Toddlers. One of the magical words of the English language that has the power to evoke a plethora of emotions. Before a person has children of their own, oftentimes while watching other people’s kids from afar, one of their first thoughts is probably along the lines of “snot-nosed brat.” And then they have their first born and spend all their time admiring just how “smart and creative” their child is. Basically perfection. Until their second comes along and they begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, their child is not going to be the next up and coming president (although we do have some pretty low standards for that role these days). Anyway, once the third, or more, come about, you go so far as to wonder just who the hell these demons are and when was that pivotal moment of them taking over your house.
As I’m personally on my third bout of “toddlerhood” in my household, believe me I’ve been through the entire gamete of emotions associated with this delightfully crazy era of life. Yet unfortunately I’ve learned, through experience, that there just is no book, no friend’s advice (or warning, however you want to look at it) that can wholeheartedly prepare you for this trying stage. Because unless you have toddlers of your own or have lived through this, when people try to describe the pure unedited shit show that takes place on a daily basis, trust me when I say: you simply won’t believe it. There just is no way these supposed horror shows could really happen. Because you know that you’ll be a good, supportive and caring parent, so obviously being an award-winning parent would never lead to this unimaginable insanity. With that said I thought I’d share just a few of my own personal experiences and tell you what no publisher will ever print because it could potentially lead to the end of the human race.
Did you know that in order for a toddler to brush their teeth it is a requirement that they put toothpaste on EVERY surface of the bathroom? For some reason a “rice-sized” amount on a brush just doesn’t cut it. Nope. It needs to be smeared all over the sink, countertop, light switch, walls, vanity, mirror and yes, even the floor. I’ve tried various types of dispensers. Didn’t matter. I tried being the only one allowed to put the toothpaste on. Yeah, nope. That didn’t matter either. Apparently this is just one of the many magical powers that toddlers are blessed with having.
Now let’s talk food. For starters approximately 49 percent of their allotted food ends up anywhere other than in their mouth. This is still true for my almost seven year old. Although maybe he’s brought the percentage down to about 32. I’ve determined that that is the only possible explanation for them demanding a snack five minutes after they just ate a real meal. And then repeatedly every 10 minutes until it’s actually time to eat again.
The majority of the time, toddlers are simply incapable of hearing you. You could be standing directly in their face screaming at them and you might as well be screaming at a wall. I’ve had the hearing checked on my middle child and I ask my oldest at least once a day if we need to get his checked. Most days I feel like I’m stuck on repeat as I’m literally repeating everything I say a minimum of three times. However when you get to that point when you’re legitimately worried about their hearing, this is what you do. Get a piece of candy. Be at least two floors apart and I personally like to try being behind one to two closed doors from the subject in question. Next, as slowly and quietly as you can, begin to unwrap the candy. Within two to three seconds, the toddler will immediately begin yelling from afar, “Mom, what are you eating?!” and they will sniff you out like a bloodhound. It works every time, because toddlers are indeed deaf…until they’re not.
They also have the uncanny ability to bring you to an edge you never could have dreamed existed. A place where you are so tired you can barely put together a intelligible sentence and you haven’t seen any semblance of patience in days. You’re to the point of wondering what exactly you’ll need to pack in your runaway bag. Or every time you get in the car (without kids) you think, “what if I just keep driving? How long until they notice?!” Even if running away is simply going to a gas station so you can go to the bathroom in peace. You’re so desperate for five minutes of alone time that you’re willing to risk catching any million of the possible diseases derived from all the unthinkable filth in that public restroom. Trust me, this edge exists. I’ve been there often. But toddlers are smart little shits, and one of their super powers is knowing exactly when you’ve reached that edge. Like a dog can smell fear, toddlers know just when you can’t physically or emotionally continue. And then they strike. They come up to you, give you a giant bear hug squeeze and call you their “best fwend.” And once again, they’ve got you trapped under the spell. Until the next edge appears, and the cycle repeats.
I’m sure we all know a few adults that make us whisper under our breaths that they seem to have a split personality. You just can’t understand how they can be so nice and happy one minute and turn into an angry beast in the blink of an eye. Oh, if only toddlers had merely two personalities. Instead, they have the incredible ability to be laughing hysterically, get instantly angry and bite their sibling, cry huge crocodile tears after getting bit back and be hugging again all in a span of 30 seconds. Trust me, there isn’t even time to attempt timeouts or give a lecture about the importance of being nice. As sane adults, our brains can’t even compute everything that happened because four very different emotions just occurred before you could get your first disciplinary word out. But that’s okay. As someone with three kids, I’m to the point I don’t want to be involved unless there’s blood and someone needs the ER or a trip to the police station to be put in jail (something I threaten often out of pure desperation.)
Toddlers also have physical abilities that most adults would never believe unless they saw it for themselves. Because in actuality, they’re half mountain goat. Sir Edmund Hillary (one of the most famous mountain climbers ever) has nothing on the scaling ability of a three year old. Sure he climbed Mount Everest but could he have climbed walls? When someone tells you to strap down every piece of furniture you own, Do It. Even if you think it’s ludicrous. Trust me, you won’t believe their mad skills until you witness it first hand.
As a parent living through the toddler years, you will endure the impossible. Say the unthinkable and spend way too much time pondering if that really and truly just happened. There will be shitastrophes that give you nightmares for years. And meltdowns where you’re absolutely positive the end of the world is coming because what else could be the cause of such pandemonium. Your friends without kids might never believe your stories. Your parents, who’ve been out of this phase in life for quite some time, might insist you’re exaggerating. But the rest of us know. And we get it. However on the flip side of this insanity is all the laughter, memories and experiences we gain from this time in our lives. There will never be another one like it. And just remember, as I like to try and remind myself on a daily basis, it’ll always be better than the upcoming teen years.