I’m on my third, and hopefully last, toddler. My 2-year-old daughter Aspen is a very active and curious little lady, but while I often talk about the craziness of raising a toddler (i.e. the poop in the tub, the sudden tantrums, and the boogers — GOD the boogers), these moments of excitement are actually just short glimpses into what are really long stretches of boredom, with brief moments of complete and total madness thrown in.
Seriously, I know no one else will say it, but I will: On the whole, raising a toddler is actually really boring — for several reasons.
1. Date nights out just equal guilt, so you start to become one with your couch.
While I love my toddler, I know that she can be a handful. She’s into everything, she screams a lot, and always seems to be plotting some way to sneak outside and torture the cat. Leaving her with a sitter means finding someone who can attentively watch her so she doesn’t cram a LEGO in her mouth and choke, while finding someone who is patient enough to deal with her screaming because she can’t have ALL the toothbrushes in the bathroom.
During the toddler years, my wife Mel and I feel guilty saddling anyone with our toddler, and then, once we’re out, we’re fearful that something might happen. As a result, we keep our dates short and rushed, which means our “us time” usually winds up being an evening on the couch, watching TV after the kids finally go to bed. But even then, we’re usually too tired to watch a whole movie, and end up falling asleep on the sofa halfway through. (Sexy, I know.)
2. Leaving the house with a toddler becomes somewhat nightmarish, hence why I avoid it at all costs.
Last week, Mel and I were talking about how we needed printer paper. “I hate running errands with Aspen,” she said. “I have to load her into the car, along with my diaper bag and my purse and everything, and then unload it all just a few minutes later. Only to have her scream her head off once we’re in the store, because she wants out of the cart. But I’m afraid to let her out, because then she’ll break everything.”
She went on and on, and the whole time all I could think about were all the times I just stayed at home on my days off, even though there were things I needed to get done outside the house. It’s just that the very thought of doing them with a toddler sounded like hell.
I’ve been known to make everything from food to shaving blades to laundry soap last a little longer, just to avoid shopping with a toddler, because the fact is, you just can’t anticipate what a toddler will do in a store. They may be well behaved. They may keep their hands to themselves. But most likely they will cry, or poop themselves, or both, and so rather than face the very real risk of going to the store with what feels like a wild animal, you stay home, shop online when possible, and remain bored.
3. Social events mean chasing a wild toddler around instead of talking to adults. And who wants to do that?
When Mel and I attend social gathering with a toddler, one of us ends up on toddler duty. This basically means walking around the event and following Aspen in a vain attempt to keep her from climbing and falling, getting stepped on, or choking on something random she decides to she wants to taste. One person ends up enjoying themselves, while the one on toddler duty feels bitter and winds up covered in boogers.
So yeah; unless someone near and dear to us is getting married/confirmed/Bat Mitzvah’d or going through some other major milestone, our social strategy during the toddler years is pretty simple: Don’t be social.
4. “Getting outdoors” usually means going to a kids’ playground.
As much as I love taking my kids to the park, sometimes I’d like to do something else as a family. But it’s almost impossible to take a toddler to a movie without pissing someone else off. I usually spend most of the time keeping her from running around the theater or eating crap off the floor. It’s just not worth it. Going on a hike means packing a ridiculous amount of diapers and snacks, carrying a toddler most of the way, and spending a good amount of time fearful that your child is going to drown or fall off a cliff. Not to say that I haven’t taken Aspen on a hike, but it takes a LOT more work and preparation than I’d like, so we usually end up saying to hell with it and going to the park, where I spend the whole time in a repetitive cycle of helping Aspen go down the slide for an hour and pushing her on the swing. Not the most exciting way to spend the day.
5. All you want to do in your spare time is sleep … and sleep … and sleep.
Aspen is still figuring out that whole sleep thing. She still gets up in the night, and she also seems to think that getting up at 4 AM is an awesome idea. This means that whenever I get a few moments of quiet, I don’t spend them doing something I want to do, I spend them sleeping. All I want to do is sleep. It’s my No. 1 most desired activity.
6. Snuggle time is the most exciting time.
Okay, so this one’s kind of a perk. While I freely admit that much of being the parent of a toddler means being a bit of a shut-in, there is lots and lots of snuggle time. This is where Aspen climbs into my lap, lets out a long breath that seems to say, “I’m settling in for a stretch.” Then she snuggles into my chest, and we just sit there for 20 or 30 minutes snuggling. The whole time I’m thinking about all the things I need to get done, but it just feels too warm and cozy, so I don’t move, savoring the moment.
The truth is, parenting young children comes down to the fact that you are working with a really raw product. You have to teach your children how to do everything from sleeping to eating, and it takes time to help a toddler learn how to control themselves in public. Each time a parent goes out, the world turns into a classroom, and it’s your job to teach them how to act. It’s all pretty exhausting, and until they start figuring it out a little better, you end up staying home, being bored, and longing for that next stage when you can get a little more of your old life back.
But the snuggles — I admit, they kind of make up for it.
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