I pity toddlers. I feel so sorry for those little Pillsbury Doughboy lookalikes. I do. When I see one, I don’t think, “Oh, how adorable.” I think, “Oh, you poor dear.” Because being a toddler is not all fun and games. I mean, yes, some of being a toddler is – literally – fun and games. But a lot of it is hard work. Scratch that. MOST of it is hard work. Being a toddler may, in fact, be the world’s toughest job.
Infants get to do pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want. The same cannot be said for toddlers. When you’re a toddler, you’re expected to follow the rules. But there’s just one problem: you don’t know what most of the rules are. Most rules are discovered only AFTER they’ve been broken. You can’t draw on the sofa. Not even in a pretty color?! You shouldn’t throw sand. But it’s so lightweight?! You’re not supposed to bathe your doll in it the toilet. Ok. Got it. You will never again wash your doll in the potty. (Next time, you’ll bathe the cat instead.)
Last month I went to the DMV to renew my driver’s license and, a few hours later, was told that I wouldn’t be seen. I was instructed to go home and come back another day. I wanted to throw a temper tantrum. I almost threw a temper tantrum. Okay. I sort of threw a temper tantrum. Toddlers don’t have to go to the DMV to have no control over their own schedules. And it must be maddening. Really enjoying playing with your train? Well, it’s time to stop. Having fun at the park? We’re leaving in five minutes. (Whatever five minutes is.)
Mealtime for toddlers is a lot like eating in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and can’t read the menu. Most food is new and, therefore, strange. And some food – new or not – is downright scary. But with toddlers there’s an added twist, you get strapped into your chair when you eat. It’s not surprising that toddlers are picky eaters. It would only be surprising if they weren’t.
Adults know they can’t get sucked down the bathtub drain, but toddlers do not. If you did think it was a possibility, you would probably hate baths. If you believed a Golden Retriever wanted to eat you, you would probably be scared of dogs. And if you were worried that the dinosaurs on your pillowcase might come to life while you slept, you might be terrified of linens. True. Only some toddlers are scared of baths. Only some toddlers are scared of dogs. And very few are scared of pillows. But most toddlers have some fears. And, to them, they’re not irrational ones.
It’s only life experience – and an understanding of the most basic scientific concepts – that turns the world into a place that makes some sense. Okay. That’s not true. No matter how old you get, the world doesn’t make sense. But, at least most of us aren’t afraid of baths.
If you knew so few words that they could easily be recorded within a few lines of a baby book, you’d probably resort to crying every now and then too. Your shirt is bothering you but you can’t figure out how to say, “Oh my God! The tag in this shirt is so scratchy! I’d like to change into something more comfortable! Preferably in organic cotton!” But you can’t. So you get upset. And what’s the reaction from mom or dad? They tell you to use your words. Use your words! If you could, you would!