Almost by definition, toddlers are irrational. When adults are faced with their persistent and fierce demands to jump on the bed while holding a sharpened pencil, eat dinner under the couch, or squeeze a wedge of gorgonzola cheese in their sweaty little fists, it’s easy to write off their big ideas and even bigger emotions.
We get frustrated with them, but we eventually talk ourselves off the ledge because we know it ain’t easy being teeny. But we can’t fully appreciate how real their struggle is until we think about the ways we’ve been humbled as adults.
Here are four recent examples of how I’ve been toddlerized.
Trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle
On a normal Friday night, after the kids go to bed, my husband and I will catch up on whatever shows we’ve DVR’d and enjoy some wine. In an ill-advised effort to mix it up (notice I didn’t say, “spice it up”), I bought a jigsaw puzzle of a beautiful Venetian landscape for us to complete together over our bottle(s) of red.
You know those moments when you’re doing an activity with your kids and you think to yourself, “How the hell are you still not getting this?” Well, if there are intelligent alien life forms out there watching over us, then they were definitely saying that about my husband and me that evening.
Trying food I don’t like
I don’t eat sushi. I’ve tried it many times, and it’s not for me. But because I’m not a total party pooper, I’m happy to watch you eat your unagi while I feast on my edamame and gyoza. My husband knows not to ask me to try it anymore.
Not everyone is privy to the depth of my stubborn streak, so the conversation starts something like this: “You don’t like sushi?! Not even a California roll? How about shrimp tempura?”
I will not eat it in Japan. I will not eat it in a can. I will not eat it Sam-I-Am, so stop asking me before I lose my shit. While I shoot down their suggestions with a pleasant smile, I replay in my head what I’ve said to my kids at the dinner table. How many times have I urged them in a bubbly voice to “just try it?”
From now on, I vow to put the food in front of their faces and shut up about it. They’ll eat what they eat, and that’s the end of it.
Threading a needle
I had to tack down a strap for my daughter’s Halloween costume, so I dug out my little travel sewing kit that I last opened five years ago. Then I tried, patiently at first, to make the delicate piece of thread go through the impossibly narrow eye in the needle.
I tried, and I tried, and I failed. The thread frayed, and I snipped it off. I grunted. I put it down and walked away. I wondered aloud what was wrong with this effing needle, and I wanted to throw it against the wall. This is how my kids feel 70 percent of the day, when they can’t button up a doll’s dress, zip their boot, fix a coat arm that’s inside out, or stab a piece of food with a fork.
Not getting something I wanted
I’ll admit that I usually get what I want. Sometimes it’s the result of my own hard work, sometimes it’s just good luck. Either way, I don’t hear “No” very often. But, boy, do I say it a lot. One day I tried to keep count of how many times I said, “No,” to my kids. I lost track before breakfast.
Their lives are an endless parade of no’s from me, mostly for their own good, but sometimes because I just don’t want to deal with the Play-Doh clean up. Being an excellent naysayer has not prepared me for hearing it, though. I’ve been following the 21 Day Fix eating and exercise plan, and it was a rude awakening to realize that I could no longer eat everything I wanted to eat when I wanted it.
An apple is not an adequate replacement for chocolate. My toddlers already know this, of course, because that’s what I offer to them instead of the cookies or candy they request. Having the tables turned on me? That was a cruel trick, Karma.
I may be better at regulating my reactions to life’s disappointments, frustrations, and surprises because I’ve had lots of practice. My brain is more developed, and it happens way less often for me than it does for them.
Still, I can’t always keep my cool, so I’m actually impressed with how my kids handle the minefield of obstacles that greets them each day. Take a moment to think about the last time you got toddlerized, and then give your kids the candy that they’re convinced they absolutely cannot live without. They’ve earned it.