When I had my first son, I spent a lot of time thinking about all of the milestones he’d go through. Sitting up, crawling, eating solid food, walking and talking are the things all moms focus on in that first year.
And then, suddenly, I had a toddler.
While that stage is no less amazing or interesting than the first year, there were a lot of things I didn’t think about before they happened. Most importantly, I didn’t think about how mobile my son would be. And what that would mean to my house and my sanity.
If your baby is quickly approaching the toddler stage, here are the things I can guarantee you will experience with your toddler. If you have more than one child in the 1 to 3 age bracket, you will likely get to experience them twice! And if your kid is already out of the toddler stage, I bet you will nod in sympathy. I wish I could say this is a comprehensive list, but if having two toddlers has taught me anything it’s that what one doesn’t think to do, the other one will. Hold on tight and remember: it’s only a stage!
1. Your toddler will color or paint something she is not supposed to color or paint.
It might be your new sofa or it might be the kitchen walls. You might not see it right away because it’s not in a conspicuous place (like when my toddler took a blue marker to the inside of my walk-in closet) or you might spot it as soon as you walk in the room. Regardless of the canvas, your toddler will have a moment (possibly more than one) of pure, spontaneous joy and take her marker or paintbrush to something she knows she’s not supposed to apply marker or paint to. When asked, “Why did you do this?” (and try not to wail when you ask), she will shrug, smile and say, “I don’t know. It’s pretty!”
Practice this mantra: “It is only hair. It will grow.”
2. Your toddler will cut his own hair.
It will happen. I don’t care how high you put the scissors or how many times you say, “Don’t play with the scissors,” he will inevitably find a pair of scissors and take them to his hair (or his brother’s hair) and give himself a haircut reminiscent of an '80s punk rocker. Practice this mantra: “It is only hair. It will grow.”
3. Your toddler will shove something so far up her nose you are afraid she has hit her brain.
The first time it happens, you will panic and take your child to urgent care where they will extract it with a long pair of tweezers. “It” might be a Lego block, a piece of cereal or a bead, but for a few moments it will be the scariest thing in the world. In most instances, holding the opposite nostril closed and instructing the kid to “Blow! Blow hard!” will resolve the issue. But the grossness of the event will stay with you always.
4. Your toddler will flush something down the toilet.
And heaven help you if you only have one bathroom. I don’t know why toddlers are so fascinated with toilets—the water, the sound, the cool flushing mechanism?—but they are. And at some point, no matter how diligent you are, no matter how many times you reinforce, “Nothing goes in the toilet except pee, poop and toilet paper!” your sweet toddler will decide to flush something (maybe a wash cloth, maybe a bath toy, maybe his sibling's doll) and you will stand by helplessly as the toilet overflows and your toddler squeals with glee. Keep a plunger handy and brace yourself, because once he sees how much fun it is, he will do it again.
5. Your toddler will tell a stranger something terribly inappropriate.
This isn’t so bad. Really. It will most likely occur in a public restroom and will involve some sort of bodily function. “Mama, you’re going poop!” will elicit laughs from the stalls around you, but you will survive the embarrassment. Just hang out in the bathroom until the stalls empty and slink out quietly.
6. Your toddler will tell someone you know something terribly inappropriate.
Remember, there are always little ears listening. So when you say something about your mother-in-law’s cooking or your next door neighbor’s political leanings, keep in mind that your toddler might just blurt something out at the next potluck.
7. Your toddler will answer the door or the phone when you are in the shower.
It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “Do not answer the door, do not answer the door!” If the doorbell rings, your toddler will manage to unlock even the child-proof lock and inform the person at the door that, “Mommy is naked in the shower!” Keep a robe handy and leave the bathroom door open so you can hear the doorbell.
Like Liam Neeson, they will find it.
8. Your toddler will sneak out the door when you aren’t looking.
This isn’t funny, at least not when it’s happening, and it can be one of the scariest things a parent can experience. Kids do things out of curiosity and impulse. Knowing it will happen at some point won’t keep you from panicking when you see the door standing wide open, but remind yourself that it happens to all of us at least once and it’ll be OK. (Also, a security alarm or even a string of jingle bells tied to the doorknob will alert you of your little one’s actions.)
9. Your toddler will find that thing you hid from them when they can’t find their own socks in their own drawer.
Their Christmas presents, that ridiculously loud toy that drives you crazy, the big bottle of bubbles that you were saving for the birthday party? Like Liam Neeson, they will find it. Their uncanny ability to tease out the best hiding places in your house is worthy of a spy novel. Your best bet is to store things you don’t want them to have at a friend's house (or throw it in an outside garbage can when they're asleep).