Why Being a Toddler is the World’s Toughest Job

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.

RULES

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.)

TIME

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.)

FOOD

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.

WISDOM

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.

LANGUAGE

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!

Woe Is Toddlerdom

I wrote this essay for Babble in 2011 and every once in a while a friend will ask me about “the toddler thing” I wrote. Here it is again. Well, here’s some of it and a link to the rest on Babble.

One morning, my then one-and-a-half-year-old son unlocked the child-safety latch of our bottom bathroom drawer. Upon finding my makeup, he began breathing heavily with excitement and staggering around. What a haul! What loot! Imagine his disappointment when, just as he was about to pry the shiny cap off a red lipstick, I picked him up and carried him out of the bathroom. I didn’t congratulate him on his discovery. I didn’t point him in the direction of the hallway’s white walls and say, “My home is your canvas. Go forth and create.” Instead, I ruined everything.

Before I had children, when I’d go to the grocery store and see a little kid in the cereal aisle screaming and crying, I’d shake my head. Why was it that every time I saw a toddler, he or she was throwing some kind of fit? What could be so difficult about spending the day playing, napping, and eating? Now, after living among their kind, I should apologize. Not to you, but to them. Here’s the sad truth: for toddlers, the world is a rough place full of squelched mysteries, restrained freedoms, and nonsensical commands. I think I’d rather be fourteen again than be a toddler.

What does an old, forgotten Goldfish cracker from the bottom of a car seat taste like? What kind of pattern does yogurt make when it splatters onto the floor? What sound do cookbook pages make as they are torn in half? These and many other great discoveries are often stopped by us, the big people in our toddlers’ lives.

How frustrating! What must it be like to get stopped by a security guard time and time again? To be constantly redirected and rerouted as you tried to go about your day, without an understanding of what you had done wrong? What if you sat down to read the newspaper and drink your coffee when suddenly – out of nowhere – some giant swooped down and plopped you in front of a pile of plastic blocks? You bet you’d protest. You’d holler your tush off.

So what’s the reward for a toddler’s natural curiosity? A little freedom and encouragement? No, just the opposite. Oppression! We pin them to furniture all day long: the stroller, the car seat, the high chair. All of the straps! All of the restraints! How maddening it must be to sit, captive, in front of a tray covered with food you can’t identify or don’t remember liking. No wonder it’s so often tossed to the floor.

Read the rest here… 

I wrote a thing called Why Toddlers Are (Almost) Exactly Like Superheroes. It’s now on the Huffington Post. Even if you read it here a few weeks ago, it’s more fun to read it there today. 
If I were you, I would go and take a look. I might leave a comment like, “Ha ha! Ouch. My sides. Best thing ever written!” Then, I would take a nap. I don’t know if you’re tired or not but there’s nothing like a nap, right? 

I wrote a thing called Why Toddlers Are (Almost) Exactly Like Superheroes. It’s now on the Huffington Post. Even if you read it here a few weeks ago, it’s more fun to read it there today. 

If I were you, I would go and take a look. I might leave a comment like, “Ha ha! Ouch. My sides. Best thing ever written!” Then, I would take a nap. I don’t know if you’re tired or not but there’s nothing like a nap, right? 

Why Toddlers Are (Almost) Exactly Like Superheroes 
They are freakishly strong. No, toddlers weren’t bitten by radioactive spiders or born on the planet Krypton. But have you ever tried to pry a pack of gum out of a toddler’s hand in the Target checkout line? 
They’re territorial. Superheroes hate when outsiders invade their turf. And toddlers? One word: “Mine!”
They get mad. Remember the Incredible Hulk? Multiply that by about one hundred, and you have the transformation a sweet toddler undergoes when, in the midst of playing, you tell her it’s time for bed. 
They can become invisible. Some superheroes, like Spider-Man, can quickly disappear into the night. Others, like The Shadow and Invisible Woman, can actually turn themselves invisible. And your toddler? All he has to do is close his eyes, and he thinks he’s disappeared.
They change often. Superheroes change often. And toddlers are changed often. 
They have enemies. Superheroes fight bad guys and toddlers fight… well… you. Yes, you are your toddler’s arch nemesis. You don’t get to wear a cool costume, but your catchphrases are “Don’t touch!” and “No.”
They’re the strong, silent types. Most superheroes are men (and a handful of women) of few words. So is your toddler. The good news for you is that your toddler will grow out of it. And, even before they can talk, toddlers can dance around naked after a bath. Is there anything better than a little naked dancing after bath time? What can superheroes do? Freeze time? Catch bullets? Big deal.
They want to help. A big part of a superhero’s shtick is helping others. And toddlers want to help too. The problem is they’re not very good at it. Unless you find it helpful when someone pulls the clean laundry out of its basket and throws it all over the family room. The exception is pushing buttons. Toddlers make excellent button pushers. 
They work alone. If you take the Avengers and X-Men out of the equation, superheroes don’t play well with others. And toddlers? Well, the technical term is parallel play. But, I’m just going to call it like I see it. 
They enjoy repetition. You’re probably already well aware that toddlers love to have the same songs sung to them over and over and the same books read to them night after night. But let’s talk about superheroes for a moment: they wear the same costume each day; they fight the same villains again and again; and they’re some of the most monogamous men on the planet. 
They fly. Wait. Sorry. My bad! Typo! Yes, superheroes fly. Toddlers cry. 

Why Toddlers Are (Almost) Exactly Like Superheroes 

They are freakishly strong. No, toddlers weren’t bitten by radioactive spiders or born on the planet Krypton. But have you ever tried to pry a pack of gum out of a toddler’s hand in the Target checkout line? 

They’re territorial. Superheroes hate when outsiders invade their turf. And toddlers? One word: “Mine!”

They get mad. Remember the Incredible Hulk? Multiply that by about one hundred, and you have the transformation a sweet toddler undergoes when, in the midst of playing, you tell her it’s time for bed. 

They can become invisible. Some superheroes, like Spider-Man, can quickly disappear into the night. Others, like The Shadow and Invisible Woman, can actually turn themselves invisible. And your toddler? All he has to do is close his eyes, and he thinks he’s disappeared.

They change often. Superheroes change often. And toddlers are changed often. 

They have enemies. Superheroes fight bad guys and toddlers fight… well… you. Yes, you are your toddler’s arch nemesis. You don’t get to wear a cool costume, but your catchphrases are “Don’t touch!” and “No.”

They’re the strong, silent types. Most superheroes are men (and a handful of women) of few words. So is your toddler. The good news for you is that your toddler will grow out of it. And, even before they can talk, toddlers can dance around naked after a bath. Is there anything better than a little naked dancing after bath time? What can superheroes do? Freeze time? Catch bullets? Big deal.

They want to help. A big part of a superhero’s shtick is helping others. And toddlers want to help too. The problem is they’re not very good at it. Unless you find it helpful when someone pulls the clean laundry out of its basket and throws it all over the family room. The exception is pushing buttons. Toddlers make excellent button pushers. 

They work alone. If you take the Avengers and X-Men out of the equation, superheroes don’t play well with others. And toddlers? Well, the technical term is parallel play. But, I’m just going to call it like I see it. 

They enjoy repetition. You’re probably already well aware that toddlers love to have the same songs sung to them over and over and the same books read to them night after night. But let’s talk about superheroes for a moment: they wear the same costume each day; they fight the same villains again and again; and they’re some of the most monogamous men on the planet. 

They fly. Wait. Sorry. My bad! Typo! Yes, superheroes fly. Toddlers cry

A long, long time ago, I wrote an essay on toddlers. I first had the idea for it when my now four year old was about 18 months. Well, my third kiddo is about one and a half now. And, it feels like deja vu. If you missed it the first time or just really have nothing better to do, here’s my old essay for Babble:
"One morning, my then one-and-a-half-year-old son unlocked the child-safety latch of our bottom bathroom drawer. Upon finding my makeup, he began breathing heavily with excitement and staggering around. What a haul! What loot! Imagine his disappointment when, just as he was about to pry the shiny cap off a red lipstick, I picked him up and carried him out of the bathroom. I didn’t congratulate him on his discovery. I didn’t point him in the direction of the hallway’s white walls and say, “My home is your canvas. Go forth and create.” Instead, I ruined everything.
Before I had children, when I’d go to the grocery store and see a little kid in the cereal aisle screaming and crying, I’d shake my head. Why was it that every time I saw a toddler, he or she was throwing some kind of fit? What could be so difficult about spending the day playing, napping, and eating? Now, after living among their kind, I should apologize. Not to you, but to them. Here’s the sad truth: for toddlers, the world is a rough place full of squelched mysteries, restrained freedoms, and nonsensical commands. I think I’d rather be fourteen again than be a toddler.”
Read more…

A long, long time ago, I wrote an essay on toddlers. I first had the idea for it when my now four year old was about 18 months. Well, my third kiddo is about one and a half now. And, it feels like deja vu. If you missed it the first time or just really have nothing better to do, here’s my old essay for Babble:

"One morning, my then one-and-a-half-year-old son unlocked the child-safety latch of our bottom bathroom drawer. Upon finding my makeup, he began breathing heavily with excitement and staggering around. What a haul! What loot! Imagine his disappointment when, just as he was about to pry the shiny cap off a red lipstick, I picked him up and carried him out of the bathroom. I didn’t congratulate him on his discovery. I didn’t point him in the direction of the hallway’s white walls and say, “My home is your canvas. Go forth and create.” Instead, I ruined everything.

Before I had children, when I’d go to the grocery store and see a little kid in the cereal aisle screaming and crying, I’d shake my head. Why was it that every time I saw a toddler, he or she was throwing some kind of fit? What could be so difficult about spending the day playing, napping, and eating? Now, after living among their kind, I should apologize. Not to you, but to them. Here’s the sad truth: for toddlers, the world is a rough place full of squelched mysteries, restrained freedoms, and nonsensical commands. I think I’d rather be fourteen again than be a toddler.”

Read more…