Who has these tips, for me?
Today, Olivia, still shy of naps and super tired, walked over to her friend in the high chair, reached up, and hit her.
My friend, startled, “Um, she just HIT the baby.”
Me, chagrined, scoops up Olivia, “Time for nap attempt number two. And by the way, I hope your daughter is as big a jerk when she’s a toddler.”
“Don’t put that on me!”
This is where we are, friends. Toddlers man, they house all the feelings, don’t they? It’s the age of expression up in our household, and Olivia leads the charge. More exhausting, we can climb into, on top of, and around everything now. Like, the outside of the stair banister, or out of the playpen. (Just, why.) I say “No thank you,” so many times during the day that all enthusiasm has waned. No-thank-you is Olivia’s new first name.
**points excitedly to your planner, smiling sweetly**
“Oh yes, that’s mommy’s planner, **grabs planner and begins tearing pages out** “No thank you! Don’t grab it please!”
“No thank you, coffee isn’t good for you!”
“No thank you, please don’t climb on the table!”
No thank you! Stop eating the succulents!”
Anyway, I’ve had some time to think on it, and I feel like these 5 tips could save anyone’s relationship with their toddler. Read below, and let me know.
Tip #1: Gym Membership’s Are Critical
You will be super active now that you’re chasing your child off tables like a suicide counselor, but that doesn’t mean you should cancel your gym membership. Unless said gym doesn’t have childcare. Who needs that noise? The gym is a great place to take your nap-denier mid strike. Drop them off with the care providers, leave your partner’s number instead of yours (on accident of course) and go read the newspaper in the lobby with some hot coffee, or lay out by the pool, or take a nap on a yoga mat in some quiet corner (I’m sure that’s totally welcome). You don’t need the gym for a work-out anymore, you have toddler for that.
When/If you go pick your child up, and the exhausted staff complains about the tot’s ridiculous behavior, act absolutely horrified. “Little Jack, did what? He took his diaper off?!? He’s never done anything like that. I’m so sorry!” Then quickly exit as soon as another parent enters. Return the next day, rinse and repeat. The childcare staff will figure it out pretty quickly, but who cares? You drank coffee while it was still warm, friends, and your toddler didn’t dunk his hand in it then dump it down your shirt.
Tip #2 Facilitate an Active Fantasy Life
I like to pretend that we can afford a full-time au pair who teaches my daughter a foreign language and is effortlessly elegant and maybe she becomes my best friend and we travel to back to Europe together for the summer. The kids would stay home of course. When my daughter has fed the puppy her breakfast through the metal bars of the crate, then laid prostrate on the ground because, well, “that puppy ate my breakfast!” I imagine that my french au pair, Chloe, would handle it so much better than I. For one, she’d probably say, “Non, merci!” (It sounds so much better in French.)
Maybe your fantasy is a live in chef, or house cleaner, or all three. Or maybe you fantasize about boarding school for toddlers. Judgment free zone over here, friends. When caring for a toddler, as in defensive driving, you should always leave an out. Your mental stability depends on breaks from the chaos. But sometimes when you’re home full-time, you’re only “out” is to create some story “in” your head. You can call it meditation if that makes you feel less weird about it. Sure, it sort of works. Just close your eyes and click your red heels three times and say, “there’s no one like Chloe…”
Tip #3 Have a Hobby or Two
Is your hobby drinking? That’s fantastic. Is it sobbing into your pillow or biting down on a dish rag and screaming like a banshee? Even better. Just make sure you clean up the mascara and the dish rag hasn’t just sopped up two-day old up banana guts you found squashed into the underside of the table. (Which, let me just say, that’s almost worse than spiders. Almost.)
Another great hobby: Putting some super inappropriate but zippy pop music on and mindlessly coloring unfinished pages from a My Little Ponies’ coloring book with nubs of whatever crayons you have lying around, while your toddler drunkenly pushes her doll stroller, that’s now housing a leaking sippy cup and two unmatched shoes. That’s called, “free choice time” and its excellent practice for when said toddler is in primary school. See? your hobby is helping your child prepare for school! (I hope you gave yourself a pat on the back, just now.) Plus, you get to fill in Apple Blossom with the all the coloring strategies you haven’t employed since at least 6th grade. You know how to color, man. You’re like a pro at that. (Extra points if you put it on your fridge and brag to your partner.)
Tip #4 Make New Friends*
*But not the superior kind. You are probably not shy on friends that can adequately life. You need a friend that makes your toddler’s melt downs seem like giggle fests. So here’s what you do: Go to the park in the shirt with coffee all down the front (this helps you blend in with the prey, er um, I mean, potential friend) and find the woman crying into a pillow she brought to the park. Then, and this is critical, make her like you. It won’t be hard if you have extra coffee or adult language at your disposal. Throw in a few compliments like, “Wow, you really are good at hyperventilating!” Or, offer to help, “Would you like me to comb the knots out of your hair for you while you cry?” Do yourself a huge favor though, first make sure their child is absolutely horrid. This is how a horrible child will benefit you:
“Hey honey what’d you do with Ella today?”
“We hung out with Samantha and her son, Jude. It went badly. Jude pushed a kid down the slide, then threw sand in Sam’s face and laughed maniacally!”
“Wow, you seem oddly chipper about that. How was our Ella?”
That’s right. Your face slapping, diaper removing, drunk, Tasmanian devil of a toddler will automatically turn into an angel around a more intense child. I don’t know why this is a thing, but it is so a thing. And it will make you feel very validated for all your parenting choices. (Your parenting choices have nothing to do with this, by the way, it’s just the law of toddlers.) This is the mom version of “friends with benefits” and all you have to do is find the mom whose child is worse than yours. Of course you will have to drop this friend when your toddler starts to pick up the bad behavior and mimic it, so try not to get too attached. If you can’t find someone worse off than you, then, tag, you’re it. Sorry, it’s a rotating gig, and apparently your number is up. Maybe you’re next child will be the angel?
Tip #5 Lie Like Your Life Depends on it
Say you’re at a store like Jo-Ann’s and your child starts screaming, in joy. Because, of course. And say some well coiffed older woman with time on her hands hunts you down to check said screaming child. And maybe she has some thoughts to share about said joyful noise. Here are some response options:
“Oh yes, she just got the gift of sight today, so I took her here to fill her little eyes with all the colors of the rainbow. I’m sorry if the screaming is a bother. She’s just, you know, been blind, until right now.”
“Oh this child? She’s not mine. And her mom only communicates with her at decibel’s above 80 so it’s all she knows. Isn’t her mom wretched? She’s also the one that made me take her here today because she wanted me to see if anyone else appreciated this. She’s totally the worst mother in history, right?”
Lying will get you nowhere everywhere else in life, but, it will get you everywhere when you have a toddler. Some people, usually mothers of former toddlers, and especially grandmothers, so get it. They will laugh, and then wink at you with a kind of “keep on fighting the good fight” nod. Those that do not get it, well, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. Other acceptable times to lie: When your beloved friends invite you out but the thought of getting dressed in “real clothes” gives you the shakes. Or when your mother in law asks you what you’re doing wrong if your formerly great sleeper is now playing midnight kung-fu fighter. Sure, your friends will eventually stop trusting you, but who cares? You still have that back-up friend/hot mess who practically depends on you. And she hasn’t even showered in two weeks so it’s not like she’s noticing your tall tales. The thing is, you have a toddler now, and the game has changed You are officially excused from any and all truth-telling that might send you into a shame spiral.
Unless the truth-telling is:
“I have a toddler and she’s wonderful and the light of my life but she’s also exhausting and maddening and I could really use a judgment-free moment while she screams in joy, yes, IN JOY, and I look at this pretty fabric for a pretend blanket for my fantasy au pair, okay?”
Because yes, toddlers are certainly maddening, and about a thousand other words that the thesaurus would find applicable. But they are also so loving. And watching them see the world in this state of first awareness, is like seeing the world for the first time, yourself. It’s wretched, and it’s glorious. N’est pas?
So. Do those tips help? If no, then maybe it’s a good time to tell you that I didn’t write this, my genius toddler did. She also saw a wolf heading for the sheep, so, um… summon the village.