Adventures With the Toddler – Chapter Eight: Happy Birthday!

Tomorrow the toddler turns 2. It has gone like a flash – as though the great animator plucked out my cell to project me onto this timeline within a second of her birth. Two years with this little person who has given me so much laughter, tears, heart-stopping terrors and questioning expressions, have been the most fulfilled of my life. Sure, if it was just the wife and I, we’d have cash, but then we wouldn’t be able to play that game “hey, remember when we could afford to eat at that place?”.

Seeing her born was the most powerful and beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. I’m not going to lie to you, my role in making a human I am more than fine with, I like the work; but being able to make another person must be pretty awesome and mothers are Gods.

When the toddler was born, the midwife lay the squishy alien on the wife’s chest – she opened her eyes briefly for the first time and looked right at me. I was the first thing she saw in this world. It would’ve been the equivalent of looking at me through a greasy wine glass – but I lost my heart to her for all time. From that moment on, I had my best mate. I cut the cord and she has the perfect belly-button because of me. I gave her that. Yes I did.

The toddler and I have started a tradition of late. The wife goes and stands on her head or something of a Saturday morning, so the toddler and I go shopping. The purpose is usually to get croissants, but the toddler insists on buying carrots. She won’t eat carrots, but she buys them. She’ll saunter over and take one despite me protesting, “not another bloody carrot. I don’t need a carrot.” Sometimes she’ll grab two, nibble the ends and voila! Da now owns two carrots he didn’t want. Potatoes and chilies are another favourite the toddler grabs and refuses to let go of. The chilies were the first thing she did this with and she did it because ,she knew I loved chilies. So. she’d go grab chilies and when confronted she’d say, “for da”. I mean come on, what a champion.
There was an occasion there were 3 beans I placed on the counter at Toscano’s. I answered the quizzical look by putting the blame firmly on my toddler, “she wanted them” I said as I nodded at the anxious child that was waiting to get its beans back. They gave me the beans no charge. I handed them to the toddler who looked as though she’d been handed the entire world. She also enjoys riding in the supermarket trolley these days, kicking back and eating a banana, “da, na-na.” It doesn’t matter if I’m there to buy two apples or spend a thousand bucks, she wants her trolley ride – which leads me into one particular story.
We were at the supermarket and I just needed 2 items and forged ahead with toddler in tow – shuffling along beside me singing her version of the Wheels on the Bus. I enter the supermarket.
The toddler doesn’t.
I notice the singing has ceased and the toddler is outside the automatic doors pointing at a trolley.
“I need two things.”
“Trolley.”
“We’ll be fifteen seconds.”
It stomps its feet. “Da. Trolley!”
“Jesus help me.”
With the toddler now planted in a trolley and munching a na-na – I head into the supermarket to get my 2 items. Then of course the weird mash of chemical interactions that control this toddler thing, mix in a different order and change its operating system.
It decides the banana is shit and that it’s better off walking.
“Da. Down.”
“You only just got in – you know what, bollocks to it.”
I set the thing down and it proceeds to grab things I don’t want and throw them in the trolley. My fifteen second shop turns into 25 minutes of negotiation and ultimately giving up and taking stuff out of the trolley (I’m not smart enough to abandon) when the toddler is distracted by another object or a human that thinks it’s cute.
Then comes the ultimate insult. I arrive to pay with the toddler, the shopping trolley I didn’t want and the two items I came for.
The serving guy looked at me the same way I would look at someone with 2 items in a trolley. I could see the inner-dialogue flash across his brain in a second – ‘that’s a very big guy, looks strong enough to carry that onion and jar of pasta sauce’.
I judged myself through his eyes and felt I needed to defend myself as my internal critic called me a wanker.
“My daughter like to ride in the trolley,” I volunteer.
He nods – ‘sure, sure you lazy bastard. I bet you’re going to want a plastic bag for these too.’
⁃ Fuck me gently, I didn’t bring a bag. He’s going to think I’m an even bigger asshole now.
⁃ The toddler is watching the exchange like there’s going to be something bigger happening than what is occurring before her. Like Mick Foley and The Undertaker are going to have a rematch in the Kew Woolies, kind of cool.
“Cheers mate.”
“‘ave a good night.”
I wheel the trolley into the cold night and feel my scrotum retract, more from an odd shame than the cold wind. I take my onion and pasta sauce and look at the toddler who is gazing up at me, blinking in sweetness, a smudge of na-na stuck to a cheek.
“Thank you da.”
I smile, and we walk home together, and I recite to her some Hamlet. She responds with “wow, wow, wow.” Whether she understood any of it – I have no idea, but she was responding as though she was impressed. But I know there’s a lot rattling around in that mind of hers. Her mother has played her classical music since was in the womb and I covered the rock and roll.
Reciting plays and poetry to her is something I have done since she was tiny. I would wear her in a carrier and we would head-off to the shops when the wife was back at the gym or standing on her head. She’s probably heard most of Hamlet, King Lear, a lot of Macbeth, a few sonnets and plenty of Yeats, Keats and Banjo Patterson and a thousand other plays. Oscar Wilde is another favourite to recite to her.

So, each Saturday morning, the toddler and I go through the ritual of nappy-changing, getting dressed, avoiding Peppa Pig and head into the world. Only over the last couple of weeks, the toddler insists it is far too important to walk and must be carried everywhere like some Princess.
“Da Up!”
“No. Walk.”
“Up.”
“But you love walking. We sold your pram because you thought all other forms of transport were for wankers.” She sniggers at that one.
“Up Da. I need up.”
So, da picks the child up and carries it, all the way to the shops and back again. Carries the toddler and the shopping. Then today, I made it walk up the stairs to the apartment and oh boy did it put on the struggles. It’s huffing and puffing and climbing the stairs on all fours. Has a look back to me to see if I’m going to offer to carry it.
“On you go. You’re doing well.”
It sighs and huffs. Reaches a hand to the next step as though it’s carrying a brick.
“Adz, knock it off. You climbed all the way to the top of Rockamadour without missing a beat because you wanted independence – so three flights of stairs in an old apartment block in Kew, doesn’t register.”
It seemed to understand.

Another thing the toddler and I (well mostly me), has introduced, is collecting little toys. She likes cute things and has taken to dolls and that’s fine as she also loves cars, garbage trucks and bulldozers. I’m onboard for whatever it is she’s into as she finds her way. So, I buy her a new little present each time we go out on our adventures to the shops on the weekend. These have been all manner of different things. As my time with her is so limited, I like to be a part of something that she likes, and at the moment she has taken to these little dolls. They have a chart with the common ones, the rare ones, the ultra-rare ones and the limited edition. The wife might be correct in that I’m more excited than Adz when we pull a rare from the pack and you know what – last weekend we got the limited edition and today we got an ultra-rare. The toddler and I fist-bumped over that one.

The wife and I swear a bit. Not to be uncouth, but sometimes one needs to get a point across. The toddler is smart enough to know when and how to use swear words and I don’t care if you believe me or not. She knows when and how to use please and thank you. She knows when and how to say sorry (or pardonne as she still says in her cute French). So, when she points out the car window and yells “da! Knob-end!” at some wanker swerving into our lane, she doesn’t get reprimanded because she’s right. That guy was a knob-end and should be publicly spanked. She knows the bad words and she so rarely uses them – but when she does, she’s uses them in perfect context.

Peppa Pig has become a freaking obsession. The toddler blanks out to the world over Peppa Pig. It’s as though she’s receiving a download when she watches it. I’m becoming convinced big pharma started Peppa Pig as there are so many references to taking medicine. The other thing about Peppa Pig, without the visuals and simply hearing it – the voice-over can sound sinister. I imagined an entire horror story listening the voice over today as the toddler watched it on my phone.

We have to watch Peppa and her mates on You Tube. This is fine until a commercial comes on and the toddler hits the roof. She detests commercials. Anytime one comes on, it’s as though the world is ending. It doesn’t matter if it’s a commercial her da is actually in flogging something he doesn’t even remember doing – commercials to her, are the damn devil. The toddler and Bill Hicks would relate so well.

Something that is very apparent in the toddler is her empathy for all living creatures. She is so considerate and thinks of others. One example is wanting to move her toys, so her mum wouldn’t trip on them. That was the thought process with her. She saw a potential danger and wanted to eliminate it.
She loves animals and plants and enjoys finding worms in the garden. The care she takes not to hurt anything makes me very proud of her and the sheer delight she gets from feeding the magpies at her Nannytier’s house, makes me believe the world will actually be okay, (from her sheer selflessness and all the utter wankers currently in charge, dying.)

Her manners are simply beautiful. She will thank me again, days later for something I have given her. Just today, she told our friend Dave Macrae, “thank you for my book.” He had given her a present for her birthday and without any prompting to do so, she said those words. However, she also stole my peanuts out from under me the other night while the wife was out hustling pool. She took the bowl right off the table and sat down in her chair and ate them.
“Can I have the nuts back please?”
“No.”
“Why?”
“Mine.”
“They’re mine.”
“No. Mine.”

So – perhaps she’s not that perfect. But every time she says “da”, my world gets that much brighter.

Fun facts: The giraffe, is her favourite animal and tomorrow she turns 2.
(2 fun facts for turning 2.)

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