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by Karen Legge

When Did My Toddler Turn Teenage?

It feels like just yesterday that you were reliant on commando-dragging yourself about the lounge floor – a look of intense determination on your chubby little face as you desperately tried to reach the poor cat’s tail. The kitties were mightily glad you weren’t faster or more agile! Surely it was just last week when food was puréed, when communication was squeaks and gurgles, when there was no argument about choices.

Would they even recognise him at passport control now?

So how is it possible that overnight, you appear to have grown up; that you suddenly have an awareness of the world and your place in it? Since when did you get to be so vocal about your likes and dislikes – certainly the dislikes? How did you get to be so big compared to all the little dots at toddler group, stomping about in your big-boy boots?

There’s no denying, as I watch you grow little man, it’s with immense pride that we have created you; moulded and shaped you; that we have set boundaries and begun to weave your moral fibre. So why is living with you, becoming like co-habiting with ‘Kevin the Teenager’? I’m sure as each day passes, you get more confident and testosterone-fuelled. Give it a week and your voice will have broken – I’d put money on it.

So what are the signs of your acceleration away from being my baby boy? How does one recognise early-onset teen-toddlerness? If you too are concerned about rapid attitude development, simply reference this list…

Tick as appropriate:
  1. When you ask your toddler to do something you no longer get compliance, or even a ‘no mummy.’ Instead you will receive an elongated ‘noooooo-wa,’ like you’ve asked them to put their console controls down and get on with their homework; not have a bite of broccoli.
  2. Your toddler will suddenly develop an emotional literacy that allows them to tell you daily/hourly that they “are cross.” You’re cross? You’ve just whacked me because I won’t allow you a fifth biscuit and you’re cross!
  3. They have perfected a disdainful frown for when you engage in toddler entertainment (dancing, singing, funny faces – you know, the stuff little bods like). It’s not like the baby frown they pull when they’re unleashing a code brown. It’s not the experimenting with my facial muscles frown of a new born. This is a ‘I don’t want people to know I belong to you – please stop Mummy‘ frown.
  4. It now takes three hours to agree on what mindless entertainment will distract them from the car journey on the iPad. You used to be able to just whack on some Thomas the Tank and off you go. Now it’s a philosophical debate over the merits of ‘Tale of the Brave’ versus ‘Journey Beyond Sodor.’ JUST CHOOSE ONE!
  5. Their ability to engage in psychological warfare is immense. They know how to pull on your heartstrings – nay, tear those strings from your heart. Once denied something, they will not only throw themselves on the floor, but will cry for the absent parent. “I want Daddy hugs.” I’ve taken you out, fed you cake, showed you a real, good time and suddenly my hugs are not sufficient. I’m done!
  6. At the barbers or hairdressers, they’ll not only exit looking five years older with their grade three buzz cut, but they’ll sit in the chair, perfecting their ‘Zoolander’ pout whilst being styled. Watch out – it’ll be liberal lashings of Lynx Africa next.
  7. They understand the power they wield with delay-tactics. Just as you settle yourself on the sofa, patting yourself on the back for a smooth bedtime. “MUMMY! MUMMY WATER!” Five minutes later. “MUMMY! TOOOOOO DARRRRKKKK!” Five minutes later. “MUMMY! I GOT SNOT!” You can almost see them rubbing their hands in glee as they think up the next way to rouse you from your box set.
  8. The power of manners has become ingrained in them. They know that they will only get what they want if they say “pleeeeeease mummy” afterwards. However, if they’ve said please, the assumption is they are damn well getting it. Cue a Kevin the Teenager hissy fit if they are denied. “I SAID PEEEEASE!” Yes my cherub – you may well have used your manners but you are not having the black permanent marker.

If more than one of these resonates, I’m sorry to say, it is a diagnosis of a full-blown, teen-toddleritis. Take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the next sixteen or so years because it’ll only get bigger and smellier from here on in.

Take some comfort in the glimmers of the baby they once were. No matter how angst-ridden or emotional they appear, you can hang on to those special moments when hints of your little adoring infant poke through. Think yourself lucky if you are witness to the following:

  1. Infectious and delightful giggles from the depths of their diaphragm.
  2. Their transformation back to little when they’re in a sleep-suit or PJs.
  3. Nighttime snuggles before bed.
  4. A whisper of “I love you so much Mummy.”
  5. An elated cry of “I missed you Daddy.”
  6. When they spot you after a day in nursery, drop everything and throw themselves in to your arms.
  7. When only you will do when they have an ‘ouch’ moment or a ‘hurt’.
  8. When they are asleep and all you can do it stand and stare, in awe at this innocent little bundle.

When did you get so grown-up my beautiful little boy?

We are still in the early days of exploring the symptoms of this frankly exhausting condition. It would help for you to share your experiences of what appears to be accelerated growth from toddler to teen in the blink of an eye. We look forward to hearing your experiences and together we can move forward medical science and find a cure to keep them small and compliant forever. Stay strong!

Written by Karen Legge for her blog, The Unyoung Mum. Follow her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.
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