From October 2015

It’s Too Scary!

As it’s Halloween, I have decided to share a few of the things The Toddler has declared to be ‘too scary’ since she learnt the phrase ‘too scary’.

1. Trolls
Particularly the troll in Enchanted. Or the ‘dunk dunk’, as The Toddler used to – and sometimes still does – call him (took some time to work out that came from the noise she thinks it makes). The troll is often declared to be scary. The Toddler likes to chatter about the troll: ‘She saw a troll, didn’t she? I don’t like troll. Bit scary.’ Fair enough. Trolls are not usually nice characters. That said, the troll in Enchanted is a fairly benevolent troll, despite attempts to eat people. The Evil Queen, in my opinion, is much scarier. She does evil magic, appears in clouds of smoke and sinister music*, turns into a dragon, tries to kill people. How does The Toddler feel about the Evil Queen? She loves her. Every time she appears, The Toddler excitedly shouts: ‘The Evil Queen! The Evil Queen is coming! Look, Mummy, it’s the Evil Queen! I like Evil Queen!’

*Though The Toddler seems to have some funny ideas about what constitutes sinister music – see number 4.

 
2. Giant spiders
There are halloween decorations in the shopping mall, hanging from the ceilings. The Toddler loves them. Mostly. She loves the creepy cobweb chandelier. She has to dance under it (to the accompaniment of funny looks from confused passers-by). She loves the ghosts and the giant pumpkin. Following her under chandelier spinning, she announces: ‘Giant pumpkin! Are we going to see giant pumpkin?’ Then come the giant spiders. The Toddler does not like the giant spiders. However, she tends to forget this fact: ‘Look, Mummy, it’s spiders! I’m going to see spiders…No, I don’t like it! Too scary!’

3. Balloons Popping
Just to be clear, this is not balloons actually popping, oh no. No. There is a balloon tied to the railing of the room divider. The Toddler has decided it is like those balls on rope for children to swing on at soft play centres, and that is what she is trying to do. With a balloon. On a string. Tied to a railing. I point out that the balloon is likely to pop, and she won’t like that. I am informed that warnings about the balloon popping are ‘too scary’.

4. A random song from a musical
Silly Daddy has found a songs from musicals and movies radio station. This has, unsurprisingly, been popular. Until one particular song. Now, I don’t know what this song is from. I am not much of a musicals fan, really. The important point is that it isn’t remotely scary. Nothing sinister. It isn’t from Sweeney Todd*. Or even Blood Brothers**. No, this is a totally innocuous, saccharine song from a musical. One that sounds like any innocuous, saccharine musical song. The Toddler whimpers: ‘Too scary! Turn it off! Too scary!’

*’Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd/He served a dark and a vengeful god’
Now, this is an understandably creepy musical song.

**’Now you know the devil’s got your number/You know he’s gonna find you/You know he’s right behind you/He’s staring through your windows/He’s creeping down the hall’
I mean, no one needs to find out through the medium of a musical that the devil is on some kind of register and probably has his relationships monitored by the authorities, right? You can’t trust anyone these days, even the root of all evil. I may have gone off topic.

 
5. Baby Jake
Not the awful animated version, with the picture of the real baby’s head (and *shiver* animated mouth), that is clearly the stuff of nightmares. No. She’s fine with that abomination. She doesn’t like the real Baby Jake at the end. He’s ‘scary’. Perhaps over the course of the programme she becomes convinced that babies are supposed to have a cartoon body, a photograph of a real baby for a head, and what I am fairly sure is the Cheshire Cat’s mouth.

Woof: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s time for the Ten Funniest Things feature, and this week there is also a word (literally) from William Wallace, sorry, The Baby.

First, Silly Mummy gives you The Toddler:

1. On ears, not safe
Silly Mummy touches The Toddler’s ear, apparently a more dangerous activity than it appears, as The Toddler yells, ‘Don’t touch it! It’s not safe!’ She does not expand upon exactly why her ear is not safe.

2. On the Tooth Fairy
The Baby is very insistently offering The Toddler a leaflet that came through the door and is now The Baby’s most prized possession. The Toddler is ignoring her eager little sister, so Silly Mummy explains that The Baby would like The Toddler to take her leaflet because she is trying to be nice. The Toddler catches on and takes the leaflet: ‘You give that to me? Thank you, The Baby.’ As is usually the way with small children, of course, The Baby only wanted to loan her prized possession to The Toddler. She is now looking hopefully at The Toddler. Silly Mummy asks The Toddler if she would like to give the leaflet back to The Baby now. The Toddler would not: ‘Not going to have it back. It’s my Tooth Fairy.’ Of course it is. Bloody Peppa Pig and her Tooth Fairy letters.

3. On Mary Poppins, summarising
The Toddler has just got to the end of Mary Poppins (again). As Mary flies off with her umbrella, The Toddler summarises the situation: ‘Mary Poppins she’s got to go and see more children. She’s got to go and fly a kite with her bag.’ Yes, that seems to about cover the end of Mary Poppins, if not correct kite flying techniques.

4. On Labyrinth, also summarising
Other films The Toddler has a perfect grasp of include Labyrinth (which Silly Daddy is inexplicably convinced any two year old would want to see): ‘Where’s the baby? We can’t find it!’ David Bowie appears, The Toddler exclaims: ‘What’s that?’

5. On distrac…fluff
Silly Mummy and The Toddler are engaged in a serious conversation, not that Silly Mummy can remember what it is about, as The Toddler seems to have led the discussion firmly down the path labelled distraction: ‘And then…Oh a bit of fluff there. Just a bit of fluff. It’s there. I get rid of it. It’s gone now.’ (As is everyone’s train of thought.)

6. On porridge, apologising for
The Toddler has been asking Silly Mummy for porridge. Silly Mummy is about to make The Toddler some food, and seeks to confirm whether porridge is still desired: ‘Do you still want to have porridge?’
The Toddler appears to feel Silly Mummy’s question implies porridge making is a particularly onerous task: ‘Yes, I do. Sorry about that. I’ll get it myself then.’

7. On her name
The Toddler is misbehaving. Silly Mummy informs her she is a little monster. The Toddler knows Silly Mummy gets confused, and patiently corrects her: ‘I’m not a monster, I’m The Toddler!’

8. On saying ‘woof’
The Toddler is saying ‘woof’. For no particular reason. This is a little odd. She’s also giving a running commentary about the fact that she is saying ‘woof’. This is more than a little odd. ‘Woof. I say woof to The Baby. I’ll say woof to you. Woof. Do you like woof, The Baby?’

9. On kettles, boring
Silly Mummy is asking The Baby to fetch her various items (to see what words The Baby understands, not because The Baby is Silly Mummy’s slave). Silly Mummy asks The Baby if she can find the kettle from the toy tea set. The Toddler has an objection and interjects: ‘You can’t have the kettle – it’s very boring.’

10. On sharing
The Toddler has been rooting around in the games cupboard she is not supposed to go in. Playing cards are now all over the floor. Silly Mummy is picking them up. The Toddler is protesting Silly Mummy’s seizure of ‘her’ property. Silly Mummy points out: ‘Those are Mummy’s cards.’
The Toddler is feeling generous: ‘I’ll share them with you.’

 
 
A word (just the one) from The Baby
The Baby has broken into the restricted (for toddlers and baby toddlers) dining area. She is very pleased with herself. She dodges Silly Mummy and manages to grab a pen before she is apprehended. As Silly Mummy approaches her, The Baby waves her pen in the air, Braveheart style, and issues her war cry: ‘Booooooop!’ You can take The Baby’s pen, but you’ll never take her bop! (In all fairness, ‘bop’ is a more rational war cry than the one William Wallace uses in that film. I’d go so far as to suggest that the course of Scottish history could have been very different had the Scots waved their pens and yelled ‘bop’ at the army of Edward I.)

Some other posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature
Week 2: I’ll Tell You What, Mummy
Week 12: Undone, Everyone
Week 18: A Spinny Armpits
Week 20: You’re a Good Winner

Doctor Toddler Is Back and This Time She’s…a Hairdresser, Actually

doctor-894482_1920Doctor Toddler is back, ominously brandishing her stethoscope at an unsuspecting Silly Mummy: ‘Do a deep breath, Mummy.’ Silly Mummy takes a deep breath. The Toddler puts the stethoscope on Silly Mummy’s stomach, and announces: ‘Hmm, I think it’s a bit loose.’ A bit loose? Is it going to fall off??

The Toddler is not a very verbose doctor. She does not expand further on her diagnosis. She has moved on to treatment options: ‘Have a plaster.’ A plaster? Is that going to be enough? Can a stomach be held on with a plaster? The Toddler is rooting around in her supply of imaginary plasters: ‘No, that one’s children’s plaster.’ This is not reassuring. Silly Mummy’s loose stomach is going to be reattached with an imaginary plaster, and it isn’t even the right type of imaginary plaster. Silly Mummy does not want imaginary Peppa Pig holding her stomach on. The Toddler has got her imaginary plaster supply under control: ‘Have this one plaster.’

However, she is now doubting her original diagnosis. She suggests carrying out further tests, though they sound a lot like the original tests: ‘Hmm, think it’s deep breath, I think.’ She brandishes her stethoscope.

In further dodgy diagnosis news, Silly Daddy’s knee is declared to have a cold.

It seems Doctor Toddler offers some unusual services at her practice. Armed with the surgical scissors and tweezers (and briefly, confusingly, the reflex hammer) from her doctor’s kit, Doctor Toddler leads a double life as a hairdresser.

The Toddler’s hairdressing technique appears mostly quite sound. A little aggressive, perhaps. The Toddler does not believe in waiting for people to request a haircut before attacking them with her scissors: ‘I’m just cutting your hair.’ And she does do things in a slightly odd order. Halfway through the haircut she announces: ‘I’m just putting your apron on.’ Still, she’s efficient. After just a few seconds of relentless hair pulling, she announces: ‘Finished! Do you want to turn around now?’

Somewhat unconventionally, it is apparently customary for clients/patients at The Toddler’s hair salon/doctor’s surgery to be required to cut The Toddler’s hair following their own hair cut/medical examination. A confused Silly Mummy obliges, asking The Toddler: ‘What hairstyle would you like?’
The Toddler has given much thought to exactly what hairstyle she would like to sport, and is able to confidently and helpfully answer: ‘That one.’ Well, it is a classic. A ‘that one’ never goes out of style, does it?

It seems to Silly Mummy that Doctor Toddler is actually very clever. Clearly concerned about the controversial Toddler Doctor Contract* and the future of her medical career, she has decided she needs a back up vocation. Sensibly, she has found one that she does not need new equipment for (though she may be forced to let the reflex hammer go).

(*The Toddler feels that if ever a person was both the ‘big bad wolf’ and a ‘naughty crocodile’, it is Jeremy Hunt.)

 
 
Nominations for the Mumsnet Blogging Awards 2016 are open until 31st July. If you find me at all amusing, I would love nominations in the Best Comic Writer category. Nominating is very simple by following the link above. Thank you for reading my shameless begging.

Child Safety Kits Are Out to Get Us

stairgateSo, you have children, they start moving around, you childproof the house, everyone goes about their business in safely padded bliss, right? Right? Wrong.

Child safety fittings are out to get us. Child safety fittings are frankly dangerous. I have evidence.

 
1. Drawer latches

You know, the ones that let the drawer open just enough for the children to trap their little fingers in them. Repeatedly. Because they don’t learn.* You see, they believe the next time will be the time they get the drawer open and don’t just trap their fingers. They have faith. They have determination. They don’t have common sense. Or any survival instinct.

Still, at least they can’t get anything out of the drawer, right? Right. As long as everything in the drawer is at the very back of the drawer. Ridiculously, The Toddler and The Baby like to prise open the living room drawer as far as the latch will allow, fish around as far as they can reach, and pull out…the spare child safety latches that were left in the drawer.

(*Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that if children get hurt doing something silly, they’ll learn and won’t do it again. They won’t learn. They will do it again.)

 
2. Child gates

In fairness, these have worked pretty well so far. Once places they would actually fit were identified. And the entire house had been remodelled to make the places they would actually fit useful places to have child gates. And the error of having a gate with a death trap/step over bar at the top of the stairs had been rectified.

It should, however, be noted that child gates are at their most effective for containment of grandparents, not children.

3. Padding for furniture corners and edges

Unless you bubble wrap all of your furniture, there will be parts left unpadded. Those are the parts children bang their heads on.

As for the places where there are pads? Removing those pads is the single-minded relentless goal of any toddler. And it will be achieved. Ultimately, those ‘protective’ pads will not prevent damage to little heads, but they will cause damage to furniture when forcibly removed by little hands.

Plus, of course, the children will take themselves out on the coffee table having tripped whilst tearing towards the coffee table because they have spotted padding to remove.

4. Fridge latches

Fridge latches can withstand five attempts to open the fridge without undoing the latch because you have forgotten there is a latch. Then they fall off.

5. Plug covers

There appears to be some contention as to whether plug covers are necessary or even should be used. They are effective at stopping children getting to the plug sockets, however. They stop adults getting to the plug sockets too. Have you ever tried to remove one of those things? If you need to use a plug socket you have put a cover into, I suggest you install a new set of sockets. It’s easier.

Furthermore, plug covers seem to deal with a largely unnecessary issue. Children are not that interested in empty plug sockets. Children are interested in plug sockets with plugs in them. Playing with empty sockets is much less disruptive to the functioning of the house than randomly unplugging every household appliance. And you just can’t superglue your plugs into sockets, you know. Apparently, it’s not safe.

6. The items that are never included

Fully stocked with these impractical/hazardous ‘safety’ solutions, I have noticed that the safety kits never have anything to improve the safety of two of the most dangerous household objects.

Cushions. Cushions are very dangerous. Children use them to climb. This is not sensible. Cushions make for precarious step ladders. Furthermore, children believe cushions make throwing themselves on the floor from a height safer. That’s true, actually. They also believe they will land on the cushions. Less true. What ingenious solution do child safety kits offer for dealing with the hazards posed by these deadly household items? Nothing, that’s what. How have they all missed this gap in the child safety market?

Nor do they address the threat children pose to one another. Children are very dangerous to each other. They never look where they’re going. But do these kits ever supply padding to stick on the children? No, they do not. Never mind the corners of tables, what about when The Toddler collides with the hard edge of The Baby’s forehead?

 
 
Therein lies the problem, if you ask me. We are trying to childproof houses. We should be childproofing children. My innovative new child safety kits will include mittens, superglue for feet, and forehead padding.

You’re a Good Winner: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s Ten Funniest Things time, and The Toddler wants to eat Christmas trees but not The Baby’s bum.

Taking a brief break from meal planning, here she is:

1. On being a winner
The Toddler has taken up Rocky style encouragement: ‘Go on, Mummy, you can do it! You’re a good winner!’ The activity The Toddler is encouraging so enthusiastically? Getting her a biscuit.

2. On pandas, hers
Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are waiting in the queue at the Post Office. The Toddler has become inexplicably paranoid that other customers want to steal her top, which has pandas on it. She is occupying her time pointing at her top and informing various strangers in the queue: ‘This is not your panda. My panda!’

3. On herself, needing to get cracking
The Baby is wandering around the living room with her bag. Silly Mummy asks The Toddler, ‘Can you help The Baby to put things in her bag?’
The Toddler looks up: ‘No, I can’t. I need to get cracking.’
Silly Mummy did not know The Toddler had plans: ‘Have you got things to do?’
‘Yes, I do.’

4. On talking, never stopping
The Toddler is chattering away, mostly to herself, when she announces, ‘I’ll never stop talking.’ Silly Mummy thinks this sounds like a threat.

5. On Grandma, very clever
Grandma is visiting. Silly Mummy, The Toddler, The Baby and Grandma are going for a walk. Grandma has mentioned that she will just go and get her coat from the car. Later, walking past the car, The Toddler is very insistent that Grandma has to get something from it. Silly Mummy and Grandma assure The Toddler that Grandma already got what she needed. The Toddler is suitably impressed: ‘Oh, very clever, Grandma. Good girl.’

6. On mishearing requests
The Toddler is making demands. Silly Mummy says, ‘Don’t be demanding.’ The Toddler is confident she is able to comply with Silly Mummy’s request, mostly because she misheard it: ‘Sorry, Mum. I’m not doing mountain.’

7. On Christmas trees
The Toddler was 19 months old last Christmas. She appears to have remembered certain aspects of it. The fact that there were chocolates around, mostly. Whenever she hears mention of Christmas she starts talking about chocolates and the lights. Silly Mummy asks her if she remembers the Christmas tree. The Toddler nods: ‘Christmas tree, yes…can I eat it?’ Silly Mummy thinks The Toddler possibly does not remember the Christmas tree. She may be thinking of something else. The Toddler continues: ‘Need to blow it first. Need to blow candles.’ Definitely thinking of something else. Birthday cakes, it appears.

8. On both of herself
The Toddler and The Baby are being naughty. Silly Mummy says, ‘Can both of you stop doing that, please.’ The Toddler becomes concerned about how many of her are being naughty. To be safe, she confirms, ‘Yes, both of me stop.’

9. On babies, why they cry
Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are walking along the road. In the distance, a baby can be heard crying inside a house. The Toddler asks, ‘What’s that noise?’ Silly Mummy informs her it is a baby crying in one of the houses. Despite not knowing what the noise was seconds before, The Toddler is suddenly remarkably well informed on the subject of the the crying baby: ‘Oh, it doesn’t like having those hiccups.’

10. On The Baby, not eating her bum
Silly Mummy is changing The Baby’s nappy. The Toddler is providing the following commentary, a strong contender for this year’s prestigious It Goes Without Saying, Thank You, The Toddler Award: ‘We don’t eat The Baby’s bum. Can we not eat The Baby’s bum. We don’t eat The Baby’s stinky poo.’

Some other posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature
Week 5: Don’t Do It
Week 15: We Are Not a Stinker
Week 18: A Spinny Armpits
Week 19: Clock

Two Year Development Reviews: Do They Work?

I’ve been considering writing about the two year development reviews carried out by Health Visitors for quite some time. (In fact, The Toddler’s second birthday and her review were right around the time I first started blogging, six months ago.)

I have to admit at the start that there were no concerns raised at The Toddler’s review, which may make this seem an odd post. I hope people will see what I am getting at, even though I have no reason at all to be personally disgruntled (and I am not, I might add, despite what the pronoun jokes may suggest). It is just that, despite the unproblematic review we happened to have, I couldn’t help but feel that the process was pretty flawed and, in fact, kind of unnecessary.*

Now, I absolutely see the value in carrying out checks in order to try to pick up real problems in a child’s development (or families who may be struggling) early. That makes sense. There is a long gap between birth and school, and of course identifying any problems within that period could lead to better management and treatments for children.

My issue is not with the idea of reviewing children, it is with the method used. The checklists/questionnaires, the little tests, giving parents a score for their children. Does it really need to be done this way?

It seems to me that, where there are actually concerning developmental delays or behavioural issues, a trained professional should be able to identify that by simply watching the child during the meeting, and having a casual talk with parents. Is it necessary to be quizzing parents with what can feel like test questions? Keeping scores for two year olds? I’m sure there would be some children felt to be borderline as to whether there is cause for concern. But, presumably, some children are borderline on the scored system too. Those children could simply be monitored with further checks, surely? I would guess that is probably pretty much what happens anyway.

I wonder how accurate this scored system really is. A lot relies on reporting by the parents. Is it truthful? I am sure many people can work out the answer the Health Visitor is looking for – how many give that regardless? I expect I would be told in answer to this that the Health Visitor can get a reasonable idea if the parents are exaggerating the child’s progress from what they observe of the child. Indeed. So why don’t they just do that? Remove the pressure of making parents feel like they are being tested.

Aside from the accuracy of parents’ self reporting, there is the question of whether the little tasks and tests the toddlers are asked to complete at the review really serve any useful purpose. I have an example. One item The Toddler was marked down on was in the fine motor skills category, because she failed to thread beads on to a string for the Health Visitor. Now, I am not suggesting that The Toddler was capable of doing this. It may very well be that she could not do it; she had certainly never tried before. What interested me was that it was marked that she could not do it, and was therefore lacking in that aspect of fine motor skills, but the test did not actually show that. The test established that she did not do it, but not whether she could do it. You see, she had never tried before and she did not try then. She felt that there were more fun activities she could do with the beads and the string, and she entirely ignored the Health Visitor’s instructions. So was that a test of fine motor skills? Or was it a test of how willing toddlers are to follow instructions? This made me wonder. That happened to be the one thing The Toddler refused to comply with on the day, and it was not a big deal, but how many people’s children refuse to complete lots of the tests? We all know the answer to how willing toddlers are to follow instructions is not very. Do all children who don’t carry out the tasks get marked as lacking the skill being tested, regardless of whether that was demonstrated one way or the other?

Then there is the list itself, and the way it is scored. The checklist/questionnaire appears to represent a fairly arbitrary selection from the multitude of things a toddler might be able to do, as indeed you would expect if you tried to make a checklist to summarise the multitude of things a toddler might be able to do. Furthermore, there seemed to me little consistency between list items in terms of relative difficulty. For example, one item relates to combining two words together, another to using pronouns, rather than names, most of the time. I don’t consider those to be close to the same level of difficulty, or particularly likely to be seen at the same stage of development. To use The Toddler as an example, she was using two words together from about 20-21 months old. By the review at 24 months old, she was speaking in sentences of five-six words. At that time, she was using pronouns about 50% of the time and names the other 50% of the time (if anyone is interested, she was also therefore marked down in this area). By about 27 months, she was using pronouns nearly all the time. I do not dispute that some children may be using pronouns fully by two, though I think those children would be in a minority. However, I would expect any child who can properly use pronouns to also be able to speak in fairly complex sentences, far in advance of two word pairings. Therefore, if the checklist expects children to be able to use pronouns, should it not expect them to be able to speak in multi-word sentences too? This is why I say it is arbitrary and inconsistent. It is a very mixed selection of things most children could do at two years and things few would be able to. Which is okay in a sense, but makes it difficult to judge the meaning of the scoring. Even if the way the scores are viewed is designed to take account of the different levels of difficulty in the list items (dealt with further below), and even if it is not expected that an average child could do all of the tasks, it is hard to escape the impression given that the child was expected to be able to do all of the tasks.

What of situations where the child is able to perform tasks beyond those allowed for on the list. There is no provision for extra points for tasks the child could perform over and above those on the checklist. Whilst I am quite sure it is not the intention, I couldn’t help but feel that this creates an air of negativity. In effect, any area of ‘failure’ (even if it is for a task of a clearly higher level of difficulty than others) is highlighted by receiving zero points, but there is no corresponding system of crediting achievements over and above those listed. How then can you truly say you are assessing a child’s development? Surely you need to assess all areas where there has been progress, as well as areas where there may have been less progress? Is it really okay to highlight to potentially anxious parents that their child is not using pronouns (I am planning to really do this pronouns point to death) all the time (though probably most are not at two), but give no mention to how good their sentences are because that is not on the list? (For that matter, why are the pronouns (told you: to death) getting a mention at all? Is it likely that children not using pronouns at two are going to spend their life talking about themselves in the third person?)

Parents are subsequently given a copy of the checklist and the scores. There is no context to the scores, no explanation given. Perhaps the discrepancy in difficulty levels of the tasks is balanced by the way that the scores are viewed. So that, for example, 30/60 is actually the average score, and, say, 45/60 would be above average. Therefore, the points lost on items that would be clearly developmentally advanced do not prevent the child’s score from reflecting their appropriate level. I do not know if this is the case, though. Of course, the Health Visitor will have said if there is concern, no concern, the child performs above average, etc. However, I doubt that stops people from wondering about the score. Wondering if 35/60 is average? Low? Is 60/60 well above average? Or are the children supposed to get close to full marks? Who knows? Why give people scores without any context? What is the point?

Then there are the averages used to make these lists, to determine where points are given or taken away. Is any account taken of common differences between boys and girls, for example? Are different assessments used? Maybe, but I did not get the impression this was so. How would a single set of criteria based on the averaged development of two year olds allow for common gender differences? There are exceptions, of course, but boys tend to be very physical in their play and communication, girls much more vocal. If all children are being assessed against an averaged criteria, does this review tend to show a lot of boys as below average in language development, and many girls above average? Are more parents of boys therefore told there may be some language delay? I do not know if this is the case, but I do wonder. In truth, what is actually shown if you compare typical boys’ language to typical girls’ language is not developmental delays versus developmental advances, but simply developmental differences.

I should just say here, that I have no doubt that most Health Visitors actually administer these assessments in a sensible and pragmatic way. I am sure that they look beyond the scores in reaching their views on development. I am sure they recognise the limitations of the system, and issues such as developmental differences between genders as well. However, I don’t think that changes the fact that having scored lists creates comparison and competition. I don’t think it changes the fact that maybe, in ensuring that children are monitored and reviewed, we have gone just a little bit too far. A little bit too far into making everyone worry about and compare every little aspect of children’s development.

Of course, I am sure that these checklists/questionnaires, and the tasks set to the children, are not supposed to be referred to as tests. I am sure that the official line is that the scores aid the Health Visitors, and are nothing for parents to be concerned with. But this is my point: if you score them, people will always see them as a form of test or assessment. If you present people with scores, they will always worry, analyse and compare them. If we are not testing two year olds, why have the lists, tasks and test-like elements? And if we are testing two year olds, why on earth are we testing two year olds?

So, whilst there is clear value in identifying children with real difficulties, in order to provide the support needed at the earliest opportunity, I simply wonder if this is really the best way to be doing it. Is assessing two year olds against arbitrary criteria necessary? Is there a risk that this system is causing a disproportionate level of concern about minor developmental differences or delays, that are likely to even out of their own accord by school age? (Has anyone ever really needed to give thought to the percentage of pronoun use employed by a two year old??)

Does the mere act of providing parents with a checklist, a score for their children, risk causing unnecessary worry, putting pressure on parents and children, and fostering a culture of competitive parenting that is not healthy? We already carry out formal testing of very young children in schools. Social media is already full of competitive parents displaying rose tinted accounts of their children’s behaviour and achievements. There is enough anxiety for parents. There is enough pressure and competition. We do not need to be looking to highlight and record areas of ‘failure’ in two year olds, surely (and, indeed, I doubt that is the aim of the system, but it is implicit in the method used). We do not need to be comparing children to other children, let alone some invented ‘average’ child.

Perhaps most would not agree with me, but I would much rather see simple chats and observations carried out, with no lists and no scoring. Following which, any children about whom there is real cause for concern are referred for appropriate support, and everyone else is simply told there are no concerns and their child is doing fine. Not how fine their child is doing in comparison with other children. Not anything to worry about nor anything to brag about. Nothing about bloody pronouns.** Two year olds don’t care if they can say 50 more words than Susan next door. When children start school, no one can tell who walked at one and who was closer to two. Children develop at different rates. In most cases, can we not simply allow them to do so, and enjoy watching it happen?

(*It should be noted, of course, that I can only base my observations and opinions on the way our review was conducted, which may not be the same as everyone’s experiences.
**I am not as upset about the pronouns as it may appear, it just struck me as quite a good example of the possibly unnecessary elements of the process.)

Clocks and Snacks

clock-tower-143224_1920It has now been revealed (following a public incident of not ‘clock’ that was just too ridiculous not to mention) that The Toddler does not actually exactly say ‘clock’ when she’s saying ‘clock’. Well, in the interests of full disclosure, she doesn’t exactly say ‘snacks’ when she’s saying ‘snacks’, either.

Actually, in fairness, she’s started to get a bit more accurate in her pronunciation of ‘snacks’ over the past couple of weeks. Nonetheless, for a long time, The Toddler has not been saying ‘snacks’. She’s been saying, well, ‘sex’. Yes, that’s right: The Toddler has been innocently requesting ‘sex’ (raisin sex, usually) on a roughly hourly basis for months.

So, here are eight sentences The Toddler has been wandering around innocuously spouting. Please read all ‘clocks’ without the ‘l’, and all ‘snacks’ as ‘sex’.

1. In the bath (The Toddler has a foam clock bath toy): ‘That’s my clock up there! Can I have my clock? I play with my clock?’

2. ‘I want snacks! Want snacks now!’

3. Waving her watch around: ‘I wear my clock on now? Mummy, you put my clock on?’

4. ‘Mummy, can I have snacks in the pushchair?’

5. (The Toddler has a gro clock. Silly Daddy gave her the gro clock and showed her how to use it. The Toddler thinks of it as Silly Daddy’s clock, so you can see where this is going. The Toddler sometimes turns off all her plug switches when being naughty at nap time. This annoys Silly Daddy as the clock then needs resetting.) Discussing with Silly Mummy, post nap, whether she has been naughty with the plugs and clock: ‘Yes, I did turn off the clock. That’s Daddy’s clock!’

6. ‘Can The Baby have snacks too?’

7. When The Baby has run off with The Toddler’s watch: ‘That’s my clock, I think.’

8. Wailing: ‘Mummy, I want more snacks!’

 
 
Needless to say, there are no immediate plans to take The Toddler to see Big Ben. Particularly not whilst feeling a bit peckish. The mind boggles. (‘Why, yes, that is a big clock, darling.’)

 

(Disclaimer: Yes, sadly, this sort of thing makes us giggle in the Silly Household. Yes, we do need to grow up. Apologies to all whose sense of humour made it into more sophisticated territory than ‘fourteen year old boy’.)

Draw The Toddler

The Toddler has been drawing a lot lately. She’s moving beyond squiggles. Sometimes there are eyes. Sometimes they’re even on faces.

The Toddler likes cats. 90% of all requests for what she would like people to draw for her have always been cats. The other 10% have been penguins. Now she is drawing for herself, penguins are out, snowmen are in, apparently. Cats remain non-movers at the top of the charts.

The Toddler sits down next to Silly Mummy, ready to draw, yes, a cat. ‘You going to help me, Mum? Right then: let’s draw.’
The Toddler starts drawing her cat. Apparently, it is not going to plan.
‘That’s not a cat either. That’s a snowman. He got orange cheeks. He got big chins.’
The Toddler decides it is best to move on from the large chinned cat/snowman debacle, with no more said.
‘Let’s draw something else. I know: let’s draw The Toddler.’
The Toddler pauses momentarily in her plans to draw herself to address the cat.
‘You okay, Cat? You bit tired? Okay, you go to sleep then.’
Unsolicited sleeping advice given to the already sleeping cat, The Toddler returns to the matter at hand.
‘Okay, yes. Draw The Toddler.’ Unfortunately, The Toddler quickly comes up against an obstacle.
‘Can’t draw that one, Mum. That’s too hard.’
Well, self portraits are notoriously difficult to master. The Toddler quickly formulates a new plan.
‘Draw something else: The Toddler. Can’t draw that one. That’s hard work.’
Oops, turns out the new plan was the same as the old plan.

The Toddler is drawing again. This time avoiding the hard work of trying to draw herself, she announces, ‘I’m drawing a snowman.’ The Toddler is not happy with her drawing, however. It appears there is a problem: ‘That’s not a snowman, it’s a girl!’ The Silly Parents set about explaining that snow people can be girls. The Toddler is sceptical: ‘It’s not a snowman, it’s a girl! I draw a cat.’

Clock: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s time for the Ten Funniest Things feature. The Toddler will take a break from evil cackles (‘ha’) and concerns about what on earth is wrong with boys (many have wondered), to present her thoughts:

1. On pot
The Toddler is sitting next to Silly Daddy. She suddenly declares, ‘Daddy, I’ve got pot.’ Silly Daddy is half way through gathering up bags of crisps and chocolate when it transpires that The Toddler has a spot on her leg.

2. On searching, minimal effort
Silly Mummy has asked The Toddler to look for a missing toy. The Toddler does precisely no looking before declaring: ‘I can’t find it anywhere!’
Silly Mummy points out: ‘You haven’t looked!’
The Toddler bucks up her ideas, and carefully inspects the 10cm square patch of empty floor right at her feet: ‘It’s not there, is it?’ Thanks for your help, The Toddler.

3. On clocks, with an ‘l’
The Silly Family are going swimming. Silly Daddy is getting tickets. The Toddler has spotted something she wants Silly Daddy to see: ‘Look, Daddy, a clock!’ Except she’s not yelling ‘clock’. She never says ‘clock’. She always misses the ‘l’. Usually, the context makes her meaning clear. Usually, she can only mean ‘clock’. But this is the swimming pool, no assumptions should be made. A quick check of surroundings is warranted. Everyone is dressed. There is a clock on the wall. All is well.

4. On bags, naughty
The Baby is waving around The Toddler’s spotty Mr Tumble bag. Inevitably, she hits herself in the face. The Toddler takes charge of the situation. By marching over to the bag and saying firmly, ‘Bad bag!’

5. On butterflies, identity issues
The Toddler wants to wear one of her dresses (every day). Silly Mummy offers choices: ‘Pink dress or butterfly dress?’
The Toddler knows her answer: ‘Butterfly dress. It’s got big small ladybirds on it.’ Ah, yes, the ladybirds. Also called butterflies. Silly Mummy wonders why The Toddler thinks we call the dress the ‘butterfly dress’.

6. On evil cackles, ha
The Toddler is quite taken with the evil queen in Enchanted: ‘Can we see evil queen now?’
Silly Mummy replies, ‘Yes she’ll be on in a minute. Does she say “mwah ha ha”?’
‘Yes, she does say “ha”! Ha!’ The Toddler may need to work on her evil cackle.

7. On that poor boy
The Toddler has found a new way of showing Silly Mummy up in public. This one’s subtle. She’s doing it with concern. Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are in town, and pass a lady who has stopped to feed her crying baby. The Toddler breaks free and runs back to the lady and baby. She stops right in front of them, and loudly says, ‘That poor boy! What’s wrong with the boy, Mummy?’ The Toddler thinks she is being caring. She does not realise she is effectively in some poor woman’s face yelling, ‘Call yourself a mother? Your poor baby is crying! Crying!’ (In a connected matter, there is a boy a little older than The Toddler who lives next door. He has quite a lot of tantrums. Whenever The Toddler can hear him through the walls, she asks, ‘What’s wrong with the boy, Mummy?’ Unfortunately, if we bump into them on the street now, regardless of the fact that the boy is not doing anything & is minding his own business, The Toddler will spurn all traditional forms of greeting and loudly ask, ‘What’s wrong with the boy, Mummy?’)

8. On overreaction
The baby has hit The Toddler on the head with a soft toy. Fortunately, The Toddler is not one to overreact: ‘The Baby has broken my head!’

9. On watches, Grandma’s
The Toddler has commandeered Grandma’s watch. She holds it out to Silly Mummy: ‘I want to wear my clock on!’ (She’s not saying ‘clock’. She means clock. She’s not saying clock. See number 3.)
Silly Mummy stops giggling (she’s not saying clock), and deals with the matter in hand: ‘That’s not your clock, is it? That’s Grandma’s.’
‘Yes it is my clock! Not Grandma’s clock. It’s my clock.’ (Not saying clock. Insert your own immature giggling here.)
‘Where did you get it?’
‘It’s Grandma’s.’

10. On the park, for childrens
The Toddler is at the park. Silly Mummy suggests she has a go on the balance bar. The Toddler disagrees: ‘No. It’s for childrens.’ It is unclear what The Toddler thinks she is exactly (apart from not getting on the balance bar, of course).

Some other posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature
Week 5: Don’t Do It
Week 7: Calm Down
Week 15: We Are Not a Stinker
Week 18: A Spinny Armpits

Toddler Catch 22

Possibly supporting the theory that they have received some kind of crack military training*, toddlers are all masters of Catch 22. Toddler Catch 22 works on the same principles as the original Catch 22**, but the volume is much louder. If you consider carefully, you will probably find that 70% of what your toddler says consists of Catch 22 style paradoxes. (In case you are wondering, a further 20% is non-sequiturs: ‘Look, Mummy, it’s raining; I want cheese!’ The final 10% is ‘raisins’. My groundbreaking book on the development of language in toddlers will be out really no time soon.)

 
 
Here are just a few classic toddler manifestations of Catch 22. (Admittedly, some may not technically be Catch 22s, but I think we can all agree that they retain the key component of ridiculousness.)

1. Too tired for bed
Toddlers may not be put to bed when tired. Any attempt will be met with a meltdown. Why? Because they are tired and they do not want to go to bed. Because they are tired.

2. The category known as: ‘I like cheese. I like toast. What the hell is this cheese doing on my toast?’
According to Catch 22, a toddler may declare that a meal is not to his or her liking. When questioned about the individual ingredients of the meal, the toddler will confirm enjoyment of them all. The toddler will also acknowledge having wolfed down the same meal the previous week. Taking account of these pieces of evidence, would the toddler like to finish the meal?
‘No, don’t like this! Take it away!’
(Additional note: should the toddler subsequently observe a younger sibling eating the exact same meal, the toddler will demand to eat that meal. The toddler will continue to refuse to eat his/her own identical meal. Should the bowls be swapped to accommodate this request, the toddler will need the bowl baby sibling now has. The bowl that was the toddler’s bowl seconds before. The toddler’s bowl filled with the food the toddler would not eat. The toddler wants that one.)

3. Circular reasoning
Daddy is not on the naughty step and must therefore go to the naughty step. Because it is naughty to not be on the naughty step.

4. Shrodinger’s temperature
Shrodinger’s temperature is, of course, a temperature that exists in two states – both hot and cold – simultaneously, until such time as a toddler becomes old enough to make sense. It is this:
‘I’m going to be taking my trowies off.’
‘Why?’
‘I’m a bit hot.’
‘Are you? Mummy thinks it’s a bit cold.’
‘Yes, it is a bit cold.’

5. This
Holding out arm and toy compass on a watch strap: ‘Mummy, put my clock on, please.’ The ‘clock’ goes on. ‘Aargh, Mummy! Mummy! Aargh! I don’t like to have my clock on.’

6. The Mobius strip of naughty
All productivity grinds to a halt when a toddler gets onto the Mobius strip of naughty. Such as this inability to get dressed: ‘No! Am doing something! Am doing naughty!’ Getting dressed is, you see, quite impossible. We are too busy. We are doing something. We are being naughty. We are being naughty because we won’t get dressed. We are, in essence, too busy not getting dressed to be able to get dressed.

7. Broccoli
‘ I don’t like to eat broccoli.’
‘Don’t eat it then.’
‘Yes I can eat broccoli. Want to eat.’ Broccoli goes into the mouth.
‘I don’t like to eat broccoli.’

8. Grandma
Thinking of touching something that is yours? Think again: Toddler Catch 22 forbids it. Grandma, for example, must not, under any circumstances, touch her own camera. ‘Grandma don’t touch that: that’s Grandma’s.’

 
 
Incidentally, if crazy toddler logic has driven you insane, you are entitled to a free spa break. Of course, being driven insane is an entirely rational response to crazy toddler logic. Therefore you are not insane, and cannot have your spa break. Sorry: Catch 22.

 
 

*What do you mean that’s not a theory? It should be a theory. I have evidence.

** The various crazy and paradoxical military rules, from which the pilots are unable to escape, encompassed within ‘Catch-22’ in Joseph Heller’s novel of the same name (worth a read, if you never have). First seen in the rule that any pilot who is insane does not have to fly any more missions, and merely has to ask to be grounded. However, wanting to be grounded in the face of danger is a sane desire, thus proving the pilot is not insane and must fly more combat missions.

A Message to Anyone Who Feels Confused or Bullied About Breastfeeding

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(*Note: I wrote one post about breast or formula feeding, actually about how we should not even bother to debate it because it does not matter, and did not intend to write more on the matter. However, I have recently read some news reports about pressure and bullying some mothers have felt over how they feed their babies, and it makes for quite upsetting reading. So, at risk of debating the issue myself, I am writing this one further post.*)

 
 
This post is specifically aimed at new mothers or prospective new mothers. Because, if you found this post, you have probably been looking online for advice or support about breastfeeding. And, if you’ve been doing that, you are probably unsure about what feeding method you want to use, or you are struggling with breastfeeding. You may have found some great support and advice. In which case, carry on as you were. But there is always a risk, if you have googled advice about breastfeeding, that you have been dragged into a guilt-ridden swamp of ‘information’ about the magical properties of breast milk, without which your baby will surely die and you will be branded with a ‘worst mother in the world’ stamp right across your forehead. If you have found your way into this swamp, and now feel more vulnerable and confused than you did when you started, do please read on.

Breast milk is not the Elixir of Life. It does not have magical properties. It’s great. It’s an amazing substance. But, actually, so is formula. Some very clever people have made it so. They have manufactured a substance that is capable of being a substitute for breast milk and nourishing a baby. So that’s pretty amazing too, right?

Yes, breast milk has immune benefits. Yes, it is probably easier on the gut. In the scheme of things, these are not really massive differences or benefits. Breast milk isn’t making anyone invincible. It’s not curing ebola.

Does breast milk make children more intelligent, thinner, more successful, or any of the other claims put forward by the breastfeeding lobby? No. It doesn’t. The apparent correlation between breastfeeding and improved outcomes for children in those areas is coincidental. It exists because there is a correlation between those outcomes and greater socioeconomic advantage, AND there is a correlation between higher breastfeeding rates and socioeconomic advantage. The privilege and opportunities afforded in society to the group of women who make up the majority of breastfeeders result in the apparent benefits for their children, not the breast milk. But, of course, it is difficult to conclusively prove that the breast milk is not responsible, because to do so would require experimenting on babies and forcing certain groups of mothers to feed in a specific way . That would clearly be unethical, and so the evidence of correlation between breastfeeding and positive outcomes in areas such as intelligence remains, ready to be preyed on by the breastfeeding lobby as evidence of the benefits of breast milk, despite being almost certainly nothing of the sort. If you look at the children of mothers who, in all respects except for breastfeeding, fit the same profile as the breastfeeding mothers, their children will show the same outcomes. I am such a child.

You will not condemn your child to stupidity, obesity or failure by not breastfeeding. Talk to your child, read to them, play with them, hug them – all the things you obviously intend to do anyway! These are the things that make a difference to development. And genetics, of course. Can’t do much about those.

It is nice to encourage breastfeeding, of course it is. But not ever to the extent that anyone is made to feel panicked or vulnerable, or anyone is encouraged to make a decision that puts them or their baby at risk. No one should be told, as I have seen happen, that taking unregulated breast milk from strangers in Internet exchanges is better than using formula. Of course it isn’t. Do you know that is breast milk? That the mother doesn’t drink alcohol? That she has no blood borne illnesses? That she properly sterilised the pump and containers? Do you know where the milk was stored? For how long? It’s reckless, and no one should be telling worried mothers to do that. If you cannot, or do not want to, give your baby your milk (or milk from one of the regulated milk banks), give them formula. It is fine.

No vulnerable woman with mental illness should become so convinced that her baby needs breast milk that she stops taking medication she needs in order to be well. A baby does not need breast milk that badly, but it does need a healthy mother. No one, in short, needs to be listening to suggestions that breast milk is the be all and end all. That is not true.

So this is my message for new mothers, or prospective new mothers, who are worried about this, who have been panicked by what they see on the Internet, by what the so called ‘breastapo’ say. It is nice to try breastfeeding, if you can and you want to. But it is not that important in the scheme of things. Your child will not end up horrendously disadvantaged by not being breastfed. Don’t tell anyone, but breastfeeding isn’t even the norm in this country. The biological norm, yes, but not the norm in practice. Perhaps that is why some women are being so aggressive about this: it’s insecurity and defensiveness. Trying to validate themselves by putting others down. Because, truth be told, breastfeeding mothers, beyond the first few days or weeks, are a pretty small minority. That is a bit of a shame. But it isn’t your problem. You don’t have to be the one to take responsibility for improving the statistics. You have to do what’s right for you.

And I will tell you – as someone who is a breastfeeder, who has exclusively breastfed two babies long term – no sensible, intelligent, reasonable, relatively caring woman (breastfeeder or not) will see you struggling and tell you that you must breastfeed or your baby will suffer. Not ever. She will never tell you to panic over this, to be stressed about it, to cause your baby to feel stress about it, or to feel guilty about it. She will never tell you that you are selfish or harming your baby if you don’t breastfeed. She will not tell you breastfeeding is easy and everyone can do it. Anyone who tells you those things is not someone whose advice needs to be listened to. Good advice, helpful advice, will always encourage you to do what you can do, what you can cope with, and not to look back. Focus your energy on your time with your baby instead.

A Spinny Armpits: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s time for the Ten Funniest Things feature, and The Toddler has a few suggestions for JK Rowling, but first here she is:

1. On doing spells
The Toddler is waving a hoover attachment at Silly Mummy and yelling, ‘A spinny armpits!’ Yes, she means ‘expelliarmus’. Silly Mummy likes The Toddler’s version better. Perhaps JK Rowling would like to rewrite the Harry Potter books with spells by The Toddler? And hoover attachments as wands. The Students can all visit Mr Dyson instead of Mr Ollivander: ‘The lint tool chooses the wizard, Mr Potter.’

2. On PA systems, conversations with
Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are in the supermarket, passing the travelator. Someone gets onto the travelator, and it starts giving its automated instructions: ‘Stand still and hold onto the hand rail.’ The Toddler is not one to miss out on a conversation, whether it involves her or not: ‘Right, I’m standing still. Standing still now.’ She’s actually sitting in the pushchair. Apparently she is expecting further input from the travelator. She reaffirms: ‘I’m standing still.’ The travelator is a bit rude and fails to acknowledge The Toddler’s compliance with its instructions. However, the PA system steps up to the mark to fill the conversational void: ‘Welcome to the store.’
‘Thank you,’ says The Toddler.

3. On getting her pyjama fix
The Toddler needs someone to help her put on her pyjamas. Strangely, she seems to want to undertake this activity in the style of a Guy Ritchie film or Irvine Welsh novel: ‘Mummy, are you going to sort me out? Daddy, you not sort me out. Mummy’s going to sort me out. You sort me out now, Mummy?’ Apparently, The Toddler is some kind of pyjama addict. She just needs one more hit. She’s going to quit, but she just needs Silly Mummy to sort her out one last time.

4. On dilemmas
The Toddler is doing forward rolls with Silly Daddy, but she has a problem: ‘I’m too big small.’ Well, that is a dilemma.

5. On Silly Daddy, knowing when to stop
The Toddler is no longer doing forward rolls with Silly Daddy. Silly Daddy does not know when to stop, but The Toddler is in control of the situation: ‘I think it’s enough, Daddy.’

6. On compliments, to others
The Toddler is continuing her campaign of raising Silly Mummy’s self esteem with compliments. This week, she likes to hold Silly Mummy’s face and whisper, ‘You’re very beauty.’ The Baby has also received Toddler-based confirmation that she is ‘very beauty’.

7. On compliments, to herself
The Toddler has not been leaving herself out of her compliments crusade, in case anyone was concerned. Walking around TK Maxx, she spots a mirror. She rushes over, grabs the sides of the mirror with both hands, puts her face millimetres away from the glass, and announces (loudly): ‘I’m so pretty!’

8. On roaring
Silly Mummy and The Baby are talking about tigers: ‘Roar!’ The Toddler is not happy with the situation: ‘Childrens don’t say roar, please.’

9. On evil queens
The Toddler likes to watch Enchanted. She struggles to remember the word ‘evil’. The evil queen appears. The Toddler is quite excited: ‘Look! Look! It’s her – the…awful queen!’

10. On shouting
The Toddler is shouting (repeatedly): ‘Everyone stop shouting!’ All attempts to explain to her that she is the one shouting are proving unsuccessful. Silly Mummy doesn’t think she can hear the explanation. Someone’s shouting.

Some other posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature
Week 2: I’ll Tell You What, Mummy
Week 9: That’s Not Fair
Week 12: Undone, Everyone
Week 17: I’m so busy

The Baby’s Snack

Silly Mummy is giving The Toddler and The Baby a snack. They are both waiting on the other side of the child gate at the kitchen doorway. Feeding time at the zoo.

Silly Mummy gets out a snack. The Toddler claims it. Well, first she tries to claim a different snack: ‘I have gingers? You getting me gingers, Mummy? Having biscuits?’ Once she has accepted she is not having ginger biscuits, she claims the first offered snack: ‘Oh thank you, Mummy! Thank you so much!’ The Toddler does not believe in waiting for the second offered snack. That snack has not yet been proven to exist. The Toddler does not risk snacks that may turn out not to exist. Always take the snack that is definitely real.

The Baby has been waiting hopefully next to The Toddler. The Baby is not as food obsessed as The Toddler. She is also used to having her food taken by The Toddler. Silly Mummy is trying to get out a second snack for The Baby. The Baby, however, evidently believes she missed her chance when the first snack was seized by The Toddler. With a sad little look, she toddles off, dejected. This happens frequently. If anyone remembers the old Incredible Hulk series or film, Silly Mummy is thinking that The Baby needs the closing theme music to accompany her on her sad little way. Or The Littlest Hobo music. A fugitive from snacks, always moving on before she gets her raisins.

The Toddler, who already has food, does not leave. There may be more food. Silly Mummy calls The Baby back to get her snack. The Baby does not return. The Toddler leaps into action: ‘I take it? I take it to The Baby?’ Silly Mummy is suspicious of her motives.

Toddler Towers: Are All Toddlers Basil Fawlty?

Following the slightly disturbing realisation that toddlers behave a lot like the children in Lord of the Flies, I give you the somewhat less disturbing suggestion that living with toddlers is also a lot like an episode of Fawlty Towers. (If you don’t know Fawlty Towers, it’s one of those programmes people used to watch in the days before there was only Peppa Pig. You may have heard rumours about those days. Everything you heard was true.)

You recall the basic tenets of Fawlty Towers: extreme tantrums, silly walks, bossiness, grumpiness, unreasonable behaviour, ridiculous misunderstandings, unintelligible English, and hitting things with sticks. Now, if you would just like to consider the last half an hour or so with your toddler…

Or allow me to present the evidence.

 
1. Public Relations

Much like Basil Fawlty, your average toddler will occasionally decide a random person is the most important* person ever. This person will be fawned over. Everybody else will be ignored. However, this will not last. By the end of the day, both Basil and the toddler will be found screaming at, and probably trying to kick, the previously beloved person.**

*Meaning rich and influential in Basil’s case, and probably in possession of raisins in the toddler’s case.
**Because they turn out to be a conman (Basil), or because they turn out to be a poohead (toddler).

 
2. Taking instruction

Basil and toddlers are prone to ignoring instructions (from their bossy wives/mummies); relentlessly repeating the same bad behaviour (hiring unreliable builders who put doors in the wrong place/knocking over baby siblings); and denying all knowledge (of how the door ended up in the wrong place/the baby sibling ended up in tears).

3. Ducks

There is an episode of Fawlty Towers in which the new chef only works with duck, all the dishes are duck based, and a significant amount of time is spent searching for duck. By some fluke in the space-time continuum, I believe this episode is actually based on my one year old, who talks almost exclusively about ‘duck’. The pursuit of duck is her main purpose in life. At this very moment, and though she can say ‘cat’, she is following the cat around yelling, ‘Duck!’ It is unclear whether she has decided to assign the cat to the role of duck, or expects the cat to locate a duck for her.

4. Food

The Toddler approach to food is modelled almost exactly on Fawlty Towers: complain that you don’t like what you are given only after happily eating half of it; and offer other people bizarre, made up combinations of food. (Ritz salad a la Basil, anyone? It’s like a Waldorf salad, but not. No? My two year old can offer you egg tea, if you prefer?) Toddlers further admire Basil’s willingness to shout at a chef who is not in fact there, though they see no reason to limit such shouting to imaginary chefs: the world is literally full of imaginary people at whom you could be yelling.

5. Questions

Que? This one is quite self explanatory. In fact, I believe Manuel’s record for the most prolific use of the word ‘what’ in a 30 minute period was recently broken by two year old Roland from Weston Super Mare.

6. Misunderstandings

Now, I don’t recommend turning to toddlers for your hammer supply needs. However, if you do, you will find yourself discussing ham sandwiches and hamsters, with someone who doesn’t fully grasp the English language. It happened to Basil, it will happen to you.

7. Stuffed Animals

The Major may have been somewhat surprised to discover a stuffed moose that was both talking and naughty, but for a toddler, of course, this is just another day at the office. Indeed, up to 70% of a toddler’s time can be spent informing stuffed animals (who may or may not be talking back) that they have been naughty.

8. Causing Offence

Like Basil, toddlers are inclined to say absolutely anything that you would really prefer they do not say. Never mind Basil’s inadvertent mentions of the war to the Germans, Toddler Basil would have unashamedly informed them: ‘You did do the war, didn’t you? You are a naughty wolf!’

 
So: conclusive proof (‘ooh I know’) that toddlers are living out Fawlty Towers on a daily basis. (Now, just don’t mention Peppa Pig. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it…)