Ever get the feeling your kid sees you as a liability? It makes sense for teenagers. It’s what everyone expects from them. They’re suddenly more self-conscious than they’ve ever been in their little lives and feel the need to doggedly guard their new found reputations with their mates. They start getting their own tastes in music, films and dress-sense, and see these things as a way to tell the world who they are.
What you don’t expect as a first time parent of a smaller person is that there’s a similar leap for the little people between 1 and 2. Here are some things I’ve spotted that hail that new stage in a little troll’s navigation into social awkwardness and need to prop up their new found reputation.
1 – Needing to keep their image up
Little Bear’s becoming image conscious. When the phone comes out to take a picture, is tiny cherub smile quickly changes to a scowl that Mr T or the Rock would be proud of.
‘You not catching me with a goophy smile Pappa. Just think what that’ll do for my reputation at nursery! I’ve seen them put those pictures of me up on the wall’
So keen on his ‘cool’ picture face is he, that after the snap is finished, his little beam quickly comes back and he runs over to look at just how awesome he looks in his new photo. So now I just have dozens of pictures of him scowling, which makes this part of his childhood look much more miserable than it really is.
2 – Gotta act cool around the other kids
When out and about, half the time Little Bear insists on being carried. But what happens if there’re babies he recognises around? He insists on walking, because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his mates. Everyone knows being carried isn’t cool.
How should you go down a slide? Little Bear spots the cool kids going down face first on their bellies, so of course that’s what he’s got to do (regardless of terror inflicted on his parent as he shoots down the slide at lightning speed face first).
3 – Thinking everyone’s looking at them
Little Bear has noticed the other kids. He’s noticed them for a while now, but now they’re no longer just there to steal toys from (or to try and steal your toys). They’re there to play with. In the past few months there’s been a big switch. If another little troll is around, Little Bear will quickly lose interest in us and start running around his new friend.
4 – Not a baby anymore (in front of other toddlers)
Milk is still by far his favourite… everything. Snack, drink, meal and even toy (when he squirts it on the floor). Why then will he only drink it when he’s around me. At home he still hyperventilates in excitement the moment the fridge door opens and he sees the blue top. He still snuggles up into my arm when holding his milk as if he was a newborn. Except, whilst in his head he hasn’t changed, in reality he’s 3 times as long and 4 times as heavy.
At nursery though, he wont touch it. I can only conclude that milk isn’t cool in nursery. ‘No way, I’m way too cool for that 12 month old drink. Only babies like Sid here drink milk. What, a, loser.’ So from insisting on around half a liter a day with me, he drinks no milk at all at nursery because he’s around the other toddlers.
5 – Developing his own dress-sense
Pappa thinks that because it’s getting cold now, Little Bear should wear several layers. But then he wouldn’t get to show off his cool red hoodie. Wearing boots outside to jump in puddles? Little Bear thinks socks would work way better with his stripy trousers. Cue finger wagging and angry protests at any attempt to correct his choice of attire.
6 – Rebelling against his parents
Suddenly the delicious balanced diet Little Bear is served at dinner isn’t good enough. Little Bear can go for a week at a time refusing all food stuffs for his evening meal except bread and hummus.
If that’s not difficult enough, he’ll refuse to sit in the high-chair or even on our laps. For him, only his own grown-up seat at the dinner table will do, despite the fact that his plate of bread is now above eye level for him. We’re still getting those nursery reports claiming that he’s eaten all his chili con carne, Italian meatballs and fajitas though.
Gone are those short few months where he recognized his name and responded to it. Busy running towards some mud or a puddle, if I call his name, unlike other grownups, I'm now completely ignored. I just get him mumbling something under his breath and an acceleration towards his goal.
7 – Keeping his parents in line whilst playing it cool
Perhaps the most cutting development in this toddler adolescence is the proliferation of the word 'no'. In his very matter of fact way, he can crush your enthusiasm by looking you square in the eye and informing you that you’re being a bit of an idiot.
Pappa: ‘Let’s sing some songs! Yay! Can you clap your hands!?
*If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands! [*clap clap*] If you’re happy*—'
Little Bear: ‘No Pappa’ *wags finger and leans forehead forward seriously ‘No’
Pappa: ‘…oh, ok’.
Having dealt with his nuisance parent’s uncool enthusiasm, Little Bear turns round and carries on playing with the hoover
I’m guessing Little Bear isn’t the only toddler to go through this phase, unless we’re just unlucky. If you’ve had any similar experiences, feel free to put add them to the comments.
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots