The Crazy Toddler Stage

C is currently 22 months… going on 22 years. She walked at 8 1/2 months, ran at 9, showed interest in the potty at 18 months, and started talking in phrases by the time she was 19 months. Now, she speaks in 4 word phrases. All the time. As a result of this speedy development, she is simply over-confident.

Let me elaborate. She gets herself snacks and water and puts away her dirty dishes. That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it??? But when the over-confidence leads to one of the following situations, it is not so wonderful:
– Climbing on the counter to reach my purse, which had nail polish in it, and painting her own toenails…. as well as the counter, her arms, and her feet.
– Climbing onto the counter and eating the sour cream straight from the container, after she had asked the hubs for food and he said no. (It was after dinner, which she ate well, and it was almost bedtime. She didn’t take no for an answer and he found her eating it with a spoon. I was at work.)
– Climbing on the counter to get Hershey kisses after I said she couldn’t have any more.
(Um…yes. They all involve climbing onto the counter. Where’s the childproof safety for THAT? … Read on.)

This is what she does when she is caught doing something she's not supposed to do. Nice attempt, but Mommy can still see you ;)

This is what she does when she is caught doing something she’s not supposed to do. Nice attempt, kid, but Mommy can still see you 😉

And lately her new favorite thing is putting things in the toaster. Yes, you read that right. She must think it’s a big piggy bank or small garbage or something. Here are things I’ve had to retrieve from the toaster before it explodes:
– Wrappers from the Hershey kisses (yep. The same ones she climbed onto the counter to get. For the record, I thought I had them in a place that was ‘un-gettable’.)
– Coins/change
– Bobby pins

This is what I just fished out of my toaster.

This is what I just fished out of my toaster. My loose change was on the counter because I’m washing my apron for work.

Here’s the thing about this stage of toddler-hood: no one can prepare you for it. And baby proofing? HA! Baby proofing is nothing compared to what you must do when they’re toddlers. And the worst part is, most of the time there are no store-bought products that can prevent this crazy toddler stage from manifesting in its full glory. Like I said: what product can prevent your kids from climbing up the handles of the drawers to access the counter? Also, I’m kind of sort of in the “if they shouldn’t play with it, you should teach them not to play with it instead of just preventing access to that area, because they need to learn.” Except that when you have 3 kids 6 & under, it really is necessary to do SOME baby proofing, or all you will accomplish all day is to prevent them from dying. (Dramatic? Maybe only a little.)

So yes. Supervision becomes more hawk-like when you realize your child has hit this stage. But the problem is, you can’t be everywhere all the time; you can’t make them sit perfectly still while you do normal tasks like clean up the messes they just made, or make them dinner, or wash their dishes, or do their laundry. For example: I was removing the change from the toaster and sweeping the crumbs from the counter, after finally taking a risk and explaining to C why we don’t put things in the toaster. (“The toaster gets really hot, and if we put things in it, they can catch on fire, and we can all get really hurt. We don’t put things in the toaster. Okay?”) I return to the family room, where I was previously, cuddling with B and trying to catch a quick wink, and the first thing I see is C trying to drink the glue that I had just taken away from B before the whole toaster incident, because he refused to use it the right way. (It’s just one of those days.)

When B was this age, the two things I remember most vividly – because they shocked me – were that he would open the oven and use it as a stool to reach the counter, and open the dishwasher for the same purpose. Seriously?! I mean, good job on the problem solving, I’m glad you are determined, but what parent in their right mind could anticipate that being a problem?

It’s this combo of them discovering their limits, pushing them to see if we’ll enforce them, strong determination and a really naive (yet somehow inspiring) belief that they can do whatever they want if they just put their mind to it – which they do.

Now I don’t want to frighten any moms whose kids haven’t reached this stage yet, so let me leave you with some positive advice:
* Expect the unexpected. I know. That doesn’t make sense. Just know that even if you THINK something isn’t possible, they will find a way to make it possible. So listen to that little voice in your head telling you to move that glass of water, secure the garbage, put everything even semi-dangerous up as high as it can go and locked if possible, and know that sometimes things you wouldn’t categorize as dangerous can become dangerous in their hands. So what I’m saying is, go overboard to ensure safety – and don’t feel bad about it.
* Tell them WHY something is wrong/dangerous/not okay. I’ve found repeatedly that if I only tell my kids “no”, they don’t get it. They just keep doing whatever it is they’re not supposed to. But when I explain to them the dangers, they no longer feel like I’m depriving them of fun; they understand those rules are in place because I love them. Use your discretion as to what age to start this… But I guess they’re never really too young. Even if they don’t understand yet, it’s good practice for you, until they DO understand. (Clearly I was reminded of this today since Camille didn’t get the message the past two times she put things in the toaster. Noted.)
* Allow yourself to laugh. If you dwell on your mistakes, and their bad behavior, instead of light-heartedly fixing the problem, you will become so unhappy and discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Listen, no mom is perfect. Things are going to happen that will shock and upset you. That’s okay. It does not make you a failure. Make a mental note of it. Fix it as much as you can. Instruct your child why their behavior is not acceptable. Supervise better next time. Then repeat the process. Check out this post and this excerpt for more encouragement in this area.
* Remember these stories. I know when they first happen you might feel angry, shocked, discouraged, etc., but someday when they’re older, you can tell your child, and you’ll all laugh about it. But there’s another reason I want to remember. I kind of envision it going like this someday: B is discouraged because he’s not doing well in fill-in-the-blank activity. I’m sitting with him at bedtime talking over the issue. “Hey B, do you know what? When you were almost two, and you wanted something on the counter, you would open the oven door to use as a stool to reach what you wanted. You were DETERMINED to get what you wanted, and you didn’t stop until you figured out a way to get it. You are a problem-solver. You have determination. You can do this too.” Someday there will be a time when your child needs to be reminded who they are. If you focus on the positive aspects of these crazy toddler incidents, you can use them later, to your child’s benefit.
* Understand you can NOT control your child’s behavior. Our job is to instruct them in the way they should go, and then pray that they will get it. During the in-between times, pay attention. Watch your child, study their habits and tendencies, so you can get to the heart of the issues at hand. Here’s an analogy: You have chronic headaches. Every day you take the maximum allowed pain reliever just to get through your day, instead of going to the doctor to see if there’s something else going on. Fast forward several months, and you finally give in and see a doctor. You find out you have an infection that’s causing the pain. Now, not only do you have an infection that’s been untreated, but you also have an ulcer in your stomach from taking all the pain meds for so long. As parents, we need to treat the actual cause of the behavior, not only the symptoms (behavior). When one of my kids displays repeated bad behavior, I’m beginning to pray that God will reveal the reason to me, so I can treat that instead.

So here’s to more supervision, more peace, and enjoying life in the midst of crazy toddler mishaps!!!