08/05/2012 14:16 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Toddler Tales: TDA (Toddler Displays Of Affection)

Toddler Tales: TDA (Toddler displays of affection) D teaches Broccs and Paddington the art of the joint snuggle

Unlike PDA, I'm discovering that TDA (the toddler display of affection) is rather sweet, even when it's not directed at me.

Diana's latest "signature move" is to approach parents or teachers in a playgroup or class, and either give them a hug or clamber onto their laps (if a child is already there, no problem. She'll just sit on top of them).

Sometimes, I think D is doing this to show how confident, well-adjusted and generous with her love she is. Other times, after she's refused to sit next to me, run away from me and cuddled up to another mother, she'll stare at me to gauge what my reaction is: Is mummy angry? Sad? Or just seething with jealousy?

At those moments, I start to wonder if D's TDA is about being nice or about trying to get attention – from me, from the parent she's decided momentarily is the "chosen one" and from everyone else in the room, who is quietly staring at the rejected, abandoned parent, grateful that their children have remained at their sides.

But then D will run back to me, give me a huge embrace, and I've forgotten that I was fourth choice. Now that she's running all over the place, getting her in my arms again - voluntarily - for even a few seconds is a real treat.

In addition to throwing herself into the arms of randoms (and some mums we know, in her defence), D has tactfully been worshipping her own family members, too. Recent vocab acquisitions include the first syllable of uncle and auntie names, and the mention of any of them sends D into an overexcited tizzy (she doesn't hyperventilate, like when she does the "Daddy dance," but there is usually an eager smile followed by a small jump and shriek).

The other week, one uncle – the very same one who provided such a helpful shoulder to lean on during D's mid-air tantrum – was at our house and D was in full TDA mode, sitting on his lap, cuddling him and gazing into his eyes with wonder.

Just to clarify: D won't sit in my arms without squirming. In D's presence, to get a smile on her face, I am usually singing, dancing, reading to her, colouring, feeding her and playing with toys (often all at the same time) and I have never come close to getting this worshipful stare. Uncle, meanwhile, was sitting on the couch, holding D. That's it.

Naturally, I was furious and turned to D's father for comfort.

"You see what's happening there?" I asked D's Daddy, starting to rage. "The beaming look on her face? How she stares at him with devotion? And he's just sitting there!"

And then I realised that D's father would have no idea what I was talking about since that's exactly how D behaves with him. The googly eyes, the look of sheer bliss (as he's sitting on the couch watching cricket over her head...)

Instead of letting this get to me, I'm using it to my advantage since D's TDA is clearly a good indicator of something rather important: Whether or not I have a ready, willing, able and free of charge (isn't that the beauty of family?) sitter on a Saturday night. Uncle will be getting a call from me soon.