Poor little fella. He had the misfortune of being introduced to the wonderful world of food during my Healthy Phase.
The fateful day arrived for Daniel's first taste of solids. Determined that no cow's milk should pass his innocent lips, I mixed the rice cereal with cooled boiled water to an offensive, bland paste. Predictably his little face contorted and the mush was instantly ejected to slither pathetically down the kitchen wall.
That was the first salvo in a protracted food fight which lasted around five years. As if his first brush with the dreaded glug wasn't enough, there was more torment in store for our little hero. I had one of those whiz-bang blenders and would mix up the most delightful concoctions. “Um, now, potato...pumpkin... carrot...too boring, I would muse to myself. I'll just sneak in a bit of red pepper, a sprig of parsley for some extra vitamin C and yes some nice, nutritious silver beet. He won't notice!” The joke was on me and so was the green mush from head to toe.
I swiftly fell victim to the Parental Backlash Syndrome. Here I was a committed vegetarian and there was my 12-month-old son cadging sausages and chunks of steak at every barbecue we dared to take him to. So embarrassing!
So much for solids, my back still hasn't recovered from the Sling Phase. Little Daniel was spirited around in his very own womb with a view; at the clothesline, out shopping, at rock concerts; you name it, we were there; an inseparable, comical pair.
He may have derived immense comfort from the experience but all I got was a pain in the back.
Lugging the little blighter around all day was insufficient devotion for this willing martyr. Much to my husband's abject horror, I insisted on having him sleep in our bed in the Let the Baby Sleep in Our Bed Phase.
Do you know just how much space a tiny body can take up when it sprawls out? We didn't get much sleep clinging to the edge of the mattress and I dozed through a fog of anxiety about him falling out.
I flew into hysterics that night my worst fear was realised when we awoke to a spine-chilling thud followed by a piteous wail. The panic-stricken exchange went something like:
"Oh my God, Andrew...He's fallen out...Oh no...Oh God...Oh he's screaming. Oh God."
"Well pick him up. Just get out of bed and pick him up!"
No broken bones; just another testimony to the apt expression bouncing baby.
We lived on a country property. I got to indulge in my Earth Mother Phase and Daniel got to defy death on a daily basis. In spite of being idyllic, this property was also fraught with hazards; a river, two ponds, a generator, an underground cellar, kicking cows and venomous snakes.
Daniel discovered mobility and I became a nervous wreck. Experts say that between 12 months and two and a half is the most dangerous developmental stage. I can tell you the experts are right.
Parents may joke about how kids ever survive the exploratory stage but as I now know, safety precautions are indeed paramount. Toddlers can drown in mere minutes and succumb to any number of horrors.
The mini-human who has just found his legs possesses all the curiosity and zest for adventure of great explorers and thrill-seekers coupled with absolutely no sense of caution.
We were lazing in the sunshine playing guitar when our friend Jamie glanced up to see Daniel hanging deftly by his tiny fingers from a beam over a three metre drop into the concrete wine cellar. Jamie, a folkie who doubles as a doctor, calmly strode over and swooped him up!
I thought my toddler was playing in the next room but little Dan, the Danger Man had escaped. I found him waist deep in the pond. But that was nothing compared to the day I desperately searched the entire acreage and broke down sobbing fearing he'd been swept away in the river. He appeared from the cow paddock grinning all over his face.
The day we left our peaceful country retreat we found a rabbit with its head blown off by the generator and a Joe Blake (that’s Aussie lingo for snake) in the woodpile where Little Dan had played happily!
In retrospect I reckon cots, playpens, harnesses, safety gates and suburban fences are brilliant inventions and the great outdoors should be reserved for baby animals and their mothers. I sincerely recommend a Neurotic, Over-Cautious Phase for all parents of intrepid toddlers!