We can’t please toddlers for a pretty simple reason: they can be impossible to please.
At just two years old, our son is a mighty force to be reckoned with. He is sweet, so, so sweet, and loving, and kind. He is generous with hugs (I want a big hug, mommy, he frequently asks), and he has me wrapped around his soft little finger.
I am silly putty, molding clay, Play-Doh, a pliable form that bends to the will of this boy of mine with the bright, energetic eyes and the dimpled cheeks I kiss dozens of times daily. He too is an irrational beast of a thing.
Take this excerpt from one recent breakfast:
Child: I want yogourt, mommy.
Me: OK, you can have yogourt.
Child: I want my Buzz Lightyear bowl, mommy.
Me: OK, let’s get your Buzz Lightyear bowl.
Child: No! No! No! I don’t want my Buzz Lightyear bowl! (Insert desperate crying here as he shoves aforementioned Buzz Lightyear bowl across the kitchen table.)
Me: OK, then you don't have to use it. Here is your yogourt (note: yogourt is served in a non-Buzz Lightyear bowl).
Child: No! I want cereal and yogourt . . . and applesauce! (Insert more desperate crying.)
My internal voice, edited of curse words: Seriously? SERIOUSLY!!? You’re acting like a dictator . . . and I am not a friggen grocery store! What the bleep is your deal?! Coo-coo banana, coo-coo banana, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
And so it goes. It’s Ozzy Osbourne’s "Crazy Train" (the drug-free, family edition) and The Rolling Stones’ "You Can’t Always Get What You Want" all rolled into one.
Once the bar has been set, it seems to be the endless job of toddlers to try and raise it again and again, just for the heck of it.
Thankfully, my son isn’t big on temper tantrums, but when one does begin to bubble, I try to circumvent it with a hug and kiss or by speaking calmly to him. I will offer to help, find a clever distraction, or ask for his assistance with something, such as bringing a bowl or plate to the kitchen for me.
Sometimes, though, the tantrum state is too far gone and destined to explode into a picture of chaos, complete with a rush of plump tears and a red screaming face and the dramatic climax of him tossing his body to the ground like a political martyr.
Ignore. Ignore. Give him space to let it all out. I remind myself to do this whenever he has entered this whirlwind state of heightened irrationality and nuttiness.
This is harder to do in public, no doubt, particularly when passersby include smug, childless couples or moms out with their perfect, sunny-faced toddlers (moms who’ve basically lucked out at this particular time, but still think they have a right to be smug about it).
All parents (even smug ones) eventually learn that the toddler brain is a very complex work in progress.
Constantly growing and developing, kids at this age are easily frustrated, while also trying to exert some control and exercise independence.
They are learning how to be guided by us while mastering their individuality at the same time.
These smart little creatures are also learning exactly when and how they can get us to do what they want.
And sometimes we need to bend. This helps send the message that their ideas and needs matter. It tells them they are valued.
“Two more minutes, mommy,” my son said this morning as I tried to hurry him out the door to get to daycare.
He had just thrown his shoes across the floor in protest, because putting them on means we’re leaving.
“Want to read a book, mommy?” he asked, gently patting the empty spot on the sofa beside him and looking up at me with big, round eyes.
"Here, mommy, come sit down."
He wanted just this one thing—more time with me, his mommy.
There is nothing more important than this, I think.
So I say, “Yes, sweetie, I do want to read a book with you,” and snuggle in next to him, for the pretty simple reason that right now, in this precious moment, he is so completely possible to please.
Want to read more by Tanya Enberg? Try these! Does Making Your Morning Yoga Class Stress You Out? That's One More Reason To Go; We Stayed in a Tiny One-Room Cottage and Survived; and Is Becoming a Mom in Your 20s Better Than Waiting?