It’s been a hard month. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I guess this is what happens when a total narcissistic maniac is ruling your world.
I’m referring to my toddler, of course, and not anyone else – definitely not anyone else.
It’s not been easy lunging from respecting to gently defying his frequently illogical whims. He’s more aware than ever of the world, and all its glittering offerings – the HUGEST slides, the GREATEST donuts, MILLIONS of LEGO sets – the MOST TREMENDOUS LEGO sets.
And he believes that world is here for him, that he can do what he wants, and change his mind as he pleases.
The other day he demanded we not take the stroller to the bookstore, his favorite place (to ransack) these days. “You want to walk the whole way?” I asked dubiously. He considered this and then nodded somberly, “I do.”
Not less than a block from our apartment, though, he turned to me and, like a drill sergeant, barked, “HOLD ME, MAMA!”
I’d been bamboozled by this friendly-seeming tyrant. A gazillion steps later, we entered that most holy of places (our local bookshop) and roughly thirty minutes after that, I carried him kicking and screaming, “I’M NOT READY, I WANT MORE BOOKS!“ all the way home.
How many more years of this do we have? Two? Three? Four?
If you’re as freaked out by the way your toddler – or any toddler – is publicly raging like a total narcissistic maniac, here are five things to do that might help:
Don’t normalize his outbursts.
Everybody wants to please a toddler, especially at this time of year. Everyone you know is offering him treats and presents and telling him how wonderful he is and begging him to high-five them. It’s up to you to be the Grinch and set some limits.
When he melts down after thirty sustained seconds of not getting attention and yells, “IT’S NOT FAIR!” don’t just roll your eyes. Instead, tell him, “Yes, actually, it is.” Or, “Nothing in life is fair.” Or, better yet, “I know you think it’s not and I’m sorry, but that’s the deal.”
Take him by the hand to a quiet space where you both can just chill. Or draw. Or pretend you are flying a spaceship to another habitable planet.
Get him to bed early.
The later I let my son stay up, the more incoherent and belligerent his declarations become:
“You forgot to give me dessert!”
“Take all the sheep in my room away!”
Luckily, he doesn’t have a Twitter account.
If your kid goes to bed early, you get to go to bed early too. And since you’ll most likely be engaging in a (peaceful) battle with him every day for the foreseeable future, you’re going to need as much rest as you can get.
Accept the unpredictability.
The highs and lows of parenting a toddler can only sometimes be predicted. The unknown of every day – of right now – is simultaneously terrifying and hopeful.
You never know when your toddler will cut you a break and utterly delight you. And you never know when you’ll surprise yourself with bravery and calm in the face of unthinkable chaos.
But you will do this. You will be brave and calm. You have to be.
Cultivate an existence away from him.
Don’t let yourself get bulldozed by every demand your toddler makes and forget that there are things you like to do – things that make you happy – things that have nothing to do with his grand vision for the small country that is your family.
I missed my son’s bedtime just last night. I know he didn’t like it and I felt bad about it too, but I got to spend the evening doing something I never thought I’d have to: reminding myself that I exist, not just as a mother, but as a person.
You exist, too. I know you do.
Remember he’ll grow out of it.
He’s a toddler, after all, not a fully-grown man.