From babies, to toddlers, to preschoolers, to elementary school, the tweens, the teens, and eventually adult children, all stages of development for our offspring have their own unique rewards and challenges. Having finally passed what we call “the toddler years” for our fifth and final child, I now feel compelled to share our biggest and most helpful secrets for survival.
1. Learn to appreciate noise and to fear silence. It’s a cliche for a reason– because it’s totally true. No matter how many curtain climbers you have littered around your homespot, if your little slice of utopia is generally louder than a stock car rally, and then all of a sudden it gets quiet? Take a deep breath and brace yourself before you go looking. Trust me.
(Also– take a camera with you. You’ll want photographic evidence of this.)
2. Your toilet is as good as a garbage can-slash-toybox. Lock it up. No, seriously. Potty training be damned. You need either a lock on the bathroom door, a lock on the toilet lid, or an emergency contact for a plumber that you don’t mind financing Hawaiian vacations for. If it CAN be stuffed in the toilet, it will be. #FACT
3. Learn the proper rules of sharing. Sharing in toddler terms means that if I want it, it’s mine. Any time, any where, any thing. Give it to me right now or suffer my wrath. And don’t think you’re going to sweet talk your way out of it with some silly trade, either. Toddlers may be small, but they’re sharp. And worse–they’re ruthless.
4. Develop an appreciation for the word “no.” It’s such a beautiful, simple word. Embrace it. You’ll be mumbling it in your sleep soon. And getting it thrown back in your face a lot more often than you’d like.
5. Harden your heart toward puppydog eyes, crocodile tears, and quivering lips. IT’S A TRAP! These tiny little terrorists have been genetically enhanced with super adorable fundamental traits that are so powerful, they can cut you off at the knees with just a look.
6. Embrace the power of a well-timed bribe. Find out your toddler’s currency, and then keep tons of it handy. (Handy, but hidden! Bribes only work when used sparingly.)
7. Stay informed but be flexible. What your toddler likes today might be what he hates tomorrow. Children can be fickle little creatures. All last week, she would eat only white grapes and goldfish. Today, she turns up her nose and shrieks at the mention, and only wants bananas and spaghetti o’s. Just roll with it. You really needed to make another trip to the supermarket anyway.
8. If you have nice things, or sharp things, or breakable things, or really anything that’s not kid-friendly, kiss them goodbye. I always recommend getting a storage unit that you can pay the rent on for at least a decade. If you love it, you need to protect it. That includes protecting your great-grandmother’s vase from your toddler’s demolition training, and protecting your toddler from the all-consuming curiosity of Sharpie markers.
9. Do not buy Legos. There is no rationale for this invention that is worth the pain. Just don’t.
10. Accept and embrace your role as the center of their universe. (For now.) Arrogant, irrational, and self-centered though toddlers may be, they pattern their behaviors on how you react to their shenanigans. That impressively long string of swear words that you ripped out after stepping in a pile of OMG what IS that?! may have been a one-off, but don’t be surprised if you get a call from the preschool about *ahem* language problems. Toddlers can be quite spectacular little mimics, and their timing is usually impeccable. And by ‘impeccable’ I mean repeating the worst things at the absolute worst possible moment.