Is this the face of a brat?
Well, we know the one on the right certainly is. Bolshy the bulldog's been a bona fide spoiled brat from day one, when as a puppy he refused to walk in inclement weather and insisted on being carried to and from the park. Now he pulls at the lead and disobeys every order, refusing to acknowledge me as an authority figure (much like the rest of the family, it turns out).
And it looks like Diana may be emulating Bolshy in terms of more than just licking floors and attempting to drink from puddles (yes, that's happened - I am the parent whose child thinks she's a dog). Whenever D doesn't get her way, or the toy she wants, she erupts like a tiny, still-kissable Vesuvius. Don't let those cheeks fool you - this toddler is desperately trying to become a brat. Or perhaps is a brat already.
The evidence? Let's see. D continually points to objects - anything and everything - shouting "My!" "My!" and demanding the object in question, whether or not it's actually hers.
She understands that "No!" signifies me wanting her to stop something, so her instinctual response is to keep doing whatever the bad thing is whenever I say the word.
Playgroups are more awkward than enjoyable now; where once D used to enjoy the singing and play around, she still does, but is more interested in aggressively pursuing the toys other babes are playing with, only to acquire them by bullying means, instantly lose interest and move on to harassing the next child with an exciting toy in their hands.
Every walk usually involves a full-breakdown portion, with D throwing a tantrum on the ground on her back (usually in mud or a puddle) and kicking her legs up and down. This is in response to me trying to rescue her from a dangerous branch or asking her to come back in the buggy.
When this kind of thing happens in the early days of parenting, it usually seems like an unfortunate occurrence that your child is misbehaving - and it seems unfair to blame the parents who are just trying to survive. I am not at that stage of parenting any more - I look fully culpable, and my awkward giggling when D is at her most demanding certainly doesn't do anything to give the impression that I am a competent, capable parent.
Nowadays, my child's disobedience appears to directly be a reflection of me, and my lack of authority and insecurities and inability to function properly as a human being.
Well, at least that's what it feels like.
Also - and I used to do this all the time - I am now the recipient of 'the look,' the one that is sort-of semi-horrified and semi-smug at once, the gaze that the parent of a well-behaved (usually younger) child, or a non-parent, might shoot at the mother whose babe is wreaking havoc all over the place and who seems impotent to do anything about it.
I used to be the person who thought that when I had a child, we'd be a picture of calm. We'd walk holding hands and skipping along with the doggy happily bounding at our sides. It would all be lovely and idyllic and perhaps look like an advert for some kind of anti-depressive medication.
I could still be in that advert, but it would be the before portion: Trying to push the pram with one hand, hold onto a pulling Bolshy with the other as he wraps the lead around both me and Diana, tripping us, followed by a sobbing, screeching toddler flinging herself on the ground, and Bolshy trying to jump over a prostrate D and a collapsed me. We look like a band of lunatics, but I think maybe we are just the visual representation of what many sort-of newish parents feel at times.
It's possible that D isn't a total brat and that I'm not completely incompetent, but just feeling overwhelmed because D was such a calm, happy, rotting babe for the first year of her life, and now she's playful, and rambunctious and opinionated, so much more difficult than ever before.
So maybe I'm overwhelmed again since just when I thought I was getting the hang of things, they're crazier than ever.
Does this sound familiar? Just when you think you've cracked one stage, the next comes along...