Ah, toddlerhood. Those blessed, infuriating, uproarious years between 2 and 4. Every childish action makes a parent want to either scream, laugh or fall upon one’s knees in absolute joy and thankfulness. And sometimes, you do. All. Simultaneously. How many times I’ve found myself — at the edge — a mommy mess of crying, laughing and hugging this little mad person. It’s a funny time. For me at least, it’s AH-mazing. I didn’t dread the two-year mark (go figure, considering my fairly paralyzing post-partum anxiety) although inundated with many “I know better” warnings from other parents as they noticed my one-year-old’s exemplary behavior and made sure I knew how I would surely soon suffer.
First-time parents in particular, we hear horror stories of the “terrible twos” – tales of incomparable selfishness, belligerent tantrums and mind-numbing stubbornness. I heard it often, the condescending, “Oh well, he’s great now. You’d better get ready.”
Believe me; it’s all true, what they say. About the tantrums, the self-centeredness. But buddy, this is a part of parenting and this is a true test of patience, love and above all humor. Stop bitching about toddlers. And, for Buddha’s sake, stop scaring new parents.
You can make it through sleepless, sexless nights? You can handle a two-year old. You somehow survived months of colic or baby reflux or developmental delays? Trust me, mommy, you can handle a tantrum. You successfully handled juggling a baby, going back to a high-stress job and making your marriage work? A toddler is small potatoes.
The past few months? Best time I’ve ever had with the Kaiser. The why? Well. He’s the funniest human being I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Sure, he can be a massive pain in the ass. No doubt. But he is (and I believe all toddlers can be) reasonable, contrary to popular belief and parenting manuals.
Case in point (truly, one of many): Today at Books-A-Million. We head to Greenville most Saturdays. It’s highly anticipated. Kaiser takes a nap, knowing that when he wakes, we’ll have a snack, and then hop in the car for the short drive to toddler Mecca. He takes his Thomas the Train toys to play on the massive railway configuration. This is BIG STUFF.
So today, we’re there for an hour, and have a blast. The kid even shares his personal trains with some random little boy, an event that pretty much dumbfounded me. Anyhoo, it’s time to go, back to the front of the store for a cookie, and then down the strip mall to PetSmart to see the fish and lizards and crabs and hamsters. This is our routine, and so I mistakenly thought it’d be smooth sailing. Kaiser’s cool at first, walking toward the café for a cookie and impending animal fun. He puts on his sunglasses, poised to grab his chocolate chip reward.
And then, in that toddler brain, the realization that no, he would rather stay with the train. So in the middle of the wide aisle, he jerks free of my hand. Plops down. Throws his sunglasses. Crosses his arms defiantly. I see the sunglasses fly.
This ain’t gonna be easy. So I stop. Just look at him. “Cole, let’s get a cookie and go see the fish.”
He lies down. Across the aisle. On his stomach, and looks up at me. “No go. Cole play train.”
I inwardly shrug. Letting him lie there angrily, I crouch down next to him, as annoyed shoppers walk around us. I don’t care (and this, friends, is where I think the real difference between me and other parents can be seen. I really don’t care). “We’ve played with the train,” I say quietly, “and now it’s time to get our cookie and go see the fishies.”
“No. Cole no want fishies.” I stand up, readjust my purse on my shoulder and step back from my sweet baby.
“Look it, dude. You get up, hold my hand and walk outta here like a big boy, or I’m gonna pick you up.”
He knows I’m not bluffing. He’s knows I’m not bluffing because I, unlike many mother I’ve seen in Target…I have no shame. It doesn’t bother me one bit to pick him up, football style, amidst protesting screams and shocked onlookers, and haul his cute little arse to the car with a smile.
And he waits, on the floor. And I wait, poised to leave. Toddler standoff. The OK Corral, Kaiser style. Ten seconds pass.
And then he smiles, laughs. I laugh. He gets up and happily takes my hand. “Cole big boy.”
“Yes indeed. Cole’s a big boy. Now pick up your sunglasses.” And we go. We get our cookie, and have a fab time harassing the fish at PetSmart.
These months? It is amazing. Fun. Life changing. Endearing. And no doubt, trying. The lesson? Relax. Don’t be afraid to look like an ass. You know who looks silly? The mommy who coddles a tantrum, who gingerly pulls a child out of Walmart with a bad attitude and forty-dollars worth of appeasement toys.