Toddler Playtime: 6 Tips to Keep You Sane

Dear Well-Intentioned Friends and Family Members,

I appreciate that you think my kid is adorable and you want to hang out with her. I also know that when it comes to toddlers, you have no idea what you are doing. I cannot in good conscience send you into this battle unprepared. Mainly because I don’t feel like cleaning up your mess. It’s all fun and games until you make one false move and that chubby-cheeked, adorable angel turns into the tiniest train wreck you’ve ever laid eyes on. Trust me, no one wants that. Here are six timeless tips for interacting with toddlers.  Please take notes.

With Love,

The Experienced Mom

1.  No false starts.   If you want to be the hero and ask my kid to go to the park or do something equally as fun like go for ice cream, you better have your car running and your shoes on. Under no circumstance should you ever ask a toddler to do anything that you are not prepared to do at that exact moment. Not in five hours. Not in five minutes. Not next Tuesday. If you aren’t ready right then, be fully prepared for the screaming fit that will ensue while you fumble to get your shit together. Toddlers wait for no one.

2.  No lending anything.   You may not be familiar with this rule, so
let me explain. Any material possession that passes from your hands to a toddler’s hands, no longer belongs to you. It just doesn’t. Borrowing is not a word in their vocabulary. You are completely giving up your rights to any object you offer as a toy. Are you going to need those car keys later? Perfect. Good luck with that. Your attempts to reason will be shot down with a stank eye and the darling phrase, “It’s MINE!” I can tell you from experience that you are only getting that shit back if you barter. She may trade you, but she will only trade up. She’s small, not stupid. I recommend starting with something novel that lights up or makes noises.

3.  Do not be overly entertaining.   This one is for your own sanity. Toddlers really dig repetition. Like, REALLY dig repetition. And they are relentless. If you have a trick up your sleeve that amuses them, they will manipulate you with the skill and experience of a veteran puppeteer until they are satisfied with your performance. When toddlers say dance, you best dance. They know the word “again”, and they are not afraid to use it – over and over and over. You will tell them it’s the last time. Seriously, who are you kidding? You think they will eventually tire. Trust me, they won’t. You think you can change the subject and distract them. Nice try. They are merciless creatures who will use you until you are left physically exhausted and on the brink of insanity. So think hard about that horsey ride you are offering. You were warned.

4.  Think before you laugh.   The only thing a toddler loves more than repetition is attention, and they get it by making you laugh. Toddlers are absolutely hilarious and they know it, but for God’s sake before laughing at anything they do, please ask yourself two important questions. Will this be cute in ten minutes? And will this be cute in ten months? If the answer is no to either question, abort mission. Exercise every ounce of self-control you have and do not laugh. When my kid starts singing a song about “Mr. Poop”, do not even smile or make eye contact. Do you understand me? I laughed the first time my daughter made it off the bed during a diaper change and was running around naked. It so was adorable! Now? A year later? Not so cute. Laughs have been replaced by screams each and every morning as I chase that naked little shit down the hallway.

5.  Watch your language.   There are certain words that should never be uttered in the presence of a toddler – specifically park, bubbles, and candy. Just don’t say them. Period. In any context. Toddlers have temporarily forgotten these things exist. Let’s not remind them and create a false start. Hearing these words can trigger an obsessive reaction causing a toddler to latch on to the idea of obtaining these sought-after things with the ferocity of a provoked, rabid animal.

6.  No fun is ever enough fun.   Be prepared that you will never play outside long enough, blow a sufficient amount of bubbles, or push them on the swing an adequate amount of time. It’s just not going to happen. Eventually though, it will be time to call it quits, and they will hate you. They will want to scratch your eyes out. You will be the worst person on the face of the earth. Don’t be put off by the tears and screaming. It just means you did well. It means this kid had so much fun with you that she never wants to it to end.

image via iStockPhoto

17 Powers That Prove Moms are Superheroes 

We all know Moms are pretty amazing, but here are 17 special powers that prove Moms are actually Superheroes.

1. Mess-Melting Saliva Generation

Mom spit can remove everything from a kid’s face including snot and spaghetti sauce while somehow managing to not eat off any skin. 

2. Superhuman Hearing

While other humans (Dads) may be able to sleep through children’s cries at night, Mom ears biologically amplify little screams. Moms are hardwired to hone in and react with lightening speed. 

3. Unmatched Strength

Like an ant, Moms can carry many times their body weight. They defy all physiological laws by lugging their child, purse, diaper bag, and a carload of groceries up a flight of stairs while wearing heels just so they don’t have to make another trip to the car.

 4. Duplication

Moms grow little people inside of their own bodies. Need I say more?

 5. Super Sense of Smell

Moms can smell a load in a dirty diaper from seven miles away. Even when her kid swears he didn’t poop. 

 6. Telepathy

Mom knows exactly how her child is feeling without him saying word. Moms can read minds so well that they also sense when their child is lying or even beginning to contemplate doing anything they are not supposed to do. 

7. Invisibility

Mom can make herself completely undetectable, especially if her kid is fast asleep and it’s Mommy Time. She can move around the house completely unnoticed, drinking wine and doing Mom things. She has mapped out every creak in the floor and can stealthily enter and exit a child’s room without ever waking him.

 8. Making Others Invisible

Moms have an amazing knack for tuning out annoying children. Once Mom makes you invisible, she can read a book, sip beer on the patio, or watch her favorite television show. All while a child is still being incredibly irritating.

 9. Weaponry Skills

Don’t ever challenge a Mom in a knife fight. She has been cutting up food with unrivaled precision and speed for years.

 10. Hypnosis

Moms are Sirens who can lure even the most stubborn sleep striker into a peaceful slumber using only her calming voice and some “Hush Little Baby” action.

 11. Patience of Steel

Mom is incredibly patient (most of the time). Except when Mom loses it. Then Mom turns into the Evil Villain.

 12. The Sonic Scream

What happens when Mom loses it, as mentioned above. This scream usually follows many ignored requests from Mom for her children to stop doing something. Everyone hears The Sonic Scream. Tears likely follow.

 13. Freeze Vision

The look. The one look from Mom that lets her kids know to immediately stop whatever they are doing for fear of the Wrath of Mom. 

 14. Healing Powers

Sometimes just one kiss from Mom can miraculously heal minor boo boos. 

15. Object Location Honing

In other words, Mom can find anything. Lost socks, the other Barbie shoe, and misplaced pacifiers stand no chance against Mom’s powerful tracking skills.

16. Omnipresence

Even when Moms is not there, Mom is there. Mom is everywhere. All the time. 

 17. Superhuman Endurance

After non-stop, grueling days of caring for children and a home, even a Mom sometimes feels as though she’s reached her breaking point, but she somehow always finds more energy. 

image via CanStockPhoto

Five of My Most Questionable Parenting Moments… So Far

I’m not a perfect mother. I may pretend like I am on Facebook and Instagram, but I make plenty of mistakes. We all do. We just hope our kids are young enough to never remember them. Or that we can buy them ice cream and pretend as though it never happened.

After only two years, I already have a lengthy list of motherhood mishaps ranging from minor to completely catastrophic. Here are just a few of the highlights… So far.

1. The First Night

I’ll just come right out and say it. We almost killed our kid before we even left the hospital. I can look back and nervously laugh only because somehow she survived despite our obvious lack of parenting skills.

Let me set the scene for our misadventure. I’m exhausted from being awake for over forty hours. It’s late. I don’t really know how late because time stopped making sense at some point during my twenty-two hour labor. I just know it’s dark, I have to sleep, and my baby loses her shit every time I put her in the bassinet.

I’m living in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I’m fighting sleep with every ounce of my being, and I’m losing. After carefully considering my options, which were none, I accept that I must trust my baby’s precious, new life with her father while I rest.

My faith in his ability to care for her is pretty much zero on a scale from zero to anything. I stare him straight in the eyes and whisper, “Whatever you do, do not fall asleep.”

Fast forward forty-five minutes or so. I wake up and look over at the fold-out bed where I am surprised to find my child’s father slumbering peacefully. There is just one problem. Where the fuck is our baby?

“Wake up! Oh my God!!! Where’s the baby?!”

He jolts up from the couch and frantically starts searching his pockets as though she had somehow ended up in there. No baby there.

At this point, I’m screaming hysterically.

“WHERE IS THE BABY?!”

This is the most fucked up game of hide and seek any kid has ever played

He leans down to the couch and pulls out a bundle of blankets. She’s inside, asleep and snug from being wedged somewhere between her dad and the couch cushion. She was alive, but I would never want to sleep again.

2. The Breastfeeding Incident 

I fully expected breastfeeding to be difficult, but the hand I was dealt was a little ridiculous. I was sent home from the hospital with a nipple shield, a supplemental nursing system, and some useless advice from the lactation consultant. We were doomed.

As if pumping and feeding every two hours wasn’t traumatic enough, I had to fill a plastic bottle with milk, hang it on myself, tape a tiny tube to my breast, and stick a shield to my nipple. The wailing newborn in my lap further complicated this process.

I was intensely focused on my right breast – trying to attach this complex feeding apparatus to myself when out of the corner of my eye, I see a tiny hand frantically moving back and forth. She wasn’t waving to Mommy though. She was trying to call attention to the fact that Mommy’s enormous left breast was on top of her face, and she was having a little trouble breathing. That’s right folks, while preparing to feed my child with one breast, I was suffocating her with the other. The irony. Who knew breastfeeding was so dangerous?

3. Afternoon Snacks

My daughter is obsessed with cereal bars. Nothing in life makes her happier than strawberry cereal bars, and sometimes nothing in life makes Mommy happier after a hard day at work than a little alone time with Daddy.

Let me quickly break this one down. My kid in her highchair plus two unwrapped strawberry cereals bars plus a cup of milk, equals a ten-minute quickie upstairs. Simple math.

I’m not sure if this is questionable parenting or if it’s just fucking brilliant. Either way, it has happened a lot and will probably happen again. Sorry, not sorry for this one.

4.  Sympathetic Sleeping Arrangements

Once upon a time, when my daughter was sick with an earache, I let her sleep in my bed. She needed me. I needed sleep. This seemed like the obvious answer.

Unfortunately, this was NOT the answer to anything. I can promise you that. Unless the question is, what’s the worst possible thing you can do when your child sleeps without issues in her own crib.

That night started a chain reaction of awful decisions that has ultimately led to my hips being permanently bruised from sleeping on the floor next to her bed every single night until she falls asleep.

 5. The Worst Hangover I’ve Ever Had in My Life

It was 3 am when I finally got to bed. It was totally going to be ok though! I had done the math. My kid would sleep until 8. I could still get five hours of sleep. Except she woke up at 5.

I open my eyes and have to immediately run to the bathroom. She follows and stands right beside me as I vomit. Repeatedly. I am trying my best shield her from splashing toilet water and puke. She won’t move. She is mesmerized.

This is not your typical throw-up-once-and-be-done-with-it hangover. This is the kind of hangover where you need to lie on the floor and moan. Only I can’t because I have a small child watching my every move.

Have you ever smiled through puking and asked someone how their morning was? I have.

“Good morning, Baby!” Heave. I smile pleasantly with vomit dribbling from my chin. “How did you sleep? Mommy is fine! Don’t worry.”

Mommy is definitely not fine. Mommy’s entire body is covered in cold sweat and is shaking. Mommy has never been so sick in all of her fucking life. Mommy is dying.

“Why don’t you go see what daddy’s doing? “ Heave. “Daddy wants to play with you!”

Daddy is ten feet away in bed pretending like he can’t hear any of this. Mommy distinctly remembers Daddy saying something about it being ok to stay out last night because Daddy would get up with you this morning.

Heave.

Mommy will never believe that lie again. Mommy is having water next time.

image via iStockPhoto

My Kid Got Kicked Out of Child Care

Strong-willed. Spirited. Fiery. Energetic.

All words used to describe my daughter.

Let’s please stop bullshitting each other though. My kid is a mess.

A very cute, sometimes-sweet mess that I love with every ounce of my heart, but seriously, we can be real. No need to sugarcoat things. Lets just agree that on a scale from 1-10 on toddler shitheadedness, my kid is a very strong 9.

I get it. Trust me.

She and I play a game sometimes where we act out feelings with facial expressions. Her favorite is angry. In fact, it’s the only face she will make. She just makes a lot of different angry faces. Then makes me do the sad face. Then laughs. I guess that game isn’t really as fun as it seems in my head.

A full day with her is absolutely exhausting. Between her not napping, climbing out of bed, crying to the point of hyperventilation when you have to clean up lunch and can’t play blocks, hitting in anger, throwing food, wanting to be held constantly, and lashing out with a 27-minute tantrum when you can’t give her every ounce of your attention, you may manage to get a bathroom break. But she will monitor you. Be sure of that.

This is my life, and I like it. Most of the time. Sometimes I just want to hide in the closet with a six-pack and pretend like my name isn’t Mommy.

This was also the life of my babysitter for five days a week. She was such a sweet lady, and we loved her from the moment we met her. She was our babysitter soul mate.

This was one relief in my life. While I worked, I got to send my daughter somewhere each day where I knew she was safe and well cared for. A place where she had fun, ate organic food, played with other kids, and learned about the world.

Maybe I was the one sugar-coating things.

Last Thursday, after weeks of ever-escalating bad behavior, I picked my daughter up and was greeted by a very distressed version of her caregiver. The woman’s hands were shaking. She looked as though she was on the verge of tears. She said, “I’m just not sure I can do this another day.”

Is this real life? Someone pinch me. This can’t be happening.

My kid is getting kicked out.

I realize that my level of tolerance for my daughter is greatly elevated by the fact that she spent nine months inside my uterus, but this was sobering.

How did this happen? Where did I go wrong as a mother? Is my kid on a fast track to juvie? Is there something really wrong with her mentally?

I needed answers. I needed help. I needed to talk to other moms. I needed to google the shit out of this.

So I did all of these things. I also lost a few hours sleep stressing about how I was already ruining her life by turning her into a unlovable little monster.

But do you know what every person and article said? She’s normal.

My daughter is a normal kid who is testing her boundaries in a way that may be a bit more extreme than other kids. She is not destined to be featured in an episode of Scared Straight. She’s just a little asshole with strong opinions and a huge personality, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Do we need to work on discipline in my house? Probably, but the point is that these moments do not define us. I’m not a bad mom. My daughter is not a future convict. This is just one down in the many ups and downs we will face together.

We have to remind ourselves sometimes to not jump to conclusions every time something goes wrong. Things aren’t always as permanent and as life defining as we think. Life and kids are constantly changing. Ebb and flow. Stages and phases.

Whatever it is, good or bad, just give it some time. It will probably change.

My daughter’s bad behavior doesn’t make her a bad kid. It just makes her a kid. A very strong-willed, spirited, fiery, energetic kid.

image via iStockPhoto