'They have the attention span of a goldfish.' 5 things I wish I'd known about having a one-year-old.

If you’re looking for the perfect thing to say to a first-time mother of a very active little 10-month-old, look no further. You've found it. Tell her it's only going to get harder from here. It's what every new parent is dying to hear when they're feeling the strain of whatever phase they're currently in. 

Of course, you would be forgiven for thinking that new parents need all the warnings we can get, because this child-rearing thing is an absolute minefield. 

Despite this, we actually don't! I risk coming across as a bit of a Pollyanna here, but I honestly believe that parenting gets better and better with every new phase.

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I bloody love being a mum to a one-year-old. Having a one-year-old is an absolute blast. But there's so much about it I couldn't have anticipated, even with those "helpful" warnings, before being thrown into the thick of it.

1. They're not a baby anymore, but they're not exactly a 'toddler' either.

They're generally still on two naps a day, possibly still waking multiple times in the night for cuddles, and they're smashing a bottle of milk (or a breastfeed) like a tiny suckling angel. 


It’s the beautiful in between. The illusive space suspended between baby and toddlerhood. I don't have a baby anymore, that's for sure, but watching this tiny little drunk stumble around with a dummy in his mouth, uttering only a few words of coherent English, I can't exactly say I have a toddler yet either.

2. They have the attention span of a goldfish (unless they’re doing something potentially lethal).

"Tah!" I've just been handed my third sock from the clean laundry pile and I'm relieved to see a game developing that doesn't involve any potential safety hazards. I take a sip from my soft drink can and then "tah!" there it is. 

The sock has been dropped, and my 12-month-old is pointing directly at my drink, exclaiming "tah!" a third time, showing that he would in fact like to be holding the sharp-edged, very full can of lemon squash. This one is on me for trying to consume a beverage in his presence without sharing. How very dare I?

This also plays out during pre-bed story time. He'll enthusiastically grab a book and hand it to me, only to sit down for two pages of it, then wander off to find the dog food he saw our pooch drop under the couch earlier. Sweet little chaos monster.

Image: Supplied.


3. Pot plants vs bulldozers. This is the age you'll learn which one you’ve got.

A friend of my sister's once lovingly referred to her little one as a "bit of a pot plant" and while it's absolutely not something you should call another person's child without their sign off, the term does beautifully describe the difference that can start to emerge around this age. 

Boy or girl, when they're newborns, they're all just beautiful little lumps of squishy, gurgly heaven. But by the time they're 12 months old, you might start to hear talk about the typical behavioural differences between biological sexes. 

When I catch up for brunch with my friends who have little girls, I often find myself shouting the end of my sentence as I race after my little boy before he toddles headfirst into a tree. We then return, brushing off mud, to find his little friend, in the same place we left her, playing contentedly. 


This age is the first time I’ve started to see what all the talk I’ve heard about little boys being so non-stop is about.

Boy or girl, if you've got a little handful like me, don't fret. It's so much fun watching them ram through their new experiences like an uncoordinated little earthmover.

4. They can't quite speak... but boy, they can whine.

Sometimes I feel like I'm getting gently eased into the world of toddler tantrums. I'm not foolish enough to think this is as bad as it gets. I've seen the true nuclear meltdowns of the fabled 'terrible twos' and this is nothing close, but it's definitely a shift away from young baby cries. Ah, simpler times. 

At this age, they're absolutely thrilled with their very modest existence until that is the moment you take something they want away from them, or hinder one of their many unintentional attempts at self-destruction. Then they are utterly devastated. 

I'm talking about the silent scream, actual tears, and a look that says "how could you?" after you've gently moved a sharp knife from their reach. 

Nappy changes suddenly become very dramatic and between wrestling their hands out of their soiled nappy and trying to calm their irrational tears, you might be tempted to put a plug up there.

Listen to This Glorious Mess and join Leigh and Tegan discuss two listener dilemmas about toddlers. Post continues after podcast.

5. They are an absolute delight to watch.

You look at them waddling along, pointing up at trees and think "you're too small to be walking and talking!". Let me tell you, this age is an absolute joy to watch. 


They learn something new every day, develop a hilarious little sense of humour and start to actually understand when you ask for a cuddle. The best feeling in the world is watching my little one waddle over to me, open armed, smiling like a goof for a big (albeit short-lived) "mummy cuddle".

My mum has always told me she's enjoyed parenting more and more with every year that passes. She loved having teenagers, watching our weird and wonderful minds expand and wake up to the many injustices of the world. 

She loves having proper grown-ups with little ones of their own even more, because now she can see just how much her mothering has impacted our own. 

It's a beautiful thing to watch our little people grow, and as someone who's only one year into the adventure, I can attest to it getting richer and richer with each passing day.

Hannah Vanderheide is a writer, actor, and voice artist with a beautiful baby boy. She's also a body-neutral trainer, eating disorder survivor, and wellness industry sceptic who loves to write about the sensible side of health.

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Feature Image: Instagram @han.vee.

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