Babies are easy. They sleep, they poop, they eat, they smile and yes, they cry. With babies, that’s about it. But see, the things is, those tiny little things that don’t go anywhere end up growing, and then they sit up, and then they crawl, and somewhere in that flurry of dirty diapers – you have a toddler. Get ready, because this next phase of life will seriously test your patience. Here are six ways to prepare yourself:
1. Prevent hangry toddlers. With toddlers comes food. Your little one will be eating a ton now, so stock up. If you think it’s ugly when you get hangry, just wait until you see what it looks like when your toddler goes from peacefully playing to enraged that you haven’t stuffed their face in a matter of 30 seconds. You weren’t prepared? Shame on you.
2. Learn to cook some basic stuff. The pantry is for those quick things that are easy to grab and go, to give to a screaming child to make them quiet, etc. However, you’re going to need some other simple stuff in your arsenal to round out your toddler’s diet. I love grilling for my daughter, and she loves it too. Chicken, turkey and pork are the big winners so far, and she’s working on vegetables – albeit very slowly. In terms of breakfast, throwing together a quick scramble of eggs, veggies and turkey has been a winner as well. I know, the kitchen can be a scary place, but I promise you’ll be fine. Just don’t burn yourself or anything.
3. Don’t ever sit deep in your couch again. Relaxed, deep sitting only happens after the toddler has gone to sleep for the night. Until then, you sit on the edge, ready to leap to your feet and pull the crazy sharp thing that your toddler found from her hands as she tries to eat it. It’s absurd how talented toddlers are at getting into trouble. So, athletic stance, fellas. Be ready to jump.
4. Hide everything. Everything. Phone chargers, remotes, phones, coasters, magazines, books, decorations lower than four feet off the ground – just get rid of them. Either put them up on top of the counter or inside a cabinet, or just throw things away. You won’t have time for those magazines anyways.
5. Designate play areas as best you can. It’s incredibly helpful to not have your toddler’s toys strewn about the entire house, so do what you can to confine them – and your toddler – to a designated play area. I know, this doesn’t always work, but it’s fantastic in theory and makes cleaning up at the last second for your parents’ visit (surprise!) exponentially easier. While it will never fully work and will often feel like an uphill battle, keeping the toys at least somewhat contained is good for the soul.
6. Create lines of sight. Gentlemen, we are graduating from Dad 101 to Father-of-the-Year 450. There is an artful craftiness involved in how and where a father plants himself in the room. You must be able to survey the room, observing all possible dangers to your little one. Yes, you are dad, perched in such an appropriate manner so as to be able to fully see and engage in whatever it is your toddler is doing. The key to this artistry is the ability to strategically place yourself where the least amount of movement will be required. Pro tip: Remember, the wider the view, the less movement required.
7. Consider purchasing a gas mask. I say this only half-joking. Changing the dirty diaper of a toddler is like walking into a state fair port-a-potty in mid-July. It’s vile. Just … eww. While I haven’t yet splurged on the purchase of a gas mask, I have pretty much been relegated to pulling my shirt up over my nose, because I would much rather smell my own pits than be exposed to that atrocity.
8. Become a master of distraction. The only thing that matches a toddler’s curiosity is the shortness of their attention span. I’ve learned that toddlers, while cute, are ridiculously mischievous. It’s as if they know exactly what not to do and where not to go, yet do it simply for the intrigue of seeing what will happen. The art of distraction has become one of the primary tools on my parenting tool belt. I have fully resigned myself to the fact that, in the effort to distract my child, I often look like an idiot. This just comes with the territory. Playfully yelling her name, holding up her favorite toy and making silly faces is all in a day’s work.
9. Get familiar with kid movies. Feel like watching a movie? How does Frozen sound? Or Rio? Maybe an oldie like The Aristocats? Before “bedtime o’clock,” this is all that plays. The TV is either off – which is a really nice notion and something I really enjoy – or kid movies are playing. There are no action movies. There are no sports. I don’t even feel like an adult until about 9 p.m. these days.
10. Learn your decompression techniques. Being in full-on parenting mode all the time is a lot for anyone. You HAVE to make time for yourself so you don’t end up snapping, sitting in the dark pantry eating a tub of ice cream (however, no promises that taking care of yourself will prevent this. This can totally still happen, and we love and accept you anyways). Go to the gym, take a nap, go for a walk – whatever you do to keep your mental and physical health in check, do it.
There you have it – you now have a (not even close to) all-encompassing guide on how to raise a toddler. Don’t let them break things, don’t let them get broken, and be prepared for messes. Embrace this next stage with confidence and roll with the punches, because fatherhood to a toddler is one gigantic learning curve.