My daughter has settled into nursery alarmingly quickly. When I went to pick her up for the first time she seemed very happy to see me and gave me a gratifyingly forceful hug. But I had seen her before she spotted me and she was clearly having a fantastic time.
It makes me wonder if we need to have made quite so much effort with her. I mean, why bother going out of your way to treat a child well if she is just as happy playing all day in a sand pit with people she has just met?
It is not as if she is ever grateful for the things we do for her. It is just constant criticism.
Two year-olds have their own way of dealing with things they don't like. They don't pretend food is lovely and then politely refuse seconds, they spit it down themselves as if you've tried to poison them. If they don't want their coat put on, rather than politely declining your help, they act like you are administering a high-voltage Tasering.
So rather than worrying about whether we are doing enough to nurture our children, maybe it is time for a bit of calculated neglect. I have compiled a short checklist:
1) Provide food but take no interest in how much of it they eat
2) Only show affection if they show it first
3) If they throw a tantrum, remove any hazards and walk away
4) Don't bother trying to reason with them, it is a waste of time
5) Don't pretend to like Mr Men books. They are all rubbish, apart from Mr Tickle
It was this kind of thinking that hit me the other day at a wedding. My daughter was having a lovely time until it got to that point of the evening where toddlers should really be gone. My wife put her in a pushchair and she almost immediately fell asleep. We then wanted to head back to the dancefloor and neither wanted the job of watching a child sleep.
The venue was operating one of those nightclub-style rooms where you swap your coat for a raffle ticket that gives you a good chance of winning it back at the end of the night. The lady working there was lovely and I asked if she wouldn't mind me wheeling my child in. She happily accepted, even handing us a ticket (which didn't seem strictly necessary as no other children were being stored there, as far as I could tell). Then we were off, rejoining the party weighed down only by a tiny and rapidly fading sense of guilt.
Was this a bad thing to do? Should we have CRB-checked the coat-room lady and demanded references from previous cloakrooms she had worked in? You can only do so much to make sure your child is safe. You could try watching them every moment, but they would certainly never thank you for that. Besides, everyone needs a bit of a dance occasionally.