Like many brave war heroes before me, I know that entering a war zone or battle requires much strategic planning and preparation. It’s every woman for herself, there can be only one winner. Make sure it’s you.
Yes, I’m talking about parenting a two year old. Oh, he might seem harmless, sitting there with his cute little button nose and big blue eyes gazing up at you saying ‘I uvv you Mama, huggie!’ BUT DON’T BE FOOLED! These creatures are deceptive little feckers. They rope you in and make you remember all the cute adorable things you love about them, and make you wonder how you made something so precious in the first place and just as all your stupid mushy related hormones are making you melt in a puddle of maternal pride and joy, they scream in your face and wipe their snot all over your clothes. You’ve been Toddlered.
No sir, they must not be underestimated.
People don’t give two-year-olds enough credit. They are highly intelligent and strategic. They can play you off against your Second In Command (Yes Gavin, I have appointed myself as Chief. Or whatever the head army person is called.) You must be on guard at all times.
Lets start with the basics. First tactic is Distraction. This is key – they’ll fire whinge after whinge, demand after demand. Be vigilant and stay focused! You must deploy the Distraction tactic at once. I suggest you point out an aeroplane flying overhead, doesn’t matter if there is one or not, they love aeroplanes and helicopters and pretty much anything in the sky. This should buy you enough time to think of a new topic or activity for them to do. This also works well if they’re on the verge of a tantrum – it is your responsibility, Soldier, to recognise the signs in your own toddlers. Sticks! They love sticks – find a stick, preferably near a puddle, their day is made, and you will have averted disaster. Sticks and puddles can save you.
Bribery. This is one of your best weapons. But use it wisely – they’ll know when you’re bluffing. You need to be prepared to follow this one through. For example, ‘For the love of God stop that!! If you stop that we can go to the Playground later’.
Now unless you’re willing to go to that playground and move endlessly from Swings! Slides! Swings! Round-bout! and socialise with other mini dictators, withhold the bribe. Basically you’ll never know peace again otherwise. They have memories like Elephants and that’s all there is to it. But beware with Bribery. It could put you on a slippery slope to Expectation. Bribery must only be used in extreme cases, or really you’re not doing yourself any favours, and even worse, they’ll essentially have taken away some of your best armour!
Choose Your Battles. This is a war, it consists of many many battles. Some you’ll win, some you’ll lose, but choose them wisely. Measure up the pros and cons. So what if he wants to paint his head green. Let him do it if it keeps him quiet and you get a chance to feed child number 2 in peace. But if he wants to skip his nap? Hell no, this one is yours! You will not deprive me of that hour of peace! Even offer help. Here’s a paintbrush for your other hand – why not throw a bit of yellow in for good measure. But overall, I suggest you make sure you’re winning more of the battles than you lose. Apart from anything else, I just don’t like losing anyway.
Reverse Psychology. This one takes a bit of practice. It’s all about outwitting and outlasting. You want them to eat the dinner you’ve just slaved over – BUT DO NOT LET THEM KNOW THIS. Approach it casually. Oh hey! I’m just going to leave this dinner over here. Talk a bit to yourself about how nice the dinner is. Child 2 comes in quite handy here – ask him does he want some. He can’t talk yet, so naturally you pretend he will of course want some. Mr Potato Head LOVES this dinner. But hey if you don’t want it, no problem. They’ll look at you suspiciously, yes they’re probably onto you, but curiosity and fear of missing out usually – not always! – but usually wins out. Mission complete.
Patience. This is the hardest one. You’ll need A LOT of it. You’ll think you have none, you’ll feel the pressure…but hang on in there! You can do this! They are TWO! You are.. well there’s no need to get into specifics here, but you’re a lot older than two. You’ve a lifetime of wisdom to work from. They, on the other hand, think they can put their hands over their eyes and turn completely invisible to the human eye for God sake. Now I’m not going to pretend that I have this one mastered either. I lose the plot like the best of them.. but I still try and that’s the main thing, ok?! It’s a bit like doing that horrific plank move at the gym. At first you can only manage .2 of a second. But before you know it, after say 5 years or so, you can hold it for a good 10 seconds!! Oh, ok maybe that’s just me. Normal people get it a lot sooner than that, but you get my point. Patience is the same, it comes with practise and for me it’s an ongoing project. But I didn’t get where I am today with no patience, so take heart!
And remember Solider – we’re all in this together at the end of the day! We are all chiefs (or whatever the correct term is!) of our own little army – all fighting the same battles, and winning and losing the same ones in the process. But at the end of a long day, when those little arms are around your neck and those mushy hormones are rushing back in…..well let them. Why else do we do this after all?!
This Jen’s Survival Guide. Fight the good fight. Learn it. Print it. Stick it on your fridge. Most of all, STAY STRONG!