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News & Features » April 2020 » “Toddler Distance” by Carolyn Lochhead

“Toddler Distance” by Carolyn Lochhead

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a mother explains her theory on toddler distance relativity . . .

Toddler Distance
by Carolyn Lochhead

Time is relative, so Einstein told us. I am sure he was right—I’m not really qualified to contradict one of the world’s greatest scientists—but motherhood has taught me that distance is relative, too.

At least, it is when you’re walking with a toddler. Toddler miles, like nautical miles, bear no relation to normal measurements. Here’s an example. Every Thursday, my daughters and I go to Bookbug, a local singing and reading group. We park about three hundred metres away from the venue, and we walk from the car.

If we are running late, which is always, because I have two small children and the concept of punctuality has become an abstract and largely forgotten notion, then one Toddler Mile equals roughly five Normal Person Miles. Each step is a dawdling, languid motion. One, two, three strides—but oh, Mummy there’s a leaf! It’s exactly the same as every other leaf, but for some reason I have to stroke it gently for about three hundred hours, murmuring to it in a sweet sing-song voice that would be highly adorable if we weren’t GOING TO BE LATE!

Two more steps, three, four—Oh! Mummy, look at my feet!  I love my feet! I’m going to do a little dance, in celebration of my lovely lovely feet! No, of course I’m not going to dance in the direction we’re going, I’m going to scamper off the other way, undoing the tiny amount of progress we’d made!

We get a little further on. I can see the venue. I can see the other mums and dads skipping happily in with their children, who are unaccountably putting one foot in front of the other without having to pause to fly a rocket to the moon or drive to Australia or transform a glove into Anna or Elsa or Wall-E from the Pixar movie. We are so close that I could shout over to them if I wanted, but I know all that would come out is a tortured wail of “Help meeeee!,” a bit like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, so I don’t bother. 

Of course, there are times when the existence of Toddler Miles plays to my advantage. These are the afternoons when I have no plan for the girls, when we’ve done our morning activity and I’ve stretched lunch out for as long as I can and it’s somehow still three hours until 4:30 PM, the Golden Hour when I feel it is permissible to get out the iPad. On those days, if it’s dry, I get the kids ready to go out—which itself can easily occupy half an hour—and then we just wander. Usually we go in a square—down our street, past the construction site where we can look at diggers and builders, down to the handrail that my elder daughter likes to swing on (Toddler Time: twenty minutes). Then we walk down the main road, past the bus stop where strangers can be entertainingly interacted with, the butcher’s shop where the staff will miraculously produce a sweetie tin and the supermarket with a metal ramp which makes a thrilling noise when stomped up and down upon (Toddler Time: anywhere up to an hour). And then back up the other side of the hill, where there are leaves, trees, walls and occasionally even cats to look at (Toddler Time: whatever time is remaining until iPad O’Clock).

Toddler Miles are not a well-understood concept. Someone should write a book about it. I’d write it myself, if I wasn’t stuck at the roadside, watching a toddler chatting to a leaf . . . 


CAROLYN LOCHHEAD is a mental health campaigner who lives in Scotland with her husband and two daughters. She has been published in The Magazine, Oh Comely, Mothers Always Write, Mslexia, Hippocampus, Mamalode and many others. She has performed her work on BBC Radio Scotland and won the University of Glasgow’s inaugural Narrative Non-Fiction prize. 


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 21, 2020

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,