My favorite time of day is between 6 and 7 in the morning, that moment of time between waking up and getting the kids ready for school. The house is dimly lit, the only light from the dome above the kitchen table. For the moment, the house is free from the sound of arguing children, slamming cabinets, pounding footsteps on stairs, shouts to hurry the pace because “Mom’s Bus” leaves in 2 minutes….. The only sound that can be heard is the soft rustle of the newspaper as I savor every story as the entree to my side dish of egg and buttered toast. The gurgle of the coffee pot fills the dining room with its warm aroma, and is the topping on the cake of early morning bliss. This is my tiny island from reality in a life filled with deadlines, schedules, and the tug of war for my attention. This is my oasis.
A friend’s 4 year old daughter was helping her dad feed the goldfish. By helping, I mean that she dumped the whole can of food into the tank. And while her dad was plugging it back in after cleaning the whole tank, she DID IT AGAIN!
This story reminded me of my own toddler adventures. My son was an awful toddler. Awful might be too nice of a word. He was a horrid little beast of a child. And I say that in the most loving way possible. Back in my married days, we lived in a Victorian house near the JC. It had all hardwood floors, crown molding, three bedrooms, and one bath. My daughter slept in the bedroom near the front of the house. My son slept in the bedroom that was connected to our bedroom via the bathroom. There were two ways to get into his room: the bathroom or through the second entrance in the kitchen. It was incredibly convenient to have him in this room as a baby, since I was able to get up at a moment’s notice and get him when he needed a midnight feeding. When he got older and more mobile, we kept the kitchen entrance gated with a baby gate, and the bathroom door was kept closed to keep him in this room. This worked for a little while. It was when he took it up on himself to get out the necessary ingredients to make a PB & J sandwich in his bed that we realized he had more access to the rest of the house than a baby-gate was supposed to allow. I’ll never forget the evil laugh he gave when peering through the makeshift jail cell we created with stacked chairs on his baby-gate to bar him in his room and keep him out of the refrigerator. Or his attempts to still make it out by climbing all the way to the top of the doorjamb by using the stacked chairs as leverage.
When my son was three, he was brought home by the police. No, really. My son was an escape artist. I never experienced this with my daughter. She always made sure I was within a glance from her. But my son would stealthily escape only to be brought home by one of the teenage skateboarders near our house. Even then he was intrigued by these boards. Whenever he couldn’t be found in the house, I knew to just go up the street and there he’d be, kneeling by a bunch of would-be scary teens that got a kick out of my rambunctious monster. So I wasn’t surprised when, on an overnight stay with his grandmother, she called to tell me the news of his first trip home in a cop car. She hadn’t even been awake yet when they knocked on her door, asking her if she knew the boy in question. Apparently he had escaped at 6 in the morning to play basketball down the street, and then got hungry and wanted cookies from a neighbor.
There was the time that I found all the contents of the cat’s litter-box spread over the whole bathroom, the time(s) he took his poopied diaper off during his supposed nap, the times he tried to ditch me for random strangers just because they had a dog or a ball, the time my friend’s mom gave him chocolate and he bounced off the walls for THREE STRAIGHT DAYS, and the time he called 911 and sent the police to our door. There was the time he hit his head on the concrete pathway and got a scary looking goose-egg, prompting us to bring him to the emergency room, only to turn around hours later because he wouldn’t stop running around the whole emergency room floor and the rest of the staff wouldn’t stop giving us dirty looks for wasting their time. And there were the many times that my little terror hit the same spot, making his head look permanently lopsided between the ages of 2 and 4.
Things learned as the parent of a toddler:
1. Social events take planning. My future ex-husband and I learned that eating together during the toddler years was out of the question when going out. If we had to bring the kid, one of us would shovel our food down while the other ran after our Houdini toddler. And then we’d switch. Some restaurants have crayons, and that’s great for a toddler if your toddler doesn’t try to eat them. Ours would have to be carried to the bathroom with blue and green shards of wax and a drooly grin on his face. It helped immensely to order some fresh fruit or crackers from the waiter before we sat down just to keep him occupied.
2. Anything that requires standing in line requires a stroller. If I ever stood in line at the bank, at the grocery store, for the bathroom, etc, and the only thing keeping my toddler with me is his hand held by mine, I might as well give the person in line behind me my spot in line. As soon as I would get to the front of the line, it was inevitable that my son would take off running and I would have to run after him. The fact that the stroller came with its very own version of a straitjacket made the stroller my very best friend.
3. And that brings me to the next point: I learned that teaching my son to unbuckle himself was not a precious idea. As soon as he learned to unbuckle his stroller straps and his carseat straps, there was no keeping him locked in. Of course, with unbuckling comes buckling. The game of escape was momentarily hindered by the game of unbuckling and buckling repeatedly.
4. Kitties really do use their whiskers for balance. A cat with only half of her whiskers is quite wobbly.
5. Haircuts can be done during potty training, during snack time, while reading them a book, while they watch TV, during any time that you can entertain your kid and keep them stationary. But haircuts should never last more than 5 minutes, and sometimes even that is too long.
6. A piece of yarn and a tray full of cheerios will provide at least one hour of entertainment.
7. So will a highchair tray filled with water on a hot day outside in the shade.
8. Sometimes we can learn tricks from our dogs. If my toddler ran away from me, I learned to run away from him in an exaggerated and excited way. This only worked for a very short time until he caught on, but for a little while, just like a puppy, he would change course and follow me.
9. The best answer to a string of “why’s” is “Why do you think?”
10. Any questions I had about what he had just ingested would be answered in 2-4 hours.
11. Just like a cat leaving a bird on the doorstep as a present to their owner, a toddler throws things at our heads because they love us.
12. If the kitty was allowing my toddler to place little toys on her belly without moving or scratching him, just let him do it.
13. Writing on the wall is MY fault because I was the one leaving the pens within my son’s reach. But still, how was I supposed to know he could reach the top of the refrigerator?
14. If there is gum in the house, it will end up in my toddler’s
15. Nothing is quite as shrill as a toddler’s high pitched scream. This is inevitably discovered when they are right next to your ear.
Looking back, I can now laugh at all the things my toddler put me through. I’m also sad because as the years go by, and as he grows into a calmer version of himself, the memories of his terrible two’s are fading. My best suggestion to the parents of toddlers? Write it all down. Some day when they are speaking in complete sentences and doing their homework on their own, you’ll miss that dimpled drool grin and mischievous glint in their eye.