Attention anyone who hasn’t had a toddler in the house for ten years or more: you forgot. There are many, many things that you forgot. You’ve forgotten all the craziness and just remember the happy times. And in this case, it’s a good thing to forget. It’s how we can look at little ones and say, “Aww, aren’t they cute? They grow up so fast. Enjoy every moment.” Please stop saying these things, because they aren’t helping. Stick with me and I will show you a better way.
I’m certain that you’ve forgotten, because with three toddlers in the house now, I am having daily flashbacks to when my boys were that age.
Four Things You May Have Forgotten About Life With Toddlers
- So much bodily waste! Some days you feel like nothing more than a pooper scooper. You’re in the bedroom changing the third poopy diaper of the morning while the newly potty trained one in the bathroom is yelling, “I’m peeing all over! I’m peeing all over and I can’t stop!” And there is always that one who loves to take the diaper off. You put them in a time out for two minutes only to find that while there, they took off their diaper and peed all over, or you put them in bed and later find that they’ve pooped and taken off their diaper, finger painting all over their crib and the wall.
- Their savvy in ganging up on you. I haven’t figured out if they’re actuall doing this on purpose, but it sure seems like it sometimes! Here’s how it works: one does something to take your attention away from what you’re doing. While you go deal with that, another one sees that you’re distracted, grabs the phone, and begins dialing Africa. Or takes the pen you were using and scribbles all over the table. Or rips up your check book. Or…
- Craziness of car trips. Yikes! By the time you get to your destination, you are frantic to get out of that car! The baby has been crying for an hour and will be not be consoled. You’ve spent the last 30 minutes stretching your arm back from the front seat so you can hold their hand, and you wonder if you’ll ever get the feeling back in that arm. Of course, if you’re not frantic to get out of the car, that’s because they just spent the last five hours asking, “Are we there yet, Mommy?” while doing everything they can to get your attention. They dumped their bag of crackers on the floor, dropped all their toys out of reach, fought with the sibling beside them, and then fell asleep when you were 20 minutes from your destination. Never mind that you strategically planned to start the trip at nap time. Never mind that if you were going from home to the grocery store at that time of day, they would have fallen asleep instantly.
- Toys everywhere. As you’re moving about the kitchen preparing supper, you continually find yourself tripping on toys that were not there a moment ago. (Or people who were not there a moment ago!) Every room of your house has become Toy Zone. Literally the only way to keep toys contained to a single space is to keep yourself contained to that same space, because they only want to be where you are. They, and their toys, will follow you everywhere. Also, don’t bother helping the kids pick up toys unless you are putting them to bed immediately afterward. Not five minutes later or even one minute later, because all your work will be for nothing unless you pick them up and bring them to bed immediately. Sometimes I think they are trying to set a record to see how fast they can destroy a room. The other day my two-year-old dumped the bag of duplos all over the kitchen floor just as we were putting on our shoes to go somewhere. Why??! It’s like open floor space is a blank canvas that must be filled.
My living room last night
Can I just say here that my boys don’t need a Baby Think it Over. Remember those? The baby dolls teens get at school to help them learn what taking care of a baby is like? They have to care for the baby for a few days, changing, feeding, getting up all hours, constantly trying to calm the crying baby. Yeah, my boys don’t need one, because they see it every day at home. They sometimes ask, “Why would anyone want to have a baby? It’s so much work!” Or they say, “I don’t think I’m ever going to have kids.” And I say, “Oh, yes you are! After all I’ve done for you, I deserve to enjoy some grandkids in my life!” But then something happens to show them that toddlers aren’t all craziness and hard times. They see the sweet things that toddlers bring to our day, the things that help us remember why we put up with all the crazy. I’m willing to bet that if you’re a parent of older kids, these are the things you remember about the toddler years. And since the sweet things always outweigh the hard things, here are…
Eight Things You Probably Haven’t Forgotten About Life With Toddlers
- Daily dance parties. I remember one of my boys always wanting me to dance with him when a certain song came on the radio. Of course dancing to him meant I was throwing him up in the air and swinging him around! He was only one year old, yet he knew that was our “special song” and when he heard it, he always came running. Now, at least once a day, my little ones ask me to play their kids songs so they can dance around the kitchen. It’s so fun to see the joy they find in something so simple. Which leads to the next point…
- Thankfulness and excitement over the smallest things. I love the sweetness of hearing, “Thank you, Mama, for taking me to the library.” I love how their eyes light up when I say we’re going to the airport to have a picnic and watch the planes take off. I love their gratefulness for simple things like getting to watch a TV show, playing with play doh, or going to the park. I love the surprised, “Oh, thank you, Mama!” when they get dessert after supper.
- Having your own built-in fan club. No matter how many times you messed up that day, your kids are your biggest fans. They couldn’t love anyone more than they already do, and they are quick to forgive when you’ve scolded one too many times or been impatient to get out the door when all they wanted was to try to button their coat by themselves. You are their entire world, their sun, moon, and stars. I have a vivid memory of my boys calling to me from the house as they watched me take the garbage can to the curb. It had been a particularly challenging day with them, but I melted into a puddle as I heard them calling out the window, “Hi, Mama! Good job, Mama! I love you!”
- Their sweet repentance. As young as they are, they know when they’ve pushed you beyond your limits. Their hugs and sincere, “I’m sorry, Mama.” are enough to warm your heart and help you forgive them in an instant. They are learning what you’ve modeled to them, apologizing when you’ve hurt someone and showing love to help make it better. And your loving response and quick forgiveness is teaching them as well.
- Watching them interact with one another. Just in the past few weeks, my little ones have finally learned how to play together for extended periods of time. It’s so sweet to hear them working together as they play pretend, getting excited about what their next adventure is going to be. And whew! This introvert can finally have a few minutes with my own thoughts as I am cooking supper, writing a shopping list, or simply sitting down to relax. My boys always got along best just after supper. They were astute enough to know that bedtime was happening soon and if they started fighting it would come even earlier!
- Their complete trust in you. You are the one they look to when they’re scared or unsure of something. They get their reassurance from you because they trust you completely to keep them safe, and they know you will always be there for them. There is no one else who can fill that need for them the way you can. You spend your days teaching, modeling, comforting, and feeding. Their very life depends on you!
- No gym membership needed. With a house full of toddlers, you easily get in your 10,000 steps every day! I was recently talking with a friend about how I’d been having trouble sleeping. Initially, she suggested I get more exercise, knowing that if we are less sedentary we will sleep better. Then she saw me chasing my toddlers around, running up and down the stairs, and getting down on the floor and back up every few minutes. She quickly said, “Never mind. I see that you are getting plenty of activity!” Let’s be honest, the only reason a mom of toddlers uses the gym is for the child care!
- Teamwork. When we have a baby in the house, my husband and I take shifts at night so we can both get extended hours of uninterrupted sleep. Maybe you and your spouse worked like a well-oiled machine to get the toddlers dressed and tucked in to bed. It took some time, but we have recently found our rhythm again. He knows it’s the hardest time of day for me so he tries to be home before bedtime when he can. We never talked about it or planned it out, it just came naturally. I clean up supper and get the PJs and diapers while he helps them pick up toys and gets the baby’s bottle. Then we get those girls dressed and off to bed ASAP!
A Note to “Seasoned” Parents
If you’re a parent whose toddler days are over, use this as a reminder to encourage and uplift a parent of toddlers you know. Rather than tell that frazzled mom to enjoy every moment, maybe you could offer to babysit, or bring her a meal or a restaurant gift card. Simply telling her to enjoy every moment isn’t helping! I often hear the phrase ‘the days are long but the years are short.’ That may seem true in retrospect, but saying it to a mom in the midst of those long days isn’t making them any shorter. For me, it felt like the days were long but the years were longer! Here’s a quick and easy way to encourage a parent of toddlers: I have created five beautiful printables with encouraging scripture verses (see examples below). You could print out these FREE scriptures and put them in simple 8 x 11 picture frames as a gift to a parent of toddler. In fact, these would be a great way to encourage anyone, including yourself! Print them out and place them throughout your home as daily reminders of God’s faithfulness. See the sign up form at the bottom of this post.
Encouragement For Those in the Midst of the Toddler Crazies
If you’re a parent who is currently in the crazy toddler stage, have hope and realize that the good moments really do outweigh the bad. They’re just harder to find since the craziness is often so much bigger and louder than the peace. Look for a few good things every day. Write them down if you have to, maybe even post them throughout your house to help you see them when your day seems out of control. When my boys were toddlers, my husband wrote a Bible verse with dry erase marker on the window above my kitchen sink: Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” You could put encouraging Scriptures such as this one throughout the house, or quotes of funny things your kids said, or reminders of sweet moments you’ve had with them. Anything to help remind you to look for the good in every day. I have made five beautiful printables with encouraging scripture verses that you can download and post throughout your house. They are absolutely FREE to you. See examples and the sign-up form below.
Sweet, tired Mama or Daddy, a time is coming when your little ones won’t need you every moment of the day. Hang in there! You will get through this toddler stage and you’ll be a better, stronger parent at the end.