It seems, this past week I have become magnetic. At first, I noticed the vaguely familiar sound of a little pitter-patter of feet creeping up close behind me, wherever I went. Then, I wasn’t sure if it was just my imagination, but I’m sure I kept seeing a tiny wee shadow at the corner of my eye, each time I moved from room to room. And now, it’s confirmed – my darling toddler is sticking to me like a wet noodle. Folks, it looks like we have reached the ’18-month Cling’.
I should have known to expect this phase at some point in her development, but I really haven’t been keeping up with the milestones as much as I did with my first – such is the way when you have doubled your workload. This ‘cling’ phase really did creep up on me (pun intended), and a few nights ago, I suddenly had the realisation that I was rather unprepared for dealing with the remainder of the ‘Wet Noodle’ phase and all the challenges it would throw at my already chaotic daily routine. I quickly went into ‘trouble shoot’ mode and tried to dredge up all those tips and key things that helped us survive during my first daughter’s ‘18-month Cling’. Here’s what I remembered:
- Communication. Letting your child know where you are going and what you will be doing each time you are about to leave a room, is a great way of communicating any changes. They’ll likely still follow you, but at least there’s a bit more reassurance there, and despite what you may think, you’ll be surprised how much they actually understand of what you say.
- Snuggle time. During a clingy phase, always be extra aware of the special attention and time that you need to be giving your child. This reassures them that you are present. So, no matter how long your ‘to do’ list is, take the time to put everything else aside (including hand held devices) and spend some quality, uninterrupted snuggle time with your little one. My little one loves a snuggle time that includes reading books and singing songs.
- Stay calm. A clingy child is already experiencing some level of stress or anxiety; the last thing you want is to add your stress to theirs.
- Lower your expectations. Expecting to maintain a perfectly run house during the ‘Wet Noodle’ phase is, quite frankly, going to set you up for failure. It’s ok to let the dishes wait for a while, or to have to turn the stove off half way through cooking the evening meal. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to the household chores.
- It’s not forever. Remind yourself, that though times might seem tough at the moment, a clingy 18-month old is very normal, and it is just a phase that will pass.
It has been two days, and now with the right attitude, I find I am still managing to get the majority of my daily tasks done (winning! 😉 ). I have become a pro at cooking and cleaning with her glued to my knee (note: you will become very good at the side-shuffle during this daily routine). I can cuddle her while I brush my teeth and even straddle all 10 kilos of her on my hip while vacuuming the carpets. In the coming weeks, I know that I will lovingly read the same book to her over and over again while the laundry is piled high, and that I will hold her close just to let her know that she is safe. I will try to sneak out of her room 2,3, …5 times while she takes her afternoon nap, all the while hoping that her little eyes won’t notice any slight movement, or that she won’t hear that awful creak at the top of the stairs, which I try to avoid every time without any success. I will do all these things and more, after all, as her mother, I am here to reassure her, to love and care for her and to encourage her to blossom into a fearless, independent, and resilient little lady.
I am starting to understand the reason for these changes as I watch her grow. Now that she is older, she is more acutely aware of my absence when I’m off doing something without her. I accept that her dependency on me is her way of voicing that she does not want to miss out, which is just another poignant reminder that my days of snacking on non toddler-friendly treats while she is not looking, are diminishing fast. My baby is growing up, and this realisation makes me want to savour the cuddles and the kisses, the snuggles and the quality mommy-daughter time even more. It’s these little moments in life that are so bittersweet; once they’re gone, I am bound to wish them all back. So, my little one, you can be a ‘Wet Noodle’ for as long as you need to – your Mama’s got this.