Some thoughts on toddlers

ToddlersMy daughter has turned two years old recently, and has entered full toddler mode. It doesn’t feel like she’s been around that long. On the other hand, I can’t remember not having a little girl around the house. Time to look back a bit.

Toddler talk

‘Daddy, make cook!’ my grinning daughter says, pointing to the kitchen.

‘Alright,’ I reply. ‘Do you want some bread?’

‘Bread, yes,’ she says, now grabbing my finger and pulling me toward the kitchen. ‘Make cook!’

At some point in the past, my little girl was a baby half her current size and a quarter of her current weight. Now she’s a toddler with an attitude. She wants things, and she knows how to direct me to do them. I was struck speechless the first time she was trying to open something and told me in a matter-of-fact voice, ‘open. Grab scissors.’

The changes over the past two years have been gradual, but overall, huge. On the plus side, she mostly sleeps through the night these days. On the down side, there’s no rest when she’s awake. She’s climbing, playing, and running until she drops (sometimes literally).

I remember her first year, thinking babies were hard. Now I know, in some ways, talking toddlers are even harder. They call it the terrible twos for a reason. Most likely though, future me will look back at this post and say ‘you thought that was hard?’

Toddler tantrum

‘Do you want bread with chocolate spread? Or with jam?’ I ask from the kitchen.

‘Bread!’ comes the reply. ‘Make cook!’

‘Yes, I’m going to make you some bread,’ I say. ‘Chocolate spread or jam?’

‘Make cook!’

‘Okay, jam it is,’ I say and start smearing. A few minutes later I put down a plate with a slice of jam-covered bread.

An ear-splitting wail fills the room. ‘bread spread!’ bread spread!’

About ten seconds later I’m standing next to a toddler who has thrown herself down on the floor, and is kicking her legs wildly and screaming. Oh, yeah, this is the life.

I love my little girl, don’t get me wrong. She’s cute as a button and everybody loves her – or so I hear. Honest. It’s just that she can be almost unbearably irritating sometimes.

Have you ever tried putting pants on a little girl who’s decided she don’t want no pants? It’s like wrestling with a cat. Every time you get one bloody pant leg on, the other leg twists out of reach, and by the time you get the second in, the first leg has already evacuated the pants again.
Oh, and when you’re finally done, you turn around to fetch her jacket and suddenly there’s a toddler behind you holding up a pair of pants she just pulled off.

So yeah, sometimes I have to put her in the car crying because she really didn’t want to go home. Or she cries when I take her crayons when she’s been drawing on the walls for the third time in five minutes. Or she screams bloody murder when I refuse to watch more Winnie the Pooh with her on the tablet. This is also where it can get very annoying that she can now talk.

Of course, I’m not alone. Now that I have one of my own, I suddenly notice parents hauling around baying toddlers of their own. I stared in amazement at a fellow dad at the daycare having to physically drag his son out of the car, with the boy holding on to the car door for dear life.

Bottom line, two-year-olds are maniacs. Unlike babies and non-talking toddlers though, they’re also mobile and have a very vocal opinion.

And they’re cute as buttons too.

Toddler happiness

I wipe tears from tiny cheeks. My little girl is in her eating chair, tantrum abated. She’s clutching her stuffed bunny in her free arm. Tantrums always end with screams for her stuffed animals.

She holds out the bunny. I take it from her and she starts in on her bread with jam. She holds out a piece and I dutifully hold the bunny’s face close to the bread, mimicking chewing noises.

My daughter rolls back in her chair, laughing loudly, not a care in the world. She doesn’t know who Trump is, doesn’t yet understand climate change, or war. She just loves it when I mime eating with her stuffed animals, or pretend to make her fly, or a million other things no adult would find funny.

I’ve always hated the phrase ‘you get so much in return’ when referring to children. I still do. It doesn’t matter if it’s true, which I guess it is. You can’t end a discussion with friends who see you work your ass off and wonder why they would ever have any children of their own with the phrase ‘you get so much in return’.

Like I’ve said before, caring for a child is a lot of work. You do get something in return, though. A fresh view on life. A tiny being in your home who can drive you nuts, but who can also be happy for hours with simple things, like a cardboard box. Who comes to the door shouting ‘daddy, daddy!’ when you get back from work.

My daughter reminds me that there are a lot of terrible things in the world, but I don’t have to wallow in them.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands

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