Has your home become toddler-occupied territory? Do you live within no-go zones changeable on a daily basis? Are orders frequently barked at you? "Don't sing!" "Stop talking!" No laughing!" Well, you are not alone - and in the spirit of misery loving some company, here are six signs you are living under a toddler tyranny...
1. Your living room looks like Argos threw up its entire toy range on it
Somewhere beneath the primary-coloured plastic and other manmade fibre, is your home. The interior you so fondly fashioned from lovely John Lewis swatches and several earmarked pages in the Ikea catalogue, now looks, well... shit. Bricks, lego, a miniature zoo - all strewn, ready to inflict excruciating pain. Teddies, dolls, Peppa Pigs - all lie motionless like post-party casualties, face down in their own vomit. In fact, the debris at the end of every day very much resembles that of a hotel room trashed by a drunken rock star. Even the lovely lines of chalk he's etched so considerately on your coffee table, seem rather fitting...
2. Your relationship is reduced to a spelling bee
Since becoming parents, chances are your conversations became a series of quick-fire questions: "Did you do his bottle?"; "Can you run the bath?"; "What was his poo like?" But as his vocabulary grows, you realise these innocuous exchanges could potentially detonate tantrums, and soon you are spelling words with the speed and accuracy of a contestant on Countdown. "B-A-T-H in ten - no S-T-O-R-Y, straight to B-E-D"; "Did he S-H-I-T today? He's F-A-R-T-I-N-G like he needs one". And then suddenly that fucking phonetic alphabet bites you on the A-R-S-E when he indignantly cries, "my NOT going to bed" and "what shit mean?"
3. Fusilli ai funghi is replaced by fish fingers, chips and beans
Remember the evenings when you greeted each other with smiles and glasses of wine, before tucking into creamy moussaka, or slow-roasted pork? Alright, it was the M&S meal deal scoffed before the pub quiz - but it was adult food. These days, since the tyrant turned two, the likelihood is dinner is whatever he's eating. You tell yourself, 'who can be bothered to cook different meals?' But let's be clear - see that sweet child dining on Chicken Dippers, hurling peas everywhere? That cackling king is the real reason your spice rack is gathering sticky dust and that Annabel Karmel book lays unopened on top of the well-used microwave...
4. You frequently sleep on the frame of the bed
It all starts reasonably well. You tuck him in, negotiate the bedtime songs down from seven to two, kiss each of his 152 toy animals and bid goodnight. Then at some point during the night, there he is, with at least nine of those animals, scrambling into your bed, kneeing you in the groin as he does. While he twists and turns before eventually settling widthways across the bed, you're forced to the edge with about enough space for a fairly catatonic cat. Finally, as you fall back to sleep, you're woken by a flailing leg in the face - followed shortly by a looming little face, hissing: "Mummy, my need a wee-wee". You'd sob dramatically but there isn't really room...
5. CBeebies is on. All day. Every day. Never off. Ever.
Cartwheeling lions, Rastafarian mice, a gurning twat in a bowtie - all parade on the screen throughout the day, largely unwatched. It's hugely frustrating. You spy him, completely engrossed in his jigsaw. And there's the remote - unmanned. You're literally a few moves away from a sneaky ten minutes of This Morning. Fuck it, you're going in. As you motion towards the remote, everything slows down like a scene in The Matrix. His head turns and he lets out a Rocky-style, "noooo!" - before diving on top of it. The dream is over. He silently resumes his jigsaw, still gripping the remote. And the twat in the bowtie mocks you with a vigorous, idiot wave.
6. You rarely get to finish a sentence
Half the reason you and your spouse keep conversation to quick-fire questions, is because attempts at anything more are generally thwarted before you've even drawn breath to speak. Sometimes it's clear he has nothing to say - he's just interrupting for the mum-goading sport of it. You open your mouth to address your other half and the tyrant's ears prick up like a dog excited by the doorbell. He bounds over singing, "Mum-meeee!", before a long pause. He looks around the room, clearly searching for inspiration to justify his zillionth interruption of the day. "Yes?" you sigh irritably. "Erm..." he falters, before a brilliant brainwave strikes and he throws his dinner-lady arms around your neck, "My LOVE you!"
Sometimes, that tyrant is just too bloody cute.