After I birthed my first tiny baby (tiny but huge, the damage was horrifying) I lived each day procrastinating about how hard it all was. While the adjustment was definitely a huge life change, it was more the lack of sleep, continuous worry and hormonal imbalance that made taking care of a baby seem so difficult. Saying that, babies are difficult, although they sleep a lot, they also cry a lot for absolutely no reason.
Fast forward a few years and two toddlers later to a time I thought would be easier and I’ve realised it’s not easier, it’s just different. And with those changes I’ve also settled into being a mother of toddlers and even though I would chew the arm off someone that invents eyes in the back of your head, I enjoy these wild toddler beasts much more than when they were babies.
Is that OK to say?
So on the one hand parenting toddlers is a breeze. They’ll give you the best laughs you’ve ever had and be the sweetest little people that’ll make you a proud mama. On the other hand you’ll feel like you’ve lost all control because they’re out of control, your house has been turned over to plastic crap and some days you’ll break and burst into tears over something ridiculous, like the time your two year old threw their dinner on the floor and then cried because they were hungry.
So to help guide you through toddler territory I’ve come up with a simple guide of everything you need to know.
1. Toddlers repeat everything you say.
If you’re known to have the mouth of a sailor then you may need to bring a swear jar in to prevent you from effing and jeffing. Don’t be fooled that they didn’t repeat it the first time you said it, toddlers can store curse words in their little brains for months before repeating it in front of the cashier at Sainsbury’s.
“Here’s your ******* milk mummy”.
This also applies to any conversation you have about someone. They’re like sponges, they’ll absorb everything you say and then slip up in front of the person you hoped would never hear. Linda never needs to know her spray tan made her look like an Oompa Loompa, so for the love of God son don’t repeat it.
Their repetition isn’t always a bad thing though. You can use their parrot like behaviour to mimic your good behaviours such as manners, being kind and saying positive things. We try our best to be positive about everything in front of them and be courteous to those around us, unless they’re not in earshot, then we eff and jeff until the skies turn blue.
2. Give your toddler options.
It’s easy to decide everything for your children but they’re little people that have their own wants and needs too, they just need to learn how to voice their wishes and make choices.
This is in no way a simple thing to do, at times it’ll be incredibly frustrating because they’re contrary little creatures but trust me, it’s worth it.
By letting your toddler decide small things such as their sandwich filling, the colour cup they’d like or who they’d like to put them to bed, they’ll feel more inclined to accept what you’ve given them without a fuss. We’ve all been in a stand off with our children where they’re refusing to drink from the red cup because they want the yellow cup, but you’re refusing to change it because a cup is a cup kid.
Just remember the first few times you give your toddler a choice, they won’t always make the right choice for themselves and it may still end up in a strop “but you chose this”. Just roll with it.
3. There’s no potty training manual.
Having a manual for our children full stop would be amazing, but potty training is like a minefield trying to figure out which method is best for your child.
You’ll find yourself studying their faces for ‘cues’ and the second you look away they’ll have peed on the carpet or crapped on your sofa.
The best advice I can give is to take it slow, stay indoors for a few days to get them used to the initial technique and don’t potty train before they’re ready (as in they don’t understand what a wee or poo is). But I’m a firm believer in the younger the better, they become more rebellious as they get older.
Sometimes it’s easier to ignore all advice and give it a shot even if they’re showing no ‘signs’. If they can understand you and you them, that can be all the signs you need.
It will be messy, it may not be quick, outings can end in a mad panic to find the nearest loo (or bush) and night-time training is tiresome, but once it’s done you never have to do it again. Until the next child.
4. Say “yes” more.
“No” is a word that can result in a humungous meltdown. While kids still need boundaries and to respect your decisions, there are the occasional times you can bend the rules. Or at least refuse their request in a more stealthy way.
If they want to go for a walk but you’re tired, do it for them, just remember you can set the distance. To the end of the street and back guys.
Or if they want to ‘help’ you cook, stand them on a stool and give them a wooden spoon, so they’re helping without ruining the dinner.
You can also get creative by saying “yes” and still meaning “no”. When they ask if they can get the play-doh out, you can say “yes, you can get it out. At playgroup tomorrow“.
5. Let them go.
One thing I found hard with my children, and still find hard now is letting other people look after them. I worry about all the crazy things that could go wrong and I also don’t like handing over the responsibility of my children when it isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to take care of them. But I’m constantly reminded that it’s not a burden to others, it’s a joy.
Everyone benefits from a little time apart. You can appreciate time to focus on yourself and the kids always enjoy a change of scenery. Plus children always behave like angels for others, am I right? So they’re getting the best deal really.
Your children can ask ‘why’ a hundred times to someone else for a day while you’re at home soaking your feet in a foot spa without said children using the foot spa as a potty. It’s a hard life.
6. You can be patient.
It’s in you, I promise.
I know there will be times that the shouty version of yourself erupts, because toddlers are the most unreasonable creatures there ever were. They know exactly how to push your buttons that’ll light a fire inside your body that either results in anger or tears.
Keep cool, ignoring them is the best punishment.
Every toddler mum will experience their child’s fury in full force at home, in public and around friends. That’s ok. Ride the toddler storm and take a deep breath once it’s over. It says nothing about your parenting when your child turns into the Tasmanian devil and if it makes you feel better, then stick two fingers up to anyone who looks at the charade.
All that matters is surviving.
And deep breathing.
7. Your nerves will be shot to pieces.
One minute they’re a baby being cradled in your arms and the next minute they’re climbing bookcases and throwing themselves off yelling “Spidermannnnn”.
It takes seconds for children to find themselves in life-threatening situations because they have absolutely no fear of danger. They laugh at the idea of it.
You will have a heart attack almost daily because the confidence of these kids will frighten the life out of you. They have no concept of roads and pavements and see all ground as playing ground. Dogs are cuddly toys, especially the big ones, anything high is a climbing frame and one day you’ll turn around and they’ll have disappeared because they’ve chosen the most inappropriate place to play hide and seek.
It’s exhausting parenting toddlers because you have to have eyes everywhere. You’ll blink and all of a sudden they’re practising their tight-rope walking across the work top. I don’t know how they do it, but they do, so be warned.
8. They’ll never go hungry.
It’s only natural to fear that your child is suffering with malnourishment because every meal you make ends up sliding down the wall or pushed around their plate but that old saying of “they won’t starve” is true.
Although toddlers don’t fear danger, they do fear new foods. Especially healthy ones. The logic is crazy but it takes small children a few times of seeing food before they pluck up the courage to try it. So until then they’ll probably live off the lone raisin under the sofa and a defrosted pea that’s rolled itself under the fridge. But they’ll be fine.
Toddlers are the fussiest beings alive, so a good amount of patience and willpower will get you through their meal times. There’s one thing you can guarantee they will eat and that’s all junk food. And anything their grandparents give them, because their homes are the places sugar goes to die.
Foods packed with sugar may be their favourite things to eat but sugar is not your friend. Sugar sends children hyperactive and then bring them back down to earth with a crash. You don’t need that as a parent.
9. Toddlers play Jekyll and Hyde perfectly.
Parenting a toddler is a whirlwind of emotions. Some days you just want to squeeze them tight because they’re being such angels and other days you want to scream into your pillow because they’re behaving like impossible little beasts.
We have a difficult child and a careless child right now. While both of their hearts are lovely and sweet, sometimes their actions are the opposite.
For example child 1 will be difficult, just for the hell of it. He’ll walk to the top of the stairs and suddenly it pops into his head that he should have been carried up the stairs. And with that thought he’ll take himself back downstairs and start screeching until someone obliges. Obviously no-one obliges. Quite often this turns into a battle of wills. I’m not giving in, he’s not giving in and eventually we both forget and get on with our day.
No mum has time for this pettiness.
Child 2 never listens and lives a very carefree life. If we don’t want her to play with the toilet brush for hygiene reasons you can guarantee that she’ll be brushing her hair with it. When we ask her to use a spoon instead of her fists she will hold her spoon in one hand whilst shovelling her dinner into her mouth with the other. When she’s asked to leave the cat alone you only need to blink before she’s attempting to put our poor pet in the stroller.
Yet on the other hand they have such an innocent outlook on life that makes me want to bottle it forever. They find simple things entertaining like walking to find sticks, watching their mum cook and waving at the train as it whizzes past. As tough as they can behave they’re the easiest people to please, all they really want is our time and love.
The best part about toddlers is the love they show to us and to each other. When they cuddle us and snuggle up to us it’s because they want to, not because they have to. When they’re playing nicely with each other, they really mean it and it’s the best thing to watch. When they learn something new it’s us they’re excited to show and tell and that makes us the parents proudest ever.
Children of all ages make sure our hearts are always full, but toddlers have a way of expressing their love that’ll make every mum melt.
Like with all things in life, you have to cherish the good and embrace the bad when raising toddlers.