Daddy Day Care: Dealing with deadly toddlers
Someone once told me that bringing home a new baby to a toddler is like bringing a mistress home to your wife and saying: "Look, here's my new woman. Isn't she lovely? She's going to live with us now!"
In the run-up to baby Cathy's arrival, I heard any amount of stories about murderous toddlers. One mother of two girls says she can't turn her back for a minute or the toddler will be trying to smother the baby. And not with affection, either.
A friend of my wife's is alive today only because her mother arrived into the room in time to stop her older sister strangling her with electrical cable. I remember my younger brother didn't react too well when he became an older brother. We caught him telling his little sister: "That's not your mammy. Your mammy's dead in the church."
The good news is that our toddler Conor isn't showing any signs of wanting to murder the baby. Yet. But he has not been reacting well to his mother. She reached over to hug him not long after she came back from the hospital and he kicked her in the leg and ran away, screaming: "No way!" We brought him back and insisted he apologise.
"We don't kick," we firmly told him. He held out for about 20 minutes before eventually muttering, "Sorry".
In hindsight, I'm not sure we did the right thing, because he's been using 'Sorry' as a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card ever since. Now he kicks her and runs off, going "Sorry!" He's also after switching all his allegiance to me, so I can't leave the house without Conor attached to my leg.
Plus, he used to be a great sleeper. He'd often disappear off upstairs on his own, climb into the cot and go for a nap in the middle of the day. But now I have to stay with him until he falls asleep. He was stormy before Cathy arrived, now he goes round like the Queen of Hearts, demanding Peppa Pig and Jammy Dodgers and screaming the house down if he's refused.
But what I hadn't anticipated is that bringing a new baby into the house doesn't just affect the emotional well-being of the toddler. It hits everyone, including me. Of course, I can deal with my dislike-of-change/rejection issues through the use of beer and hard liquor, an option that isn't open to the rest of the children in the house.
Mike, who's five, dotes on the baby. He's always asking to hold her, he sings to her and runs around the place getting nappies and tissues and being ultra-helpful. It's adorable. But he's taken against school all of a sudden. No, wait a sec. Not against school, just going to school. He bawls as soon as the car stops at the gate.
I've investigated and I'm sure there's nothing bad going on there. His teacher's great, and he cheers up almost as soon as I've prised him off my leg and fled the classroom. And if it's anyone other than me dropping him, he's happy as a lark, so I can only assume it's some kind of separation anxiety. This week, we set up a reward chart. If he goes in on his own five days in a row, he gets taken to the pet farm. If he doesn't, he gets left there.