16 Tips for Surviving The Toddler Years

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It seems as if you were just counting her fingers and toes or Googling every possible remedy for his colic and now you have a certifiable person on your hands and the person is very small but she already has strong opinions. On everything.

Pointing, wanting, refusing, demanding turns into asking, yelling, singing, splashing. There is the inevitable throwing himself onto the ground in howling frustration which can often be a daily occurrence. You will bargain, you might bribe, you might hide behind the refrigerator door and eat chocolate where no one can see you. You will find yourself doing things you swore you’d never do when you became a parent. You will wonder why all of the advice is for the parents of newborns when right now is when you most need that detailed instruction manual. Looking back, you might think those early days were easy now, even though they weren’t.

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Draw a bath. For yourself, yes. Okay, never mind. Take a really quick shower with your child in the bathroom and peek out of the shower curtain every few seconds to make sure she hasn’t ingested a dangerous amount of toothpaste or drank out of the toilet in an impressive imitation of the dog. But use the nice soap. You deserve it.

There is good news: The swaddling, the constant night-waking, the cluster feeding, incessant nursing, the agonized screaming from gas pain is over! You did it! You have possibly or almost changed your very last diaper. But now, you have a new set of challenges; because toddlers are pretty much insane. Repeating this often will help you keep your sanity and perspective when your two year old is screaming because you won’t let her drink gin (this actually happened to me).

Toddlers will ask for cheese. You will give them cheese only to have them shriek in terror as if you are trying to poison them. They will tell you that no, they didn’t really want cheese. They wanted a strawberry. Give them a strawberry and they will throw it on the floor and demand the cheese again. But a different kind of cheese on a very specific plate and the cheese must be cut to exacting specifications. They are rock star divas with riders that would make even David Lee Roth blanch at their audacity.

Because of this, you will have days when you will want to drop them off at the fire station. Just for a couple hours. You will understand that their cuteness is truly an important evolutionary survival mechanism.

Trying to survive your own little toddler? Some tips:

1. Get a clamp for the toilet lid. Ignore this advice at your own risk and the risk of everything you’d never want to end up in the toilet. My daughter in a span of 30 microseconds dumped my entire jewelry box into the big girl potty. It was not endearing.

2. If they eat cat food, it won’t hurt them. In fact, most things won’t hurt them. My sister’s daughter took a dead lizard from the cat and popped it right in her mouth. She was fine. My sister was not. Toddlers are tough as nails and the human race wouldn’t have survived if they weren’t.

3. “If they’re crabby, put them in water.” ~ SARK It really works. I’ve done it at least eighty-six times. Actually, way more.

4. Play-Doh is your friend, but be forewarned, you can’t prevent them from eating it no matter what you do. All efforts to prevent the ingestion of play-doh are futile. Go with it. It’s salty.

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5. Like dogs, they need lots of physical play outside. In fact, get them a gentle dog to play with and turn the two of them loose together in the yard or a park.

6. Toddlers have bizarre eating habits. Trust that they won’t starve themselves and if they eat nothing but crackers for four straight days they will actually survive. If it helps, my sister and I ate nothing but ramen noodles and grilled cheese sandwiches for at least seven years and we both grew up to eat tofu, quinoa and green juice with kale in it. Don’t expect a two year old to eat kale. I mean, come on, I can barely eat it and I’m 40.

7. Yes, they will run away from you but they aren’t really running away. They just want to be chased. Don’t be sad that it seems like you see more of their backs these days because just as fast as they bolted, they’ll turn around and fly straight back into your arms. Toddlers play around with independence. They’re practicing. Don’t worry because they do still need you. More than ever actually.

8. Repeat this mantra often “All messes can be cleaned up.” There will be a lot of messes. It’s okay. Yes, toddlers often seem psychotic. I know. It can be tempting to have an anxiety attack and convince yourself that you’ve somehow passed on a recessive sociopath gene because after all your Uncle Ted is serving time in a federal prison for cooking meth, but it’s not true. All toddlers are psychotic. It doesn’t mean that your son is going to grow up and steal cars or that your daughter is going to be a bank robber. And you know what? Every family has its version of an Uncle Ted.

9. We create their entire reality. They believe every word we tell them. Once in a while you can tell them that the park is closed when you’re late for your doctor’s appointment but taking advantage of their gullibility is cruel.

10. Instead, use your power for good. Help them to create a positive reality. Pass on to your children the sense that the world is benevolent and that they are safe and well and that there are infinite possibilities for their wonderful lives. If you do nothing else, do this and everything will be okay.

11. Resist any temptation, however slight, to compare. Children are beyond idiosyncratic, especially at this age.

12. There is simply no logical pattern to any of their development. If a friend’s daughter supposedly waved and said “bye bye” at six months but your son couldn’t walk by fourteen months it means absolutely nothing. Love your child and his or her unique abilities.

13. Don’t force them into milestones they aren’t ready for. You’ll just end up fighting a battle that will make your entire family miserable. Respect the pace at which your child develops. Some days they will declare themselves to be big while the very next hour they will decide that they need to be a baby for a little while longer.

14. Befriend other parents. They will become your support system and your social life. They will understand when you cancel plans five minutes before you were supposed to meet and you won’t always need to get a babysitter in order to hang out. When you do get together the children will entertain one another enough for you to get in at least three sentences worth of much-needed adult conversation.

15 .Live for the right now. Remember what I said about the nice soap and the fancy wine and the chocolate you hid in the fridge? Use it, drink it, eat it up. Give up Pinterest (okay, just cut back on it) and accept that parenting is as weird as rain with the sun out. It is no contradiction that your greatest joy and your greatest frustration are the exact same thing.

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16. Watch how you learn with your children. They scooted to a crawl and pulled themselves up to cruise and finally lifted their little, sticky hands and stumbled (right into the coffee table of course) and then finally one day they stood on their own and really walked. This is a lot like how you are learning to be a parent—a little at a time, through trial and error and crashing dramatically into the furniture and just like your little ones you will fall hard on your ass some days and you too will want to throw yourself on the floor and scream from exhaustion and irritation.

But then there will be those days when you will stand up and run. You will have days when you dance and sing and play and see the world in brighter colors and you will know that this is totally worth it and that yeah, you can do this after all.

Related post: 50 Reasons Your Toddler Might Be Awake Right Now

The 10 Dumbest Things I’ve Said to My Toddlers

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Since having kids, I tend to say things I’ve never said and do things I’ve never done. Being a mom has made me rattle off the dumbest questions and most pointless sentences of my life. Some so ridiculous that after I say it, I think to myself: “What does that even mean?” Here’s a few examples of things I’ve said recently:

1. “If you don’t get your shoes on I’m leaving without you.” Seriously, where am I going to go without her? Legally, I can only go in the back yard. Or the garage.

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2. “Do you want me to spank you?” How many children actually answer, “yes” to this question?

3. “If you don’t clean up that mess, you’re going straight to bed.” Also, it’s two in the afternoon.

4. “If you don’t stop, I’m turning this car around and we’re going home.” This only ever happens on days when we have to be someplace like the doctor, the bank, or preschool.

5. “You have 30 seconds to get those toys cleaned up or I’m throwing them all away.” Throwing away “all those toys” is an awful lot of work. I have no desire to partake in an activity of this nature.

6. “If you don’t eat, I’m not going to give you any more dinner.” This pretty much makes no sense.

7. “I’m going to count to three and you better stop, or else.” Even I don’t know what else.

8. “Are you trying to make me mad?” Silly. My toddlers don’t deliberately try to make me mad. They just ignore me until my eyes cross, and my head spins.

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9. “If you don’t start listening, I’m going to stop talking.” Said the mom to the toddlers who aren’t listening.

10. “If you don’t stop playing with your food, I’m going to take it away.” Chances are if they aren’t eating; they aren’t hungry or don’t want it. Duh.

I’m going to have to step it up and change my game for when they get older and start to realize that the upper hand has pretty much always been theirs. Until then, they have 30 seconds or else…

Related post: 5 Tips For Surviving The Toddler Tantrum

Dear Toddler, Screw Your Tantrums

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toddler-tantrum

Dear Toddler,

I woke up this morning with every intention of having a great day. Outside the window, playful little birds bounced through the trees. Mother Nature gleefully peeked her yellow face from behind the clouds. The new coffee I purchased tasted like paradise in a cup. I was so in love, I tried finding the number for the grower in Antigua so I could properly thank him. A day like this … how could anything go wrong?

And then you woke up.

Immediately dissatisfied that a dancing cat graced the television screen instead of a goofy sponge, your lips quivered and your eyes swelled. A tsunami of noise poured from your pie hole. I’m pretty sure the neighbor’s alarm system kicked in when that first temper tantrum of the day erupted.

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But it didn’t end there. Your screaming quickly escalated to frantic pacing and pointing of rigid fingers, “MAMA! NO! MAMA! NO! NO, CAT!” You reminded me so much of a crazed zombie, I considered giving AMC a shout. Suddenly your legs stiffened. A one-man army was now marching through the living room. In an alternative universe, this might be considered great entertainment! Here … you ruined my Folgers’ moment, kid.

As any mother knows, when the day starts with a temper tantrum it usually goes south from there. And it did. You had no intention of being a well-behaved toddler. You know … like those seen peppered throughout Facebook … those perfectly poised kids sitting on bales of hay and chilling in old iron washtubs? Oh no. You had other plans. You’d make me earn the title “World’s Most Psychotic Mother.”

For a moment, peace returned. You transformed into a perfect Disney Princess when the words “Whooooo lives in a pineapple … ” finally blasted from the soap box. “Soap box?” you ask. You’re too young to understand this reference. It was used in a time when kids didn’t dare strike angry militia poses or complain about ANYTHING. We woke up happy to have the AM radio blasting Elvis tunes and walked complaint-free through miles of heavy snow … off to one-room schoolhouses where every teacher was packing a ruler. How hard things have become.

When lunch time rolled around, against my better judgment, I allowed you to saunter through the pantry. Surely there was something in there that would strike your fancy. RIGHT?!? Wrong. Among the one hundred and one cans of chicken noodle soup, endless boxes of macaroni and cheese, and enough peanut butter to feed the occupants of a Carnival cruise liner, there was no Beefaroni. No flipping Beefaroni! This meant the end of the world.

Before I could call Chef Boyardee and tell him to shove it, you were on the floor doing your best possessed snow angel impersonation. The ear-piercing screams nearly cracked the windows. Even the dog ran for cover. Whatever was flailing like a wounded flounder in the middle of the kitchen floor couldn’t possibly be human. But it was. It was you dear toddler. A little being who couldn’t quite count to five, yet somehow knew the difference between broth and sauce.

There was no consoling you. You battled through bites of grilled cheese. Slapped my hand when I tried to feed you tomato soup. In the end, I resembled a walking contemporary painting. Some might call you artistic—a free soul with a strong spirit. I had other words in mind.

The clock ticked and the cuckoo bird reminded me that nap time was only minutes away. Most days you were so tired by mid-afternoon, you’d practically fall asleep standing up. Today … today you’d prove that sleep was for sissies. Your little body had every inclination of going and going and going … like a loud electronic toy that seemed to operate in lieu of batteries; the ones that belt out obnoxious kiddie tunes at midnight and make animals sound like they’re dying. (A cow does not say “mauuuuuuu.”)

Two hours and no nap later, things went from “Well this effing sucks” to “Where’s the wine?”

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You were no longer a screeching, mad zombie. Or a flailing fish. You, dearest toddler, had turned into an a-hole. After pitching the fifth hard, plastic toy in my direction and abruptly firing “NO!” for the millionth time, THAT. WAS. IT. It was nap time or else … I was about ready to pack my bandana on a stick and head for the nearest exit.

You fell asleep like an exorcism was being performed. I won’t lie. Some little part of me wanted to cave in, to pick you up and soothe you. My mommy heart desperately wanted to rock you in my arms until you drifted off to sleep. That was until your foot made its way to my jaw, Jet Li style.

Oh, hell, no. Enjoy your nap, dear toddler.

You woke just in time for daddy to return home from work. The sight of a red lollipop in his hand instead of a green one … well let’s just say, another tsunami hit that day.

Dear toddler, screw your tantrums. Daddy’s home and this momma’s taking a shower.

Related post: 25 Ways To Annoy A Toddler

How to Take a Toddler Grocery Shopping in 100 Easy Steps

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1. Have a well-written list complete with store layout map and coupons.

2. Pack snacks, books, child seat cart liner, and sanitizer.

3. Tell toddler it’s time to stop playing.

4. Explain to toddler why it’s time to stop playing.

5. Bargain with toddler and agree to let two toys accompany toddler in the car if they will just stop playing.

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6. Wrestle toddler into car seat.

7. Start driving to store.

8. Pull over and retrieve toy from floor of the car.

9. Resume driving.

10. Tell toddler “no,” you aren’t pulling over again to retrieve the toy that is once again on the floor.

11. Listen to toddler cry.

12. Turn the radio up.

13. Arrive at store.

14. Debate with toddler about leaving the toys in the car.

15. Win debate and feel quite proud as you enter the store.

16. Sanitize entire shopping cart and place child seat liner inside child seat.

17. Put toddler in shopping cart.

18. Realize this particular cart has a broken safety belt.

19. Remove toddler.

20. Sanitize entire second shopping cart.

21. Place liner inside.

22. Place toddler inside liner and buckle toddler in.

23. Hand toddler snacks while looking for shopping list in purse.

24. Realize you left shopping list at home.

25. Look up to notice toddler licking the cart handle.

26. Thank God for sanitizer.

27. Silently curse yourself for forgetting shopping list and head off on an uncharted expedition.

28. Head to the deli first.

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29. Silently curse the woman in front of you for taste testing every potato salad the world has ever made.

30. Turn around to find toddler dumping snacks on the floor.

31. Explain to toddler why we can’t eat off the floor.

32. Attempt to calm toddler’s tantrum.

33. Watch taste testing woman move on to taste testing salads and decide you don’t really need deli meat.

34. Head to produce and get bananas.

35. Explain to toddler why we can’t eat the bananas right now.

36. Attempt to calm toddler’s tantrum.

37. Give toddler a book.

38. Head to dairy aisle.

39. Check expiration dates on 9 gallons of milk while looking for the freshest one.

40. Overhear toddler calling a man with grey hair “grandpa.”

41. Apologize to man with grey hair.

42. Head to cracker aisle.

43. Explain to toddler why we can’t eat the crackers right now.

44. Attempt to calm toddler’s tantrum.

45. Wonder where toddler’s book went.

46. Realize you now no longer own the book.

47. Try and remember what was on your list.

48. Tell toddler to stop licking the cart handle.

49. Head to baking aisle.

50. Look for cake mix.

51. Turn around to see toddler has managed to rotate backwards in the seat despite the safety belt.

52. Unbuckle toddler, rotate facing forward, pull legs through leg hole, buckle tighter.

53. Resume looking at cake mixes.

54. Notice toddler has gotten both arms under safety belt and slid belt up to their neck.

55. Scold toddler and replace buckle to it’s appropriate location.

56. Resume looking at cake mixes.

57. Hear toddler loudly asking why someone has a big nose.

58. Hastily apologize, make no eye contact, and abandon the cake mixes.

59. Head to cereal aisle.

60. Explain to toddler why we can’t buy twelve kinds of marshmallow cereal.

61. Attempt to calm tantrum.

62. Wonder how and when toddler became in possession of a jar of mayonnaise.

63. Attempt to remove mayonnaise from toddler’s hands and replace with a cart item.

64. Watch toddler throw cart item in a fit of toddler rage.

65. Give toddler back mayonnaise and explain they can hold it, but it won’t be coming home with us.

66. Head back to produce to get forgotten apples.

67. Stop to look at the lobster tank.

68. Attempt to calm tantrum upon departure from lobster tank.

69. Get to the apples and look for the least bruised ones.

70. Look up to see toddler eating an apple.

71. Quickly remove apple from toddler and toss into produce bag.

72. Attempt to calm tantrum.

73. Fail at calming tantrum.

74. Feel eyes beating down upon you from every direction.

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75. Become aware of how much a scream can echo off a commercial grade ceiling.

76. Abandon ideals of firm parenting, open, and thrust unpurchased box of crackers into your toddler’s lap.

77. Quickly start grabbing items you believe were on your grocery list, time is of the essence.

78. Turn around just in time to see toddler dump contents of cracker box on floor.

79. Explain why we don’t eat off the floor. Again

80. Fail at calming tantrum.

81. Make a beeline for the nearest checkout lane.

82. Silently curse the store for having 30 checkout lanes and only two open.

83. Get in line behind 5 people, one with two full carts.

84. Silently curse the person with two full carts.

85. Watch toddler pull Houdini moves to escape safety belt.

86. Attempt to distract toddler with keys, lip gloss, wallet, mirrored compact, and other purse contents.

87. Fail.

88. Explain to toddler why we can’t buy candy.

89. Be amazed at toddler’s lung power.

90. Apologize to everyone around you.

91. Avoid eye contact.

92. Watch toddler escape from safety belt again and wonder if it is safer to set toddler free or hold on to “now standing in the child seat” toddler’s arm.

93. Decide both are terrible plans and wrestle toddler back into seat while whispering life long time-out threats into toddler’s ear.

94. Apologetically throw all your purchases, including empty cracker box and half eaten apple at the cashier.

95. Forget to use your coupons.

96. Exit store feeling like you have run a marathon.

97. Drive home contemplating what you will make for dinner with bananas, milk, a half eaten apple, three boxes of marshmallow cereal, and mayonnaise.

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98. Realize you forget child seat liner in shopping cart.

99. Silently curse grocery shopping and vow never to go again with toddler.

100. Turn around to see peacefully sleeping toddler in the car seat and realize how much you love motherhood. Most of the time. 

Related post: How To Get Your Toddler Into A Car In 40 Steps

You Know You Have A Toddler When…

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1. You know you have a toddler when you hate your spouse a little. Toddlers can destroy your marriage if you let them. The stress of living in an insane asylum with a child who makes you want to fall on your own sword will take a toll on your personal relationship. People without a toddler of their own will not understand how someone so cute will make you want to be single and living in a studio apartment with only a bottle of Jose Cuervo to keep you company, but this is the truth. Do your best to not let your little cockblock tear your love life apart. You don’t actually hate your spouse, it just feels like it because you hate life. Remember: You’re in a warzone. You need back up.

2. You’ve no longer fantasize about being rich, famous, beautiful, talented, or any of the above. Your fantasies center around sleep. You dream about being rested and floating away on a California King bed that you can lay on in a starfish formation. Most people of think of sleep deprivation in terms of infants, but toddlers have the potential to steal just as many Zs as their infant brethren. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but with a toddler you will be more physically and emotionally tired than you have ever been, while also dealing with levels of twilight shenanigans that will astonish you on a nightly basis. Infants don’t scream in your face. Infants don’t run in to traffic.

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3. You have become a shut-in. Hopefully, you have a backyard because other than work, you’re going to lose your will to leave the house. It just won’t be worth it anymore. Why deal with getting a toddler dressed, carseat drama, and a potential meltdown in public when you can just become a recluse? Groceries are available for purchase online.

4. You’ve ever had to drag a kid out of a store under your arm like a bundle of firewood in front of a crowd of gawking strangers. Good for you. Angry whispering can only get you so far. Sometimes you have to show a kid that you mean business and abandon that cart of groceries. Don’t abandon the wine, though. That’s crazy. Pay for the wine.

5. You regularly open packages of food in stores to keep your baboon quiet while you shop. Don’t worry; it’s not shoplifting until you forget to pay for it.

6. You’ve ever had to alert a store employee to the fact that your kid has urinated on their floor. Hey, better a linoleum floor than a stack of neatly folded sweaters. Bonus points if your toddler has ever thrown up in public. On you. When you don’t have a change of clothes.

7. You sometimes wish you had a time machine and a condom.

8. You have stress-induced heart palpitations. No, your child is not trying to kill you but they might by accident.

9. You’ve seriously considered starting a new life in a new city. If you do this, be sure to cut up your credit cards. They can track you.

10. You have more gates up in your home that the local zoo.

11. You know that sometimes “My phone is charging” is code for “I need you to lay off my shit and play with your own toys.”

12. Your sex life has come to a standstill. Toddlers are natural birth control. Their antics will cause your sex organs to shrivel into your body and seal off.

13. You’ve seriously researched sleep-away preschools and boarding school for two year-olds.

14. You know more about the cast of Jake And The Never Land Pirates than your mom.

15. Every one of your cabinets has some kind of lock on it.

16. Bath time in your house looks like an episode of Wipeout.

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17. All four food groups can be found between your couch cushions.

18. You’ve had to say “Stop eating out of the trash” in the last 24 hours.

19. A small child has recently blown his or her nose into your shirt.

20. You would give your molars for a free, reliable babysitter. Who needs to chew meat when you can go out for drinks anytime?

Excerpt from Toddlers Are A**holes: It’s Not Your Fault, run with permission.

Related post: Dear Toddler, Screw Your Tantrums – Scary Mommy