With my two teenage children kicking around the house groaning about schoolwork, I am well beyond the toddler years. My kids can drive, make their own dinner and certainly put themselves to bed. So, yes, I have time to work, breathe and even occasionally go on dates with my husband.
If it sounds like I’m rubbing it in, I’m not. Because, honestly, there are so many things I miss from those toddler days when I could just grab my little boy and girl and pull them into a cuddle on the couch.
Trust me when I say that the routines that might feel tedious now while you're in the toddler weeds will fill you with longing and nostalgia someday soon—very soon.
So, instead of complaining about how stressed you are, how you miss spending time with your spouse and wondering when your 3-year-old will stop whining and start potty training, draw a breath and count these seven sweet ways that your adorable toddlers bless your life right now.
1. They’re an easy wrangle. Once you have teenagers, they start to wander and you start to wonder, are they really at the pizza shop where they said they’d be? Why aren’t they home yet? Although I trust my kids, there are many nights when I’m awake waiting for that key in the door, remembering when they were little and I could just scoop them up for dinner, bath and bed time.
2. The simple stuff entertains. Toddlers are still young enough to love doing fun, simple stuff. You can still walk hand-in-hand to look at the moon or plunk down at the playground and make sand cakes. Whenever you're feeling less-than-stimulated playing some board game with your little ones, appreciate how low-tech life can be.
3. Crafts! Do you think your 11-year-old is going to sit down at any point on a Saturday afternoon and make paper snowflakes with you? Well, think again. Cut, paste and color while you can.
If you feel like your toddler is attached to your hip at all times, then imagine a time when you're the one begging them to stay home for family dinner on a Friday night.
4. Mac and cheese. I know! I know! But please let me put that ubiquitous toddler food in perspective. You mix up a pot of Annie’s Mac and Cheese and throw in some broccoli. Voila! Dinner! Or a hotdog on a bun with a cut-up apple qualifies as lunch. Enjoy it now, because pretty soon, you're going to have big kids and those quick, easy meals will no longer cut it. A lot more food prep goes into feeding teenagers than I ever would have imagined. Enjoy the chicken fingers for a few more years.
5. Bedtime Stories. Although we always thought we’d read to our kids, there came a point when homework took over their evenings and I started going to bed before them. I know! It sounds like a fantasy! But don't underestimate the beauty of the bedtime book and snuggle. Pretty soon it will be a quick peck on the cheek as you head up.
6. They need you for manageable things. Of course there are always going to be toddler tussles when they want to assert independence. I had a daughter who insisted on dressing herself after the age of 2 and, boy, did she have bad taste in clothes. But mostly your little ones are going to scream for you to help them with things that aren’t that hard. So, when you hear "Mommy!" and don’t feel like getting up, appreciate that you’re only being asked to make a snack or do a puzzle. When real independence hits, you’ll be asked for a ride to the mall and some money.
7. They still want you. OK, the truth is, they’re always going to want you, but it’s different when they’re little. I still remember when my “babies” would hop up on my lap for a cuddle or beg me to go to the park and play on the swings. If you feel like your toddler is attached to your hip at all times, then imagine a time when you're the one begging them to stay home for family dinner on a Friday night. I know. Sniff, sniff.
At the end of the day, it turns out everyone was right: It goes fast. Love every minute of these years while you can.