“How many time have I asked you….” I say in frustration, and then it hits me. The real question I should be asking is how many times I’ve uttered that phrase. We’ve all read about Einstein defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And yet there I was, each day, trying to stop my toddler from doing the same damn things over and over, and the result wasn’t changing.
Sometimes (OK, often) parenting a toddler is all about survival. And to survive, sometimes you’ve got to triage things and pull your resources from losing battles. Here are the battles I’ve learned not to fight:
1. “Don’t climb up the slide.”
We all know how this one goes, because we hear it every single time we’re on the playground.
Mom: Don’t climb the slide.
Mom: Because slides are for going down.
But really, why? Playgrounds are for having fun. If you want to have fun climbing up the slide and you’re still taking turns and playing nicely, go for it, kid. Just don’t try climbing up the slide during a game of Chutes and Ladders.
2. “Don’t color on your hands.”
The writer (read: sucker) in me was just so thrilled when my daughter picked up a pen. But the joy was short-lived, since she soon wanted to color on everything except, you know, paper. The best medium of all, of course, were those two ever-present blank spaces, her hands.
When I was scrubbing ink off her hands for the fourth time before I had finished my first cup of coffee, I submitted defeat. If my kid wants to walk around doodled on like a mini Kat Von D, that’s fine with me. We’ll file this one under artistic expression.
3. “Sit down and eat.”
I love food. I love being waited on. And I love sitting. So I simply cannot for the life of me figure out why the combination of sitting down to eat a lovingly prepared meal is torture to my toddler. At this point, I’ve stopped trying to find the answer or invent a solution. Sure, kid, take a bite and then run a hot lap around the house. Hell, I wish I had that motivation. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here at the princess toddler table stealing anything sweet off your plate.
4. “Don’t make a mess.”
What is it about throwing things on the ground that is just so thrilling for toddlers? Every time my daughter needs a toy — just one toy — from her toy chest, our living room ends up looking like a teenager’s bedroom. I’ve tried explaining that you don’t need to empty the entire chest when you really only want a car that is on top anyway, but that works about as well as telling a teenager that they don’t need to empty the closet to find just one outfit. You win, kiddo. At least the toys littered across the floor will hide the fact that I haven’t vacuumed.
5. “That’s not what __________ is for.”
Sure, if you want to get technical, couches aren’t for walking on. Bubbles aren’t for dumping out in the bathtub, and stuffed animals aren’t for throwing across the room. But toddlerhood is for experimenting. It’s for exploring this big new world, and figuring out which little pieces of it you can control. If my daughter wants to experiment by using her toys in a way that they were not designed to be used, who am I to stop her? At least she’s having fun along the way, and neither of us need to hear me tell my daughter for the 489th time that mommy’s bras are not for wearing on your head.
This post originally appeared on Ravishly.