Sometime between babyhood and school age your child will go through a period sometimes known as the “terrible twos”, sometimes the “terrible threes”, sometimes the “God help me this child is going to push me over the edge mentally” ones through fours. A fierce, unquenchable desire for independence combined with new found mobility makes this a powerful force to reckon with, and you might find yourself questioning what happened to your sweet little baby. Have no fear, because even though they might seem like unmanageable monsters who are determined to mash goldfish crumbs into every crevice of your house and send you to the brink of insanity with the number of times they can watch the same episode of Thomas the Tank Engine, eventually they will go to school full time (oh and they are cute, and you love them, that too).
The Runner: Remember those first sweet little steps your child took? You probably grabbed your phone to record them and told relatives how exciting it was to see them walking for the very first time. That was me, I did that. What a thrill it was to see Jack take those first steps, growing up before my very eyes. Cut to me enjoying brunch with some friends a few weekends ago with Jack, who was perhaps enjoying brunch slightly less than everyone else. He had exhausted my supply of cars, toys, crayons, etc. and was quickly moving through the more impromptu distractions like our straws, some sugar packets, stacking the creamers…he wanted out of that high chair. So I let him get down, thinking that maybe if he got to slightly stretch his little legs he might stop providing a shrieking toddler background soundtrack to everyone else’s eggs benedict.
All was going well until he took off. His first few steps were innocent enough, until he tasted freedom, slipped around the patio gate and was bee-lining for the street, MUCH faster than I assumed he could go. I dropped my silverware, almost knocking over my iced tea as I sprang from the table mid-conversation and as hugely pregnant as I am ran after him down the sidewalk. After body checking an innocent stranger out of the way I finally caught up to Jack and grabbed him by the back of his shirt before he fully ran into the usually somewhat busy street. I picked him up, tucked him under my arm like a screaming, kicking football, and huffed and puffed my way back to brunch, sweating and shaken that I had just barely caught him.
Welcome to toddlerhood.
The Thrower: I have to admit, I’m very lucky to have fairly well behaved kids. Sure, they have thrown the odd temper tantrum in the middle of the mall and maybe take inconvenient opportunities to test out their sprinting abilities, but for the most part they are pretty mellow kids. Which is why the throwing stuff part usually takes me by surprise. Maybe we’ll be at the bookstore, somewhere innocuous, the train table is usually a trigger. All is good, the toddler is happily playing with the choo choos or cars or whatever, and then you decide after half an hour of wandering around the children’s section that maybe you’d like to go. WHAT? Excuse ME? This is when the choo choos become airborne as he throws them in protest, countdown to meltdown commences and you need to get out of that play area PRONTO. You are mortified that your child is actually throwing toys around in public, and you want to avoid anyone either taking a choo choo to the face or damaging anything in the store. Do you a) Try to reason with the train throwing maniac that was just two minutes before a mild mannered well-playing child? Or do you b) Give up all pretense of negotiating with this madman and just grab him, pry the choo choos from his hands and hightail it out of the store hoping the other parents will silently commiserate rather than silently judge you? There is an option c), of course, where you decide to spend even MORE time prolonging the inevitable, thinking that more time at the train table will make it easier to leave. I feel for you, I really do.
The Interrupter: Mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY. Sound familiar? Let’s do another flashback, shall we? Take yourselves back to the first time your beloved child spoke that very word. The first time they said Mommy. It’s an indescribable moment, hearing their little voice say your new “name”. It brought tears to my eyes to hear my children first call me mommy, and I would spend hours trying to get them to do it again, “Finn, say Mommy! Say Mommy Finn, Finn say Mommy!” just trying to get a fix, needing to hear it again and again and get that maternal rush when he finally did. Until he wouldn’t stop. And he figured hey, if she doesn’t pay attention the first time, maybe I should just keep saying it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until she DOES finally have a moment to look over. This happens usually while a mom is changing another child’s disgusting diaper, or when you get on the phone for forty five seconds after not taking a call for two hours. If you want to test out this phenomenon try to play with your toddler, when they ignore you/shoo you away because they want to do it by themselves, walk into the bathroom. Guaranteed they will seek you out almost immediately, plaintively calling you over and over until you finally make it back to the other side of the bathroom door.
The Stonewaller: The most effective tactic of the stonewaller is their ability to just stop moving, in any situation, choosing either to go completely limp, or, conversely, completely rigid, in order to prevent you from getting anywhere or doing anything. Or they stonewall for no apparent reason, either way. You may have encountered the stonewaller in your car, trying to get them into their carseat. All of a sudden this slightly pudgy, soft toddler becomes Iron Man and is stiff as a board as you gently try to fold them into a seated position. How did they get so strong, you wonder, at the same time as you worry if you are actually injuring them internally trying to just. Get. Them. INTO. THE SEAT. They are now a solid brick of steel and unwavering determination and all you want to do is get to Target so you can pick up some toilet paper and milk and the battle of wills begins. If you need to perform this toddler carseat folding procedure in public you will have to put on a semblance of a smile and shrug your shoulders as if to say, “Oh this crazy guy, doing it again!” as you push on their belly to leg crease in hopes of just getting even the slightest of a bend.
The stonewall also happens quite frequently in stores, usually after a refusal has been given in the request of a toy or some sort of food product. This is when they usually go limp, lying on the floor, and you try to pick them up but they are suddenly like a 100 pound bag of indignant sand lying motionless on the floor of the grocery store. Should you drag them, you wonder? Maybe pull them behind you by the leg till you get to the door? Usually you just stand there, once again with the weak smile on your face as if to say “He’s two, please don’t judge me”. Maybe you do the pretend “goodbye” where you wave and say BYE, I’M LEAVING NOW thinking they will panic once you are a few feet away or seemingly are out of sight but no. Now they are just lying there alone. They called your bluff.
The Hunger Striker: Feeding your child. Sounds pretty basic, right? And it is, for the most part. You plan it out, start introducing new foods to the baby, maybe even try your hand at blending up a few varieties of your own smooth healthy baby food goodness. Sure, they might not like everything, but for the most part it goes pretty well. Until that comes to a screeching halt, and all of a sudden they don’t want to eat anything that isn’t cheese and isn’t cut into the absolute perfect sized trapezoid at precisely the right temperature and with the planets aligned just so in order for the smallest of hunger pangs to grace their thoughts. And just when you get that meal down pat and you stocked up on that particular brand of cheese because it was on sale and at least they are eating SOMETHING they will then declare it to also be on the DO NOT EAT list and will move on to something new, perhaps a food as yet undiscovered to be palatable by humans. You will wonder how they are actually surviving given the fact that they have only consumed three segments of a banana in the past 48 hours, but rest assured they will eat, eventually.
Of course, if you are in the presence of anyone else, they will all of a sudden be an enthusiastic gourmand, trying shrimp and mussels and bean dip and things you would NEVER get them to try all the while explaining that at home they are so picky and you can’t believe they are trying new things while everyone else thinks you are crazy. Which you are. But that’s only because you are under the control of a tyrannical toddler.
The Independent: This one has one main defining quality, the absolute need for “I DO IT MYSELF” with pretty much anything, and if you try to help them out even a little bit you will experience the wrath of the Independent toddler. This might mean that you need to add on an extra half hour or so onto ANY time you plan on leaving your house because THEY will tie their OWN SHOES thank you very much. And you have no choice but to sit and watch as they doggedly attempt to get both shoes on in the record time of under an hour. Brushing their teeth? No no no. Take a back seat, sister, and watch as they manage to get toothpaste in their hair, on the mirror, the other toothbrushes you have, their pajamas, the stool they are standing on and even the outside of the bathroom door somehow before getting the smallest smear of it on their toothbrush.
My recommendations for dealing with The Toddler? Coffee and wine do help, or you could just go to the bookstore, close your eyes and randomly choose a toddler parenting book, buy it, read it, and hope for the best. But most of all patience, plenty of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, a dust buster, and a good sense of humor will get you through it. Good luck! xoxo