Slipping Through My Fingers, The Toddler Days

There’s a song in the movie Mamma Mia which might have drawn a tear or two since becoming a parent. In the middle of the movie, Meryl Streep is watching her fully-grown daughter prepare for her wedding, and singing this song as the scene plays out. The song itself, “Slipping Through My Fingers” was written about ABBA members’ Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog’s 7 year old daughter. It sums up the feelings of watching our kids grow up so fast and not being able to grab them back in for a cuddle on your lap, or a snuggle to sleep to keep the baby days going. It’s gorgeous, and right now, it feels very apt for the stage I’m at with Eliott.

Slipping Through My Fingers

He’s three and a half. Three has been tough. It IS tough. He’s becoming a proper independent little boy who doesn’t need help, he’s making his own way in the world. This means we’re butting heads a lot more, when it comes to him not wanting to do things my way instead of his.

Lately we’ve had major shifts in the plates of his world. First came the giving up his nightly “bobba”. This one was MAJOR. As a child who hasn’t taken a soother since he was 6 weeks old, he was dependent on that bloody bottle to go to sleep. The problem was, this often led to wetting through (even with a change before we went to bed), and so one night we decided enough was enough. No more Bobba. Lots of others give them to the fairies, or to Santa or the Easter Bunny, our house was a bit more totalitarian about it. Mean? Maybe. Did it work? Yes.

The first night was HELL. Two hours of horrible bedtime, crying for it, refusing to lie down, him eventually giving in. He eventually drifted off to sleep and we hoped against hope that it would be it for the night. Was it? Of course not. 2am, he wakes up DEMANDING his bobba. Roaring crying. We did what we hadn’t done for a long time, taking his sleepy body up in our arms and walking the living room floor up and down. He’s a whole lot lankier than he was in those days, it’s more difficult to pace with a fully grown 3 year old in your arms. He, in the end, gave in to have a sip of water from another cup, and then went back to sleep.

The second night was no less traumatic. But that night he didn’t wake, and so since then, it’s become a non-issue. With one exception, when he found a hidden bottle in Granny’s house and used his hostage-negotiation tactics to guilt her into “one last bobba, for old times sakes”. We are bobba free. Not only does it mean there is no longer wetting through at bedtime (yay!), we’re also saving a fortune on almond milk. Because yes, the child could only have unsweetened almond milk, and that’s an expensive nightly habit to be keeping up.

What’s next? Oh yes. Toilet training. I thought removing the bottle was punishing – yeah, life saw that and said “Here, hold my bobba”. This isn’t our first foray into the world of nappy-free living, oh no, we’ve tried (and failed) before. A visit to Wexford got extended by a week unexpectedly, and so, with time off creche, we entered into the breach. A few weeks in, we’re getting there. Pull-ups are for bedtime only. Accidents are becoming more rare. The introduction of the NOVELTY of pee-ing standing up was a definite winner in this regard. Son, I’m sorry that’s a skill I could never teach you, and so Daddy retains The People’s Favourite award as far as this is concerned. We’re getting there. We’re in the sh*t, as they say, and it’s difficult some days to hold back the frustration when accidents happen for seemingly no reason. It’s not rational, and I know this, but the feeling of “He’s doing it deliberately” comes to the fore and the red mist descends. Toilet training is not for the weak. There was a day or two where I contemplated that teaching him to change his own pull-up would be the easier option for both of us. But, nevertheless, she persisted. And so, we’re getting there. We’re hitting the wall when it comes to poo – apparently very normal for boys, and something I’m acutely aware of not making a big deal of for fear of causing other issues. But getting there. Getting there. Pass the coffee, would you?

My boy has headed in today to officially start his first year of ECCE. Now, he’s somewhat cheated the system with his March birthday, having availed of the ECCE system since last April for a few weeks. But today is Day 1 of Pre-school year proper. There was no photo with school bag, no big farewell, because for him (and us, sort of) it’s not any big transition. He’s not moving to a new classroom, he’s got the same wonderful staff working with him, the only real notable difference is in our bank account. He is after watching his little friends move on to other pre-schools, in particular those who are to start primary school in 2018, as the feeder school system seems to start here at pre-school. That will be the harder adjustment, not having his “team” as he calls them. He’s a social little guy and I’m reassured by the staff that he does have other friends and makes friends easily, but it’s so hard not to worry. I was the child who didn’t mix well, who had ONE MAIN FRIEND, and when she moved schools nearing the end of Primary School it was horrible. My son is not me though, he’s far better at this than I am, even as an adult, so I’m sure he’ll adapt. And we’ve got weekends and playdates to see his team, to reunite the band again.

The days are long but the years are short. The Gretchen Rubin quote brought to my attention by Bumbles of Rice a few years ago is particularly apt here. The days are seriously bloody long, alongside tantrums and poo-in-pants and endless requests for another PJ Masks episode. But as Timehop keeps showing me, my boy is growing up in no time at all. His independence comes meshed amongst requests for middle of the night snuggles and sporadic “Mummy, I love you, you my favourite”s. It’s a tender balance and one I’m aware is slipping through my fingers more as he grows and needs me less.

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This week so many parents will tearfully watch their kids walk through a school gate and into a new stage of their life, a new independence. And I will count my blessings that for this year, that’s not me, because I’ll likely be a messy puddle of tears.


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