What I Learned About Parenting From Two Light Switches

by Jacqueline Miller
A light switch in a curtain shadow
Steve Johnson/Unsplash

For nearly a year, I carried light switches around in my purse.

You read that right. Two light switches. One traditional-style white one, the other off-white with a one-inch-wide, three-way rocker.


Because when my son was two, he liked to strip naked and run through the house turning off every light he could reach.

In public, he usually stayed appropriately clothed, but I often had to intervene as his grabby little mitts attempted to flick every toggle, turn every knob and push every button that crossed our path.

Elevators were a nightmare during that phase, and fire alarms gave me heart palpitations.

During one particularly exasperating errand run, I brought my little man to the doorknob aisle of our local hardware store where he could have spent hours turning, pushing, pulling and locking. Finally, he was satisfied, and my frazzled self could take a breath.

And that’s when the idea struck! I bet those two plastic rectangles were the cheapest toys I ever purchased.

When my high-energy little guy lunged for the buttons on an elevator, or even worse, started eyeing fire alarms, that extra hardware saved me.

I’m sure I looked very odd, waiting in line to get my driver’s license renewed with my toddler on my hip flicking those toggles up and down, up and down.

I’m sure I raised some eyebrows at the dentist’s office and the bank with these unconventional toys.

And I probably confused my child a bit, too. Every time he flicked those unwired, solitary switches, he scanned the room to figure out what exactly he was turning on or off. I’m sure he was disappointed when we weren’t plunged into darkness.

Weird as it looked, it worked for us. And that’s all that matters.

In this age of endless parenting advice, from social media, blogs, articles and everyone you meet, no one is going to tell you to buy two light switches to carry around in your purse for occupying your handsy toddler. But for us, it was the perfect solution.

When I started carrying around light switches in my purse so many years ago, I gave myself permission to focus beyond the prescribed parenting manuals and popular conventions. In doing so, I met my son’s challenges, stoked his interests, and encouraged his curiosity and creativity.

Plus, I learned that when it comes to parenting, sometimes you just gotta do what works for you and your family.

Even when it looks a little silly.

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