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My uncle came to visit us a few weekends ago. He is my father’s identical twin brother, which was more than a little confusing for my 21 month old daughter, who thought ‘Uncle Derek’ was just a new name for Granddad! During his stay we tried to think of things to do and show him that would also interest my daughter.
My father rang me afterwards. He said that Uncle Derek had told him he had enjoyed his stay with us and the time he had spent with my daughter. My father said, with a laugh in his voice, ‘Derek says that Holly certainly gets enough attention’. I am sure this wasn’t meant as a criticism, but it got me thinking. Do we give her too much attention?
When she was a tiny baby, we had no option but to give her as much attention as she demanded. She was not capable of an independent existence and relied upon us to fulfil even her most basic of needs. Now she is a toddler, the attention she needs and often demands is of a different kind. She is now capable of many things; walking, talking, feeding herself and even telling us when she needs the toilet. The attention we are giving her now is the kind that will hopefully help her develop into a happy and confident adult.
The days I spend with my daughter are very full and action packed. I work part-time, so I feel I owe it to her to give her the best of my attention when we are together. We often go for walks and always end up at either the playground, beach or duck pond. We regularly visit friends with children of a similar age and I try to have conversations with my friends in between the interruptions, gasps and phrases such as ‘No Holly, don’t snatch’, ‘be kind to the other children, darling’ etc.. When we are at home we play together and I spend endless hours answering the ‘What’s that’ questions and explaining for the 100th time that it is a teddy, vase of flowers, oven, or whatever the latest object of interest is. I find myself fending off constant requests to watch the Teletubbies by engaging her quickly in some other equally exciting activity. When I occasionally give in to these requests, I sit her in front of the TV and quickly dash into the kitchen to peel some potatoes. A couple of minutes later, my excited daughter appears telling me with such enthusiasm that La-la has a ball (as if I didn’t know that already!) and saying ‘come, come’ whilst she leads me back into the front room to join in the excitement!
At weekends, the scene is a similar one, except Daddy is there to join in the fun. We have tried to go out and do things together as a family that we used to do before we had a child. We visited a stately home and gardens the other week and had to keep explaining to Holly why there were no swings and slides around each corner. We tried to take her to a restaurant to eat one evening and after 10 minutes, even before the meal arrived, when she had had enough sitting still, we ended up taking it in turns to wander round the tables with her, apologising to all the other diners. Clothes shopping is another activity that is almost impossible – she doesn’t understand why she has to stay strapped into her pushchair whilst other people are wandering freely around and yet, if she is allowed out of her chair, she is a menace to other shoppers. Because of this, we now plan our weekend activities around our daughter. This is as much for our sake as for hers, because when she is happy, so are we.
Other people make a fuss of her too. Her grandparents, who live locally and look after her while I work, dedicate these days to her entertainment and pleasure. Poor old granddad is not allowed to tile his kitchen or dig his allotment without having a little assistant who constantly wants to know what he is doing.
This is what my uncle witnessed during his time with us. Is that too much attention, I ask myself? Surely that is what being 21 months old is all about. The world is an exciting place for her and she is constantly trying to make sense of it. As her mother, it is my job (and that of my husband and others who care for her) to help her make sense of her what she sees around her. The result of this ‘too much attention’ is a happy, confident, full of life, little girl who chatters away and charms everybody who comes into contact with her.
So, to answer my earlier question, no, I don’t think I am giving my daughter ‘too much attention’. This time when she is learning so much is extremely precious. There will come a time when she does not want my complete attention, in fact, I am sure at some stage in the future I will yearn for her to ask me to join in things with her. So I am going to make the most of this most receptive time and enjoy lavishing attention on her while I still can.
I enjoyed your op very much - it sounds like you are giving your little one the right sort of attention - I don't think you can give children too much of that. Children usually return what they have been given - if its love and attention it usually shows.
di-buzz 07.09.2001 13:57
Sounds like you are doing a great job. Children grow up far too fast and these magical moments are soon just memories. I agree with TT though, toddler groups are an excellent way of mixing for both of you. In fact my youngest is at school now and I still go (to help not play!)
TallTone 30.08.2001 16:17
A well-written piece. Children change your life - there is no denying that. Don't be afraid to talk to someone if you ever begin to feel that Holly is "smothering" you, but apart from that, if you are happy with the sprint-to-the-kitchen-in-the-spare-moment lifestyle, why worry? One other thing that occurs to me is that it is important that Holly has regular contact with people her own age too - a mother & toddler group is a great way to do this if you have no friends locally with their own toddlers. Regards, TT.