I have this very clear memory of my mum from when I was two-and-a-half. It was when she went to hospital to have my younger brother.
But apart from that one little glimpse from that time, obviously seared into my brain thanks to separation anxiety, not much else. I know I was happy and loved. But remembering exactly what it was like being a 2-3-year-old - total blank!
It’s probably why we, as parents, can sometimes find it difficult to understand our kids – their behavior, their emotions, how they could possibly enjoy drinking out of the dog’s bowl or sticking peas up their nose.
But to be the best parent we can be, we have to be able to tap into that child’s view of the world - “Oh honey, I understand how sad you can feel when someone calls you a poo head"; “Of course mummy wants to jump on the trampoline for the 50th time today … despite the fact my bladder is threatening to explode with every downward bounce thanks to all the trampolining that went on in utero before you were even born!”
It’s what we do so they feel loved and happy and understood – and simply because we want to hang out with such delicious little munchkins.
But we also need to think like a kid in order to keep them safe.
As an adult we know it’s not a good idea to munch on dog poo, chase a ball onto the road without looking, stick our hand in fire. But little kids don’t know this. We have to do their thinking for them by thinking like them; by tapping into our three-year-old self – if I were three, a pair of sharp scissors might look like a fun toy, so the adult me had better take them off the table and put them out of reach.
I was told recently of a little girl who broke into her dad's backpack searching for his jelly beans. Nothing dangerous there, right? The only problem was that her dad carries lollies because he is diabetic. He also carries medication for his diabetes that reduces his blood glucose level.
She found and ate this medication instead – because she is a little child who doesn’t know how to be anything else. Instead of spending Sunday playing, she spent the day in Emergency.
A three-year-old doesn’t think that a bag full of goodies can turn on them. It’s us, as adults, who have to think that for them.