Having a baby or toddler is a big mystery. You don’t know who they are. They don’t know who you are. You can’t ask each other. And so we all look for clues. We watch and learn and add to the map of our new family.
From the very beginning there are some traits that shine through like a laser. We knew that Little B was going to be determined and stubborn from week one. It was his way or the highway and woe betide anyone who tried to tell him otherwise.
Looking back I think it helped. He gave really clear signals about how he wanted to feed and sleep and we did our best to fit with his schedule. Perhaps that’s easier than a baby who chops and changes, or isn’t particularly vocal. I only have our experience to draw on.
Those traits have stayed true as he has grown into a 16 month old whirlwind. And along the way he has of course developed new moods, fresh ways of being, individual tastes, likes and dislikes. He isn’t a mini-me. He isn’t a mini-Mrs B. Who is he?
Last week Little B was given a lovely present from two of our dear friends – a complete box-set of the Mr Men books by Roger Hargreaves! Now, I was probably more excited by this than he was to be honest. I think Little B saw it as a colourful box of neat square things to take out and scatter. Well, I say think, I know, because that’s exactly what he did.
However, he does love books and he was quite happy for a long time flicking through each book before hurling it back onto the pile. After he’d finished I was tidying the books away and I started reading them and wondering which ones reminded me of Little B.
I loved the Mr Men when I was a boy. I think there is something very satisfying about the bold, minimalist illustrations. And Roger Hargreaves created a universe in which his characters go about their lives and appear in each other’s stories in absurd ways but which also make complete sense.
By making each of the Mr Men a representation of a single personality trait, this drives the narrative, and makes it easy for mums and dads to have a discussion about what it means if someone is strong, clever, clumsy, grumpy and so on.
The characters are the lives of our emotions and capabilities and as explanations of abstract concepts they are a boon to parents – something I’d never realised until now.
By reading the books together you can build your child’s understanding of the jigsaw of human psychology at its most basic level.
When they’ve got the individual traits you can start to combine them, talking about how we are all a mixture of these attributes; maybe discovering which personality types they feel an affinity with, simply by getting them to choose their favourite Mr Men.
I look forward to chatting to Little B about this but until this day comes I will have to settle for turning Sherlock again. So here goes…
The Top Ten Mr Men Little B Is Most Like:
1. Mr Messy
Well, because all young children are! Wipe, wipe, wipe we go all day long. Babies are so much cleaner when all they have is milk. By the time you’re done weaning your house is going to look like a Jackson Pollock painting. But you won’t be able to sell it. And then there’s all the other mess – the soil, the crayons, the mysterious black grime like he’s been up a chimney. And the clutter; tidy, tidy, tidy we trot around all day long. I sometimes feel like our life has become one long game of Hungry Hippos in a world ruled by a Jenga addicted midget. And then there’s the poo. Yes, he is definitely Mr Messy. I just hope it doesn’t go on until he’s 18. It will won’t it? Sigh.
2. Mr Strong
I don’t know how he does it but Little B can move furniture around, climb into his buggy, carry books in both hands, bend iron bars and tear phone books in half. OK. Two of those are lies. He has always been really physical and getting him to stay still long enough to change a nappy or dress him is becoming a challenge worthy of Total Wipeout. I do sometimes feel I need body armour to avoid the kicks and jabs he unleashes in his desperate attempts not to be clean or clothed. We’re just waiting for the day there’s a Little B shaped hole in the front door and all we can do is watch as he runs down the street knocking down lampposts and squashing cars. Our very own Godzilla.
3. Mr Busy
WAKE UP! It’s 6am and Little Mr Busy is up and raring to go. By 8am he’s had his milk, had a poo, taken all the books out, asked his mum and dad to read them, chased the cats, emptied his kitchen cupboard, moved the coffee table across the room, pulled out all his trucks and left them as traps for unwary, tired parents, taken his toy buggy around the garden twice, had his breakfast and gone back to bed. He enjoys himself so much he decides repeat this hurricane of activities until bedtime. “Oh please Little Mr Busy,” his parents wail. “Can’t we have a sit down and a cuddle and watch The Clangers?” But Little Mr Busy can’t hear them, he’s too busy sorting the under stairs cupboard again.
4. Mr Happy
Yes, Little B is a happy toddler. Smiling and laughing his way through the day.
Until suddenly, without warning, he turns into…
5. Mr Grumpy
For no reason whatsoever Little B will wail, writhe on the floor, and then sulk until he has punished the world for its inability to do exactly what he wants when he wants it to happen. And then as it by magic he is Mr Happy again.
6. Mr Fussy
This one has only recently moved into our house. For a long time we thought we’d created a laid back little dude who would eat what he was given, let us dress him in whatever costume we fancied, and tag along with us quite happily in his buggy. But no more. “This food is the wrong shape,” says Little Mr Fussy staring in disgust at the peas. “And the wrong colour. NO. Take it away. I’ve left it on the floor.” Little Mr Fussy goes to play with his favourite toys. They have all been replaced by things that look the same but are now rubbish toys. He sighs heavily and decides to have a nap. Let’s hope his parents give him the right dummy this time.
7. Mr Mischief
I like Little Mr Mischief. You can often find him standing peeping through the banisters on the landing, hiding behind a towel and giggling. Or have a look behind the sofa. What on earth is he doing? We’ll never know but he thinks it’s hilarious. Oh dear. Now Little Mr Mischief has hidden the phones, the TV controls and the house keys again. What a great game for mummy and daddy. Oh look – a bowl of water for the cats. That will make an excellent hat. Oh dear Little Mr Mischief we’re going to have to change your clothes again.
8. Mr Muddle
All toddlers are Little Mr and Miss Muddles. The world is a very confusing place. Why does this block not fit in that hole? Why does it hurt if I run into a wall? Why do I fall over if I spin around and around and around to the music? How do I get those snacks from the table? What is a cat’s tail for? Why do I sleep behind bars? Why do people keep giving me food that’s the wrong shape and colour? Wiping my face – what’s all that about then? Why does my bottom keep getting dirty? Why are mummy and daddy looking tired again? When will the world make sense to me?
9. Mr Chatterbox
I’ve written previously about how he loves to chat. So you’ll know that we don’t know what he is talking about most of the time – but Little B doesn’t care. Chatter chatter chatter all day long. He’s made up his own language and he’s telling us all about the amazing world he’s discovering. So far he is also saying, “Go car”, “Dada”, “Mama” (in a weird guttural voice), “No”, “Buk”, “Twain”, “Ba”, and “Gone”. I don’t think we’ve got long to wait until the questions start!
10. Mr Bump
Nappies don’t only catch poo. They also provide a soft landing! Getting around is tricky when you haven’t been walking for long. Imagine how annoying it would be if every time you tried to speed up or went over some uneven ground you fell flat on your bum?! Then there’s all the things at head height waiting to attack you. Just bending down to get that toy car – oops! Banged my head on the coffee table again. Thankfully Little B doesn’t actually look like Mr Bump and he hasn’t seriously hurt himself yet but he’s an adventurer and seems to be utterly fearless so I think there’s going to be a lot of bumps as he gets older. For now we try to minimise the hazards as much as possible. If only he was happy sitting reading his Mr Men books!
Which Little Mr and Misses are your children most like?! 🙂