Toddlers are sent to try us. I’m on my third now so I know the drill. They are little buggers and it often feels like their primary goal in life is to make your day harder. Out of my three, I thought the first would be unbeaten in his terrible reign. He was the red-faced Tantrum King. My second gave about the standard level of bad behaviour so was a walk in the park in comparison.
But my final toddler, my Baby T, is taking it to a new level. He is just so incredibly naughty. He certainly knows how to throw in the odd scream-up but that isn’t his forté. He is just so wantonly cheeky, so deliberately defiant. He is a professional piss-taker.
Perhaps it is experience or just indulging the baby but I don’t often get upset or embarrassed by T’s behaviour these days. More often than not it makes me laugh to see this tiny blonde bombshell taking on towering adults with such ferocity, such bare-faced cheek.
We went for a sleepover at the weekend. OK, so four kids aged eight and under in one bedroom was never going to make for a quiet evening but, as the older three were settling down nicely, T was making merry mayhem. He was up and down out of bed, clambering about on top of his big brother, throwing bedding down the stairs and generally taking the micky for hours.
When my girl started school last September, I was looking forward to having time with just one pre-schooler at home, thinking how easy it would be to get things done, to nip into the shops for milk for example, with just one in tow. But T was only just beginning to step it up then. It is almost as if he waited for M to be out of the way at school before unleashing his full onslaught of pure naughtiness.
A trip to the supermarket with T is incredibly daunting. I do it when I have to but I go out of my way to avoid it. I needed to buy three things in Friday. Just three. Easy, right? Wrong. T never agrees to sit in a trolley, of course, and he insisted on bombing about at speed, tripping up pensioners and taking things off shelves. One poor woman had to swerve her trolley into a shelf full of wine bottles to avoid him as he pelted out in front of her.
His favourite thing about supermarkets is being able to run his trains up and down the grills on the inside of the fridges in the chilled aisles, because they make a delightful clattering noise. He then left his train in a fridge and kicked off until we located it, sat on top of a block of Red Leicester. All this was punctuated by frequently losing him down various aisles, although he was usually easy to find if I followed the near continuous yelling about how he wanted a biscuit from the café.
You can see why I avoid it.
Today I took him to get his passport photos done. This is something I’ve been dreading but I was feeling strong so bit the bullet. The only local place that does kid passport photos is a little independent pharmacy, staffed by an incredibly bad-tempered and impatient woman. Always a helpful attitude when dealing with a toddler.
So, the white backdrop was pulled down in readiness and a footstool was produced for T to stand on. Not a bloody chance. He refused to put his feet down and started yelling his head off when I lifted him up. So we went for Option B and I put my foot on the stool, knee up, for T to sit on. Well, that was apparently abhorrent too, cue more screaming and squirming.
Our friendly photographer took a picture of the top of T’s head and tutted loudly, saying it was no good. She took another three or four over the next few minutes, as I attempted to pin him to my knee and calm him down. She eventually got one with him looking at the camera and showed me this shot of a blurred grimace. I think I laughed at how terrible it was, which she seemed to take as confirmation that I was happy with it. She was reaching the point of saying anything to get shot of us and said the passport people “might let a blurry one pass as he is only two”. Hmmm. I’m not sure ‘might’ is good enough for a passport application so I asked her as nicely as I could to try again.
It was time for the big guns. Lollypop bribery. I grabbed a lolly from the counter and waved it in front of T. He screamed louder and grabbed for it, knocking it out of my hand and sending it skidding across the shop floor under a lady’s wheelchair. I put T down, apologised to the lady and crawled about under her wheelchair to retrieve it. T spotted his chance and legged it out of the shop, carrying a can of deodorant in each fist, swiped from the nearest low shelf.
Skipping on through the next few minutes of mayhem and we were back in position, boy squirming and yelling on my knee, lollypop retrieved and unwrapped, photographer with a face like thunder. I tried holding him with one hand, waving the lolly about in front of him with the other. He was now beetroot and covered in snot from all the yelling, so not exactly photo ready, but I didn’t have a free hand to wipe him with. We had attracted quite a crowd by now and an elderly couple were standing behind our happy photographer waving and cooing to get T to look in the right direction. The screaming and wiggling went on.
I gave him the lolly, out of desperation, to see if the sugar hit would make him shut his face for a moment. It worked, the yelling stopped. But now we had the problem of getting a photo without a lollypop in shot. The Happy Snapper went for another few shots. One was T’s grumpy profile, one had his little pink tongue sticking out reaching for the lolly, and one was perfect apart from him having his eyes shut.
I was on the verge of giving up when my friends, the elderly coo-ing couple, made an inspired last-ditch attempt and started waving rubber ducks they’d grabbed off the shelves behind them. T looked up, I dropped the lollypop out of shot and Happy Snapper clicked at just the right moment. Success! Of sorts. You wouldn’t frame it but the passport people would approve. The coo-ing couple and other onlookers actually started applauding.
I put T down and gave him his lolly. He grinned and started happily chatting to his assembled audience, the entire apparent trauma immediately forgotten. He was all cute smiles for everyone, telling them how having his photo taken was “lots of fun”. Speak for yourself, mate.
One thing I forgot to mention about my third and naughtiest toddler is that he can be incredibly cute when he wants to be. Which works entirely to his advantage, of course. He is as manipulative as they come and could charm the birds out of the trees. Cheeky little git.
Although he didn’t win our photographer over with his post photoshoot smiles. Her parting scowl rivalled his worst angry pouts.
And we forgot to pay for the bloody lollypop.