With the updates to the house almost complete, Peanut due to arrive any nanosecond, and temperatures reaching the high 80s (we don’t have central AC, but I’m sure you guessed that), tensions have been running high in the C household. Apparently, my husband and I aren’t the only ones coping with copious amounts of stress. A few days ago, Minnow asked me to get her coloring books and crayons so she could color at the kitchen table. I obliged, and as she sat coloring I scrubbed some dishes in the sink. A few minutes later I turned around to find her methodically peeling the wrappers off each crayon.
“Minnow, why are you doing that?” I inquired.
“Because it helps me feel better.”
Interesting. When I’m stressed I usually make a list or go for a long run, but, you know, different strokes for different folks.
I mean, can you blame the kid for feeling a little frazzled lately? According to Baby Center, toddler stress is real, and can be brought on by the following:
“…having too many planned activities, the lack of a stable routine, feeling sick, a move, a separation from a beloved caregiver, or the arrival of a new sibling.”
In the last three months Minnow has been through two moves; has gone from living with her beloved grandparents and favorite dog, Harry, to spending the majority of her days with just me; and is anticipating a new baby to disrupt the only-child lifestyle she has enjoyed since birth.
Rationally, I understand what’s going on but, emotionally, my stressed-out toddler is making me feel like I am failing miserably at motherhood. Her usually cheerful and cooperative personality has been replaced by someone who, in her own words, “[Doesn’t] want to do ANYTHING!.” Our mornings usually start out well, but unravel after she has finished her breakfast. For example, on Tuesday I wanted to bathe Minnow before her swimming lesson at noon. First she screamed because she didn’t want to get into the tub. Then she screamed because she didn’t want to get out of the tub. She refused to use the potty, then she refused to put on her swim diaper. She fought me with feet and fists as I struggled to get her into her car seat, and sobbed during the five-minute drive to the pool, “But I don’t want to go to swim lessons! I don’t want to do ANYTHING!”
Then when she got to the pool, she said, “Mommy, can me pick out my own goggles? I want the pink ones!”
Every day has been like this since we moved into the new house. It’s like living with someone who suffers from unmedicated bi-polar disorder, which I guess most toddlers do, in a way. My days are spent dreaming up ways to keep Minnow happy, and those ways usually include too many Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies and too much time spent watching “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood" on the iPad. At times like these, when I’m feeling like just about the most unqualified mother in America, only one thing will lift my spirits:
“Toddlers and Tiaras.”
Confession: There are few things I enjoy more after putting Minnow to bed than kicking back on the couch with a bowl of Edy's Slow Churned ice cream (or a Shake Shack shake, if my husband is so inclined) and watching two or three episodes of this TLC gem. The mothers of “Toddlers and Tiaras” help me realize that even on our most out-of–sorts days, I could be making far more questionable decisions as a parent. After all, I can honestly say that I have never:
- Spray-tanned my toddler;
- Fed my toddler Pixie Sticks, Red Bull, or something called “Tinker Tea,” which is, evidently, a concoction comprised of Pixie Sticks, lemonade, and soda (soda!);
- Called another person’s toddler “ugly;”
- Suggested to my toddler that “stripper” is an acceptable career choice, as long as she does it “fabulously;”
- Criticized my toddler for not having (or doing- I don’t know what the correct terminology is here) “pretty feet;”
- Allowed my toddler to ride in an ATV, with or without a helmet;
- Put false eyelashes on my toddler’s eyes, false teeth in my toddler’s mouth, or makeup on my toddler’s face (Although I have, on occasion, painted her toenails the same Essie color as my pedicure, so we could match);
- Told my toddler, in either a positive or negative way, that she looks like a “prosti-tot;”
- Allowed my toddler’s lunch to be spoonfuls of mayonnaise (mayonnaise!) straight out of the jar;
- Threatened to “kick the shit” out of another parent in front of my toddler (or ever!);
I don’t mean to criticize other people’s parenting styles (cough, cough); after all, being a parent is, by far, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and I went to law school. I don't doubt that the parents on "Toddlers and Tiaras" genuinely love their children, even if they have a funny way of showing it. I’m just saying that the next time Minnow wants to lament her misfortune because I insist on washing her hair or giving her something other than carbs for a snack, she might do well to think about little Mackenzie or Brooklyn, who certainly have more stress in their lives than she does.