I am the proud aunty to Alexander, who is now 20 months old (I started to count out my age in months and quit when I got to 500). This is him:
Yes, I completely agree. He is adorable. Even in a photograph with a cute bear, he is the cute one.
These are the aunty lessons I have learned over the past few weeks, while I stayed with Alexander and his parents, Mummy and Daddy.
Lesson One: The Third Person
It is remarkable how quickly Aunty Sandy adapted to speaking about herself in the third person. After only hours in the house, I was saying things like, “Aunty Sandy is eating her breakfast too, Alexander,” and “Aunty Sandy is going upstairs. She’ll be right back,” and “Aunty Sandy loves you, darling.” Aunty Sandy noticed that Mummy, Daddy and Grandma all do the same thing.
Lesson Two: Narrate Everything
No task can actually be accomplished unless accompanied by a toddler-appropriate commentary.”It’s dinner time! (be very enthusiastic about everything – see below) Let’s get you into your high chair. Tuck your feet in. Good boy! (praise often – see below). Let’s get your bib on, so you don’t get food all over your clothes. Here’s your dinner. Would you like Aunty Sandy to help feed you?”
Tone is very important, as he does not fully understand all the words yet.
Lesson Three: Everything is Amazing
In the world of a toddler, everything is amazing. They are still quite chuffed when they get from the couch to the table without falling down, and think that choosing their own socks is an incredible honour. As an adult in close proximity to a toddler, everything should likewise be amazing. This manifests as enthusiasm for things you otherwise would not find that amazing. Example: “Yay, Alexander, it’s time to watch Peppa Pig!”
This is Peppa, by the way. If you can draw a whistle, you can probably draw Peppa.
That said, she is an inquisitive little thing, giggles a lot, and the show follows Lesson Two: Narrate Everything. Alexander loves it so much that he started saying “Peppa Pig” long before he could say ‘pease’. Ahem, I mean, ‘please’.
Lesson Four: Praise Often
The ratio for praising behaviour to correcting poor behaviour for a toddler is about 20 to 1, which is the exact opposite to what most adults experience in the workplace. It means that you spend a lot of time seeking out ways to ‘catch them being good’. So, “Great job eating all your peas!” rather than “Well, it took you 45 minutes to eat your peas and more of them ended up on the floor than in your mouth, so work on that, will you?”
A toddler loves praise, so will actively seek out ways to earn more. This can backfire a little when they are super funny or cute while they are doing something you would rather they didn’t – and they know you are laughing at them. They will see the laughter as praise and keep doing whatever it is that you want them to stop doing. If in this situation, put your hand over your mouth, turn your head or leave the room. But even then, they tend to know when they are being hilarious. Clever little buggers.
Lesson Five: You will be surprised by how much you can love a small human
I am completely blown away by how much two Marmite-covered hands reaching for me tugs at my heart. I love this little boy more than I ever thought it possible to love a child.
While I was staying with them, Alexander started saying ‘please’, although he adds his version of the sign language Grandma taught him and he says, ‘pease’ with a long drawn out ‘eee’ sound. He worked out pretty quickly that ‘pease’ is a magic word, because Aunty Sandy gave him everything he asked for when he used his manners. Just call me a smitten kitten.
And when people say, “Oh you love being an aunty just because you can hand him back when he gets cranky or messes his nappy,” I reply that I am a full-service, hands-on aunty. I do screaming toddler. I do poopy nappy. I do runny nose and chapped bum. I do three Peppa Pigs in a row. (My friends will attest to the fact that I have always been hands-on with my honorary nieces and nephews.)
So, Alexander, when you are old enough to read this, just know that I love you (always) and can’t wait to see you again soon.