My little 3 1/2 year old Button-Pusher, pushes my buttons on a daily, if not hourly basis. Annoyance and frustration are two buttons that get pushed heavily on any given day. That’s a lot of button-pushing from just the one toddler. It made me wonder: does it increase with each child you have? Who better to ask than Simon Hooper aka father_of_daughters, who has not one, but four gorgeous girls.
Mrs Baffled: Simon where are you from and where do you live?
Father_of_Daughters: I’m originally from Bristol but I’ve lived and worked in London for the last 10 years.
MB: what did you do before children and now if it’s changed?
FoD: Student at the University of Bath. [After] Global Operations Director for a Large US based Management Consultancy Firm. I work full time and travel a fair amount (which makes working out childcare fun!).
MB: Can you tell me a little about your family?
FoD: I have 4 daughters, Anya (9), Marnie (6), and identical twins Ottilie and Delilah (both 7 months). I’m married to my wonderful wife Clemmie (@mother_of_daughters).
MB: I write B&TBP as a mum of a toddler, recently turned 3, which brings many challenges! What do you remember about when Anya and Marnie were that age?
FoD: To be honest my memory of that age is blurry to say the least – my memories of the bad times have all melted away and left only the good ones in their place.
When my eldest was 3, we were just having number 2, so having just started to get decent sleep and getting a nice routine to our lives, we messed it all up by having another daughter! At that age they are so inquisitive and their minds are like sponges so it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to answer those questions and help shape the little people that they are developing into. The other great thing at that age was seeing Anya with her new baby sister. It was great to see her start to bond with her, and she was really interested and excited in being involved. Fast forward 6 years on and they have a love hate relationship (like many sisters out there) and now they’re both having to help out with the twins.
Having gone through the toddler years twice now, the biggest challenge is dealing with children who aren’t yet quite capable of expressing themselves fully or understanding their own emotional state. This can obviously lead to tantrums and ‘playing up’ but that’s part and parcel of having little humans running around. The best we could do was to help them calm down and understand why they can’t do something or have something. I’m a very relaxed person anyway and tend not to get stressed out so I didn’t really find this stage too difficult, but for my wife, who’s the opposite to me, I know that she really had to learn how to have patience and how to stay calm. The main thing to remember is that they are children, not adults, so you’ve got to try and relate to them in a way that they are going to understand.
Of course, there are things that as an adult you can’t control. Children tend to have a limited filter on what comes out of their mouths – I see something, so I say something – which is what we encouraged in their earlier years. E.g. I point to picture of a square, and I want my daughter to say ‘square’ – she does it and I well up with pride and immediately look into enrolling her into some kind of MENSA scheme. As they get older, it’s a bit different. They see a big person, or someone with a disability, or a women with a big bust and so they say something out loud. Of course, this is mildly embarrassing for us as adults, but they must think they are doing great and wonder why the rules have changed: why am I now being told off by a slightly red-faced parent in a whispered voice – a couple of months ago I was getting praised for pointing out the obvious, what the hell happened?!!
At this age, they also seem to have endless energy which in itself can be tiring. I guess because I work in central London and am not home during the day, I never found this tiring, but I was only there for a limited time in the morning, evenings and weekends. I’m sure my wife would tell you a very different story! She looked physically tired when I came home and I never understood just how a 3 year old could do that to a grown adult. I stepped in where I could to help take some of the strain but I guess I’ll never know what it’s like to be with a toddler all the time, unless I quit my job, which would result in being homeless and unhappy so I probably won’t do that!
MB: Probably for the best! I now have a Threenager in the house – and people keep saying it’s worse than the terrible twos! Ottilie & Delilah aren’t there yet, and Anya & Marnie are through that stage. What other stages, if any, do you think they’ve gone through and how have they managed to push your buttons in different ways as they grow up?
FoD: I personally think that this comes down to the child themselves and a number of the other varying factors.
My eldest had a low point in between the ages of 6 and 7. She was very short with people, had a terrible temper and was really isolating herself. She was a ball of tension and frustration and was a real handful both at school and at home. She basically ignored us and anything we asked of her. She’d answer back and argue all the time. I tried not to engage with her when she was being a pain in the ass as I knew she was just trying to push us into action and was testing the boundaries. My wife on the other hand, couldn’t help but react as she has a very similar temperament to my eldest. It was like watching 2 magnets pushing back against each other. I actually found it harder to manage their relationship and avoid a total breakdown of communication than I did to deal with just my daughter’s behaviour.
Now she’s 9, she’s maturing and we can talk about things more rationally (although she desperately wants the world to spin faster so that she can be a real teenager). She’s genuinely one of my best friends and although she can still be a little sharp sometimes and her relationship is still rocky with her mother at times, we know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (until we get to the teen years!)
My middle daughter is now approaching that same difficult age of 6 /7 and I already know that it’s going to be different. They have completely different characters – she’s going to be a doddle compared to what we went through with her sister.
Who knows that the twins will be like, that’s a whole other kettle of fish and I haven’t even thought about that yet. Only time will tell I guess, but we’ll deal with it.
MB: Does how you manage the button-pushing, change as they, and you, age? Do you think it is or will be different for example when they’re in their late teens? Or do you just think different challenges, same buttons of frustration or annoyance being pushed?
FoD: Yes of course it changes. The children change so you have to adapt your way of parenting to fit with that person they are developing into.
As they grow, you can really start to explain to them the consequences of their actions and deal with them more like little adults. I still very rarely raise my voice (I personally don’t think shouting or smacking accomplishes much, especially when you’re building a relationship of trust) so I’d rather talk to them on the level and start to get them thinking in a different way.
I’m sure that parenting a teenager will be completely different again to what I’ve experienced so far, but I’m not going to worry myself with that now, that’s all stuff to come in the future, and we’ll find a way over that particular hurdle when we come to it. That said, I would hope that we’ve done enough early on in their childhoods to help them develop into people that don’t piss me off too much!
MB: Here’s hoping eh?! Do you think that because the ones we love the most, have the power to annoy us the most, it means that our children will still create these crazy emotions in us when they’re in their 20s, 30s, 40s even?!
FoD: Probably, but that’s part and parcel of parenting. The difference will be that our frustrations will come out of completely different things. I can see them mainly being based around the life choices that they make: choices in boyfriends; jobs; money management etc etc. The fact that we’ll still be being frustrated by them is simply a result of caring about them, and wanting the best for them, but also knowing that we can’t do everything for them or that they might simply not listen to our advice (I’m sure that our life experience is of little significance to them, although you tend to listen more as you get older as decisions get a little more serious).
MB: I’m pretty certain that I still drive my mum mad! Is that just a mother / daughter, parent / child thing d’you think, or is it being a parent and loving our kids as much as we do?
FoD: In my family, we are all pretty level headed and have become very good at burying our frustrations and annoyances deep down (a very British trait) so we actually all get on very well, and I genuinely love spending time with my parents and siblings (if I could live at home again, I would!). For my wife, it’s a slightly different matter as her side of the family are all quite emotionally charged and aren’t afraid to share how they’re feeling. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, but not a family dynamic that I was used to. I know Clemmie and her mum love each other deeply, however, as they are so similar in so many ways, they can sometimes butt heads. Their frustrations are born out of love, not hatred but if just goes to show that the mother/daughter relationship is a complicated one to navigate. Make me thankful that I’m a man sometimes!
MB: Yep that sounds like me and my mum! If you had one piece of advice to offer to mums (and dads!) of toddlers having their buttons pushed, what would it be?
FoD: Remember they are kids so be calm, be kind and be patient. Enjoy the good parts of this stage in their development and you’ll forget the bad parts over time. It all works out in the end.
Photos by Philippa James Photography