So said Saint Augustine. He also said, ‘You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones.’ I don’t think he had toddlers in mind, but I’m sure he wouldn’t object to that interpretation. Perhaps if I learn patience with my children, they’ll turn out great.
I used to have patience. Or was that paychecks? Anyway, I certainly had a longer fuse than I do now. These days it is as short as my toddler’s trousers. Or pants, where I live.
They’re so little, those toddlers; it’s extraordinary how they can wind you up the way they do. In fact, take trousers and pants: please, do, take them from my house because I just cannot get my three-year-old out of them. We’re rushing headlong into summer in New York, watching the forecasts climb alarmingly into the 70s and even 80s, yet Bigger Boy clings determinedly to his fleece-lined jeans like a snail in its shell. Or maybe he’s a clam; he’ll be very clammy if he goes on like this. You’d think he’d be happy to try being a slug for a while, letting everything hang out the way the rest of us do when temperatures rise above 70 degrees (or 50, in Britain; 40 north of Birmingham) – but no, he intends to spend the summer shrouded in clothing that exposes only his hands and face. Maybe he’s embarrassed about his legs; if he’s inherited mine, I can understand that – or maybe it’s against his religion to show too much skin – but, frankly, it’s making me feel quite hot and bothered. Putting shorts on him for the first time when he was very young, he looked panic-stricken and started pulling down on the hems, crying, ‘Mummy, my trousers are falling up!’
Littler Boy, meanwhile, is still at the stage where he will wear anything I put him in. The tiger outfit is still a possibility, there are no protests when colours clash and he doesn’t tell me his socks are ‘too slidy and I won’t be able to stand up in them’ (although to be fair, at eighteen months of age that would be an impressive sentence to put together). Instead, we play an exhausting game of ‘chase’ every time he gets dressed or even has his diaper changed, which starts off quite amusing, gradually gets pretty irritating (it always happens when we’re already late for wherever we’re meant to be) and eventually drives me to the point of self-combustion.
These things do not matter. Bigger Boy will soon learn that padded raincoats and blazing sun do not mix. Littler Boy will decide he can’t be bothered to run around and will stay still instead. But when those days come, I will reminisce about their quirky unseasonal clothing choices and the bursting-at-the-seams energy they had, and wish I had been a little longer-fused. They are not constrained by ideas of what they ‘should’ be wearing or doing; long may it continue, and longer may my patience grow.