Rule ONE of Toddlerhood is you do not talk about Toddlerhood. The second rule of toddlerhood is you DO NOT TALK ABOUT TODDLERHOOD.
Okay, that may sound overblown, what I really mean is don’t talk to your parent friends about the inevitable difficulty of the next developmental leap. If they’re not there yet, then they do not need to hear about the 18-month sleep regression (oh yeah, that’s a thing) or the fact that the difficult primary school years are about to be replaced by the difficult teen years. It’s essential to remember that, as parents, we must never get too real about the struggles of the next stage of the journey when talking to our parent friends who have only just wandered into the parental trenches.
Your poor beleaguered mum friend whose right boob is on FIRE with mastitis and who hasn’t had more than three consecutive hours sleep in four months does not need to hear that there is no damn let up in the beautiful, sweet-smelling, occasionally glorious, quite often head-wrecking state that is parenthood. *Draws breath*
I learned this the hard way very recently. Yesterday, to be precise. My two friends, who both have small babies, witnessed a toddler meltdown of apocalyptic proportions (there was spitting, it basically was like the final scenes of the Exorcist). However traumatised I may be from the encounter, I fear my poor friends may never recover. From this day forth, every moment that they smile in wonder at their gorgeous babies hitting their milestones, those first shaky steps, the first words, the memory of my toddler hissing at me will come unbidden, a sudden visceral reminder that the toddler years are yet to come.
They may never forgive me for inflicting the knowledge that their adorable baby is going to turn into a domineering, pint-sized tyrant on them. It’s really only fair that parents learn the full extent of, what I call soul-destruction-by-toddler first hand from their own child. This is mainly because the SDBT is a mandatory, completely unavoidable hell-storm and therefore as little advance awareness as possible is preferable. It seems to be a kind of tacit agreement among parents that you shield your friends with babies from the reality of toddlers. I’ve only realised this now after three years of moaning to my friends with older kids about how hard newborns, with their colic and their sleep-resisting, are. The Toddler-friends would tilt their heads and nod sympathetically to my exhausted laments. Little did I realise that behind those eyes they were thinking: “You weakling! You don’t even know the meaning of hard, wait until that baby is a toddler screaming “I. WANT. PAW. PATROL.” 87,000 times in one hour with the kind of dogged, relentlessness of a hyena attacking an animal carcass. There also may or may not be accompanying hitting, door slamming or stamping. Stamping on your SOUL that is.”
Thus it makes perfect sense to keep the toddler away from the fragile parents of newborns for the following reasons:
Solid Reason #1
You do not want your friends to hear your “mum voice”. Or, well let’s face it, sometimes it can be more of a “mum snarl”. Suffice it to say, we are never our best selves when resisting the urge to scream at a particularly trying toddler dictator.
Solid Reason #2
Your friend currently owns an adorable baby who can be extremely difficult and demanding at times (as all babies can) and she is counting, nay LIVING for the day when things are going to get easier. Do NOT enlighten her to the fact that this day is never coming. She will find out in her own time and you can pour the wine and say soothing things like: “sure when they’re 15 they won’t want anything to do with us!” If she tries to point out all the attendant anxiety the teenage years will bring, top up her glass and turn up the music.
Solid Reason #3
You might need your friend to babysit one day and you do not want to give her any reason to decline.
Solid Reason #4
You do not want your friends to be exchanging pitying glances when you’re in the other room trying to reason with the toddler, repeating over and over in a voice strained to breaking point: “No. More. Paw. Patrol.” Parents of toddlers don’t need your pity, we just need you to pretend that our three-year-old who is hissing and speaking in ancient Aramaic because I “cut the toast wrong” is just going through a phase – the possession phase.
Solid Reason #5
Finally, if your toddler is anything like mine, he pretty much constantly has pink eye. Very antisocial affliction that.