Monday, January 30, 2012

How do you solve a problem like Maria?


Boys are different from girls!

Well, what-do-ya know...

You all know I have a pigeon pair: One golden-haired, blue-eyed just-turned-three year old princess two weeks out of the terrible-twos (progress: we've only had 2370 tantrums this last fortnight, aren't the three's so much more pleasant!) and a sandy-haired, greeny-brown eyed sonny boy who is a year and a halfish now and - well - a species unto himself.

Folks, it's sonny-boy I want to talk about today. And, if you have a sonny-boy, I need your help. Your advice. And.... perhaps your shoulder?

Oh, I love the boy. Love 'im to bits. Would leap in front of a bus for him...

But sonny-boy is a climber. An adventurer. A discoverer. He likes to be dirty. Smelly. Wet. He likes to eat... and eat. And eat some more. He's Curious George, he is. A cat with 9 lives. Like most boys, I can only imagine.

All this I can handle.

What I can't handle is coming out in the morning, to find my 17 month-old son sitting up on top of the kitchen bench with a packet of popcorn kernels in his paw, flinging them wildly about with joyous abandon. Have you any idea just how far a packet of popcorn kernels can spread throughout your house?

At every opportunity, my son climbs up on the kitchen table. He then makes his way across and pulls himself onto the kitchen bench when he can reap unfathomable havoc.

But no sooner have I dragged out the (overflowing) Dyson to vacuum up popcorn than I turn around to find my son with the box of Rice Bubbles. If you can imagine what a packet of popcorn looks like on your floor... can you also imagine a family-pack of Rice Bubbles?

How do you discipline such a child? At 16 months, he certainly doesn't understand the concept of a 'naughty corner'. That would involve sitting still. Saying a firm 'no' just gets me a cheeky smile before he goes right back to whatever it is he is doing. A smack on the posterior earns me a laugh. The kid LAUGHS at me for smacking his bottom! So what do you do??

These days, I must be merticulous about closing the door to the bathroom. But my son waits for my daughter to climb up on the toddler-seat and if I'm out of earshot, heaven help me. It is not unusual for me to come in from hanging out the washing or some such, to hear the sounds of splashing coming from the toilet. My son can be found brandishing the toilet-brush like a sword, stabbing it with wilful abandon into the toilet. Or worse, dipping his hands into the toilet like its his own personal swimming pool. More often than not, I find an entire roll of toilet paper, soggy and unravelled all over the floor. And if Fern has not quite managed to - ahem - flush her business down the loo, the outcome can be catastrophic. On one particular occasion, the damage caused by hurricane Elliott in the toilet was so widespread and intimidating, I got stuck in the shower for three quarters of an hour with both kids, praying my husband would return home from work to rescue us. It took two adults to clean up on that particular occasion, and its not an isolated incident.

My son also takes a penchant to the garbage bin. He likes to play with the contents he finds inside. Use it as his own personal pantry if he has a rumbly tummy.

My son likes to eat dog biscuits.

It can take two adults just to change one nappy.

He will not watch the telly. Or read a book. Or play with toys for longer than 5 seconds. How do you therefore entertain such a child?

Help, peeps! I need your taming-tips. What do you do with a jumping-jellybean with more energy than a firework and the ability to scale tall buildings in a single bound?

Here's an hour in the life of me with my son. Needless to say, I rarely have the opportunity to get bored. I swear, this path of destruction all occurred in the space of one hour (yes, I keep liquor in the bottom cupboard. Yes, in 17 years I'll be asking for trouble):



  1. Oh no Nicole :( What a busy little man you have there :)
    I don't really have any great advice.....but I am bracing myself for the same thing to happen to me in the next 1-2 years. My daughter just turned 4, she was never very adventurous or a climber, she never strayed far from me, and a simple NO in a stern tone was enough to discipline her! I didn't even have to 'child proof' the house with her :) BUT....I now have a 3 month old baby boy & everyone has warned me how different boys are from girls. So I'm embracing for whats to come!!!! And when chaos breaks loose....I'll be coming back to this blog post of yours, to read everyone elses advice.
    I'm sure you're not alone on the 'adventurous boy' topic :)

  2. You are not alone. I have two wonderful little boys, and on the whole they are pretty good but they are adventurous and curious.

    Get locks on your cupboards and put the bin in the cupboard. We have just taken off the locks and got a bin and my youngest is 2.4 months. So they do grow out of it!

    To tame the energy? Go for walks, lots of walks. Play at the playground. And remember it's not just a boy thing vs a girl thing - it's also personality. I know girls who can run rings around my boys, and boys who are quiet and calm. Embrace his curiosity but help him learn to control it.

  3. You are not alone! Just 3 days ago, I heard my 2yr old calling out that he was stuck. I came down stairs to find him in a pedal car (a prop I use for my photography) on a shelf that is my shoulder height from the ground.
    My house is a permanent destruction zone with him around. Same with my 3yr old. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.
    Sorry I don't have much helpful advice - all I can say is that I send mine outside

  4. My little man loves to play in cupboards and generally make a mess of things too! Some ideas that we've used that you might find helpful for your little explorer: I've set up a cupboard for all of his plastic plates, bowls, Tupperware etc and he can play in there whenever he likes, a bucket of pegs can entertain for quite a while, a trampoline has been fabulous for burning off energy, a train table with magnetic trains has been the biggest hit or anything that uses his fine motor skills seems to be great for an inquiring mind, books that make sounds or "lift the flap" types, cushions/matress on the floor for climbing and jumping etc. Hope this helps a little!

  5. wow nicole, you *really* don't have time to get bored!! boys are definitely a different breed, I agree. my boys have always been busy, but not *that* busy! we had the bin interest too, our kitchen doesn't allow for a big bin inside a cupboard so it has lived in the garage for a few years and I keep a small bin under the sink and a large mixing bowl on the stove top to use as a bin during the day and it gets emptied at lunch and then evening. are you able to reposition your dining table to stop him climbing up onto the kitchen bench? cupboard locks seem the way to go for your little guy! I have never used them, mine showed interest for little periods and then moved on to something else. The toilet issue is difficult I know, trying to keep a crawling baby out after his sis and bro have been, but I just kept reminding them to close the door always after they have been to the loo and it finally sunk in. You are right, he is too young to understand consequences for his actions, makes your life harder. Maybe lock him out in the backyard all day??!?!? Just kidding! Good luck! xx

  6. oh dear! I have no 2.5 year old is very tame and I have to push him to do anything 1/2 as adventerous as Elliot!

  7. Those safety catch/door locks that I thought were overkill until I had my son??!!
    Oh - what a little character your boy is!!
    Hilarious for anyone other than his mother.
    :-) xx

  8. welcome to my world!! I think we had over a year of taming Zephie- I totally lost my mind. like totally. My advice- prepare yourself mentally for a hard slog and then laugh off as much as you can (before crying into a goblet of vodka at the end of each day!!)

    xxxxxxx lots of loving thoughts!

    xo em

  9. Haha ... had to laugh!!! Im in the same boat. Then had to laugh some more, my 21month year old is also called Elliot (only 1 T though)
    What we did was moved every thing higher, then a little higher ... then a little higher... you get the drift till finally I have no idea where any thing in my kitchen is. We then bought him a dust buster... if he makes the mess, he can at least clean it - and at that age it is more fun to clean ... saves me from cleaning. Having two older kids, all I can suggest as well is take as many photos as you can because this stage will pass and you will actually miss this problem!
    PS drinking does help!

  10. Oh, and I forgot to say that we had to put a stairgate up to stop him from sticking his head and arms down the toilet! And to stop me from going mad picking up torn up tissue rolls all over the house. The toilet and laundry area is now out of bounds to my little pickle, but he just finds something else...

  11. Hi Nicole,
    When my kids were little I had to put the child proof locks on the cupboards and one on the fridge. Also gate off areas. On our back deck I placed one of those plastic shell shaped sandpits from KMart or Big W and filled with a couple of bags of washed sand from the hardware store. My kids loved to play in there with plastic containers and little tip trucks etc. Another idea for a sunny day on the back lawn is to fill a couple of large bowls with soapy water and little tupperware containers for heaps of fun. We just had to put locks on everything or move things up high and rearrange some furniture.
    Good luck and keep us updated.

  12. Oh I hear you. But its not just boys. My 15 month old daughter and Elliott were separated at birth - the baby in your rice bubbles photos MUST be her. My 6 year old daughter, according to my very accurate (!) memory just sat around looking angelic. This one is our boy - into absolutely everything. I try not to leave her alone for too long - she'll eat anything including, to name few choice items I have pulled from her mouth (or nappy, eek): a dead lizard, a 3 cm long stick (that one was in the nappy, it had been right through. Funny at first, scary when I thought about what could have happened), coins, innumerable bits of plastic, paper, pen lids, barbie shoes etc etc. Scary. I think being child number 2 has a lot to do with it - much less supervision than child number one. So, my advice is all of the above ie. child locks, gates and raising things up. I also pop her in the playpen when going to the loo, laundry, washing line, front door etc. She doesn't love it, but its better than choking on that 5c piece under the couch that I missed. I also have the travel cot permanently up in my bedroom and put her in there while I have a shower. It makes a great playpen. All my under-the-sink stuff eg detergent, cleaners etc are in a cupboard up high, and under the sink is just chux/kitchen towel, dustpan and broom etc. Nothing that could actually kill her. As a scary exercise, get down and crawl around the floor of your house; a whole new world will open up to you as you get an Elliott-eye view of everything.
    I tell myself this too shall pass, but she is also so damn adorable right now I almost don't want it to pass!
    I think our job during this phase is to ensure they don't seriously harm themselves, or worse. All the rest is just, well, rice bubbles on the floor.
    Good luck!

  13. Hi Nicole, reading your blog sounds EXACTLY like my little boy - he is 19 months old. He started taking his first steps at 7 months old (his older sister now 3 started crawling at 13 months!) so life was very different 2nd time around for us too! About 5 months ago he started climbing up onto chairs, onto the kitchen table, bench & can also be found with the lovely toilet brush in hand! My advice? I had to turn the chairs upside when he was crawling onto the table/bench, I put locks on the cupboards and at times tried to 'ignore' him when he was doing something that he shouldn't be. The old distraction technique also works a charm. All the plastics & safe kitchen things are in the lower cupboards & bit by bit other things have moved higher and higher. We also put a lock on the fridge for a while too. Two months ago we moved house - and guess what? We have no locks on anything, he hasn't climbed on the table once & isn't so keen on his toilet sword anymore! So yes in time I suspect your E will find other things to amuse himself with. The other joy is that as time has gone by my my two little ones are finally playing together well. Perhaps this is why my wee man is less inclined to climb/jump/throw things constantly as his big sister is too busy playing shops with him now? Best of luck Nicole! Love your site too!

  14. This is the reason why we should train our kids early on how to be responsible.

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