Written By: Hope Jennings
My daughter was a great baby, but I was a hot mess. Exhausted, clueless, terrified, panicky, and continuously questioning my life choices about sums up those first few months.
My daughter is fast approaching 5, so now I'm one of those well-intentioned-on-the-verge-of-getting-shanked-in-the-kidneys strangers who laments the passing of time. One day, it's sponge baths in the sink and the next you're cleaning "dora the explorer" training toothpaste spittle off of the bathroom mirror.
Some things do get easier and there's a lot of love about this stage, but toddlers (2-4) are certainly not without their own set of challenges. The grass of the past is always greener and sometimes - dare I say it - I miss having a newborn. Especially when it comes to these things:
1. They put the time in bedtime...bedtime routines are important and no one appreciates this more than toddlers. They love routines so much, they don't want them to end. What used to be a swift and sweet 15-minute pre-bed ritual consisting of two books and snuggles has morphed into the following (in a very particular order that gets reorganized and reshuffled on the fly):
-Mama reading between one to two books.
-Child watching videos on her tablet - usually consisting of finding toys in playdough or surprise eggs.
-Repeated requests for milk or gold fish.
-Repeated shrieks of defiance in response to no milk or snacks.
-Good night kisses for child.
-Good night kisses for child - again.
-Lights off - lights on - lights off - needs night light - not the solid one, but the one with the stars.
All told, the constantly evolving "routine" can last as long as 45 minutes and totally works, because at least one out of two of us are conked out when it's over. Usually me.
2. Respect Thy Nap... every see a family bolt out of a restaurant, upturning chairs and throwing cash at the waitress? No doubt, their ticking time baby was about to nod off in their high chair. The toddler nap? It is the single, most important element of a toddler's well-being. This is why many parents don't dine out during this time. If you child should miss a nap or worse - have a shortened or crappy nap - the world would spin off it's axis.
The toddler nap shall never be forsaken. A proper toddler nap isn't just for baby's cognitive development and better behavior. It's for the parents too. Two to three quiet hours every afternoon? Yes, please! Unlike newborns, toddlers only nap once a day, so it's important to never miss the nap window. Do not mess with the toddler nap. You've been warned.
3. What Not To Wear...while the fun of having complete control over a newborns wardrobe is; I look forward to the day my daughter would pick out her own clothes and dress herself, so I could sit back and enjoy my morning coffee. As it turns out, my kid would rather roam in only a diaper all day, every day. Occasionally, she'll request for a bow to be put in her hair, but nothing else.
We've all seen those kids with their pants on backwards and their winter coats zipped up along their backs. You might think, what's wrong with those parents? Do they not own a coffee maker? But it isn't the parents fault. Repeat after me: IT ISN'T THE PARENTS FAULT! Those are children who can dress themselves. Dexterity goes both ways. Kids can put it on, they can take it off. And they will. Pants will be removed with the speed and spectacle of "magic mike" and then staunchly rebuffed with the same misguided determination as a B-list reality TV star during pilot season.
You know what else toddlers love to take off? Diapers. You know what grocery-shoppers frown upon? A bare ass through the bakery section.
4. Eat, Pray, Love, Throw In Trash...solid food was the holy grail of parenting. Enlightenment would come in the form of strained peas. I was sure of it. Of course, choosing healthy, vitamin rich meals for my toddler would be easier than expending all that energy pouring milk into a bottle.
Pleasing a toddler's palate is more difficult than solving a tiddle from a sphinx. I spend 30 minutes, tops, every day pondering my daughter's next meal. Should I worry about what she eats? No... just has long as she eats. According to her doctor, that's all I can ask of her - and what his current food mood was...food mood - as in - does applesauce have feelings? Kids will never starve themselves and they will ask for food or drink when they are hungry/thirsty. Don't worry if he/she won't eat any of your food for two weeks...as long as he/she's still taking in fluids and snacking here and there... they're fine.
Remember: IT'S NOT THE PARENTS FAULT! It's them. Toddlers are, how should we say, wishy-washy, inconsiderate, hedonistic weirdos.
When kids reach a certain age, they have their own opinions about how they want to spend their day and it doesn't always involve pawing through endcaps jammed with red-stickered lemon zesters and shower gel.
Conversely, your toddler might actually like where you've taken them and decide that is where they shall stay. Forever. Your paltry household with the decorative baskets overflowing with toys, books, and Sophia The First - infested DVR will pale in comparison to a pet store, the Gap, or a gas station mini mart.
5. Can We Talk... being able to talk to and understand your child definitely makes things easier. They can tell you if they're thirsty or their leg hurts or they want to watch Mickey Mouse's Club House instead of Sesame Street.
A growing vocabulary begets confidence and empowerment, but also bossiness and officiousness. Toddlers repeat things you didn't know they were privy to. They often resort to the word "no."
We forgive babies for acting out, because they're helpless and don't have another means to communicate. But, when a toddler is shouting at you to stop talking or demanding anything, people just assume your kid is a jerk and you've lost control. I think we all know the sign for, "just you wait until you have a 2-year-old."
So, there's you very-near future, new parents. But don't worry, because I'm told that the toddler stage goes fast too. Just think - soon they'll be teenagers. Muahahaha.