I once heard someone describe toddlers as little drunk people, and I think it fits. If you’ve ever known a toddler and seen them barrel through life on wobbly legs, always a little too loud, speaking in unintelligible grunts and seemingly made up words, crashing into things, and generally being a charming wrecking ball wherever they go, you know what I mean. Toddlers are like mini versions of drunk people.
My toddler is no exception. For the past few months, I’ve been in a constant state of anxiety, worrying that my child may accidentally kill himself. He stumbles through life on unsteady feet, not paying attention to what is in front of him, off to the next adventure, and he never fails to inadvertently stumble (or rather, crash) into danger. We are always waiting to hear the next bang, boom, screech or howl. Within the past week, my son has managed to soar off his bed and land on his face; run face first into his wooden swing, cracking open his nose; go down his slide backwards, landing funny and biting his tongue; chase after the dog into the woods, tripping and falling into a patch of briars; stub both of his toes; fall out of his bed while asleep; run over his own foot with his power wheels, and walk into more walls than I can count. I’ve become accustomed to just holding my breath all the time.
Cal is two and a half, and he suddenly realizes just how clever he is. While he’s brazen, fearless, and definitely not intimidated by anything (except for maybe the vacuum cleaner), he’s figured out that the word “hurt” elicits a frantic response and lots of cuddles and attention from Mommy and Daddy. So he just walks around proclaiming everything hurts all the time. This morning he announced that his socks hurt.
He also has stumbled onto the inevitable hilarity of the fart, or as he calls them, “poots.” While cooking the other day, I had him perched on the counter top. “Mommy, I poot,” said Cal. “Cal, you didn’t poot,” said I. He grinned from ear to ear, raised his little leg, stuck his butt out in my direction, and farted. “See, I poot!” How utterly charming. When I asked him how he managed to poot at will, yet somehow still can’t use the potty, suddenly he did not speak my language.
He has recently become obsessed with cooking. I made the mistake of letting him assist me in making meringues a few weeks ago, and he was fascinated with the cracking and separating of eggs, and bewitched by the whir of the electric beater. Ever since, he begs to cook and drags us by the hand into the kitchen at all hours. If ignored, he becomes incensed and opens the fridge on his own (I really need to invest in a fridge lock, one of those handy protective things you buy when you have a baby that I never got around to, because I’m one of those super laid-back parents that people hate). Once in the fridge, no matter how far back on the shelf I hide them, he manages to find the eggs, open them, and bring me as many as he can hold. As you can imagine, many times the eggs do not make it in one piece, and I end up cleaning cracked egg goo off of my dining room carpets. I did not buy eggs this week at the grocery store.
The sense of wonder with which toddlers view the world is equal parts endearing and hilarious. Cal is obsessed with the television show Blue’s Clues, in which Steve/Joe finds blue pawprints from the puppy Blue in order to figure out what she wants. I could barely contain my laughter when Cal, inspecting our dog Jake’s foot, proclaimed proudly, “A clue! A clue!” He was quite upset when, upon pulling on Jake’s foot, he realized this particular pawprint would not come off.
I’ve heard many parents of toddlers complain about what a headache they can be. They pee in odd places. They hide food in their rooms that goes rancid. They stumble and fall into things and are basically one giant bruise. They throw tantrums. They refuse to eat their meals. They rip the pages out of their books, pull the wheels off their cars, color their Barbie’s faces. They become fixated on chicken nuggets for three solid years. They won’t sleep in their own beds. They splash in mud puddles and color on the windows and try to strangle the cat. Toddlers are a pain in the ass. It’s just the truth.
As much stress and anxiety as my toddler causes me, most of the time, I can’t help but just laugh. Even when I feel like packing my bags and hightailing it to Canada while my husband is in the bathroom, I secretly love the chaos and frenzy that my toddler brings. He puts life in perspective, and keeps me laughing even when things feel wrong. How can you be sad when a toddler comes streaking from the bathroom, completely naked, with their little pudgy butt wobbling? I’ve never been one of those helicopter Moms that hovers around my child, trying to prevent every instance of hurt and anticipate every accident before it happens. I never really planned on having children, so when I became pregnant, I was filled with wonder and amazement at this new life experience I was having. That sense of perplexed wonder hasn’t gone away. I view parenthood and my child as sources of entertainment, amusement, and most importantly, education. The entire experience can be stressful, but mainly, I find it enlightening and delightful.
My kid makes me laugh uproariously, like nobody else can. I don’t stress when he gets covered head to toe in mud, or if he breaks all his crayons (the very same day I bought them, of course). I like to let him live his life, figure things out on his own, and learn by himself that actions have consequences. As his parents, we feel that our role is to simply guide him along the path of growing up, rather than sheltering him from every imagined source of danger or trouble. The results can be pretty funny. Of course, there are times in which he needs to go to the doctor, or when he needs to be protected, rescued or warned about potential danger, and we are always there, making sure he’s taken care of. But the small stuff? I don’t sweat it. I just laugh, and laugh, and enjoy it while it lasts.