Suddenly a toddler

When Talitha hit one year, people told me she was a toddler now. I shrugged and mumbled something about having read somewhere that the term “toddler” had been invented by marketing bods in the clothing industry to sell more stuff.

Then she started walking consistently and I admitted that was pretty toddler-like. Really, though, she was still just a baby. Yes, she was changing lots but that word “toddler” seemed to carry a note of separation that wasn’t yet true for us.

She turns 18 months next Tuesday and I can finally confirm it: she is a toddler.

The tantrums came out of nowhere. “Let Mummy finish on the toilet and then we can brush our teeth.” Her world is falling apart. “You’ve only had one bite of this banana. We cannot open another one.” Never has a mother been so cruel. “Daddy is going to work.” Will he EVER return?!

I was caught off guard. Ill-prepared. I’d meant to do some reading at some point. We were meant to sit and figure out how we were going to parent a toddler. At some point.

Running on instinct, I try to think about what she must be experiencing and work my way out from that point. We hurriedly begin to discuss over dinner what it means to express unconditional love while setting limits. We think together about patterns that we don’t want to repeat, weaknesses in ourselves that we don’t want to impart, insecurities that we don’t want to act out of.

Bit by bit, I find myself amazed by this newfound independence my daughter is expressing. She is telling me that she knows she’s separate from me. That we are “other” from each other. I wonder if it sometimes scares her a little bit.

I review a range of my own feelings: joy at seeing her grow, sadness that her tiniest stage is past, peace that this is the way it is meant to be. But I find myself suppressing something much darker in the background, something that must come into the light sooner rather than later so it can be dealt with, so it won’t spread itself through this weave of emotions.

I am a little afraid. Sometimes more than a little. Will I be a good mother? Am I? Am I making the right decisions?

It’s a profound responsibility, guiding a child into the world. For all my bravado and well-argued opinions, if I’m deathly honest, I do sometimes wonder what I’m doing.

Wow, I just realised this post has started to sound pretty tortured! I’m feeling really tired at the minute, which always makes me more prone to being anxious.

I am actually enjoying seeing Talitha move into toddlerhood and getting to know the person she is.

This post isn’t fishing for reassurance, though that’s never unwelcome. I guess what would be cool is if you’d raise your hand and say: “Me too.”