We’ve all seen the meticulously crafted Insta-perfect social media feeds. But what’s it really like to be the parent of a toddler? Man Vs Toddler lays bare the unspoken truth: it’s brilliant and rewarding but often a bit crap. Read it and you’ll laugh, partly because the book is hilarious but also because the only alternative is to cry.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I was not paid or incentivised in any other way. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Most parenting-related books are written by, targeted at and read by women. Matt Coyne, author of Man Vs Toddler, is a rare beast: a Y chromosome in a sea of oestrogen. Nonetheless, his experiences as a father to Charlie are universal. They will resonate with both mums and dads alike.
This was certainly true of his first book, the uproariously funny Dummy. The same is true of this sequel.
More than a David Tennant lookalike
I once spent an evening with Matt, a few months after the release of Dummy. We chewed the fat about parenting and the bizarrely political world of parent blogging. We had both been at a conference, followed by (too many) drinks and (not enough) pizza delivered to the bar of a Premier Inn at 1am. As fellow parents will know, this is about as big as Saturday nights get.
I mention this encounter not in a name-dropping, I-know-a-bestselling-author kind of way. (Although, you know, I do, so there.) But there’s no better way of seeing the real person behind the PR image than to share beers and pizza with them.
And that’s the thing with Matt. Behind the carelessly cultivated facade of a sweary, slightly deranged David Tennant lookalike, the ‘Man’ of Man Vs Toddler is exactly that: a sweary, slightly deranged David Tennant lookalike. With a toddler. And a Yorkshire accent rather than a Scottish one. Plus he’s an effortlessly funny writer to boot.
From crawling to cruising
Man Vs Toddler picks up where Dummy left off, as Matt and his son Charlie negotiate the transition from crawling to walking and talking. En route, Matt ponders about the ‘terrible twos’ and the twin horrors of soft play and toilet training in his inimitable style.
People sometimes accuse parent bloggers and influencers of presenting perfect, carefully curated lives far removed from the reality the vast majority of us experience. You know the sort of thing. Perfectly coiffed children dressed like catalogue models. Photogenic smiles. Not a trace of today’s breakfast anywhere on their faces or clothes.
This is the secret of Matt’s success: he doesn’t do that. He is everyman. There is nothing carefully curated or sugar-coated about the life he presents. His experiences leap off the page with a filter-free honesty. Anyone who has ever woken up after two hours’ broken sleep to discover their two-year-old scrawling on a wall in permanent marker when their whiteboard/blackboard from Early Learning Centre is right there next to them will instantly recognise the anguish and desperation. We’ve all been there. Some still are.
Throughout the book, Matt never hesitates to call it as he sees it. He balances the unbridled joys of parenthood with those moments when you just want to lock yourself away with only a bottle of gin for company. And that is what makes this book such an enjoyable read: Matt’s willingness to acknowledge and lean into the fact that parenting a toddler combines the sublime and the ridiculous in equal measure.
Nirvana … or Nirvana?
Man Vs Toddler is a helpful reminder that parenting a toddler is not a walk in the park. (Unless that park is full of dog crap, the occasional land-mine and the contents of a Lego factory, and you’re walking through it barefoot and blindfolded.) Experts and fellow parents reassure us that things get easier after the baby phase. Matt tells a different (and more true) story: parenting a toddler is less like nirvana and more like listening to Nirvana … on an endless loop, with a permanent migraine and the volume turned up to eleven.
This is the book you never knew you wanted but really need to read. If you’re already the parent of a toddler, it’s reassurance that your pain is not unique. If, like me, you’ve moved on to the stroppy pre-teen/teen phase, it’s a pat on the back for surviving this challenging period. Or if you just want an escape from the ceaseless coverage of Brexit, this will tickle your funny bone too. After all, you might as well do something while the little buggers are keeping you awake in the middle of the night …
Man Vs Toddler is available at Amazon.co.uk and other retailers.