“If you don’t wear a coat, you’ll be cold.”
“NO COAT!” My toddler shrieks again.
“Okay. You don’t have to wear a coat. But if you get cold on the way to school, I’m not stopping the bike …”
“Waaah, waaah, I’M COLD! I’M COLD! I’M COLD!”
You may have found some of your baby’s behavior baffling—all that unstoppable drooling and incomprehensible babbling.
Maybe you were even counting the days until said baby could walk, convincing yourself that you’d change fewer diapers, get thrown up on less often, and finally be able to understand what your child was telling you.
After all, you toddler can “talk.”
In a word, you may have thought life would get simpler once you had a toddler.
Your friends with older children tried to disabuse you of the notion that babies are easier once they’re walking but you knew that your toddler would morph into something akin to a miniature adult (albeit one with an oversized head who falls down a lot).
So now that you have a toddler, why do you suddenly feel like you’re parenting a small dragon who breathes fire and bites through skin one minute but wants to be held and rocked the next?
Living with a toddler is like living with someone with a multiple personality disorder: you wake to a smiling eager beaver jumping on your face, you breakfast with an infuriated little tyrant who NO WANT DAT OATMEALS! so much he dumps his bowl on the floor, you go for a walk to the park with a inquisitive scientist who stops to examine every dandelion, play at the playground with an intrepid climber, and seconds later find yourself comforting a tearful, fearful, flailing mess that was once your cherubic child.
Our first child was an easy, mellow baby who became an extremely, shall we say, spirited, toddler.
Our second was a challenging baby who became a relatively easygoing toddler.
With our third I thought we lucked out: he was the kind of baby who forgave every parenting misdeed (bonk him on the head and he’d smile; forget to bring a wash cloth and he’d kick his legs happily as you cleaned him in the library sink with cold water and scratchy paper towels), and he was just as forgiving and good-natured after he turned two.
But right before he hit his third birthday our son found his toddler stride.
His favorite activities included screaming “NO!” at the top of his lungs, stealing things he knew he wasn’t supposed to have (my husband’s cell phone disappeared for weeks until we found it buried in his toy stash), sneaking sweets (he’d close the kitchen door when we weren’t looking and manage to finish off a pint of ice cream before we even noticed, let alone figured out how he opened the freezer by himself), and destroying all of his older sisters’ most coveted possessions.
One day, after Etani had plugged the bathroom drain by smushing an entire bar of soap down it, I called my aunt close to tears.
“What am I doing wrong?” I moaned. This was my third child. I had been writing magazine and newspaper articles about parenting for several years. I was supposed to know how to handle parenting a toddler!
“It isn’t your fault,” Judy said, trying not to laugh. “Toddlers are like that. Haven’t you read your own book?”
When our second born came into the world screaming 19 months after her older sister was born (we planned it that way), I was so overwhelmed by the experience of having a difficult toddler—who still nursed and had peach fuzz for hair and acted like a baby—and a difficult newborn at the same time, I decided to compile a book of first-person real-life stories about toddlers.
Writing the book was selfish altruism: my first goal was to help other parents but I also secretly wanted to read as many stories as I could from others in order to get a handle on my own life and figure out how to parent my fickle, irrational, utterly loveable yet totally trying little girl.
Now I need to read my book on toddlers again. Our fourth and last child was the easiest, most mild-mannered, cuddliest baby.
She breezed through age two.
Up until a few weeks ago she was the sweetest, kindest, most helpful, most patient little person. But in early November she turned three.
Reminder to all parents: If you don’t pay now you pay later.
Now, where’d I put that coat?
Published: December 6, 2012
Last update: May 11, 2020