Toddlers and goldfish: The challenge of a 2-minute attention span

This isn’t a lockdown specific post; it’s one I thought about writing ages ago but being with Harriet 24/7 has definitely tested my patience and sent trying to control my control freakery into overdrive! I’m hoping you can relate to it and I’d love to hear your experiences…

When you’re cradling your gurgling little bundle of joy in your arms you can find yourself fast-forwarding to future months, imagining drawing, making and baking with them, their eyes aglow with excitement and enthusiasm, following your instructions and emerging with perfectly iced cakes or cards colour co-ordinated and made with care. You’re just ready for that moment to be captured on camera like you see in those soft-focus photobook ads.

However, you will soon come to realise that this only exists in mummy dream world. A mummy utopia.

You will not hold a two-year-old’s attention. Ever.

In planning how to fill the day you may think that colouring and sticking will get you through an hour. Oh no. You are dealing with the attention span of a goldfish and will be lucky to engage them for 10 minutes before they run off leaving a trail of glitter and paint splodges, immediatly turning their toy box upside down to add to the mess and carnage. You, on the other hand, will be occupied for the rest of the alloted hour clearing up.

The same is true of games. They will enthusiastically pour out the box’s contents and then willfully ignore your instructions. Obviously trying to get a toddler to turn over only two cards in a game of matching pairs will result in a meltdown and the cards scattered over the floor. Admittedly, I was probably being a little ambitious with even attempting said game.

Baking? Take a deep breath. They will not delicately put eyes in the right place on a gingerbread man. They will forcibly decline your offer of help and the gingerbread men will resemble an abstract Picasso. There is absolutely no chance that cake mixture will be carefully spooned into fairy cake cases and you will have to fight the urge to grab the spoon off them as more cake mix ends up on the baking tray than in the cases. You will not be winning marks for presentation on the Great British Bake Off. And don’t get me started on the sprinkles. The dreaded phrase ‘I do it’, the tub is grabbed and the kitchen is showered in multi-coloured sugar shapes that you’ll be crunching underfoot (no matter how diligent you are at brushing and mopping) for months to come.

Comics with stickers are also a challenge for control freaks like me. Usually as soon as the comic’s handed over, the sticker page is found and within minutes, Harriet, me, the floor, baby Sam and everything else is covered (the number of times I’ve unknowingly gone out with stickers on my bum are beyond counting). Yesterday I insisted that the stickers were put in their rightful place in the comic as answers to puzzles and as rewards for getting questions right. We started off well. I got a glimpse (just a glimpse) of mummy utopia before we soon descended into the usual sticker confetti fest. I was fighting a losing battle.

‘Let mummy show you first’ or ‘let’s do it together’ become your standard phrases as you bite on your fist knowing that realistically you have no control whatsoever over the outcome; but mess, exploration and independence is just how it is and, really, just how it should be…

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