Toddlers are a unique species all of their own, complete with their own rules, commandments, and (a very flighty) moral code. Mothering a toddler is not for the faint of heart. One minute I feel like Mary Poppins, and the next minute I’m the chick from Game of Thrones — and frankly, neither are a good look for me.
I’ve been battling deep in the toddler trenches, so I put together a little list of commands that I only wish I had known before my son’s 2nd birthday. My hope is that these truths will provide you with a bit of a road map to Toddler Land, just in case you are staring into the abyss of an empty bag of Goldfish with hours until (what will hopefully be) nap time.
1. Cleaning is for fools.
No matter how hard you try to contain the filth, your toddler will follow just behind you, emptying cabinets, slinging a yogurt pouch onto the baseboards (FYI that one took straight bleach to remove), spilling juice from a spill proof cup, and spitting half-chewed Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats onto your white sheets (another FYI, the pink strawberry stains).
You’ll do your best to keep up, but you are no match for the space destroying powers of a toddler. It’s best to go ahead and resign yourself to a life of living in a house that looks like the “before” shot of a Fixer Upper episode.
2. Shoes are mysterious.
My son currently owns two pairs of the same shoe in two different colors. On certain days, he prefers his blue shoes and on the other days, he’s all about the orange pair. But you wanna know a secret? He likes to hide the pair he wants to wear and then request them. Yeah, he’s fun like that. If I had a cup of coffee for every minute I spent searching for one orange shoe, I would never be tired again.
3. Nuggets are BAE.
Let’s face it, hell hath no fury like a toddler who just ran out of chicken nuggets. Before I had my son, I thought “Oh, I’ll only do nuggets occasionally, you know, in between organic spinach and cauliflower rice,” and now I buy chicken nuggets in catering trays so that they are always in my refrigerator. My, how the mighty have fallen.
4. You will engage in shady behavior.
Listen, I know you’re a good person. So am I. But here’s the thing: Parenting a toddler may cause you to lie, cheat, and steal with the skill of a seasoned con man. Don’t believe me? Try opening a bag of chips within earshot of a toddler. They will come running and the next thing you know, you’ll be lying to your kid’s face in no time flat because mama will not share her chips. You’ll make up stories about everything from bedtime to broccoli, and you’ll sell them with such enthusiasm you may just start to believe them yourselves.
5. Bodily fluids are meant to be shared.
I’m fairly certain that I’ve never been exposed to so many bodily fluids on a regular basis in my life — and not just those of the diaper variety. Boogers, snot, slobber, spit, whatever the black stuff under his nails is — it’s all out there, all the time. And I’m the one who either gets showered in it or has to clean it up or both.
6. Colors are important.
Just as a warning, you should know that you will never, ever choose the right color sippy cup before you fill it with milk. Ever. And if by some miracle, you do choose correctly, I can promise you that you won’t be able to find a lid that matches that cup. And God help you if you need to pick out a set of toddler cutlery. I have never seen someone get so upset about a fork in my life. What can I say, it’s just the way of the toddler world.
7. Childproofing is laughable.
Installing baby gates, toilet locks, or those fancy cabinet magnet brackets is the equivalent to throwing down the toddler gauntlet. Your toddler will see your efforts to keep him safe as a challenge to prove how ineffective those pricey little gadgets really are. And he will do so with frightening speed and efficiency. I’ve never seen my toddler concentrate on something as hard as he concentrates on getting that toilet lid open so he can throw his bath toys right down the hatch.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, know that I am with you in solidarity and in the bonds of motherhood. Godspeed, Mama, godspeed.