Can you spell bike?
Having a toddler means living in technicolour, says Susan.
(Laresa Perlman)

During my pregnancy my boss confided in me that before you have children the world is in black and white. And after you have children the world is in colour. I cherished his words through my long months of pregnancy and looked forward to a time when the world was a deeper, richer and more colourful place. I didn’t think he meant the colour of bites and bruises.

Yip, the carnage continues. Shortly, after the pram incident came the scooter incident, when Thandi returned home from the park with a frowning Finn who’d apparently attacked a small boy for his plastic bike.

‘Shame Sue, you should get Finn a bike and a pram of his own,’ was Thandi’s suggestion.

Shortly thereafter there was a particularly upsetting scenario where my best friends’ same-aged daughter bit Finn’s hand rather hard leaving behind a bright purple ring where her teeth had sunk into his soft squishy skin. Granted he had her in a headlock at the time and his hands are particularly bite-able. I just had no idea how rough things could get.

Luckily, I’m getting used to it. I don’t like it. But I don’t get nearly as traumatised as I used to by the sight of two littlies viciously vying for the same toy. Nor do I beat myself up quite as much when Finn flings himself onto the ground, arching his back and bellowing because I won’t let him turn the TV on and off, on and off, on and off for what feels like an extraordinarily long period of time.

I used to think it was my fault. I thought he was acting out because I work. Every hint of ‘bad’ behaviour demonstrated by my once-cooperative son would immediately push my guilt buttons and leave me questioning why he would possibly be displaying such Neanderthal behaviour. Was he simply asking for attention by repeatedly ramming the small rock he’d picked up in the garden into our fridge door? Was the ensuing tantrum, once we stopped him, a plea for help… a sign that Roxi and I should give up everything, our jobs, hobbies and friends, and spend all our time closely attending to our clearly neglected little son?

The one, and probably only, good thing about hanging out with other people’s same-aged toddlers, is that you discover that mostly, regardless of their parents’ situation, toddlers will be toddlers. Whether their parents work or spend all day poring over parenting manuals, whether they are endlessly patient parents, or short-tempered yelly ones, toddlers tend to display similar behaviours. They let you know exactly what they want and when they want it, and heaven help you, and everyone else doing their Saturday morning grocery shopping, if you don’t obey them.

On Saturday afternoon, we decided to take Thandi’s advice (you can only try) and buy Finn his first bike – a red plastic scooter from Game. (We looked at prams but decided we’d be setting ourselves and up, by buying the only one in stock – a pink Barbie pram with diamante finishes).

The bike was an instant hit. After scooting across the length and breadth of the electrical appliances department we decided to take Finn to the Company Gardens to let him ride riot… before we’d have to squeeze back into our city home. Finn spent the afternoon gleefully hurtling towards alarmed squirrels. There was a bit of a struggle to separate him and the scooter to get him into his car seat, but once home the two of them were blissfully reunited. Until bedtime.

‘Bike!’ Finn bellowed from his cot. ‘Bike! Bike! Bike!’ came the cry.

I’ve been too terrified to jinx it by daring to mention it before now, but for the past three months Finn has been going to sleep on his own and sleeping through the night. But not this night. This night Finn continued to demand his bike for an hour and a half past his usual bedtime. He then proceeded to wake up during the course of the night each time asking, ‘Bike?’…  ‘Bike?’… ‘Bike!?’

We have now been forced to utilise an age-old parental tactic when referring to the trouble-causing item… ‘Have you hidden the b.i.k.e?’ I asked Roxi the other morning when Finn’s friend was coming over. I just didn’t think he was ready to share such a prized possession. It’s been a week since the purchase and predictably the exuberance and attachment are subsiding a little, although if he could, the little boy would certainly take his bright red b.i.k.e to bed with him everynight.

Yes, life is certainly more colourful.

Did your life become more colourful with kids around?

Read more by Susan Newham

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