Arlo will be two in June. We have entered full-blown toddlerhood. Luckily, he’s my fourth child so I know lots and lots of helpful things about toddler discipline and entertainment and excellence in general.
I’m basically an expert. As such, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned in the service of all humanity.
Here you go. How to raise an excellent toddler:
1. Make sure you give your kid plenty of attention so they don’t act out in pursuit of “negative attention” (because, as we all know, it’s “still attention”).
2. However, do not give them too much attention because you will spoil them, and they will grow up to be the dude driving 55 in the fast lane because that’s how they like it gottdammit TO HELL WITH THE REST OF YOU.
3. Siblings are a good way to make sure your toddler doesn’t think they’re the center of the universe because your time will necessarily be divided among all the kids. But this can make the toddler feel neglected. Make sure you balance that. Also, siblings are a good way to make your toddler think they ARE the center of the universe because everybody in the family is all “OMG look how cute the baby is!”
4. In other words, your toddler is acting out because you are spoiling them through their siblings and neglecting them because of their siblings.
5. There is no apparent way to fix this. Have a nice day.
6. Sometimes toddlers need you to soothe and hold them during tantrums. Other times you need to walk away from them. These tantrums appear identical.
7. FIGURE IT OUT.
8. Giving in to a tantrum is a uniformly terrible decision and by all forms of reason, decency, and logic will only result in a total dick of a human, but sometimes you have to do it because you’d rather die than listen to this shit for one more second.
9. Keeping a toddler busy by offering questionable food items so you can get some critical thing done is a horrible parenting move that pretty much only concerns you through child number one. Just yesterday I bought cookies at Starbucks and gave them to my toddler solely so he would sit in the cart at Target. Leave me alone.
10. The only things toddlers want to play with are: toilet water, knives, and ash from the fireplace. Wait. No: Dog water, cat food, anything out of the dishwasher that can impale them, trash, marbles, liquid soap, and iPhones. If you stop the toddler from playing with any of these things, they will scream. These are “walk away” tantrums.
11. Sometimes, for reasons unknown, toddlers will throw themselves around the room in unbridled glee at bedtime. You may think: “Was there caffeine hidden somewhere in the day? Did one of those other kids give him a sip of the green tea latte they shouldn’t have been drinking?” Then you will think, “I have ruined this child. He has no routine. WHAT HAVE I DONE?” They will scream when you make them go to sleep. This is a “cuddle” tantrum.
12. You can definitely trust my tantrum classification method. I’ve made it up randomly over 14 years of parenting based on my initial gut instinct and the level of remorse I feel after.
13. People will always, always blame you for the deficiencies of your toddler. You will suspect they are correct. Also, you will want to cut them. Then you will remember the number 1 rule of parenthood: Kids are who they are and you really can’t change them but if they aren’t perfect it’s your fault.
14. WHAT? Yes. That’s what we have here, folks. If you aren’t following, read another book.
15. Parenting books are the fucking worst. Unless they help. I wouldn’t know because I gave up hope around child number 2.
16. I’m kidding! Never give up! Constant self-improvement and hope! Unless your kid had one of those twenty minute car naps replacing the actual nap. If that’s the case, give up hope. You’re going DOWN. Your toddler, however, is not.
17. In related news, your toddler will hit, kick, pinch, and possibly bite other humans. You will think for a moment there’s something pathologically wrong with your child because who the fuck bites people? But then you will remember that all toddlers, ALL TODDLERS, act like rabid animals for at least 2-4 months of their lives. The only person at the park who doesn’t know this is the mother of the child your kid just bit. (WHY UNIVERSE WHY?)
18. Potty training before two. Ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Go home with that nonsense.
19. Toddlers are like border collies: If you don’t give them a job, they will dig out of the yard and eat the fucking hose. Only unlike border collies, toddlers hate all your ideas for entertainment, preferring only their own, such as eating butter off a knife blade, dipping broccoli in a toilet, or playing with the toilet brush, or really anything at all involving toilets and their water and brushes. Except peeing into the toilet. That is a stupid, stupid, very boring game.
20. AND YET, toddlers are the cutest mammals alive and are so profoundly adorable whilst talking, running, and expressing their little personalities that you will think, at least once a day, “Oh god please never grow up. I SHOULD HAVE THREE MORE.”
21. And then they will throw your FitBit away and shit on your arm somehow.
But it won’t help.
You will still find them irresistibly annoying, and simultaneously mourn and beg for the time that they’re a little bigger.
Basically, after 14 years, here’s what I’ve got going on in my brain: Do not fuck this up, Janelle. You are fucking this up. You are not fucking this up but will feel like you are. Sometimes you do fuck it up, in which case you should try to do better and that may or may not work but in the meantime you’ll notice the kids are growing up and turning out fine. Good, even.
And you’re more surprised than anybody.
So let’s just focus on that because the rest is too fucking complicated.
Eight spots left in my May writing workshop.
I hope one of them is yours.