25 Things You Should Know About Life With A Toddler

Maybe you’re a new parent. Or want to be a parent someday. Or you’re long past your Toddler-Wrangling Years and want to look back with nostalgia and pants-shitting terror over that time. Hell, even if you qualify as none of those things, you will still likely be one day in the presence of a Toddler or Toddler-Shaped Creature, and so, I present to you this Handy Guide.

Now we can all get tattoos: TODDLERLIFE4EVA.

1. they are little fallen gods

Babies believe that they are the gods of their world. Literally. Their minds — as undeveloped as 99% of the screenplays in the world — are utterly unable to process the reality that they have not created everything around them and that they are the physical and emotional center of the whole goddamn universe. Ah, but brain development is not slow in these little unfuzzy chimpanzees we call our “children,” and by the time they’re toddlers, the truth starts to enter into the equation: you do not control everything and all things do not serve you because you are not, in fact, divine. That’s what toddlers are wrestling with. Imagine that. “You’re not actually a god.” “But you said–” “I was wrong.” “But I thought I made all this–” “You didn’t.” “I’m still important, right?” “If that helps you sleep at night, which it won’t, because toddlers sleep like shit.” Turns out, age is really just our brains gaining the maturity to realize how small we are in the grand scheme of things. The older we get, the less significant we realize we are. Regardless, when you’re trying to figure out why a toddler is acting the way she is, just remember: she thought she was a god, then learned that she was not.

2. their rules are labyrinthine and inexplicable

Watching a toddler is like watching an alien creature build some kind of extraterrestrial machine. It’s like watching ritually-peculiar Druid magic, or the interpretive dance of a sentient spam-bot. Our boy-human will put on an Indiana Jones hat and start calling himself “Nemo.” He’ll hand you things and then demand you hold them and if you try to give them back you’ve broken some ancient changeling contract. He’ll require a very particular truck and if you hand him one that is 95% the same truck, he’ll actually hate you — like, maybe literally hate you — for at least two minutes. (Then he’ll forget.) He’ll place things around the room or perform a sequence of events that, for all you know, is meant to unlock some kind of apocalypse. It’s methodical and maddening, like a bird building a nest out of watch parts. Other times? He’s not like that at all.

3. the wolverine tornado

Take a bunch of wolverines. Throw them into a roaring F5 tornado. That’s a toddler. It’ll tear through your home, shrieking and whirling about, scooping things up and depositing them elsewhere. It’ll lose things. It’ll destroy other things. It’ll change direction in the hair’s breadth of a moment — “I’m doing this no now I’m doing this other thing wait what’s that over there.”

4. unpredictable and inconsistent meltdowns

The toddler meltdown is an awesome thing, and I mean awesome in the truest old-school sense: awe will strike you, and you may be left very afraid — or laughing your ass off. Sometimes the meltdowns are easy to see coming: you’ve said “no” to a vital question (like, “can I have this?”) or you’re trying to take them to the doctor or make them wear pants or treat you with a modicum of respect. Other times the meltdowns arrive like a piece of space junk: an unpredictable meteor without warning. You’ll offer them ice cream and you’ll think well, it’s ice cream, who the fuck doesn’t like ice cream and want it basically every hour of every day but the toddler will suddenly freak the fuck out because you violated some secret cosmic decree. And you’ll laugh, of course, because it’s just to absurd to do otherwise, and you laughing will make the meltdown worse, and the toddler will be spinning around on the floor like Curly from the Three Stooges and you’ll laugh even harder because man, what is happening? Is this even real?

5. without food and sleep they are basically hill cannibals

Two guaranteed meltdown triggers, however, are: hungry and tired. May the gods help you if both the SLEEP and FOOD boxes remain unchecked because I’m pretty sure that’s how you get the Reavers from Firefly. If ever you are near a toddler and you’re like, “I have no idea what’s wrong with this flailing creature,” ask yourself — when did they last eat? And when did they last sleep? Fix one or both as swiftly as the time-space continuum allows.

6. you will end up watching some utterly horrid children’s programming

We do not plunk our toddler down in front of the TV as if it is a flashing cyclopean babysitter — but we do let him watch certain programs and we sit with him and talk to him about what he’s seeing and oh my god some kid’s shows are basically bamboo splinters shoved under your fingernails. Barney the Dinosaur belongs in a tar-pit (actually, I’d watch that show — just thirty minutes of the big purple sonofabitch wobbling and sinking into the tarry mire). The Wiggles are totally a pack of creepy singing kidnappers. Don’t even get me started on Thomas the Tank Engine — that dead-eyed train lives on an island where everyone is praised for their usefulness and yet nobody actually seems to be useful because somehow they thought the most efficient freight-shipping system would be to imbue locomotives with petty toddler personalities and oh hey that didn’t work out yet again who knew. That island is eventually going to turn into something out of a horror novel. “Thomas the Tank Engine and Blaine the Mono in SODOR AND GOMORRAH.” As a sidenote, you can happily poison your child’s mind against such wretched programming. “You know what I heard? I heard Thomas steals children. He steals them and drives them into deep tunnels and then eats them. Sleep tight, tiny one.”

7. you will end up watching some awesome children’s programming

Some kiddie shows? Totally fucking awesome. Curious George is fun and funny and the chimp (who they call a “monkey,” which is clearly wrong) is a toddler-analog who is fumbling his way through existence. (Though why everyone lets George have such heaps and mounds of responsibility is beyond me. Is this some apocalyptic future where they don’t have enough people to perform essential functions? “Sure, little chimp, I trust you to babysit my grandchild / run the farm / be an astronaut. None of this can go wrong!”) Martha Speaks is well above toddler-level but our son loves it and as a writer how can I not love a show that treats words as important and wonderful? Sarah & Duck. Or Pocoyo. Or Peppa Pig. Some really good, really funny, truly instructive and empathetic kiddie shows out there. (Oh, and there’s a preschool-variant of Transformers so, hey, that’s my nostalgia-gland milked for its precious juice.)

8. not all children’s books are created equally, either

I went into buying books for my son with the attitude of, all books for him are good! which is about as deeply dopey as saying all science-fiction books are great or every political book makes a darn good point no matter who wrote it. Some kid’s books are simple and sweet. Some children’s books have really good stories and really nice messages. And some books are, ehhh, unnnh, no. Goodnight, Moon is an eerie, David Lynch-ian dip — the creepy rabbit lady, the picture of the “bears” (clearly men in bear suits) sitting in chairs, the line, “Goodnight, Nobody, Goodnight, mush.” Why is the evil old rabbit lady feeding this kid gruel? Why is there a red telephone in the kid’s room? WHAT MONSTER WILL CALL AT MIDNIGHT? And don’t even get me started on Doctor Seuss. Children’s books by a dude who hates children. You ever actually read Hop on Pop out loud? It will break your mind. It will turn the gaze of angry chaos gods to your home and conjure dread entities. OH THE THINGS YOU WILL SUMMON.

9. boys love trucks

My son is as likely to cradle a truck going to sleep as he is a stuffed animal. He will literally, at night, sleep-babble about trucks, or have nightmares about people trying to take his trucks away.

10. girls also love trucks

Girls also love trucks. Our toddler’s trucks bring the girls to the yard. They love trucks (and probably don’t have any at home). Our son also loves kitchen stuff. And pink dolls. Because toys are awesome no matter their gender. Have I already ranted about this? I have, indeed.

11. secret toy traps

You will break your neck on a toy car or tiny truck. You will feel the unforgettable misery of a Duplo block driven deep into the soft meat of your unsocked foot. You will round the corner and trip on a cairn of blocks, Batmans, Transformers, and teddy bears. Toddlers leave toy traps around. At first I thought this was just part of the chaos, right? They’re little tornados and they whirl about, levying chaos against an ordered world. (Seriously, if we clean up a room and leave him unoccupied two rooms away for three minutes, somehow the clean room will have descended into a dirty, cluttered proto-state. Toddlers are entropy given form. Coastlines erode because of toddlers. Rust on metal? Toddlers.) But now I start to think they leave the little traps behind to thwart us parents (who are in turn usually trying to thwart the toddlers). Sidenote: toddlers also seem to poop toys. You can put the toddler in a room with no toys and come back five minutes later and he’ll have a toy you have never seen before. Our toddler has — *counts on fingers and toes* — about 4,112 trucks, and I think we bought him about seven of those.

12. surprising empathy

I have perhaps painted toddlers as cruel little fallen gods and snargling chaos beasties who have descended into our world from another so that they can spread their Seussian Gospel and answer the Red Telephone in order to transmit the Sodor Virus — and all of that is true, totally true, not a word of it is false. But it’s important to note that, really, toddlers are just little humans, and as humans, they can be surprisingly capable of empathy. They feel bad if you feel bad. They want to make your boo-boos feel better. They laugh just because you find something funny, not because they actually understand it. They are highly tuned into the parent frequency, and this is very important with what you, as the parent, put out there. You put out anxiety and anger, you’re going to get anxiety and anger in return.

13. bewildering leaps in intelligence

Said before, will say again: every day with a toddler is like that moment in Jurassic Park where the velociraptors learn how to open doors. It’s like watching a character in an RPG level up super-fast. “Ah, he just learned the ‘cut up his own food’ skill. He just leveled up in ‘open locked doors.’ He’s counting now. OH JESUS HE’S FIGURED OUT QUANTUM MECHANICS — WHO BUILT THIS HADRON COLLIDER IN OUR PANTRY?”

14. someone may actually sneak into your house at night and teach them stuff

I have a theory that someone sneaks into our home at night — some wayward teacher, maybe, or I dunno, a fucking house elf or some shit — and teaches our son new things. Because daily he surprises me with words and ideas that have come seemingly out of nowhere. Most of his exposure to things comes from his family; he’s not in daycare or anything. So when he suddenly starts using words that we don’t use or he makes leaps of logic that are smarter than what I would’ve put together — I’m pretty sure that he has a midnight class with some ancient astronaut who shows up in a beam of light and instructs him on things I forgot to teach him.

15. toddlerian fears

As toddlers start to grow in intelligence, they also grow in fear. I’m sure this has evolutionary purpose — after all, fear has some value to us. I am afraid of tigers because tigers will eat me. I am afraid of heights because that’s where you fall from. I am afraid of the dark because I know that’s where the undead serial killer is hiding right now with his burlap sack of body parts. You will watch your toddler’s fears evolve and grow. They start to fear strangers. They fear being alone. They fear the dark. Our son is now afraid of shadows, which means he’ll say creepy-ass shit like (true story): the shadows are sleeping, Daddy. Just the other night he noted he was afraid because people might come and “take him away” in the middle of night, which dovetails so elegantly with my own fears about him that I was ready to load a shotgun and sit vigil in his room all night.

16. you can’t actually move a toddler to where you want them to go

I was a dick about kids and parents when I did not myself have a kid. I was Judgey McJudgerson, judging you with my judgey-face. A crying kid on a plane would stress me out. I’d think — as do many other asshole adults — DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR CHILD. Having a kid now has, erm, softened that judgment. I admittedly still think some parents are way too disconnected from their children (and way more connected to their goddamn iPhones — “Hey, is my toddler in traffic? Candy Crush, bitches!”), but in general, I’m a lot more sympathetic because you can’t just “control” a toddler. They’re not a lamp you can move into the corner and turn on and off. They’re not even dogs. They’re tiny human beings with orangutan strength. I used to think, “Just physically control them, just put them somewhere, like in a drawer or something,” but toddlers do this trick where they either let all the tension go out of their bodies or they instead flail about like an unmanned fire-hose. Imagine trying to wrestle an angry octopus, and you get the idea.

17. if this is your first night at fight club

With toddlers: pick your goddamn battles. I don’t mean literally — like, with sticks and Paintball or something? I mean every day spent with one of these tiny humans is filled with the infinite possibility of any number of battles. Battles over which toys will go in the tub, over where he will or will not put a sippy-cup, over whether or not he will hold still long enough to have one sock placed upon his karate-kicking foot. If you get into the mud and scrap over everything, you will drown in that mud. Because here’s the thing: once you start the battle? You have to win that shit. Have to, have to, have to. Losing one battle means losing the war. If they detect that they can win? They will always fight to win. You’re trying to outlast a guerilla force. You’re trying to outwit a tiny, diaper-clad version of the Joker. So: when you have picked a battle, that is always the hill you need to die on, whether it’s about what dinner she will or will not eat or if he should or should not try to stick his head up the dog’s butt.

18. inoculate against disappointment

Emotionally speaking, toddlers are teeth without enamel — they’re turtles without shells, entirely exposed to the buffeting winds and crashing waves of all the negative things. One of the jobs I see myself possessing as parent of a tiny human is to inoculate said tiny human with the occasional dose of disappointment. Because when they start out, every disappointment is keenly and equally felt. “No, you may not play with my phone” has as much negative metaphysical weight as “All of life is a parade toward death.” The only way forward is to give them little tastes of disappointment so that they develop the coping skills necessary. “We don’t have any cereal in the pantry,” I lie, just so I encourage him to a) eat something else this morning and b) deal with his disappointment on his own terms so that when true disappointment reaches him, he’ll have built up some manner of chitinous exoskeleton to protect him against sorrow.

19. sometimes you want to feed them to a family of bears

It’s true. Life with a toddler is tough. Some days you’re just looking for a box to put them in so you can mark it FREE CUPCAKES and leave it out by the curb.

20. they’re basically proto-teenagers

I’m older, now, but not so old I forget what my teenage years were like. Let’s see… inexplicable behavior? Check. Surly for no reason? Yep. Unpredictably disrespectful? Mm-hmm. What else seems familiar… needy? Tantrums? Hungry all the time? Solipsistic egotists? Toddlers are just unformed teenagers. Which means I’m going to see this behavior again in ten years, yay.

21. erratic pinballs

Watching our toddler run around the house is like watching an animated, drunken stack-of-tea-cups wibble and wobble about. Toddlers are, I figure, about 30 seconds from doom at any given moment. Theirs, yours, the dog’s, or that of some precious family heirloom. They have the good sense the gods gave coked-up lemurs. Which is to say: practically none at all.

22. manipulators on par with none

Toddlers know your weaknesses and will exploit them. They are supervillains — just give them a volcanic lair and a freaky cat to stroke. The trick is, of course, that toddlers are big-eyed little adorbs-machines. They radiate cuteness waves that wash over you, drawing all the sand on your beaches out to sea until every last defense is down. You feel bad when they cry. You believe them when they lie. They will manipulate the bed-time hour from 7:30PM to somewhere around 12:15 in the morning. You’ll mean to feed them a nice healthy dinner at the table but will somehow end up in front of the TV letting them just scoop sugar from the bag into their greedy mouths. You’ll literally look around and wonder in the David Byrne-ian sense: how did I get here? The thing is, they’re not always manipulating you, and a truly skilled parent will know when the toddler has a real problem or when she’s just acting as a two-year-old version of Keyser Soze.

23. the ghosts of family members live inside of them

These family members will rise to the surface of the pool from time to time. You’ll see your father’s face. Your grandfather’s eyes. Your uncle’s penchant to pick his nose in the coat closet. Occasionally our son will say things the way my father said them — both word choice and inflection of word choice and it’s completely fucking spooky.

24. playtime is when all of it comes crashing together

The toddler reaches its purest, most toddlerian state during playtime.

25. this is when formless blob becomes an honest to jeebus human being

Infants are dull as berber carpet. Everyone loves them, of course — they’re the equivalent of newborn seals, all big eyes and funny squeaks and roly-poly cuteness. But seriously: super-boring. Toddlers are where the fun begins. Toddlers are where you get to watch the paramecium grow legs and start to dance. Personality develops and dominates. They manifest wants, needs, fears, quirks, habits, words, ideas, even stories. They’re sweet. They’re mean. They’re emotional. They’re wise. They’re wild, bouncy superballs flung at the wall. They’re smarter than you think and dumber than you expect. They flip and flop and gallumph about. Roundabout way of saying: they’re becoming people. This is volcanic: the bleak earth shattering and revealing a pyroclasm of new earth and unseen life. This is chrysalis: gone is the tiny lump and emerging is the weird-ass butterfly with its own way of doing things. If you want to know when Human Beings really become Human Beings, look no further than the toddlers scampering around.

165 comments

  • Brilliant and spot on! Also everything in your home becomes inexplicable sticky. Including the poor dog. Love love Pocoyo. And refuse to put Barney on because just no.

    Oh and no one warned me (why didn’t you all WARN me!?!) But somewhere between 5 and 7 they lose their minds again! My beautiful, well behaved 4 year old hit 5 and suddenly I’m walking on eggshells again wondering what will set off the meltdowns this time. Granted he’s on the spectrum but I hear from all parents of 5year olds that yes they do go through another fit throwing stage. (Why the hell they didn’t tell me this earlier…!?!)

    I will be better prepared for this with second boy, who is currently at the beginnings of the wonderful toddler stage. (Also sibling rivalry has been great for increasing my 5yos communication skills. Nothing like having a little brother to yell No You Can Do That! at.)

    Oh also LOVE the hackable idea!

    • The age of around 5 does seem to come with a whole new visit to Meltdown Land. New emotions, new skills… and the brain short circuits as it deals with all the new awareness. Fun times!

      The good news is that it doesn’t last as long. The bad news is that as they move closer to 7, you move into the *real* preview to the teenage years, and tantrums/meltdowns are replaced by attitude and moodiness. Suddenly, the fact that wild things sometimes eat their young will make perfect sense to you, because it happens right after you started feeling so good about the fact that they were so much better able to reason and be reasoned with. Hah! That’s just to trick you into a false sense of security, wherein you think you’re out of the woods. Fooled you! This is where they hit huge cognitive leaps (again) PLUS more physical growth spurts, and there is only so much a developing brain can process.

      As someone with a child who has miraculously survived to the age of 14 *and* someone with a partner on the spectrum, I can only give you this one survival tip: feed their brains. No, seriously… all the stuff about the brain needing healthy fats and certain proteins and all that? Look into it, and feed him accordingly. It actually helps. It does not make it all go away, but it does improve things enough that your chances of getting out with your sanity intact will increase by a lot. Heh. (Helps with both toddlers and teenagers, too.)

      • Thanks for the feeding suggestion! I’ll look into it. He’s gotten to be a picky eater as he got older but I’m sure there’s stuff I can convince him he does like :-)

  • There was a little ditty that got me through Barney
    I love you, you love me
    Let”s go out and kill Barney
    A shot rang out and Barney hit the floor
    No more purple dinosaur

    I never sang it to my kids, but I sang it in my head when the show was on

    • The version I heard goes like this:

      I love you,
      You love me,
      Let’s hang Barney from a tree
      With a knife in his back
      And a bullet in his head!
      Ha! Your purple friend is dead!

      Oy vey. ;)

    • Ours was:

      I love you,
      You love me,
      Let’s hang Barney from a tree.
      Hit him over the head with a 4×4,
      No more purple dinosaur.

    • when i was in college, i made a computer animation-type project that decapitated barney with a snowball.

      it got a standing ovation from the entire class.

  • I don’t have kids, but this made me laugh anyway. From what I’ve seen of my own little nieces and nephews, this is spot on.

    I’m happy to say that my duties as an aunt have not required me to watch Barney, but there were some other kids’ shows I could have never watched, and my existence would have been none the poorer for it.

  • I think this is only my second or third comment here but I’ve been a fan of your blog (and twitter feed) for years. I’m such a lurker in fact I rarely even venture into the comments (sorry folks) but I had to throw my perspective into the mix on this post. I apologize in advance for its length.

    I’ve been reading you long enough to know your love of the phrase YMMV, and you have always been sensitive to “othering” any segment of humanity (let me be clear at the front, I don’t think you have done that here). Your respect for all, soaked in profanity, is one of the reasons I love reading your blog even though I am not a fiction writer. It is also why I felt so strongly to jump into the fray to respectfully quibble and be a bit of a wet blanket on what I certainly cannot deny is such a well written post.

    My awesome five year old son, Liam, has never had a meltdown, he’s never manipulated me, he doesn’t leave his toys around. In fact I can only relate as a parent to a couple of this list at all. Liam lives with Miller-Dieker syndrome. He will always be dependent on a wheelchair, he breathes with the aide of a ventilator and his global developmental delay and severe seizure disorder mean he will not ever speak. He is the true embodiment of love and compassion, and to look into his eyes and see him smile will change the way you see the world.

    Huge leaps in intelligence and development aren’t the case for all children. For some they only come with years of grueling work and therapies. At five, Liam is now able to nod his head yes for some questions. It has taken more grit and determination on his part to get there than I have ever seen in another human being. Unpredictable and inconsistent? Well. those are some dirty words around these parts my friend. From sleep schedule and respiratory status, to diaper filling and (as much as it can be predicted or patterned) seizure activity Liam must be consistent because if anything with him we didn’t predict happens it can and has meant months spent in the hospital.

    When done right all parenting is hard. The challenges that my wife and I face are not harder than any other set of parents out there, they’re just different. So you don’t know how to attach a feeding tube and set a feeding pump? I don’t know how to get a three year old to eat his broccoli. You don’t know how to do an emergency tracheostomy tube change in the middle of the night? I don’t know how to calm the emotional needs of a child in the throws of a nightmare induced panic. It’s all hard. It’s all stress. It’s not harder, it’s just different.

    But number twelve. Number twelve is a punch in the chest for me. It is true and it is universal. And it is that youthful innocence and empathy that I wish all of us as parents could perpetuate longer and longer. When out in public Liam can be a sight to see. A large wheelchair with ventilator and oxygen tank attached. His vent circuit tubes and possibly his feeding tube attached I wouldn’t blame another child to be afraid of the sight – but other children are rarely the ones to show fear.Curious? Sure, we get all kinds of questions. On more than one occasion children Liam has never met before have instantly mentioned how cool it is that Liam sounds just like Darth Vader. Usually kids are just fine approaching Liam until their parents pull them back and apologize for their kid’s questions. It’s the adults that show the fear and other children can pick up on it in a heartbeat. “Don’t get too close!” or “Don’t ask that.”. I’d rather answer a hundred questions to every child who passes than keep on seeing the fear or the clutching of kids on the faces of adults who are unsure or uncomfortable with how to treat someone with a disabilty.

    I know that Miller-Dieker syndrome is rare (1 of every 11 million births) and yes, we are the exception to all those points in your post but add to it Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, and the countless other chromosonal syndromes, diseases, birth defects, to say nothing of accidents, early infant diseases and what I’m sure are thousands of other things that I haven’t listed that can impact a life and we start talking about real numbers of exceptions here. I know this because I know so many personally. My wife and I are often contacted by our local children’s hospital to help explain what life can be like at home with medical equipment such as a ventilator to families facing the unknown of a life like ours. We do this type of thing more often than you would think, and that’s just in my geographic area. Like anything else in this world, parenting is different behind every door.

    I am so sorry to have gone on for so long. I just had to get that out to you. So TL;DR: A really well written post but not every child is neuro-typical and toddlers and parenting can be wildly different from family to family.

    Cheers Chuck. I’ll see myself out and head back to lurking.

    • Really loved your response, and while the above article spoke volumes to me and had me laughing/crying at all the right moments. I can see how you wouldn’t due to your different stressers/parenting masteries. I will say any fear in my eyes at my child (the 3yr old specifically) getting near your child has nothing to do with your child. I would have a very real and intense fear that my child would, in her exploring and curious way, mess with something and hurt your child. I’m sure your baby is a sweetie and were I all on my own or with the baby in the sling, I’d be all smiles. With my little minion of darkness toddler….true terror. I’m sorry it would be visible to you and your baby though. I believe in involved parenting and that I am responsible for my daughter’s actions until she gains mastery of whatever skills we’re are working on – thus the fear. No touching or respectful touching of something CRAZY new and possibly fun (cus lets be honest anyone who has wheels for transport…WAY more fun than feet), yea that skill: Not mastered.

      I feel the same way when she’s behind a kid waiting for the slide/ramp/ladder/etc. and I can see her thinking that they just need some encouragement…. in the form of a push.

  • Jesus, that ghost thing is bang on. Watching my nieces is mind-blowing sometimes. It’s like random chance took a toy box filled with our family DNA and fucking threw them down the stairs and what made it all the way to the bottom turned into children.

  • If you write a book-length set of observations like this, a certain segment of parent-dom will finally have their book. And they will buy it. In droves. No shit. More of this please.

  • Regarding #12, “You put out anxiety and anger, you’re going to get anxiety and anger in return.”

    Have you done much reading on epigenetics? Because according to the epigenetic research, we are doing much more than that. We could be literally rewiring our children’s DNA. (http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes#.Usbcd_2LtfM)

    Heady stuff.

    Regarding #6 and #7, I’m stunned that Barney is still on the air, well anywhere.

    My child’s favorite shows are Blue’s Clues, Little Einstiens and Team Umizoomi. The thing is, he will latch onto an a particular episode and that is all he wants to watch, over and over again. And lo be to you if you erased that one off the DVR or don’t have that particular DVD in the car.

    This is our second go at toddlerhood. My daughter is 14, while my son is 3. The one thing I would add to yoru list is this:

    They understand far more than they can articulate. I don’t know if it’s something to do with language, but I think those leaps are things he’s understood for a while and can only just now articulate.

  • What I have figured out with my children is that no matter what it is, television can teach them some things…especially if they are paying attention to that one particular episode….team umizoomi taught my daughter to count at 3….and another thing I am just recently learning that every parent needs to be aware of is to watch out for when they start climbing….mine just started and im like how did you get up?

    • LOVE Team Umizoomi! They taught my daughter her first love, patterns! she used to watch it all the time just to scream “pattern power!” and then solve the missing peices in the patterns. When she hit head start she was far ahead of the rest of her class when it came to patterns :) Plus, it’s a great show :)

  • Wow. Reading this in chunks to digest it all. This much truth in one go can do terrifying things to the brain.

    By the way, your suggestion on Thomas the Tank Engine? I hear you. Loud. And. Clear.

  • I’m sitting here watching my 20 month old smear pasta sauce all over her face and at the same time reading this and laughing my arse off! Beautiful, hilarious, true words, and I’m grateful to hear that I am not the only person who thinks these terrible and wonderful things about my toddler.

  • Having raised my children and now in the middle of round 2, as a grandmother I am amazed!
    Did my little ones know at that age as much as this one does? Why, everything so much cuter, even sweeter the second time around. Even the meltdowns!

    Our little tornado also has the most calm, gentle center, tho’. He can be whirling around the house, when he spys the shy cat or the old dog. Quietly appproaching, he gently pets them once, and then here comes the 2nd half of the tornado!

    One thing I would recommend — Under children’s programming, skip Barney and Thomas and add Signing Time! They are so SMART, even if they can’t talk they DO communicate especially well with sign language. by 12 months, we knew when he was ready to nurse, when he wanted his diaper changed, when he was hungry or just thirsty. He tells us he loves us, when he wants to help clean and when he is all done!

    Sign language for a baby/toddler provides them with the most incredible way to communicate and helps to relieve some of those melt-downs that come from inability to express what they want.

    Great story, thanks for the laughs.

  • ” You’ll mean to feed them a nice healthy dinner at the table but will somehow end up in front of the TV letting them just scoop sugar from the bag into their greedy mouths. You’ll literally look around and wonder in the David Byrne-ian sense: how did I get here?”

    I have three-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy. My wife and I both work full-time. With very little family support, we’re both completely stressed out and overwhelmed.

    Most of the time I think about how badly I’m fucking this all up and ruining these kids.After reading your post this, I feel a little better.

    Thanks for this post, I love it. It’s all so true.

    • No, no, no…love covers a multitude of sins, Coop…you love them enough and don’t make up for your short comings by spoiling them, they will turn out fine. Kids are resilient and we are lead to believe we can damage them much more than we can with the smallest of things. I had a miserable horrid childhood filled with abuse and I turned out ok and did my best to give my kids a good life. Your kids will be fine. Believe in your ability to parent.

  • Thank you for the laughs, and thank you for articulating in words the formless “arrrrgggghhh!!!” that’s been swirling around in my head, especially this week. Sincerely, a mom of a 2.25 year old who used to be a cool person (me, not the kid).

  • The first time I read Goodnight, Moon I turned to my husband and asked, “Did David Lynch write this? I feel intensely uneasy.” Good to know I’m not the only one who had this thought! Now I have to go because the tantrums have begun…

  • On #20 – as the parent of a now-adult child, you’ve nailed it. Only when toddlers resurrect as teenagers, they’ve got a lot more interesting ways to get around you than they did at 2 or 3. You can definitely just add 10 and predict future behavior!

    • I thought those words were the perfect touch, they add emphasis in the right places. Words aren’t inherently bad, it’s how they are used. In this case, they made it MORE enjoyable for me to read, because they add realism. I’m not a fan of gratuitous “profanities”, but one sprinkled here or there like nonpareils on a cupcake is just right.

  • Thomas. Oh, dear, that damn engine. My son is autistic (and all the toddler stuff still rang true), and he has that autistic obsession with Thomas. I spent FIVE HOURS curled up with him watching Thomas yesterday. Judge that how you want, but I’m a fucking saint.

  • Love it! The only point I’d like to add is a kind of positive one – remember to enjoy the most beautiful sight on earth, which is a sleeping toddler. They are exquisitely beautiful when asleep and… and… they ARE asleep!

  • Loved the 2’s and 3’s, tolerated the 4’s, despised the 5′ and 6’s, 7-10 were great. I guess every kid is different, he’s 26 now and a charming human being I thought I’d never meet!

  • Absolutely brilliant :-) our daughter will be a year old in 2 weeks, and she is already doing some of these, and her own little personality is starting to shine through.

    Loved the Dark Tower reference too ;-) All Things Serve The Beam…

  • April 2, 2014 at 9:50 PM // Reply

    Now that the tears of laughter have cleared I can type. Whew! Multiply ALL of that by three and it’s my house. Thank you for pointing that out about Curious George. It totally drives me nuts he’s called a monkey, but the books and show are great. And yes, I too have wondered about the responsibilities he’s given.

    Thomas the Tank Engine and Blain the Mono…Bwaaahaaa! That’s beautiful!

    My husband likes to say talking with toddlers is like talking with a drunk person. It’s true! It takes deep concentration to figure out what they’re saying, what they’re talking about and if you don’t keep track of the multiple topics they have originated and dropped they get mad.

    Toddlers are entertaining, exasperating and exhausting. I wouldn’t give mine up for the world. Thank you for a great write up!

  • I have a 3 and 13 year old, they are very similar and wildly different. Going through the toddler stage and the teenage stage at the same time\ has actually helped me see how children are constantly pulling away from us just to be reminded that we are still there no matter how crazy they make us.

  • Hilarious! I’m supposed to be writing right now, but honestly, this is worth the procrastination. *poops up toys* Thanks for the great laugh… as always.

  • Endless wisdom and joy to my ears. It’s a theory I like to call T is for Turd year, anything from twenty months, 2,3,10,12,13 can be hell on earth but all that good stuff too :)
    Nice job!

    • Hi! Sorry you don’t care for the profanity. But I’m trying to be funny and interesting and speak with the voice that’s mine — and that means sometimes using naughty, adult words, which are doubly ironic (and to me, funny) in a post about toddlers.

      This is, I am sad to say, the blog. It is regularly NSFW.

      — c.

  • Seriously? You have issues with “Goodnight, Moon”? Dr. Seuss? Do you also consider “Where the Wild Things Are” to be child endangerment? How about “Babar”?

  • I don’t have kids of my own and I already thought about numerous points you listed. This was great! You killed me with the velociraptor analogy, LOL!

  • April 3, 2014 at 4:05 PM // Reply

    There are Dog bombs in the yard, and Lego poop in the house. I’d rather step on dog bombs, Lego Poop leaves bruises,.

  • Looks like someone took a can opener to my head and rooted around for things to say. Startling resonances in this list. Reading this reminds me of what’s really great about the internet (that you can find someone who thinks exactly as you do) ,and what’s really great about 3-year-olds, at the same time.

  • 26. Edit this shit down to your 5 best points. I have two small children and no time to read a tedious 25-point essay.

    • Why read it at all then?! It’s not a writer’s job (or anyone’s really) to create work that suits other’s wants.

  • this is so the best warning about toddlers i have ever read. i am on my third toddler, first girl toddler. she has the added special power of not speaking, but, instead, shrieking whenever she feels any emotion. i am working it into the comic i write as a way to ward off zombies–it has to be good for something. i also have a baby…& when i look at him all i can think is, “oh my god, you’re going to be a toddler soon.”

    ps. i haven’t seen anything but children’s programming for the past eight and a half years. thomas the train is pure torture. i have never let them watch barney–i had to draw a line somewhere.

  • pss. the first time i read “the giving tree” to my first born i sobbed for several minutes saying, “why would anyone write this??” pretty much the same reaction i had several years ago after seeing the movie, “breaking the waves.”

  • This is the best description of what it is like to live with my son that I have ever read. full stop.

  • I completely disagree with point (1). “Is it not written in your laws that ‘Ye are gods’?”

    It may seem insignificant since it’s written with humour, but I think it reflects an unhealthy perspective. We are not small and insignificant. If that were the case, we wouldn’t exist. It’s important not to pass this attitude of insignificance on to the toddler.

    • I suppose I should stop my hourly “YOU ARE BUT A MOTE IN THE WINKING EYE OF A GODLESS AND UNCARING UNIVERSE” indoctrination lecture, then.

      *scratches that off the list*

      Thanks, helpful person!

  • excellent, as a 1st time mother of a 2 year old I am constantly challenged. Now I know for sure that I am not struggling blindly alone ! MUCH GRATITUDE– and I thought the profanity sprinkled in was absolutely necessary to convey said messages! :)

  • Brilliant. I am a mother to a ridiculously sassy, smart and quirky 15 month old little girl and a teacher to 14 kiddos between 16 and 24 months of age. This was so spot on. I laughed. I cried. I nodded so hard I gave myself whiplash. Never before have I read such an accurate representation of what it is to be a toddler. Well done and I look forward to reading more of your work!

  • Got about a third of the way through this before I thought to myself; “Or you could grow a pair, discipline your children properly and let them know who’s boss and you wouldn’t be putting up with half the bull this article describes”.

    • April 22, 2014 at 3:11 AM // Reply

      I am thinking you have not been a parent to a toddler with that response… I say this humbly because I too was a “Judgey Mcjudgerson” at one time and found out that my plan doesn’t work the way I want it to. When you take your child to the park or mall and think that they will love the playground and all they want to do is inspect every trash can on the premises… When they cry and you don’t know why growing a pair doesn’t help… When they have been fed, diaper is clean, they are watching their fav cartoon (kiddie crack) and then they are screaming at the top of their lungs and you scream back and it doesn’t stop the screaming- growing a pair didn’t work. It doesn’t matter what books you’ve read, what resources and advice you have to draw on, sometimes you are like the newbie soldier showing up on the front lines of Normandy!! Sometimes you are with Dorothy in the spinning darkness on the way to Oz. Sometimes, you need to go back to the first step and admit you are powerless- Hah! Balancing love, discipline, and human growth is a daunting task to say the least. If you haven’t been there, you have the right to remain silent. Although I may not agree with everything said, the writer hit the proverbial nail on the head describing how helpless you feel in the parenting experience. There is a lot to try and understand about what your child is going through. I will be back for part two tomorrow.

      • I agree completely with your response to the poser. I thought about replying to his remark but couldn’t articulate what you did so perfectly. So, thank you and good luck!!

      • Well said. My first thought re the poser was, “said the person with no children.” (-:

        Then again, there are loads of people who follow the old ways and feel that discipline, my way or the highway and “growing a pair” works. And it can sort of, in the short term. But we know what the end of *that* road looks like and it ain’t pretty.

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