health

Five questions every parent of a toddler asks themselves daily, without fail.

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I don’t know about you, but when I’m looking after a toddler (I have two of my own), I find they’re not terrific conversationalists. I end up talking to myself a lot, asking all sorts of questions.

These are five of the most common ones I ask:

“How the hell did you do that?”

Ever found lipstick on the ceiling? Your phone in a different language? The dishwasher is just blinking all sorts of lights you’ve never seen before? Kids have a knack of doing things… differently. They bring out a whole new perspective on life. Which is wonderful, but challenging.

And how about what’s going on the inside? They’re building a body. That’s crazy in itself. I mean, I was impressed when the wife grew them from an embryo in the uterus, but at least she’s an adult. These kids can’t even wipe their own bum, but every day they’re creating their brains, the most complicated organ in the universe. Life truly is remarkable.

toddler advice
IT WASN'T ME. Image: Getty

“Did I break them? Are they permanently scarred?”

Kids are hilariously clumsy. They trip over their own feet multiple times per day. They walk behind swings. They throw themselves off play grounds. It’s often hilarious to be fair, but we’re meant to be charged with keeping them safe. We make mistakes, what if we screw them up forever? It’s terrifying. It’s way too much responsibility. The power of Gods in the hands of mortals.

“When will I get my life back?”

Your what? Hahaha, come on now. Serious questions only please. This is it from here on in. The chapters just roll into each other. Honestly, there is just so much going on that any semblance of life is simply swamped by the never-ending to-do list. What schools should we be looking at? Do we need to start saving for university? Did I put the car seat in correctly? When do I even have time to go to the supermarket? Please may I pee in peace?

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“What’s normal?”

That’s the main question that most of us have. We’ve never done this before. We don’t know what’s what. And parenting can be some of the most intensely competitive exercise we will ever engage in. And what’s worse, no-one admits that it’s competitive. We all pretend it’s this wonderfully supportive village with no judgements, of course. But there is an endless and exhausting comparing of milestones. There’s this race to see when they roll over, when can they walk, at what age have they memorised the dictionary.

On top of that there’s always someone in the parents’ group who is so impossibly perfect that you can’t help but wonder what the family portrait they keep in the attic looks like. They’re the ones with the organic wooden Fair Trade cots from some uber-cool Scandinavian designer. They never seem to break a sweat. Some kid over there has been reciting the alphabet since he was six months, while my three year old still won’t eat anything that’s not pink. And if that’s not bad enough, social media means that all the world's prodigies just float on down into your feed, so you see videos of these little geniuses playing entire symphonies on a grand piano. Or playing drums with an orchestra. Or literally reciting the entire periodic table. Or DJing.

Whereas my kids are more like the below:

via GIPHY

Or this:

via GIPHY

“Can you eat so little you starve yourself to death?”

Some people have "perfect" kids who’ll eat everything they're served. Mine are little and scrawny. The second one has a bit more weight and seems to eat, but the first has always been a struggle - anything into him is a relief. And I’ll admit to worrying about it, because brains, like everything else in the body, are literally built out of everything that we put through our mouths.

Guess what? Fifty percent of toddlers are considered "fussy eaters", and eight out of 10 Australian parents are concerned about their child’s eating, Better Health Victoria reports.It’s ridiculously normal.

We need to quit beating ourselves up over this stuff. No-one’s perfect, but we love our kids. Let’s face it, we’re all Celeste Barber, trying to find our way in an impossibly idealised world.

It’s the uncertainty which is the worst. The crushing doubt that comes from not knowing whether you’re giving your child everything that they need. No-one needs guilt on top of that.

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But let’s face it, that’s all pretty confusing. None of us know what any of that actually means, and the good news is we don’t need to pretend we do either. It’s the good stuff. A tasty vanilla milk drink, or if that gets knocked back chuck it in a smoothie or pancakes. Muffins. Anything, really. That’s the beauty, it gives you peace of mind right when you need it.

We’re always going to wonder if we’re doing the right thing. We're always going to be asking questions. Way more than five a day, in fact.

But the moment we realise that's a completely normal thing to do, there's suddenly a little less pressure to be 'perfect'.

The answers come, as they always do, in the form of hugs, laughs, and those exquisite eyes lit up with wonder.

1 Department of Health and Human Services, 2014, Toddlers and Fussy Eating, Better Health Channel, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/toddlers-and-fussy-eating, accessed November 7, 2018.
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