sit on a chair and he appears, demanding to sit on me. Vacate it and he’s up in seconds. We currently have a chairless sitting room despite, in fact, owning many chairs. Health and safety trumps comfort.
Naptime. He sleeps. Finally. The boy child bursts in the door to ask if it’s still naptime. I murder him silently with my eyes and he might retreat before the toddler wakes. For a few minutes. Then he’s back again. He’s hungry. He’s bored. He’s thirsty. He wants to nap too. When will his brother wake up and play with him? Why is the lamp on? Why am I trying to do that work I get paid for now, when he wants to be entertained by me?
By the time the toddler wakes it’s midday and lunch must be produced promptly. As soon as the toddler spots his brother heading for the kitchen table he falls in behind. It doesn’t matter what’s on the plate. He starts heckling, insistent that he will not be ignored. In some respects his brother is an easy touch. “No,” he protests. “Yours is coming in a minute!” Inevitably this is followed by a piece of food being offered. The toddler grabs it as soon as it’s within reach and ambles off, exploring the offering to see if it’s acceptable to him. It either disappears whole into mouth, or is flung to the ground with disdain. He returns, either way, and repeats the performance in hope that the next item he receives will be more appetising.
Silence for a few moments when both have been served. Until I sit to eat and the requests begin. More food. More water. Can I have yours? Now it’s back to the cleaning of food-covered children and surfaces. Afternoon already. Complaints about why we have to go out instead of staying home. Followed within minutes by complaints about being bored and wanting to do something.
Grocery shopping is the bane of our lives. We’re a regular comedy act as we pass through the supermarket. A hurricane of harried mother, item-grabbing toddler, and bored boy climbing on top of his brother. “They’re so cute!” says the lady in one aisle. “That boy is being too rough with his brother!” says a woman in the next. “Moan, moan, complain, complain,” says the boy while the toddler shrieks. “Beep beep beep,” goes the scanner. Out we go into the frosty air.
Back home. Unload bags from buggy and scale the stairs once, twice. Return to carry the toddler before unpacking with his ‘assistance’. Oh look, it’s not long left until dinnertime. Take out pots and pans and ingredients. “Is it dinnertime yet?” asks the boy. “I’m making it,” I say. The toddler throws a wild tantrum because he’s not allowed stick his head in the oven. Another when I refuse to carry him for the entire duration of the meal preparation. Can the terrible twos start at 15 months? My wonder weeks calendar helpfully reminds me that Leap Ten is due to start in a few days. A cold chill creeps down my spine.
Quite a lot of time passes and dinner has been cooked in between all the interruptions. Somehow. It’s late, again. At least one of those present will complain and refuse to eat what they demolished last week. Clean. Wipe. Clean. Wipe. Start the bedtime ritual/fiasco. Teeth and pyjamas and bedtime stories and feeds. The baby’s awake. He’s asleep. He’s awake. Rinse and repeat.
They’re asleep. Both of them. After multiple toddler encores. Now it’s bedtime for the adults. The pile of work remains undone. The to-do list has grown during the day. I don’t have the will to tackle either now. Instead I chase sleep. Between 12am and 2am the boy arrives in to be chased back to the bathroom before being tucked into another bed. The baby’s awake/asleep/awake. A pause. Construction noise starts outside. We’re all awake now. Breakfast time.
The days are long, and these years only seem so short after they’ve disappeared far enough into the past behind us.