Category Archives: learning to walk

Your toddler is perfectly normal. Now shut up.

Is your child a budding Michaelangelo? The next Darcey Bussell? Destined for a life of OCD-like repeated rituals? Or are they just a NORMAL TODDLER?

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!!

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!

When you’re pregnant, all you want is to meet the little passenger in your belly. You’re consumed by questions to which you have no way of knowing the answers… What will they look like? What will they be like? Will they be musical? Will they grow up to solve crimes? Will they inherit your talents for baking/DIY/remembering erroneous tidbits of celebrity trivia? They are literally swathed in fleshy, protruding mystery. And then they are born and, save perhaps the question of their appearance (and that can be temporary) you still don’t really know any of the answers…

I seem to come across so many parents who seem determined to label all their children’s quirks and preferences as early as possible. Their child likes to clap their hands to a piece of music. Destined to be a conductor. Two year old likes books with rhymes: obviously a budding poet. I’m not saying it won’t happen… Sure, it’s possible a child destined to be a mechanic or race car driver might show an early interest in cars. It’s also just as possible the child might grow up to shun all forms of motorized vehicle and insist instead upon traveling everywhere in a pony and trap.

I don’t mean to rant; I’m genuinely mystified about the clues behind who toddlers are and who they will become. The other day my daughter burst into tears because I couldn’t understand her when she kept telling me to “shut the door” as she brushed her teeth in the bathroom (the door to which was firmly shut… you see my confusion.) Turns out she wanted me to close the lid of the toothpaste. Does that mean she will grow up to be fastidious about lids and germs and tidiness? (Given her genes I am inclined to think not…) Or was she just being a demanding, frustrated toddler?

If my child throws herself down when I refuse to hand over my laptop is it just her tiny toddler brain rendering her temporarily insensible due to an excess of exhaustion? Or am I preventing the next Steve Jobs from their earliest enterprising explorations? Earlier today we took a particularly muddy walk around the lake and she insisted I carry her AND her boots which she didn’t want to wear AND her scooter bike. Because it was “too muddy to walk.” Now this is probably just her being a stubborn toddler, right? RIGHT? SHE’S NOT GOING TO DO THIS WHEN SHE’S 15, RIGHT??

And then there are the times she pulls a pair of pants over her head, catches my eye and we share a laugh. I like to think at times like these that we are in-sync, bolstering an unbreakable mother-daughter bond that will see us all the way through the dreaded terrible-music-taste tween and mother-hating teenage years. I like to think it, but I don’t really, truly believe it. Because no one can predict what a person is going to truly be like from the age of two… You could possibly hazard a guess. Maybe even a good guess. But you can’t tell for sure.

Right, must be off to baby ballet class now. Because whether she is or isn’t the next Darcey Bussell (again, the genes are sadly a precursor towards the likelihood of the negative) there are only so many years I will be able to get her into a tutu.

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My little pensioner

Do you ever get the needling suspicion that your toddler is hiding a dark well of wisdom behind those big, shiningly innocent eyes? I do. Frequently. For example, here is my 22-month-old eating hummus. Hummus, which I didn’t get my head around until at least my mid-twenties.

 

That’s not all. As well as a surprising taste for chickpeas, my elderly little offspring also has a real thing for benches. If we come across one on a walk, she has to sit on it, and woe betide any accompanying adult who tries to persuade her otherwise. Most parents may allow extra time for things like petting dogs, feeding ducks, jumping in puddles, right? I have to allow extra time for bench sitting. But maybe I’m over-reacting. I mean, when your legs are only so big and you’ve only been using them for so long, maybe sitting on a bench offers a justifiable repose every once in a while. Ok. But, see, the thing is, it isn’t just benches on walks. It’s every bench. Everywhere. Even at the playground when we’ve just spent 45 minutes in the car and her friends are all running around sliding, swinging, exploring… Not my austere little pensioner.

It’s not just about the benches though. If you’ve ever had or been around a child approaching their 2nd birthday, you’ll know about the whole language boom thing. Lara’s no exception – every day it seems she surprises me with new words and sentences. Like last Tuesday, when, during the aforementioned 45 minute road trip, I told her there were no more snacks to be had just now. “Shit!” she replied. “Erm… what did you say?” “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” I can’t imagine where she learnt it. Especially in the car.

 

It’s not all glares and profanities, though. The other day we went to visit a friend’s new baby and, as we peered over the edge of the crib, Lara smiled, looked at me and said, “Baby!” and then, sternly: “Mummy SHUSH!”

Despite all this, I haven’t resigned myself to shopping for orthopedic shoes and miniature tartan shopping carts just yet (though how much would she love the latter? Hello, 2nd birthday present!) That is because for every mature act which grounds me in my tracks, there are 40 still very much stapled to the age of 22 and-a-bit months. Like her penchant for putting silly things on her head. And her love of uncooked baked goods. Come to think about it, I can’t imagine where she learnt those, either…


WTF, dog owners of east Berkshire?

A month or so ago I noticed that my 3-year-old Converse trainers were looking a little worse for wear. By which I mean they had crossed, like many an elderly pair of shoe (or indeed person) over the line of general infirmity and were now disheveled, smelly husks of what they had once been. So I decided to indulge in a new pair of trainers and, when I saw a pair of slip-on, memory foam Skechers with psychedelic uppers and 30% off, I snapped them up faster than you could say, “30% off what, though?”

A day after they arrived, I took Lara out to the lake down the road from our house with her trike. Inevitably, I ended up dragging the trike and carrying Lara around most of the way… but, hey ho, I had my new shoes! The colourful patterns sparkled in the sun, the soles felt lovely and grippy with their deep grooves and the memory foam soles felt delightfully squishy underfoot. Alas, this was not the only squishy thing underfoot. About halfway around the lake I started to smell something. Something bad. Something disastrous. It seemed to be wafting intermittently, and at first I assumed it was coming from somewhere nearby – maybe the lake? Maybe the overflowing doggy bin we’d just passed? Sadly, no. When we arrived home I discovered the worst had happened. And it had happened all over my brand new shoe.

To say I was mildly irritated is putting it, well, irritatingly mildly. It did NOT help that when I took the shoe outside to wash off the damage the stupid, cheap hose we bought last year kept popping off the outside tap. Ten minutes later I was soaking wet, my hands were freezing, the hose had sprayed god knows what back into my face and there were still stinky oozings nestled deep within the cursedly deep, grippy grooves. But I soldiered on, and several broken twigs, curses on hose manufacturers, shoe designers and dog owners later, my shoe was finally passably clean. Or at least no longer quite so smelly.

I was angry at the time (not the least because this wasn’t the first time I’d worn in a new pair of shoes this particular way). I was – to quote a former newspaper colleague – incanfuckingdescent at the time. But once I’d cleaned myself off, changed my clothes, posted the obligatory disgruntled Facebook status and had a glass or three of wine, I forgave and forgot. Until today. Today we went back to the lake. Today I took great pains to watch exactly where my no-longer-virginal Skechers trod. Unfortunately, one cannot explain to a 22-month-old that she must stick to the path lest an errant canine bottom has hovered over that interesting patch of dry leaves she’s scurrying off to explore. And, sure enough, I tried to believe that telltale smell was coming from the bin. Or the lake. Or – gods be good – that other toddler’s shoes. I checked my own shoes several times. I didn’t check Lara’s until we came through the door. Until I shut the front door and could still smell the Stench of Footwear Doom. Cue curses, cue hose battle, cue outfit change.

On the plus side, her feet are so tiny the area covered by the offending substance was far less than that on my shoe. It didn’t take long to clean. And, biggest plus of all, they weren’t new shoes. And I should be grateful, I suppose, for the small mercy that this particular dog hadn’t hovered over the spot where she stumbled on a root and went face-and-hands splat in the mud. TBH, probably wouldn’t have laughed so much if it had.


Two Legs Good, Four Legs Better

It’s been a very, very long time since I wrote on this blog. Mainly because most of my pre-Christmas moments of Lara-free time were spent wrapping every present in sight (with the inevitable result being that all the sellotape on all the name tags failed by Christmas day and we very nearly ended up in the awkward situation of my sister’s new boyfriend unwrapping an Iggle Piggle doll.) But really mainly because I’ve been struck down with a lurgy, the likes of which find one lying on one’s side of a 3am, emitting a strangled, dying-cow like parody of breathing, not-so-silently hating the man and child hatefully sleeping so hatefully peacefully nearby. Then, of course, said child caught said lurgy and after a few nights of traipsing back and forth from her cot with water, tissues, calpol, vapour rub and anything else I could come up with which might render her unconscious once again sometime before 5am, I was far too exhausted to do anything during the day apart from lie on the sofa, sniff and work my way through all the Christmas chocolate.

But anyway, excesses of mucus and sugar aside, the latest issue in this game of parenthood has been walking. Or, as I like to put it, Lara Taking Her First Steps and then Sitting On Her Arse and Refusing To Take Any More.

Lara was a fairly late crawler, or so it seemed at the time. She spent a good two or three months on all fours, a look of heavy concentration on her face which would rapidly turn to despair as she would slide onto her belly and propel herself backwards, usually ending up underneath an item of furniture, dusty and displeased. She first managed that very slow and unsteady crawl forward a day before she turned 10 months. From that moment on, she was a baby on the go. In about a week she went from doddery, sideways-deviating, Cardiff-girl-on-a-hen-night crawling to a baby-shaped bullet on all fours. So, I assumed that once walking became a reality, she would be the same – master those first independent steps and then voila, walking baby.

How wrong I was.

From crawling at 10 months, Lara progressed as normal to cruising on furniture, walking holding onto two hands and then, finally, walking holding onto just one finger. At 13 months she stood on her own. Just before she hit 14 months, she took her first steps – from Daddy to Mummy, a distance of about two feet but – at the time – surely the greatest two feet ever transversed by any homo sapien ever to stagger across the planet. “She’ll get the hang of it,” friends told me, that week. “Any day now she’ll get that confidence and then she’ll be off.”

Nearly two months later and it’s all we can do some days to get her to repeat those few independent feet. Her development hasn’t halted – she’s now able go from sitting to standing on her own and walk from there to a point of ‘safety’ sometimes around five or six feet away. Everything else is perfectly normal, as verified by my usefully-vocationed paediatrician sister (apart from the size of her head, which is apparently on the large size. Possessing the birth canal through which it made a memorable journey not so long ago, I find this revelation slightly redundant.) She just hasn’t turned that corner between being able to walk and actually electing to do so on a regular basis. The funny thing is, if the challenge were vertical she would have smashed it long ago. She was scaling the stairs around the time she first started crawling, and worked out how to get herself down them around a month afterwards. She can climb the steps of a slide on her own, has worked out how to put her little plastic chair next to the sofa and climb from one to the other, and can get herself down again from any height by lying on her belly and dangling her legs over the side.

Why walk when you can CLIMB?

Why walk when you can CLIMB?

It’s just the walking thing.

I’m not really worried about it. Sure, my competitive mummy instincts are perhaps somewhat ruffled as I watch her peers practically skip around her at soft play. But I know there’s nothing physically wrong… And I know that by trying too hard to encourage her to walk I could actually make her less keen to do so, so I’ve tried to back off and let nature take its course… But it is hard, especially when I have a sneaky suspicion her reluctance may be the fault of my own genes. I took her to get her feet measured the other day and she was only just a 3, which the shop assistant said was usually the size fitted to babies just starting to cruise… So she’s got tiny feet… and an enormous head. Gary has size 11 feet and always seems to find hats which fit. I, on the other hand, wear dinky size 4s and always find issue with the ‘one size’ rule for headwear. Clearly my small-footed, large-headed genes have caused a heady imbalance of stature, rendering the independent toddle a feat of terrifying magnitude for my daughter. No wonder she hugs the wall.

walkingMy bad, Lara.


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