Toddlers are bright, wily little creatures, tricking you into complacency with their cuteness then jumping off of the furniture when you aren’t looking. My son is smart; like really, really smart. Of course I’m going to boast, isn’t that what all parents do? He can count all the way to ten with some assistance. He knows all of his simple shapes, and all of the colors in his 12 pack of Crayolas. He can tell you the names of all our pets, neighbors and family. He knows several simple words and phrases in sign language, and he now speaks in complete four or five word sentences. He can remove the safety covers from the outlets and remove the safety locks from the cabinets. I’ve learned to live on my toes, knowing that while he’s observing me do things around the house, it’s not so much to watch as it is to understand, so he can use it against me in the future (case in point: constantly unplugging the vacuum cleaner).
18 month olds are geniuses, to say the least. They have a bag of tricks ready to go at all times – especially in public.
On Monday, after I picked Miles up from school, I let him know we would be stopping by Target on our way to home to pick up four things. I named the things we were getting, and told him it would be a quick trip. We arrived at the store, and Miles immediately asked for Cheerios. Now, I do usually keep an arsenal of snacks in my purse ready to go, but today was an exception, as my ravenous preg appetite caused me to eat the granola bar and apple I had stashed (stop with the accusatory stares – unless you’ve been a hungry preg, you wouldn’t understand) and so we were without snacks.
BUT, we were going to Target, land of plentiful snacks, so I knew if we really really needed the Cheerios, we’d get them.
I explained to Miles that the Cheerios were all gone, and that we would be eating dinner soon. Of course he understood and agreed to calmly and patiently ride out the quick trip without complaint. KIDDING. He waited until we got in the store, and then he unleashed his chorus of “DIIIIIIDOOOOOOOS!!! MAMA, MAMA, MAMA…DIIIIIIDOOOOOOOS!” (code for Cheerios)
Listen, it takes a lot to phase me. I quietly and rationally explained that we did not have any Cheerios, and that yelling for them would not make them magically appear. The stares I received from other patrons of the store went unnoticed; I really don’t care what people think, because I know that those with children have been here before, and those without children will never truly get it, and I don’t expect them to understand. Two aisles in, Miles had diverted his attention to pulling everything out of my purse and throwing it over the side of the buggy.
Quick vocabulary lesson to keep you on track…I am from the South. To me, this is a buggy:
I am aware that those north of the Mason-Dixon believe that this is a buggy:
But I am not Amish, and we do not have many Amish in Florida, so my familiarity with buggies is of the Publix-Target-Home Depot variety.
TARGET, LISTEN UP. Your failure to provide racecar buggies is atrocious, and in turn, you are failing parents in terms of buggy quality. Publix and Lowes know what’s up; you need the racecar, with the child facing out into the wild of the store. Our kids have to look at us 97.3% of the day; when given the opportunity to stare at and talk to complete strangers in a store, that’s the obvious preference. GET WITH THE PROGRAM.
Without the racecar buggy, Miles prefers to ride not in the child seat portion, but in the actual basket. We’re totally cool with this, and we do not view it as dangerous, because we’re not leaving the buggy unattended on an aisle full of knives and flamethrowers. Chill out, overprotective parents. Your kids eat worms when you aren’t looking; buggy seating assignment is the least of your concerns, trust. The only issue with riding in the basket is that it conveniently places items within reach, which in turn creates the temptation to throw things.
Moving on. We’re zipping through Target, gathering our four items. Last on the list is cat food. This is no small task, as we have four cats: Pookie, Frankie, Patches and Blueberry (known to Miles as Peekoo, Fanky, Patchy and Boo Boo). We buy cat food for the week; in addition to the enormous bag of dry food, there are about 30 cans of wet food. Normally, Miles will happily stack them in the buggy while we carry on with our shopping.
No, today was a day without Cheerios, and although the initial DIIIIDOOOOS storm had passed, Miles was lying in wait for an opportunity to continue expressing his disappointment in his mom’s failure to provide adequate snacks 15 minutes before dinner. GOSH, MOM.
We leave the pet food aisle, and Miles immediately begins to whip cans of cat food out of the buggy. Six ounce aluminum projectiles of Turkey and Giblet Saucy Sensation were flying at patrons and employees.
Time to act quickly to avoid a lawsuit. I scoop Miles from the buggy, explain for the 4,783rd time that throwing things is against the “rules” and that these cans of cat food could cause an “owie.” Miles responds by biffing me in the nose and laughing. Sigh.
I gather the cat food, holding the 25lb child in one arm and navigating the buggy with the other, and we head to the check-out. Thanks goodness there were only 8 people ahead of us in line, and that Target only had two registers open at 5pm on a Monday. For a moment I was worried that checking out could take an eternity, but it only took an enjoyable TWENTY-SEVEN MINUTES.
Note: If you’ve never carted a toddler around in your arms for any length of time, I’ll give you a visual. Imagine holding a 30lb bag of charcoal, but instead of containing briquettes, it’s full of Tasmanian Devil, with the ability to stick his fingers in your nose (because there’s a hole in the bag, duh). While carrying this, you must also stand on one foot, hop up and down and recite the alphabet backwards. You will also be required to complete long division without scrap paper. Additionally, you must check out your items, know where your wallet is and, even better, know where your debit card is, and also hope you didn’t drop your car keys somewhere between paper plates, cat food and DIIIIIDOOOOOS.
I open the child seat portion of the buggy, and politely ask Miles if he can show me how big boys sit on their tushies. IT WORKED. Hallelujah to the Target Angels, it worked. He sat there and we sang “Wheels on the Bus” for no less than 19 minutes while the woman in front of me rang up all of her items in four separate purchases. Help me, Ronda. But we managed.
Time to check out. I sorted the cat food, got our items onto the belt with some assistance from Miles. And now, he wanted UP UP UP. I removed him from the seat and held him while the very nice, but very turtle like, woman rang up and bagged our items. Time to pay. OH GOOD, I ONLY HAVE CASH.
Managing to find and remove my wallet, find and remove the cash, I handed the paper over. For some reason, her drawer was without quarters and dimes, and without any bills larger than singles, and so my change would be a menagerie of “let me help you drop that all over the floor so I can attempt to swallow it while you crawl around trying to pick it all up.” I told Miles I was going to put him in the buggy so I could get the change. His response was, “No.” My response was, “Yes.” I put him in the buggy.
A sound not unlike that of a wildebeest being attacked by a ravenous pride of lions erupted from the buggy. Every patron and employee – all 37 of them in our vicinity – stopped what they were doing to turn and observe us. It was a National Geographic moment.
The woman behind me, clearly knowing the solution to the tantrum, said “Aw, he just wants his mama!”
I glared at her without glaring. I took my change, smiling and giggling all the while, because a tantrum really can be entertaining, and not embarrassing. He’s a toddler, shit happens. I could feel the judgment from the woman behind me; how dare I place my child in the buggy so I could do something as selfish as accept the change from the cashier. I must be some sort of monster! But I really knew that he just wanted the damn Cheerios, which we would have as soon as we got to the truck. After receiving my change, and knowing the banshee wailing would never end, I thanked Miles for being such a good helper and waiting in the buggy for mama (listen, you have to praise them, even when they don’t realize they are actually doing what you need them to) and that now I could pick him up and we could go home.
I lifted Miles from the buggy. I instantly hugged my neck and said, “Aah, MAMA!” and gave me a kiss.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s so adorable and sweet and cute, right? Oh, it is. But believe me when I tell you, it was a special performance for the woman behind us in line, because THAT’S who he was looking at during this snuggle fest. They’re smart, remember?
“See, I knew he just needed his mama!” said the woman. Sigh.
We left Target without further incident because CHEERIOS.
Know that when you see a tantrum raging toddler in public, the parent is doing exactly what they need to do (most of the time) to handle the situation. You are free to think whatever thoughts you have about that parent’s actions in that immediate moment, but please keep your commentary to yourself. Sometimes kids get pissed for no reason; sometimes they get pissed because they’re hungry or tired, and sometimes they get pissed because they really want to put on a show for the person behind them in line at Target.
Is there a secret toddler class where they teach children how to writhe around on the ground like snakes? Because I know for a fact that Miles didn’t learn this adorable trait from me.
I get it, kid…fun stuff is fun, and you don’t want me to take you away from it. I react in a similar fashion when your dad only gives me two scoops of Ben & Jerry’s…I WANT THREEEEE, WAAAAAH! But in all reality, as much as you think you’d enjoy it, we can’t spend all day at the splash pad, or the park, or rolling around on the rugs at Target.
A few weekends ago, we hit one of our local parks that has a splash pad. We made an early morning run, after eating breakfast out, so we could avoid the “big kids” (those heathen 7-year-olds…) and so Miles could have adequate space to run around like a maniac. If you are not the parent of a toddler or young child, you should know this: a toddler doing anything for an hour is the equivalent of you on your first day of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. But unlike an adult, who knows that it’s probably time to call it quits once the shaking knees and urge to vomit kick in, a toddler will continue running around like a maniac until they lay down on the ground and go to sleep. My child has never done this because I’m one of those weird parents who has their child on a schedule, but I have witnessed the occurrence with other kids.
I am not a “nap where you fall down” mama. I am a “you nap in your crib from 12:00-2:30p so I can read/nap/fold laundry/binge on Tostitos/watch Roseanne” mama. We never plan activities or get togethers during nap time, because this is a special and sacred time for all of us. And so, with any outing, it must come to an end so we can move on to other important parts of our day. I can’t just leave you to fall asleep under a bench.
After 90 minutes of running, splashing, finding small objects to shove in our ears, nearly drowning no less than six times and even making TWO NEW FRIENDS (!!!), we knew lunch time was approaching (to be followed closely by nap time) and it was time to do the logical thing: pack up and head home.
I gathered our sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, shoes, towels, water bottles, more sunscreen, and toys, and loaded them into the truck. Only one additional item to load: THE KID.
Oh, the horror. The horror and the terror. Or at least that’s what it sounded like.
Me: “Miles! It’s almost time for lunch! (yay, happy smiles!) Are you ready to go home and have lunch?” (more happy smiles)
Miles: *looks at me skeptically*
Me: “Look! I have a banana! We can eat it in the truck. Come on, big guy!” (super happy smiles)
Miles: *continues looking at me skeptically, turns around and runs to the nearest water feature he can shove his face into*
Me: “Miles, it’s time to go. Would you like to be mama’s BIG HELPER and help me finish packing?” Note: This “big helper” stuff works 99.98% of the time, seriously.
Me: *confused look* Additional note: I am confused because we don’t use “no” in our household; we redirect. Call me a hippie if you want, but it works 87.88% of the time. It has zero effect at water parks.
Miles: “Waw-duh. Waw-duh! WAW-DUH!” (“water”, duh)
Me: “Miles, we have finished playing in the water, and now we are all done. Let’s go home so we can eat lunch.”
Miles: “No. No. No.”
Me: *picks up the child*
Miles: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS WOMAN IS KIDNAPPING ME! THIS WOMAN IS TYING ME TO A CHAIR FILLED WITH BUMBLE BEES! THIS WOMAN WANTS ME TO EAT OKRA! THIS WOMAN IS NOT MY MAMA! THIS WOMAN WON’T LET ME PLAY! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
Up until this point, Miles had never really thrown a tantrum. Sure, he’d get sort of ticked if I wouldn’t let him stick the whisk in the dog’s ear, and as soon as I took the whisk and attempted to redirect him to something else, his normal reaction was to lay on the floor and yell (not scream, just sort of yell) then pick himself up and go about his business. So while I’d thought those were sort of like tantrums, I learned that they were not. NOT IN THE LEAST.
After 15 minutes of attempting to change him into dry clothes, 10 minutes of explaining why he could not have his wet bathing suit, and an additional 15 minutes of wrangling/acrobatics/Cirque de Soleil, he was finally FINALLY in his car seat. FINALLY. I gave him a banana, and we were good to go. Crisis over. He happily chattered the entire drive home, ate lunch, and took an epic nap. I joined him in this epic napping, because I was EXHAUSTED.
Last Friday, I arrived at Miles’ school promptly at 5:05 to pick him up…the weekend had arrived, woohoo! When I walked into the classroom, he and one of his favorite friends were playing on these giant wedges (toddler toys are primarily things that sing, things that roll, things that yell “IT’S LEARNING TIME!” over and over and over, and giant foam things covered in vinyl that kids can get all WWE on without fear of injuring themselves too much). Oh man, it was adorable. Running up the wedges, rolling down the wedges, standing on top of the wedges and jumping off. I talked with his teacher for a few minutes, just to give him some extra play time. And then, it was time. Cue the theme from “Rocky.”
A similar conversation to the one held at the splash park took place. It ended with me carrying him football-style, screaming, out of the classroom. The attempted resistance continued the entire 478 mile trek to the parking lot. Parents of older kids looked at me with a, “been there, done that” face. Parents of infants looked at me with a, “THAT’S what happens?!” face. And we will call that Tantrum #2.
How have we learned to avoid tantrums, especially when redirecting isn’t working? Food. Specifically, bananas or dried apples. We keep one of these with us at all times: instant happy smiles.
At the end of the day, these moments are few and far between, and the joy that we experience leading up to the Reign of Terror is pretty awesome…
Totally worth the sprained knee resulting from Clash of the Car seat.