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.
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