Recently, I visited with my daughter, son-in-law, and two-year-old grandson for three weeks around the birth of my new granddaughter. Not 24-hours in, I remembered why I was so tired when my three kids were small in the 80’s. How did we survive? Well, we had youth on our side, I guess.
Many things have changed about child rearing over the years, but in my humble opinion, it hasn’t gotten any easier, even with all the apps and contraptions available today. Here are seven interesting observations from my experience in a modern toddler household.
- Cold food. You don’t eat your food hot. By the time you plate the child’s food and sit down with your own dinner, both are pretty much lukewarm. Next, you’ll be supervising the utensil use, cleaning up spills, and getting refills or substitutions, so before you’ve had a chance to clean your plate, your food will probably be cold.
- Unfinished Food. If you don’t finish your meal by the time your toddler does, you’re sunk. Cold or not, you better eat up, because once that kid is done, you’ll have to clean him up and then watch where he’s headed when he gets down from the table. If haven’t filled your belly by that time, you’re out of luck.
- Early Risers. Toddlers get up early. They go to bed early, and they get up early. I think even if they went to bed late, they’d still get up early.
- TV Deprivation. You can go ahead and put your favorite show on, but you will miss a lot, unless you have one of those kids who goes and plays quietly in a corner for an hour. I’d be worried about that kid.
- Haircuts. When my kids were little, I took them to a salon that was just for kids, but now they have actual franchises designed just for that demographic. Animated videos play on multiple screens, the styling chairs are kid-sized, and they have prizes at the end. And, oh, the colors! I wish my grown-up salon was a bit more like this.
- Car Seats. Back in my day, you propped your newborn upright in an untethered, forward-facing car seat, which had shoulder straps connected to a padded tray in front and one innovative strap between the legs. Now there are adjustable shoulder straps and chest guards and multiple buckles. They don’t make the buttons easy to push, either. I guess my fingers are almost as weak as a toddler’s.
- Discrete Processing. Sorry to lay technical language on you, but this is a great way to describe the way toddlers operate. Say it’s time to use the potty. You and I would say, “Hey, I’ll be right back.” For the toddler, getting to the bathroom is one event, getting on the potty another, etc., etc. Flushing the toilet is an event. Climbing the stepstool at the sink is an event. Turning on the faucet, pumping the soap, running the hands under the water while singing the song, and drying the hands are all individual events. The toddler appreciates each step in the process, while we see the entire process as a step. This is the best illustration of living in the moment I’ve ever seen.
Before I spent this extended visit with my daughter’s little family, I had vague recollections of what it had been like to have small children living in the house. I remembered dozing while in a standing position. I remembered feeling like there was actual lead in my bottom when I sat in a chair. But now, I have a new appreciation of what I did day-to-day in the early years. And I have a true appreciation for what young parents are going through now. Bless you all.
The Pay Off. Yes, toddlers keep you from eating your food and watching your favorite program. They get up early, and it takes 20 minutes to get them in and out of their car seat. But if you bend down to their height, it’s very possible that they will give you one of their magical hugs. There’s nothing better than that.