My dad was a huge Lewis and Clark enthusiast. He loved retracing their steps and toasting their adventures with a dram of rum. He was captivated by the adventure, the exploration of the unknown, and getting to spend time with little-known people groups. Maybe it’s in this spirit that I’ve come to observe my own parenting journey with a toddler like an adventurer exploring unmapped territory.
The Toddler: A Different Species
Being a parent is to navigate the unexplored topography of an expanding a family.
You encounter and must learn the ways of an entirely different species: children. Babies are fragile and temperamental, but rather easily contained. They can usually be appeased with a combination of being warm, dry, and having a full tummy. Toddlers striving for independence defy grown-up logic and frustrate parents’ best intentions.
We are in the thick of toddlerhood. I imagine if Lewis or Clark kept a log of this time, it would read something like this:
I have become convinced that toddlers sense urgency like animals sense fear. When the toddler is in pursuit of danger, she is fast and cunning. The moment she senses her parents need to get out the door, she manages to stretch teeth brushing into a full-blown marathon. Parents will attempt to hide glances at clocks tomorrow.
Avoiding the pressure of time has proven impossible in the quest to get the parents to work on time. Toddler’s attempt to dress herself has resulted in a 45 minute battle of wills with her mother. Mother is considering letting her go to daycare in dirty diaper and pajamas tomorrow.
The cunning toddler is a master manipulator. She refuses to interact with her mother, and instead only cooperates with her father. Perhaps because the father allows greater latitude with snacking before breakfast. Mother relieved to not spend the morning wrestling toddler.
Mother still persona non grata. Father continues acting as toddler-tamer. All waking hours outside of paid employment are spent appeasing toddler. Negotiations result in dissatisfaction for all parties.
Mother feeling slightly guilty for not playing more significant role with toddler taming. Also really enjoying getting to work on time.
Saturday in the toddlers native habitat. Toddler will once again interact with mother as long as pajamas stay on. Father gets some relief from toddler overtime. The toddler is all cute and sweetness. Unsure if this is the same creature as was observed during the weekdays.
Very sure this is the same toddler. Dressing for church may have gone more smoothly had father understood how to put tights on toddler. Toddler behaves like model citizen for Sunday school teacher; performs feats of strength to avoid naptime at home.
Observed following exchange between toddler and mother:
T (whining): I want to go potty.
M (in a calm voice): Okay, you can go potty.
T (whining): I don’t want to go potty.
M (still in calm voice): Okay. You don’t have to go potty.
T (after plopping on bathroom floor): But I want to go potty!
M (starting to lose calm tone): Then go potty.
T (flinging backwards from siting position): I don’t WANT to go potty!
M (through gritted teeth): Then don’t go potty.
T (in melt-down mode): BUT I WANT TO GO POTTY!
M (trying her best to sound encouraging): Great! Let’s go potty!
T (gasping for air through sobs): BUT I DON’T WANT TO GO POTTY!
Exchange continues for what feels likes ages. Toddler eventually calmed by campy rendition of Tomorrow from the musical Annie.
It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
As much as I get frustrated with my in ability to understand her logic, I don’t want to our time with our daughter to go by so quickly. It seems like we just brought her home from the hospital and she’s already conversing about her day. I know it will seem like tomorrow that she’s graduating high school and ready to begin her own adventure.