I have just finished chipping dried Weetabix off the table when my two-year-old daughter asks for another bowl of cereal. After this second sitting of breakfast is over she decides that she feels like being naked today. So the dress she insisted on wearing – one of her smartest and best fitting – has been caked in food unnecessarily and must go into the wash again.
She potters about for a while, singing a medley of Frozen hit Let It Go, Just A Spoon Full Of Sugar from Mary Poppins, and her favourite line from Beauty And The Beast, “There Must be more than this provincial life,” whilst simultaneously tipping boxes of toys onto the floor.
Eventually, she tires of lining up small objects around the kitchen doorway into an obstacle course designed to break my neck, and demands that I play Doctors. After having my leg X-rayed with a toy telephone and bandaged with a doll’s scarf I am discharged from hospital, only to be readmitted again. And again.
Later I am demoted to the role of baby and ordered to lie on the sofa – my head forcibly positioned into the most uncomfortable angle and multiple blankets tucked hard around my neck with strangulating tightness.
Together we complete a jigsaw puzzle we are both now so familiar with we could do it blindfolded. Only to dismantle it and start all over from the beginning.
When at last the hour rolls around, my attempts to coax vegetables into her are met by furious protest until I offer bribes of ketchup and fruit-flavoured yoghurt.
We debate the benefits of tooth-brushing and pyjamas until bedtime has past and I agree to read a story I know so well that the words circle dizzily inside my head as I lie in my own bed trying to get to sleep.
The day is over and a new morning begins.
I have just finished chipping dried Weetabix off the table when my two-year-old daughter asks for another bowl of cereal. After this second sitting of breakfast is over she decides that she feels like being naked today. So the dress she insisted on wearing – one of her smartest and best fitting – has been caked in food unnecessarily and must go into the wash again…
This repetitive mind strain is all part of being parent to a toddler.
Toddlers need repetition to help them develop and learn. The more times they hear a word or see an action, the more likely they are to remember it. They take comfort in doing the same thing over and over again because the predictability gives them a sense of security in a world where so much is new and unknown. And by being able to correctly anticipate what is going to happen next, toddlers become confident in themselves.
As adults we crave variety. The more weeks and years we spend living out the same routines, it is the changes and the differences that will stand out in our memory.
When your life revolves around a toddler, it can feel as though you are stuck in a time loop. Every weekend a blur of the same favourite film and spin on the roundabout. Every day the same game, the same old story.
But perhaps we can look to Bill Murray’s film Groundhog Day for some comfort. In the 1993 rom com Bill plays a grumpy weatherman who finds himself caught in a time warp, living the same day over and over again. It is only when he finds love that he is able to free himself from an eternity of repetition.
So remember, when your toddler’s routine is boring you to tears, only love can break the cycle. Eventually.
(Happy Birthday to a very special auntie. Thanks a lot for introducing the game of Doctors.)