How does she KNOW?
Toddlers are odd creatures.
I’ve heard it said that babies are born knowing everything there is to know, they just lose it over time. If this is true then toddlers & pre-schoolers are somewhere in between, not knowing most things and then suddenly coming out with inexplicable wisdom.
As a toddler, The Girl was funny and bright and quick to learn. I suspect most parents would say the same. Learning though, is not always a positive experience. Learning to be scared of the dark, for example, or learning about fireworks (I now dread fireworks season!) were not fun things to learn.
One day, as a very small toddler, she got hold of one of our Xbox controllers. She sat with it correctly in her hands, faceing the TV, as if she was playing the Xbox. Now, we stopped playing on the Xbox in front of her very early in her life (as in, a few weeks old) because I was super paranoid about it (giving her nightmares etc). But still, somehow, she knew. Similarly, she picked up the Xbox headset one day and put it on, pulling the microphone over her mouth so she could ‘speak’ into it...we never use the headsets. I don’t think I have seen The Husband use the Xbox headset since before he became The Husband! Still, somehow, she knew.
In the depths of winter, when The Husband was doing his runs in the dark and we weren’t seeing him do it, she would ask on a weekend morning ‘Daddy run?’ As far as I was aware we had given no clue that daddy was going running that day, but she always knew.
One day we were dragging everyone into London-Hoxton or somewhere hipstery, we had two carriers, (our beloved Connectas’ in case you were wondering) and so we were traveling light. As we got the the train station, we realised we didn’t have much food with us so The Husband nipped into the shop to get some snacks for us...he came back with a sandwich to share, a banana and a cereal bar each, sensible type foods. Hidden in the bag was a small chocolate pumpkin, wrapped in bright orange foil, a treat for The Girl while the baby slept. The Girl immediately spotted it and wanted it. She knew it was chocolate (’cock-latte’) but I have no idea how! It wasn’t wrapped in the familiar purple of a Cadbury’s treat and it wasn’t shaped like anything we’d given her before either, but somehow, she just knew...
The thing is, these tiny little creatures are always learning, whatever we do. It’s such a huge responsibility, to know they are learning while we are just going about our ‘normal’ lives, and it means sometimes they learn things we wish they wouldn’t learn, by accident. They learn without us knowing, or realiseing, and our every effort to ‘teach’ them what we think they should know as toddlers (like ‘the cow goes moo’) is far outweighed by what they learn by accident just existing in the environment we have created for them, with the people we associate with.
I noticed recently The Boy stands with his back to the inside of the door of the cupboard where we keep our bins whenever we open it. We haven’t taught him to do it, but there’s a height measureing chart there, and while we have only measured him a handful of times, he has seen us measure plenanty of other people. What else might he be learning without us realiseing? How to forget where you put your phone? How to snap at the dog when she won’t stop licking the walls? And how do you explain to a toddler - yes I do it but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to do it, especially when they do so often learn stuff by accident!
It’s impossible to be perfect all the time, to never slip up and teach them something you don’t want them to do/know by accident. All we can hope for is that we keep striving To be the best version of ourselves, and we can teach them on the way when ‘do as I say not as I do’ can be appropriate (& beneficial to them!) And of course, that’s it’s ok to be imperfect (but don’t say ‘bollocks’ in front of Grandma.)
Having a fast learner in your hands throws up other issues too. The Boy actually slapped The Girls bottom today as she was getting changed for swimming (goodness knows where he learnt that!) And as we drove home, I tried to sneak a mint out of the driver-side door pocket. My hand had hardly grazed the packet when a voice directly behind me piped up ‘mummy, I want a sweetie!’ As far as I know she has never seen them there, she can’t see what I’m doing from where she sits in the car and she doesn’t like mint anyway.
Now I have to negotiate.
With a 3-year-old.
But that’s a whole other blog post...