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.

171 comments

  • they are also slightly hackable. After watching a hundred thousand hours of Wonderpets, one of us could half-sing “What’s gonna work?” and ours would mumble/sing “teaaaaamwoooork” and wobble off to do what we’d asked. It was creepy. Creepy and useful.

      • Indeed. 🙂 At one point, I was thinking about starting a blog called “Hack Parenting” (double entendre, see? As in “can you hack it?” and as in hacking your kids). I didn’t have time because, well, kids.

        Post 1 would probably have been on getting toddlers to do what you want by giving them two options, both of which you want. Unfortunately, by age 2.5 our daughter was demanding option C. If not C, D. I think this hack works better for some kids.

    • We used to pull this one out at bedtime when we wanted to put the nappy/pajama pants on but little legs kept pin-wheeling… “What’s gonna work?” “Teeeeamwork.” “Is this teamwork?” “No.” (behaving now). Sweeet.

      • Same problem with my little one, except we have to watch Katy Perry singing ‘Roar’. Six armed Six legged monster becomes a beautiful sweet little angel.
        Until the music stops anyway…

    • Ha ha, brilliant! So turning “getting ready for bed” into a purple minion hunt was actually hacking!!! Sure, it may lead to nightmares down the road…but I can just hack him some more…right?!?

    • i use Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood for hacking. its full of tiny social lessons set to music. based on characters from Mr Rogers but animated. i love it.

  • I just want to put a plug in for Peg + Cat among the “awesome” TV show column. Especially because my 3-year-old can freaking tell you what a hexagon is and what a diagram is. It’s like, “what the huh??”

    I’d also like to add an addendum: “Your in-laws will figure out what your toddler loves and what YOU hate and then pile it on during all gift-giving occasions.” Stupid shit like that stupid fucking “Lots and Lots of Big Trains” DVD that my in-laws gave me for Christmas. I want to break that DVD up into liquid glass and serve it to them next time they come over…

    All of the rest of this = yes. Freaking yes. Imagine having TWO! I’ve got TWO boys! 3 and 2!!! Kill me now!!

    • Ditto on Peg + Cat. Also, for Amazon Prime people, Shaun the Sheep is spectacular. It’s wordless claymation from the guys who made Wallace and Grommit. It’s lovely, sweet, and hilarious.

      Also toddlers poop at the least convenient time. It’s like they’re own little super power. What you’ve just put on snowpants, boots, hats, and mittens? Seems like a great time to poop! What you’ve just strapped everybody into car seats and you’re late for an important meeting? Great because I just pooped!

  • I watched my wife learn how to distract like she was writing a PhD Dissertation in distraction. She became a master of creating squirrels out of thin air. Something I never quite figured out. It’s much more effective than arguing with them. I don’t know if it’s a mom thing, but I didn’t have the patience to wait the little fuckers out. I usually just beat my head against the wall when they weren’t looking, and my wife would step in and turn them a different direction, then the toddler-whisperer would smile at me like I was an asshole. (Which I was) They all turned out okay, though, thanks to her.

  • Yep, yep, yep. Agree with just about every point. Now add in another little human 2 years behind the first. And then make one of them autistic. You’ve entered WWIII in the Twilight’s Zone.

    • I feel your pain. There’s been piques of jealousy and fits of rage ever since the new baby was introduced into the house…and don’t even get me started on the toddler 🙂

  • Oh, and I still believe in the edifying benefits of the old Walt Disney cartoons. Yeah I know there might be hidden messages in them, but hells bells when Donald Duck summons the characters out of thriller novel in “Duck Pimples” I just can’t get enough.

  • I flat out loved this. Nothing whatsoever to do with writing, with technique, with problems with plot or character, or marketing or anything practical whatsoever. Just a funny as hell and at the same time perceptive and moving examination of what life with little people is like. If you don’t have kids, you’ll never really understand and if you’re a young parent you’ll never realize the hunger you’ll feel one day to just freeze time – for one day – and get that little person back. Which is why being a grandparent is such a glorious thing. Not only can you give them back when you get tired of them, you can really and truly appreciate what little miracles they are.

    • I’m a kindred carer to my granddaughter so I got to freeze time, and let me tell you, it’s an amazing thing. All the things I missed with my own kids (I was a serving soldier) I get to see with this beautiful little girl. Not written a thing since she came to live with us four months ago, but there’s always a price to pay I guess.

  • My “toddler” is 27 and just gave birth this weekend to her own. I emailed her the link to this. Ahhh, the memories. And the truth. *bwahahahahahaha* You rock the parenthood, Chuck.

  • I laughed so, so hard. It’s really great reading about your experiences with Bdub. Mine just turned two in February so all of this is so keenly felt. He loves anything cooking related. He is constantly stealing my colanders, my utensils, my serving bowls. He is always trying to help me “coo”. He even picks up his toy phone and going, “Wha? Coo.” We say he’s calling Grandma to tell her about what he was cooking.

    One of the biggest things I didn’t expect was the pressure I feel to be a “good” parent. I know there’s no perfect ideal, but still. Does he watch too much TV? Does he eat enough veggies? What the hell do I do with him when he’s not interested in playing with his toys? etc etc etc There’s this constant pressure to not only make the right decision for now, but for the long term, ie winning the war you talked about.

    Love these posts! 😀

  • Chuck- I hope one day the gods bless you with a little girl. She will look at you with her big eyes and say “I wuv you daddy” and then you will hear your wife say “What the hell! Did you just buy her a fucking car!? She’s 3 for crying out loud!!”
    I shit you not this happens with little girls
    Good luck Dad

  • Ha ha Margaret Wise Brown…yeah, when I read a magazine article about her that said she was clinically insane (or something like that) I never read GOODNIGHT MOON to my kids again! Ha ha BARNEY!! Oh my god, to think of all the wasted hours of my life I spent watching Barney with my kids…

  • I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. My god.

    Mine says, “I don’t have to listen to you,” in this sickly sweet singsong voice while grinning up at me like the devil. Every single time I tell him to do or not do something. Like, hurry up and finish your breakfast we’re late. Or, don’t run out into the street you could be killed.

    The problem? He’s right. The little punk is right. I thought they weren’t supposed to figure that out until they were like, 13.

  • So many lovely phases to go through. Mine are in their thirties now, and I’ve got no grand babies. Which means sometimes we’ll be out and about and I’ll see a wee one and get a little mushy. My husband gives me a gimlet eye and says, “THAT is a teenager waiting to happen.” Oh. Right. ‘Nuff said. (But still, she says, it is walking miracle time).

  • you got it on point 20: they’re proto-teenagers. just raise all those tantrums, ego and hunger to the power of 20. add that to 10 plus years of dealing with the same adults called Mom and Dad and somehow they’re no called cute after the age of 13…

    • March 25, 2014 at 3:33 PM // Reply

      I totally have to remember this when I’m accusing my 14-year-old of acting like a toddler. He is. And it’s normal.

  • Goodnight Goon >>>> Goodnight Moon

    Thomas Accidents Happen youtube videos >>>> Thomas the show.

    The show has been useful though. My first son learned his numbers from Thomas and my second (now 2) from Team Umizoomi (as well as shapes, patterns and more math)

    We’ll disagree on Wiggles. Both boys loved the songs and I like to sing so I sing along.

    There’s lots of awful kids books but tons of awesome ones too, and a lot of really well presented fun learning ones. My 5 year old has loved the “you wouldn’t want to be…” series for a while now.

    As for Seuss? We love the books. When kids have fun with words and rhyme? That’s a good thing. But we prefer the wackier stuff like If I Ran the Zoo.

  • This is so on point (except for the Dr. Seuss, we love our collection). I’ve got three kids, ages 7, 4, and 2. My house is a disaster zone, my cooking is shunned by all, and I have seen every episode of many children’s shows. They scream, hit, drool, cry, pick their nose, pee in their pants, cough in your face, sneeze on your screen, steal your cookie stash, etc. Then they get older and start losing their teeth. I can’t handle the wiggly teeth. Enjoy this age while it lasts.

  • You nailed this for sure. Unfort though my five year old exhibits several of these traits, still…maybe that’s just us? Dunno. Check back in a few years when you write your “troll stole my kindergartener” post.
    -Dana

  • We’ve just managed to get our son to his 6th birthday (even 99% intact! Just missing one front tooth he managed to knock clean out a few years back) and there is so much truth going on in this post it blows my mind. Yes to the out loud Hop on Pop reading. We like the Seuss, sure, but sometimes I do worry about the Old Ones we might be calling to. #13 should come with giant warning labels. Never underestimate the uses they will put the things you teach them to. Show them how to stack blocks? Congratulations! You’ve just taught them the secret to getting to the high places! And #22? Oh hell yes. They are often also master negotiators. And my personal rule #26 – There probably won’t be a day go by they don’t give you at least one hell of a good laugh or cause a goofy smile on your face and that’s a heck of a great compensation package.

  • Have you read Not Now, Bernard? It’s the neatest scariest slice of horror I’ve ever read. Who writes this shit for kids?

  • Brilliance. This is one of the best things you’ve ever written. And I enjoy a lot of your ramblings. Am now sharing with those who will either laugh hysterically at days gone by or be very afraid. Thank you.

  • YES! THANK YOU! Toddlers spinning on the floor… Reavers … the Wiggles as creepy kidnappers … toys embedded in the soles of your feet … the urge to stand guard with deadly force – You nailed it. It’s all true.

    Funniest thing I’ve read in a while; in fact I had to quit for the night at #18 because my silent laughter is jiggling the mattress and might wake up the sleeping spouse. Thanks for the nostalgia, mine are 9 & 15 now. Looking forward to reading the rest of this tomorrow….

  • Oh Chuck – wonderful post! The memories..!

    My little Lordship is 7 now (it doesn’t get any easier – but it does get funnier, if that’s any consolation) but I can remember all these feelings so well. I’m hearing-impaired and him as a two-year-old, combined with living in a house with laminate floors, is the main reason I gave up within the first ten days of a free thirty-day trial of digital hearing aids (“Oh my GOD get these things out of my ears I want my quiet world back this is INSANE!!”)

    And I’m totally feeling you on #23. When my laddie was about three he went through a stage of responding to any stories I told him about my life before he was born with “Yes, I remember that. That was in my other life, before I was in this one. I was older than you then.” I think it was just his little way of wanting to be ‘in’ every event somewhere, somehow – even those where he wasn’t even born yet. But it was still pretty freaky to hear…

    And he used to LOVE ‘The Shiny Show’ on CBeebies when he was a toddler – and, once I’d got past the initial “What the HECK is going on here?!” vibe… I’ll admit it, so did I. Best. Toddler’s. Programme. EVER. Sadly it only ran for three series and there are precious few clips of it on YouTube (and even those may not be viewable outside the UK.) I’ll chuck this one in just in case… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGVVzGtY23M

  • “(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.)”

    So, toddlers are tankers (armored fighting vehicle crewmen). It all makes perfect sense now.

  • Laughed all the way through…we’re at the teenager stage at the moment and going through it all over again, but with folk who can now put up a damn good reasoned argument when you say ‘NO!’

    TV shows…Teletubbies was our worst experience ever. And have you seen Sportacus? (yes, that’s spelled/spelt (!) right) We got to sing, keep fit AND there’s always a moral. (Bleurgh!) I still have the CD somewhere – I put it on to embarrass the kids…

    And just wait till you downsize the Duplo to ‘proper’ Lego bricks and you step on a ‘onesie’ – they’re like nails in how far they dig into your foot…

    • I am really annoyingly intelligent and my mother – who is no dummy – eventually got so frustrated with my logical reasons for doing idiotic things and/or not doing the things that I was supposed to do that she just said, “I am not going to be out-argued by a teenager. Do what I said because I said so and be quiet about it.”

      It worked surprisingly well.

    • Ohhh GOD yes! Sportacus/Lazytown (It’s a chuffin’ APPLE, Sportacus – NOT ‘sports candy!’ Kids are really not THAT thick!) And don’t even get me STARTED on the Teletubbies… watching that felt like putting your brain in a food processor. Roary The Racing Car was good though. And The Shiny Show! 🙂

      • April 3, 2014 at 4:21 PM // Reply

        Mine went through a “Tweenies” phase? How did that show end up on cable in Texas? I did learn the song “the grand old duke of York” that way. So there is that. And there was this other BBC import, “Tiny Planets.” And Backyardigans. Now, at 11 it’s all about Mythbusters and Outrageous Acts of science. or anything about blowing stuff up. Am I raising a unibomber 2?

  • Yes. Mine’s no longer a toddler – he’ll be 7 in July – but I remember a lot of that. And some of it is actually ongoing, even several years after toddler-hood. Plus, of course, new and different challenges and bits of weirdness and awesomeness.

    And I totally agree that Thomas the Tank Engine is the worst kids show ever. Bunch of insecure, dysfunctional sentient machines under the iron-fisted rule of a clichéd capitalist baron of industry, living with the constant threat that they will be melted down for scrap if they fail to be useful. And at least 2/3 of the damn episodes have the same plot:

    1. One of the engines has an original idea or takes some initiative of some sort.
    2. DISASTER ENSUES!
    3. The engine in question learns in the end that you should never, ever have ideas or do anything other than EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE TOLD TO DO, THE SAME WAY YOU HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT, because mindless obedience is the prime virtue and the only way to be truly useful. And if you are not useful you will be melted down for scrap.

    Seriously, it’s like it’s trying to train kids for living in some future dystopia where they’ll be ground up and made into Soylent Green if they ever fail to do exactly as they’re told by their top-hatted corporate master.

    It’s interesting to contrast it with Bob the Builder, which has a superficially similar concept – sentient machines under the control of a human boss, trying to get work done. But the tone and underlying messages of the shows are worlds apart. Bob and Wendy seem to actually like and respect their machines, and treat them like a cross between kids and slightly screwed-up but still likeable friends, and the messages are mostly about cooperation, teamwork and not being a dick. And having original ideas is treated as a good thing.

    Other shows my son has gotten into that I’ve enjoyed: Pingu, Kipper the Dog, (sometimes) Sesame Street and (sometimes) Word World (which was awesome for getting him interested in spelling and sounding out words). And most recently, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I never used to understand why that one had a devoted adult fandom. But then my son started watching it, which meant I got to watch it with him, and, well… er… rumour has it that the sounds of that show can now sometimes be heard from my apartment when my son is not here, but I will deny it forever. Really, I was only checking out some of the episodes that he refused to watch because he said they were scary or bad, so that I could understand what disturbed him about them. I could not possibly have been watching the show just because I got sucked in and needed to see all the episodes. DON’T JUDGE ME.

  • Mine’s not a toddler anymore, but she’s going in for a tonsillectomy today and I’m as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs with blades for rockers.

  • I read the title of this post and thought “Oh, it’s not about writing and I’m toddler-less, maybe I’ll skip this one.” And then I read the first point, and then the next few, and then I laughed out loud and couldn’t stop reading. I learned such things reading this, and I suspect you may be a mad genius. Carry on, sir.

  • March 25, 2014 at 9:49 AM // Reply

    You forgot two things. 1. The inexplicable rituals you will find yourself having to do, like having to tuck him in in just the right way or having to serve him his hot dogs first cut length wise then in half and in precisely that order, and 2. Having to listen to everything that happened in a show he watched as he explains it to you ten seconds after you watched it with him.

    • YES! I’m sorry but I think there will now have to be an addendum to the above list.

      The rituals are SO ridiculous. utterly ridiculous. like people would think I’m crazy but it is not a battle I’m willing to fight to change ridiculous.

      And now I have two…. I’m Doomed.

  • True about the toy traps. But take comfort, gentle host, in that while if your son wants to play with dolls that’s totally cool, it is unlikely that anyone will give him any Barbie dolls. I say that not because boys shouldn’t have Barbie dolls, but rather because NO ONE SHOULD HAVE BARBIE DOLLS.

    Not just because in most of her incarnations she is a mindless dweeb, but because of the…

    Shoes.

    Oh, God, the shoes. The tiny little shoes which, if ninjas were real, would feature prominently in their arsenals. Duplos? Legos? I laugh. Ha, ha, I laugh. I have three sisters, one of whom was into Barbies and the other two of whom were actual Barbie addicts, if you removed their stash and didn’t allow the plastic to leach into their skin for more than eight hours they were cursing and puking all over the place, you feel me? And every Barbie doll comes with at least one pair of shoes and a small hidden matter-condenser that causes her to randomly create shoes on the floor in her vicinity.

    And dear God in Heaven, you step on a Barbie shoe heel-up in the dark – which you will, that is the only way that quantum mechanics allows Barbie shoes to be oriented in the dark – you will wish the ninjas had merely unleashed their poisoned caltrops on your sorry soles. SWEET MOTHER OF MATTEL THAT SHIT HURTS. Especially since you are half-asleep and not expecting it (no matter how many times it happens, nobody expects the Barbie Night-Shanking.) You’re just trying to get to bed without tripping on the Barbie Dream-House, Dream-Car, Dream-Kitchen, Dream-Pornoporium, or whatever else the effing grandmothers have bought that day, and a tiny little sliver of plastic hell-stuff inserts itself into your heel and heads for your circulatory system.

    But that is NOT the worst part.

    Oh, no.

    The worst part is that when you manage to remove the thing, and toss it into the night with a vicious curse as it so richly deserves, it will immediately vanish, and the next morn, some angel-eyed little girl with adorable sleep-tousled hair will say, “Where’s Barbie’s other shoe?”

    “There are fourteen thousand, six hundred and ninety-eight Barbie shoes in that bin over there, conveniently sorted by color and lethality.”

    “No, her other blue shoe. I want her to wear these shoes.”

    “I don’t kn…”

    “FIND ME BARBIE’S OTHER SHOE OR I WILL TELL MOM YOU TOOK IT AND THEN I WILL CONSUME YOUR SOUL, PUNY MORTAL.”

    And since the things have quantum-filament heels that don’t cause much bleeding you can’t even use a blood trail to find it but you must then spend an hour uprooting the family room trying to find the shoe which tried to kill you the night before, and you learn what the phrase “adding insult to injury” really means.

    So. As I said. Be grateful.

    • I just found all my old Barbie shoes in my basement. Still conveniently sorted by color as they were 25 years ago. Now I know exactly what to do with them. Thank you.

  • It’s not just the creepy stuff they say. It’s their fears that shoot straight into your brain and awaken the same exact fears you had as a child.

    The hand under the bed, ready to grab your foot when you get too close? Yeah, that’s back. Not in my room, though. That’s silly.

    But in his room, when it’s dark, and he wakes screaming from a nightmare and I rush in to console him and he tells me not to get too close because the thing under the bed will get me…. I’m taking a step back before I realize his mattress sits flat on the floor.

    Phew. All clear. Until he tells me, “You just walked past the dead man on the floor.”

  • Oh, lists of 25 things on one topic, I love them so when they come from Mr. Wendig’s blog.
    I am currently childless, but hope to be a parent one day. Having been around toddlers before, I could attest to some of these, but it’s a good overall view of what I’m in for one day. (Luckily, I have a mother who loves toddlers and who will all too happily take one of my hands for a weekend if I need her too.)

    What, no ‘Toddlers will fixate on one thing and force you to watch it over and over again?’ My little brother was obsessed with trucks and construction machines (bulldozers, steamrollers, what have you) and much of my childhood was spent sitting with him watching some inane children and vaguely creepy construction worker magic themselves around and talk about bulldozers.

    Me: I wanna watch Sailor Moon!

    Little Brother: NOOOOOO TRUCKS TRUCK TRUCKS!

    And so we watched trucks and bulldozers for two hours until finally, out of his boundless affection for me, we got to watch Sailor Moon.

    I wonder if he remembers. He’s in college now. I should ask him when he comes home.

    Anyway, thanks for the list: it broke up the work doldrums and made me laugh. Also, the Wiggles need to go away. They scare me and therefore will not be watched by any of my future toddlers. They will watch children’s anime and Dora reruns.

    • Oh my god, that’s brought back horrible memories…

      We took my then three-year-old to Diggerland (a theme park run by JCB, who make construction vehicles) and bought him an ‘educational’ DVD boxset that featured ‘cute’ cartoon characters of construction vehicles; a ‘daddy JCB’ and a ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ JCB. For all three characters… well, it was quite obvious that instead of hiring proper voice actors they just went into the staff room of the JCB factory one lunchtime and grabbed the first three randoms who’d finished their Pot Noodles. The ‘acting’ was WOEFUL. The ‘singing’ was EVEN WORSE (including, at one stage, the most godawful attempt at a rap you could ever conceive in your worst nightmares.)

      My three-year-old son, naturally, LOVED IT. Watching it at least three times a day, every day, just didn’t feel like often enough to him. It got to the point where just seeing the opening credits could make me want to cry. Chinese water torture would be a walk in the park compared to sitting through that drivel. There was never a more grateful mother on the planet when he finally grew out of it!

  • This is amazing. And accurate. I have an 18-month old girl and she is just starting to do the things described above. She can be a holy terror. The latest offense we’ve thrust upon her is attempting to put her in seats. She’s suddenly developed an aversion to all chair-like objects–high chairs, car seats, etc. We actually had to leave a restaurant the other day due to the screaming fit that ensued when trying to put her in the high chair. There’s a first time for everything and with toddlers, every day is a first! Of course, then she’s sweet and wonderful and full of hugs and kisses, which makes you feel like a crazy person. One minute you’re questioning your life choices the next, can’t imagine your world without this warm, snuggly little creature. Ah, parenthood.

  • 17 is spot on, and was a big part of my wife and I committing early that we’d never offer a consequence we weren’t 100% willing to follow through on. Luckily, on the other side, kids can be bought, and bought cheap. So a tantrum in a grocery store meant leaving immediately, but sitting quietly in the cart and not demanding things meant “Senor el Gato” on repeat for the 7 minute drive home.

  • This is absolutely and utterly brilliant. As a mom to a two and a half year old boy, this is all beautifully and painfully familiar. Some days going to work is painful because I don’t want to be away from him. Some days, work is a respite because JESUS I JUST NEED FIVE MINUTES. Ahem…

  • There’s on old saying about ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink’ and that goes double for kids. I grew up around books, love books, have read books all my life and have an honest to goodness library in my own house. I read to my kids every night I was home, my wife read to them when I wasn’t, we went through the gamut of genres, styles, classics and new stuff right up till they didn’t need tucking-in anymore – and will they read a book? Will they buggery!

    It probably doesn’t help that neither of them has ever lived in a house that didn’t have computers, mobile phones and cable TV (He’s 24, she’s 20) because of my job and that stuff was always around and always shiny and new, but seriously, they don’t read! Ever! Oh yeah, they’ll watch endless hours of TV, and my daughter will gorge on Anime (in Japanese, she’s a purist) but it pains me that they have no interest in books.

    Don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing, they’ve grown up to be outstanding humans and I love them to bits, but seriously – pick up a book!

  • Pick your battles is the single piece of most excellent advice. I would add that there are some you cannot win. My son is very small and very faddy/picky. So I took the advice of many friends and went boot camp on him. Each time I served him a meal, I told him it was all there was. If he didn’t eat it or didn’t like it, I’d simply take it away and he’d go hungry. I confess that after a month in which he had consumed nothing but a glass of milk each morning and, over the 30 days, one tiny half inch by half inch cube of cheese, I gave in.

    That said, he was clearly an unreasonably reasonable toddler – he’s five now. I remember being a kid and all I remember is how lots of grown ups expected me to do what they said without question or explanation and how much easier it was to obey my parents who explained the rationale behind everything. So now I just explain until he is so bored he’ll do whatever I want to shut me up.

    Oh and TV programmes, Sarah and Duck brilliant, Old Jack’s Boat – yes another generation grows up with Bernard Cribbins (who no-one outside GB will have heard of), Octonauts is great too. On the down side the worst, most horrible, TV, TV which, I am sure saps my creativity and turns my brain into jelly is Waybuloo may the TV gods of the good ol U S of A never subject you to it. It is drippy hideous ghastliness. Giant heads that are all staring eyes and tiny bodies. The point of the programme, apart from being unbelievably drippy and attempting to neuro auralistically programming your mood to brain of porridge, is to teach baby yoga… which you can’t see when it’s being done by something with a head the size of a swiss ball an a body the size of a pin.

    Er… I’ll stop now but… cracking post.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • March 25, 2014 at 3:51 PM // Reply

      You know, we went through (are still going through) a lot of that same food stuff with Eldest Son. Turns out that being Aspergers (on the autism spectrum) had a lot, if not everything, to do with why he couldn’t eat like a normal person. He may outgrow it someday, or he may not. He was totally willing to starve rather than eat foods he found completely repugnant.

      • This one has a very sensitive palette and he has always tested textures with his tongue rather than his fingers. The foods he likes he loves but he has real trouble with textures, anything squishy or runny worries him. Everything has to be served as it comes and have the texture of pasta – which is why he loves clams and squid. I’m sure he’ll come round eventually and to be honest it’s because he actually likes food and the idea of food that I persevere with it. 😉 Don’t think he’s aspergers unless I am a bit…

  • Saturday, no work the day is bright for a day hike and our oldest is in the corner in his diapers playing with his toys.
    The dragon arises from the corner with my wife trying to get him into any clothes for the hike.
    Bribery Nope
    Another toy Nope
    Do we give up Nope
    Ten minutes wrestling with a dragon
    My wife who is with a second child looks at me in frustration, “YOU! Deal with it i am going for a walk”
    Leaving I watch her lovely back then i turn to face the dragon alone.
    Being a male look at the dragon Nope.
    i get more coffee watch the smirk on his face with his toys in the same corner “maybe sharks do have the right idea they eat their young.”
    My oldest is near thirty we as parents hope he has dragons in his life 🙂 before we die.

  • March 25, 2014 at 3:27 PM // Reply

    “Toddlers are entropy given form.” Yes! We used to actually refer to Eldest Son as “Mr. Entropy.”

    Come to think of it, he’s 16 and that still hasn’t changed. Chaos follows in his wake.

    • April 3, 2014 at 4:38 PM // Reply

      Ours was, and still is “Seanzilla” capable of laying waste to whole cities.

  • Every word of this post is the truth.

    Also, #26. They are capable of throwing up 17 times in one morning and, 24 hours later, acting like nothing ever happened.

    Guess how I know this.

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