Toddler talk Metroplus

A space of my own

Way, way back in my pre-parenting life (PPL), I was very particular about my personal space. I didn’t like being crowded. Hated people peering over my shoulder when I was reading. I was lucky enough to always have my own room growing up, but I’d still crib about my little brother getting in my space (as little brothers do). In the car or on the couch, I needed my own space or I couldn’t breathe.

Fast forward three years, and all I have to say to my former self is: ‘Hahahaha!’ and ‘Personal what?’ Because, having a kid basically spells the end of personal space. Fini. Khatam. I mean, this is the little human being who actually took up space inside you for nine months. And by the end of the third trimester, boy, were they taking up space. They stretched your abdomen more than you ever believed it could be stretched, and they pressed into your chest and onto your bladder and your back, pummelling you from the inside with their little fists and feet…

Once they arrive, of course, they’re in your space so much. They’re like an extension of your body. You’re their sole source of nourishment, and they attach themselves to you every couple of hours, for half-an-hour at a stretch, day and night. When they’re not treating you like a 24-hour milk machine, they’re demanding to be held and rocked, 24/7.

You’d think it gets better once they start walking and running, and no longer need to be carried all the time. You’d be wrong. Because the fact is that toddlers have absolutely no sense of personal space. They’ll drape themselves over you at the drop of a hat. They’ll clamber on to your lap the moment you sit down. If they’re scared, they’ll literally bury themselves in any available part of your anatomy. If you’re sitting at your laptop, they’ll want to sit on your lap and “work” on it too. If you’re in the kitchen, they’ll be right at your elbow, trying to grab your uncut veggies or touch anything that’s remotely hot/sharp/dangerous in any way. They’ll stand and watch (and possibly applaud) while you’re using the loo. If you’re lying down, they’ll lie on top of you or sit on you and bounce, saying, “Gidyyup horsey! Neighhh!” And don’t even get me started on the joys of sharing a bed with a toddler and waking up to find you’ve been pushed right to the edge, and that her little toes are somehow embedded in your nostrils.

The public displays are the worst. That’s when they’ll burrow into your leg and dive under your dupatta/ kameez/kurta/skirt in the mistaken belief that they can somehow hide from whichever aunty or uncle is currently trying to talk to them. They’ll lift said outfit; they’ll twist it; they’ll put it over their heads… Never mind that mom is rendered completely indecent in the process and her pouch-y tummy (and who’s largely responsible for making it that way, may I ask?) is displayed proudly for the world to see…

It’s also when you’re out and about that they’ll demand to be carried (strollers be damned) and once that feat has been achieved, they’ll launch into the Barnacle Manoeuvre, which is where they’ll cling to your leg, torso, head (whatever gives them most traction) and simply refuse to be shaken loose. If you see a parent walking around the mall with a two-year- old clamped to his leg, it means Operation Barnacle has been a success.

And so, if I could, I’d tell my former self to enjoy all the ‘personal space’ she can before motherhood. But I’d also tell her that having your own space isn’t everything. That sometimes, having a warm little body snuggled against you at night, or having a baby sleeping with its head resting trustingly on your chest are beautiful and incredibly fulfilling sensations. That after a few years of motherhood, you’ll reach the point that when your child isn’t constantly in your space, you’ll feel like something is missing. “I know you don’t believe me, but it’s the truth. Love, me.”

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 5:25:45 AM |

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