FILED IN: Child Behavior

The Master Mind

Photo: Ronnie Comeau

Having a toddler is like perpetually trying to put out a fire while running a timed marathon. Not that I’ve ever actually run a marathon, or put out a fire for that matter, but really, do they ever stop tearing through toys, rooms, refrigerators, the stack of papers you brought home from work and put up on the counter, thinking they were out of reach?

What drives these lovable little monsters to send us (the ones who provide for them, love them, feed them, cuddle with them, gave them life for goodness sake) to the brink of insanity on an hourly basis? I think it might just be that they know exactly what they are doing.

Think about the other things that we cherish in our lives. We have family, friends, and what about that boyfriend in high school that we had a huge crush on and finally got to ask us out? What about your home – the place you work so hard to pay for each month? How about that man that you may or may not have married, and the marriage that may or may not have ensued? And let’s not forget our moments of peace, quiet, and serene bliss. We have had to earn all of these. Really earn them, and we continue to earn them, every day.

How did we finagle those fifteen minutes of tranquility? It all started at 7 a.m. when she woke up an hour earlier than usual, which is odd because she was up twice last night (wanting “some milk, mama” and then “it’s too hot, mama”). Change the bulging wet diaper (the extra milk…) before it leaks all over the sheets you just changed yesterday, slip her into a new diaper and bathing suit and off we go to meet grandma at the beach (yeah, if it were only so easy to get out of the house…). Tire her out by building and destroying numerous sandcastles, playing soccer with a tennis ball, chasing and jumping over the waves, and don’t forget pretending to eat sand – yeah, that’s always a good one. Home for lunch, a bath, a few rounds chasing the dog, a time out for hitting the dog with a bat, and another for a repeat offense, and we’re off to naptime, or at least a few minutes in her room where I can (in my mind) honestly justify that idea that she just “needs a couple minutes to settle down before she falls asleep.” And there you have earned a few moments of quiet. Yep, definitely labor-intensive.

So our intuitive little monster picks up on this tidbit – “Hmmm, mama really loves and cherishes those things that she has to work for… I should torture and chase the cat, slightly maim him if I have to – and then I’ll move on to that nutritious, balanced lunch that she just prepared for me – wait, is she looking? I have to wait until she is paying attention to me; it must be deliberate to create the most dramatic effect – okay, there it is, she sat down and is taking a moment to talk to me – and…. Launch that sandwich!!!! Quick, follow it up with a spoonful of hummus!” That’s how they guarantee our love for them – they torture us.

But they’re just learning boundaries, testing the limits and trying to grasp a sense of social grace…blah, blah, blah. My little kidlet knows. And any of you who have ever spent time with a toddler know the look. She’ll look right at me before she plops down in the aisle at Vons, starts crying pitifully, and screeches that she wants “the blue bear mommy, the blue bear!” It’s all part her master plan. She’ll even throw in a seemingly earnest apology; of course it is after we’ve left the store and there is no one around…

So what’s the solution? Well, there a few obvious ones – stop caring, stop working for the things we cherish, marry a sugar daddy and have a team of nannies raise your child (oh wow, where did that come from???!!!) – but I’m not ready to give my child up to CPS, so… my solution is this: I hear they grow up. Although I do know a few 30-something year-olds that still throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want, rarely is there a mother standing by trying to pretend that it’s not her child who is dancing on tables and hitting on people half their age… Really, let’s just hang in there and hope to an Almighty someone that our kids make it past adolescence and realize what incredible people their mothers truly are.

So we just keep on truckin’ – and occasionally put out a fire along the way. We may not win the gold, but hopefully our children will come out healthy, happy, and alive. And then, if karma really exists, they will be repaid someday with a toddler of their own to love and cherish.