Gavin and I were at the supermarket recently and had the following conversation at the yoghurt aisle:
Me: Let’s get some strawberry (yoghurt)
Gavin: I want the blue one
Me: What blue one? The blueberry one? Are you sure?
Gavin: I want the blue one
Me: Okay, we’ll get a small tub of the blue one in case you don’t like it. We can also get the strawberry, okay?
Gavin: I don’t want strawberry. I want the blue one.
Me: Yes, you can have the blue one. We’ll get strawberry for tomorrow.
Gavin: I don’t want strawberry tomorrow. I want the blue one.
Me: Okay, then Mummy have the strawberry.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about toddlers – my toddler in particular – it is that they can’t decide what they want beyond this instant. There’s no point asking them if they want something for tomorrow because they will answer you according to how they feel today. Come tomorrow when it’s a new day, everything is different.
I have learned through experience that if I didn’t buy the strawberry, Gavin would have wanted it the next day. True enough, he did.
I have also learned that I cannot trust Gavin’s judgement on what foods he thinks he likes when he has never tried it. He often gets swayed by the colour blue, being his favourite colour, but that doesn’t mean he will like what it tastes like. Just as I expected, he ate half the tub and then asked me for the strawberry one because he discovered he didn’t like blueberry after all.
When you’re dealing with a toddler, everything is pretty much “seize the day”! Just as you cannot rely on a toddler’s decision about what he wants later (especially if later happens to be tomorrow), you also have to seize the moment when you catch his window of cooperativeness. If he agrees to do something you have been struggling to get him to do, then you had better hurry up and get to it. Within the next ten to fifteen minutes, he may no longer be so willing.
For instance, I have been trying to get Gavin to go out with his grandparents without me. One afternoon, after waking from him nap, my FIL asked Gavin if he wanted to go shopping. Gavin enthusiastically said, “Yes!” And he didn’t want me to come along! Delighted by this show of independence, I heartily encouraged him to go with Ah Kong and Ah Mah.
Shortly after the agreement, Ah Kong ended up having to run a couple of errands before he could take Gavin out. By the time he was done, Gavin was no longer in the mood to go out.
I have read before that toddlers live in present time, but I guess it never really hit me what exactly that meant until now. Despite having an idea of now, today, later, and tomorrow, they still cannot process what it really means in relation to their wants and desires.