“Until I became a parent, I didn’t realize it was possible to destroy an entire house with a granola bar.”
This was a tweet shared in a HuffPost Parents article this week (full of funny tweets from parents; if I weren’t so tired and lazy, I’d link the article). I read those words and thought they were an absolutely spot-on description in 144 characters or less of what it’s like to parent toddlers and/or young children (please don’t tell me teenagers still leave granola all over the house…)
If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past six months, it’s the simple fact that I haven’t learned anything. You see, once your baby becomes a toddler, you enter an entirely new world of parenting/refereeing/cage matching. The things that worked well for a 12 month old do not always hold true for an 18 month old; and just when you think you’ve got the hang of it, a new stage of development will arrive and you’ll start all over. And so, in the spirit of growth and sharing, I am imparting with you the following…
Five Truths in Toddler Parenting (for now)
To save one room, you must sacrifice another. This is a simple concept, and one that works well: If I want to clean the guest bathroom, I must let Miles remove all of the shoes from the shoe rack in my closet. If I need to hang up laundry, it will be necessary for Miles to burrow beneath all the covers and pillows on our bed until it is an unrecognizable heap of fluff. If it’s time to unload the dishwasher, Miles will help, but a third party must be present to catch plates and bowls as he “hands them gently” to Mama. Knives must stay out of view, because all toddlers know that they are the ultimate fun toy if mom would just leave them near the edge of the counter. Our house will never be “all at once” clean again, but we have found happiness in the controlled chaos.
Silence before the kid is in bed is never, ever a good sign. Remember the days of lying peacefully on the couch, reading a book and enjoying the quiet? You can have that same enjoyment now, during the hours of 12-3p, and after 8p. If the silence occurs during toddler waking hours, it could mean he’s putting the cat in his Melissa and Doug oven, or that he’s shoving dried peas up his nose, or possibly coloring the bathroom door yellow. Silence during waking hours is no time for rest; it is a time for high alert.
Dinnertime is feast or famine, literally. Last week Miles was a bottomless pit, eating meatballs, noodles, spinach, green beans, corn, carrots, pears, and anything else not nailed to the table during dinnertime. This week for dinner, he would like bread, and bread alone. The bread should not touch the other foods on his plate; in fact, the bread should not be on his plate, because the bread has its very own special bread napkin. Once the bread is smashed and rolled into a ball, it will be partially eaten, then thrown at the cat. Later, we will want Cheerios. Next week, we will want a Thanksgiving feast. Get used to it.
Prior experience in negotiations is always a plus. Now that Miles has learned to brush his teeth, we decided it was time to get a stepstool so he can stand at the sink like a big boy. Target just happened to have a Sesame Street stepstool; it had pictures of Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster and Big Bird, and I thought, “Ah, perfect!” Oh yes, it was perfect. It was so perfect that we could not allow the item to be bagged after purchase, because we needed to hold it the entire way home. Later, we could not put the stepstool in the bathroom because it needed to be in the living room with us. We also could not actually stand on the stepstool, because naturally the stepstool needed to join us for bath time. And finally, we couldn’t forget our stepstool during PJ time, where Miles held it the entire duration of our regular diaper/lotion/PJ/song routine. Picture a toddler lying down, upper half of his body beneath a Sesame Street stepstool, singing about Ernie and Elmo. After four hours of carrying this stepstool around the house, I negotiated it away by replacing it with his stuffed Tiger, and we were stepstool free for story time, thank goodness. But people, IT TOOK FOUR HOURS. That stepstool is half the size of my child, and he carried that cumbersome thing all over the damn house. Last night, I hid it under his bed and haven’t touched it since.
There is no such thing as a stupid question. Asking yourself things like, “Why are my underwear in the vegetable crisper?” and “Who put this granola bar in the toilet?” or “Has the dog always had green and purple feet?” is perfectly reasonable and normal. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, either.
Crumbs. This requires little explanation. Once your child becomes a toddler, you will have crumbs in unexplained places. It’s like finding sand in your butt crack after a trip to the beach.
There you have it, the truths in parenting a toddler that I have found to date. This list is subject to change at any time because toddlers, duh.