People warn you about a lot of things when you have a baby: the brain-damage-inducing sleepless nights, the impossibly copious amounts of spit-up that can come out of an eight pound container, and the introduction of stink to explosive poop. And all of that is absolutely horrendous, but what no one warns you about are the toddler years.
People might mention the “Terrible Twos” in passing, but they fail to impart that the Terrible Twos (TT) aren’t just the age of two. They are at least two years of irrational behavior, limit testing, and meltdowns. And some kids remain in the TT’s well into to the age of twenty-six.
When your child first becomes a toddler, the first temptation will be to take a long drive and leave them in the woods. Please, fight this urge because we have enough people raised by raccoons running around as it is. To prepare you for what is to come, and as a public service to control the hybrid raccoon-people population, I will share with you the five most important things I’ve learned since becoming the owner of my very own toddler.
1. Uncut the Sandwich
One thing you must know, and one you probably already know, is that nothing you do or say will be right. This was a lesson I first learned shortly after being married, and one that has been exponentially reinforced now that I have a toddler. That’s because a toddler has the uncanny audacity and strength of conviction to stick with a ridiculous idea even after she’s presented with scientific documentation that ducks do not, in fact, communicate with a subtle language of farts.
So when, through the kindness of my heart, I make her a sandwich, I must acknowledge the fact that it will be wrong. No matter how I made it – it will be wrong. It will have too much jelly on it. I will forget to cut it. I will leave the crust on it. I will cut it diagonally. It won’t have enough jelly on it. I won’t cut it diagonally. I will cut the crust off.
“I don’t want this sandwich, it’s been cut! Uncut the sandwich, daddy!”
2. Eating Patterns
In the freakishly rare occurrence that I do make the sandwich correctly, I still face the problem of convincing her to eat. A toddler’s hunger is annoyingly based on whether they are hungry or not, not based on a set time, boredom, or depression like a normal person. If my toddler isn’t in the mood to eat, she’s not going to eat. In fact, it would be easier to stuff a panicked squirrel into the mouth of an equally panicked vegan than convince my daughter to eat a single bite of french toast when she’s just “not feeling it.”
The other fun thing about toddler eating patterns is that their tastes change constantly. Sure, they liked eggs on Tuesday, but this is Friday, you knave! How dare you even consider that still a viable meal option? It can be even more extreme than that. In a single swift motion, a toddler can put a bite of food in their mouth, exclaim, “Compliments to the chef!” chew twice, and then spit it out as if you tried to poison them with spinach.
3. The Great Language Coaster
The toddler brain-sponge is an amazing device to watch in action. Not only do they parrot everything they hear, but they repeat the things you were positive you said under your breath, three rooms away, leaving you suddenly accountable in front of the daycare lady after your child yelled “Eat a bag of Hell” at the other children.
As good as they are at repeating things, however, their inexperienced brain pans sometimes erroneously fill in contextual gaps that lead to conversations such as,
“Sometimes we always eat marbles, right?”
“I gotted my doll stucked in the doggie.”
“You going to get touched in your poop-eyeball.”
Then there are the Jekyll situations where your child is sitting on the floor playing with blocks and saying, “You are Cho-chee, the red block, and this is Bee-booga, the blue block, and together you dance under Zoodaaboo tree” and then she stands up, looks you dead in the eye, and in the voice of a proper English butler says, “Father, it is so lovely out, I believe I shall have my Mac and Cheese in the conservatory this bright morn.”
4. Children’s Books are the Worst
I’m going to anger some people with this one, but Dr. Suess books are the worst. He was a dick whose goal in life was to make parents look like idiots in front of their children. And his rhymes? Well, it’s pretty easy to have things rhyme when you just make up the words. You’re the damn reason Cho-chee and Bee-booga are dancing under the Zoodaaboo tree, Señor Geisel.
How about this gem of poetry:
Painting pink pajamas.
Policeman in a pail.
Peter Pepper’s puppy.
And now Papa’s in the pail.
Nice way to rhyme pail with pail there, good doctor. Who taught you how to rhyme, Pitbull? You could have at least made up a word like you do elsewhere, but even toddler’s don’t buy that after a point. When I say “Fiffer-feffer-feff,” she knows it’s not a real word and calls bullshit.
And don’t even get me started on Fox in Socks.
5. The Question “Why?”
Everyone talks about how toddlers ask, “why?” repeatedly, and it is definitely true. I refuse to give in and use the standard parental cop-out of, “Because, I said so.” Sometimes I try to see how many “whys” I can answer truthfully before giving up the onion skin facade that I’m actually qualified to teach this person anything about life (current record: 14).
And if I don’t know the answer? I tell her that I don’t know. She’s already figured out that I’m no superman: repeated sandwich artistry fails, my inability to fool her with the quarter from the ear trick, I can’t hide anything from her, and she’s better at math than me.
But what people don’t tell you is how many times you’ll say “why?”
“Why did you paint that with poop when we bought you a set of water colors?”
“Why did you bite the cat?”
“Why did you eat month-old crumbs off the floor of the car?”
“Why did you hit me in the crotch and you and your mom laughed so hard about it?”
But you can ask all you want, it doesn’t matter because there is no answer to this “why.” Like a well-paid Nike athlete, they just do it. Toddlers are barely formed primates suffering from sensory overload in a world of rules and new situations to constantly test. It’s experimentation. Why would I put a penny in the electrical socket? Why would I taste the cat food currently in the cat’s mouth? Why would I poke you in your poop-eyeball?
Who cares “why?” It’s science!
These are the top issues I can think of to warn new parents about the oncoming toddler trials, the things other parents won’t tell you about, and be assured there are plenty more. It’s an unrelenting war against the little humans and you cannot budge even an inch. Use these warnings to be prepared, for if the toddler smells any weakness, they will be all over you like a raccoon-person on a trashcan.