Toddler Hide n’ Seek

One thing you ought to know about playing Hide and Seek with a two year old.

It’s lame.

R totally gets the concept. He covers his eyes, and counts to ten. When he finds me, he says “Found you!” and then he knows to go hide while I count to ten. He laughs joyously when I find him and we start over. Sounds like the perfect game of Hide and Seek right? So what’s the problem? EVERYTHING.

Firstly, I’m not allowed to hide. I have to basically stand somewhere, partly concealed by an object. So to clarify, crouching behind the washing line? No, absolutely not, cue angry toddler. However, standing behind, but not obscured by the washing line? Fine.
In a cupboard? You must be joking. Half way behind a half open door? Yes, perfect.

So basically, if I think of an awesome place to hide, it has to be pushed aside for the more blatant “in the corner of the room” option.

Additionally, I have to offer extreme clues to my whereabouts from my ‘hidden’ state, or nothing happens. My son gets to ten, and then just stands there with his eyes covered. Sometimes he might carry on, “iveden, telve, thirteen, fourteen, fedenteen, fifteen, thirteen, eighteen… for the rest of my life. So the first clue is where my voice is coming from when I say, “Now you should come find Ima, I wonder where she is?”
The next clue is inevitably given if I’m not either a) where I was last time, or b) directly in front of his face. That involves me saying “I wonder if Ima is standing partially but not entirely obscured by the washing line?”

Hopes of Hiding = Ruined.

Now onto seeking. Just imagine the lengths you have to go to as a human being to put up a genuine go of seeking, under the following circumstances:

  • The seeker doesn’t wait for you to cover your eyes before he finds his hiding place.
  • The seeker only has one place that he hides, under the table.
  • The seeker isn’t actually managing to hide any of him in that one place, it’s possible that more of him can be seen from partly under the table than when he is just standing up in the middle of a room.
  • The seeker likes to count, so joins in, making it impossible not to hear where he is.
  • When you try to play along by saying “Oh dear, I wonder where R is?” he answers you. “Here I am! Under the table!”

Hopes of Seeking = decimated.

It’s a good thing he’s cute.

photo

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Grow up, or don’t show up.

There are people in my life who exhibit unbelievably childish behaviour. One of those people is my two year old son. The other ones, are unfortunately significantly older. Here’s a list of what I feel is just unacceptable behaviour after the age of 6. All of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this very week.

Hanging up the phone mid sentence.

Oh, I’m sorry. Do you not like what I’m saying? Have I upset you in some way? You have two options. One of them is to tell me what’s on your mind and let us have a conversation about it. The other is to say “To be honest I don’t think this is going anywhere constructive, can we pick this up again later?” On no planet is it normal to just hang up with no warning, especially when you preface it with “You’re being ridiculous.” The dial tone begs to differ on who the ridiculous one is.

Giving the silent treatment. 

We all need space from time to time, especially after a difference of opinion or an argument. You can even be forgiven for screening calls when you just aren’t ready to talk to someone yet. But please don’t show up at my house if you’re not going to answer a direct question. Similarly, the Muttering Treatment may be even ruder. Especially when I say “Sorry, what was that?” and you revert back to silence. Either the argument is over, (in which case, get over it) or it isn’t (in which case-let’s talk about it).

Walking away mid sentence. 

I’m well versed in this one, as my toddler loves doing it. I’m trying to explain something, or ask him a question and suddenly, “Hey, where’d you go?” It can be quite endearing in a 2 year old. But I would imagine your concentration levels are greater than 4 seconds, so please give me the respect of letting me finish a sentence.

Overreactions, or tantrums in response to absolutely nothing.

We’ve all been there with our kids. a 45 minute screaming fit over the sausages touching the peas on the plate. Or a variety of toys thrown at our heads because they wanted their socks put on before trousers today. Really R? If this is how upset you get now, what will your response be when I’m forbidding you a party on a school night, or making you get a job to help afford a car? Anyway, again-understandable (but no less frustrating)  in a two year old or even a teenager, but please grow out of it by middle age. Thanks.

Calling names

The old adage ‘sticks and stones,’ has never rung particularly true to me. And most adults will agree that while cuts and bruises heal, there is really no way to take back abusive and angry words. Whatever you think of someone, especially if they are family, you might want to refrain from labelling them too harshly (to their face anyway-we all need to vent from time to time). You cant honestly believe you’re going to be angry forever, and however much I may laugh and smile with you when it’s all over, and even though forgive and forget has to be the name of the game in any even semi-functioning family, I can’t un-hear you calling me a selfish spoilt cow.

Genuinely, I’m not sure what to suggest in response to the treatment I’ve had this week. Immature behaviour deserves the same response I would give a child. I can’t exactly put you in the naughty corner for a time-out, and anyway I don’t have the rest of my life free to wait for you to say sorry. I could take access to your favourite things away, and not let you see us, in the same way I might take away R’s Winnie The Pooh at bedtime if he didn’t touch supper, but I’m really not interested in stooping to your own childish level of playing games. I’ve pretty much been trying positive reinforcement ever since our relationship started, and short of actually making you a star chart, I’m not sure I could make you feel a more wanted part of our life than we already do.

So grow up. Because you’re in a privileged position that one of us has decided to be an adult for the time being. But there’s nothing like immaturity to make everyone around you regress themselves. And if I decide to start walking away as well, you might not find it so easy to get me to come back.

On Bribery and Bargaining

We’ve all been there.

A frustrating meal time with a lovingly prepared plate being turned down to the tune of angry cries and unnecessary screams of apparent torture.

A public showdown with an angry toddler in a supermarket who won’t move from the inside of a chest freezer.

Two exhausted parents battling to get a child into bed for longer than forty five seconds at a time.

And we’ve all done it, reached for the biscuit tin, or the chocolate buttons. It’s so easy to manage the situation that way, without raised voices or threats or wasting hours of your time. Aside from that, it’s such a relief to finally have an old enough child that can be reasoned with enough to make a compromise. Eat five more bites of lunch and u can have a chocolate button. If you stay in your bed, I’ll go get you a biscuit. What a pleasure to not have a baby, to not have to reiterate your expectation seventeen different ways, speaking slower and louder as if your child is a Japanese tourist, with large expansive gestures. and at the end of the exchange you’re no better off, with the same comprehension success rate as you would have with the tourist. It’s just so tempting to save yourself the hassle, especially considering the extent of your compromise. It’s one piece of choc. It’s one animal biscuit, it’s a tiny bit of juice. What’s the harm really?

(I would add at this point its not just food, it’s also DVDs, iPad games, etc. basically any ‘treats’ which the kid doesn’t have on tap. In our house unsurprisingly, unhealthy food holds the most allure.)

But at what point does making your life easier simply become spoiling your child?

Lately, I’m beginning to think its much less about how large the treat is, and more about the power play.

To emphasise, let me share a story from this week. R and I were sitting at his table, enjoying a (delicious, not that it matters) lunch of pasta and sauce. I’m aware my son likes his pasta exactly the way I did until I was 16-entirely plain and not touching any other foods. And it makes me want to scream. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony, and yes, I should probably apologise to my own mum.) but I’m trying really hard to break R’s habit at a younger age to my own. After fifteen mins of unsuccessful yum yum noises and many coaxing attempts at telling him what a big boy he is, reading stories and the like, I was ready to scream into a pillow. I turned to him and reached for my hidden Ace. “R? If you eat your pasta, you can have TWO choc buttons. Wowww” I stressed, emphasising the excitement of doubling the usual bribe.
My son sat down in his seat, and picked up his spoon with one hand. Pausing before he began eating, he turned to face me. Using all his new mathematical skills, he spread his other hand in my face, fingers outstretched.

“No.” He smiled through his tearstained face. “Five.”

As momentarily shocked as I was at my two year old playing hardball, I managed to remember my policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and he went to bed without any lunch at all.

But the episode has stayed with me. If I’d given him the five choc buttons, he would have happily munched down the entire plate of food, and it would still have been less choc than I would offer as a special treat in other circumstances. We brush his teeth regularly, he eats healthily and has sugar in moderation, it wouldn’t have done him any damage physically. But what’s stopping him asking for ten next time? Or a snickers bar for that matter? And how can I say no when I’m the one who has given him the expectation that eating his meals = chocolate. Or staying in bed = biscuits? And even more so, that its up to him to set the boundaries?

For me it’s a hard one. I don’t want to give up the ability to fix a problem 123, and sometimes when the food is new or the sleep is urgent I really don’t mind the normal rules dropping by the wayside. But I suppose I’ve noticed how easy it is for them to get lost altogether, and for the ‘one offs’ to become everyday practices. And with what amounts to a tiny little sponge learning from everything we do and say, creating his own world of right and wrong behaviour around our actions, I hope I can try and find some healthier methods of coercion at the next macaroni cheese slinging event or 2am wake up call.

bribing mealtime

War, apparently.

Can anyone think of something more passive-aggressive than a parent secretly hiding  ice cream in her child’s freezer, and then not mentioning it, when they are both on a full on diet?

While I’m aware that this is more amusing than pure evil, suggestions for an appropriate retaliation would still be great.

The Building Blocks of Life.. Literally.

Today I’m going to be making a deep point about lego. Well, to be more accurate-Megablocks.

As a side point, I wonder how many more kinds of lego are going to be patented. It’s actually shocking that in a world where no one has invented a truly leak-proof nappy, or a vest with poppers that fits a child older than 2, or a device which gets your kids up and dressed in the morning, (preferably activated by parents snoring) that we have about 18 dozen forms of connect-able block.

Anyway. My son has recently started enjoying mega blocks. He excitedly brings me the bag to unzip, and empties them out onto the carpet. He rifles through the assorted sizes and colours, hand picking the ones he wants, and is now truly adept at putting them together and pulling them apart. The last few weeks he is even building complex constructions and skyscrapers galore. It’s amazing.

However (and this may be a shock to some). My son has neither an engineering nor an architecture degree. And at the ripe old age of 1 and three quarters, he has very little concept of foundation or structure. So lego and its peers are very much a supervised activity, with parental help as and when.

Which brings me to my point. How much help is too much help?

I have 3 options. (In lego at least.)

  1. I help him build his tower, replacing pieces in his hands when I can see he is making a poor choice, trying to explain why, making the whole thing pretty much a formal learning game. In other words, let’s call option one, Sucking all the Fun Out of Life. 
  2. I secretly rebuild the tower as we go, waiting until he turns to get another piece before rearranging the four pronger from on top of the one pronger etc, and remaking the foundations until I don’t have to hold it secretly between my own hands to get it to stay upright. Let’s give this one the ever catchy Lying to our Kids title.
  3. I let him make his own mistakes, letting the tower fall to the ground every time he places another brick, and hope he starts to work it out for himself instead of the far more likely options of him getting very angry and/or giving up. Let’s give this the optimistic heading of Embrace the Tantrum.  


I doubt I need to explain the metaphor. There is so much that my son is on the cusp of understanding and doing himself. Every day he is trying to learn new things. But he is a baby. And the combination of easily frustrated and not very good at stuff is not exactly a match made in heaven. To avoid the seventeen episodes a day which range from mild whining to full blown tantrum-ing (I know sweetheart, it’s because the square doesn’t fit in the triangle hole.. Overreaction much?) I either have to do something for him, basically taking away his independence and causing a different whining episode, or make it look like he’s in control, when really he isn’t. (In which case-how is he ever going to learn?)

Like so much of parenting, it’s a balancing act. A lot of over-forced happy sounding “Oh dear!”‘s and “Let’s build it again!” and trying not to get frustrated audibly or noticeably with my own adult shortcomings, thus setting a bad example for how to deal with failure.

But part of me is waxing nostalgic over the days when play time was a simple trying to chew the head off a plastic dinosaur.

The lego guy never gets to go out with his friends…