I remember thinking as a young person that parenting would be a breeze. I mean, I’d babysat plenty of times, and been around countless small children. How hard could it be. Then I got pregnant and reality set in. The baby stage wasn’t too bad for me. Eat, poop, sleep, repeat. I had a pretty easy baby. Then the toddler years hit. Parenting toddlers is not easy. Sometimes it can be downright hard. Here are the hardest parts.
The Second Guessing
As a parent, you will constantly second-guess every decision you make. From the mundane, like what is for lunch today, to the more serious, like what school to send your child too or what doctor to see.
With my toddler, I am always second guessing the choices my husband and I make. Fruit snacks for breakfast? Well, the name has the word fruit in it, so it cant be that bad, right? Should I let my son have nerf guns and other toy guns? Is it normal toddler behavior to run around pretending to shoot everything? Am I turning my sweet boy into a mass-murderer? How many hours of screen time really is TOO much?
There are just so many questions and no cut and dry answers. I am sure that the reality is that it is impossible to completely screw up your child with one decision, but as a parent, it sure doesn’t feel that way. Parenting toddlers can really feel intense. Partially because toddlers are learning language and communication skills and starting to retain memories. They can now rat you out when you give in and give them ice cream for dinner or allow them to play on their tablet all day.
Parenting toddlers is hard because you will always feel like you are “on-stage” and your audience is judging your every move. However, this judgement is being made based on a tiny human who doesn’t yet understand social norms and may at any moment do something completely unpredictable and unacceptable.
Anyone who has children knows what I am talking about. Even if your kids are grown, I am sure you can recall a time your child acted outrageous and embarrassed you.
Toddlers are by default emotionally unstable. The highs and lows they experience are unreal. For example, as an adult, if someone hands you a drink in a cup that happens to be a color you don’t like, you will ignore it, and drink your beverage. Try handing a toddler the red cup when the clearly wanted the blue one. Full-on nuclear level meltdown. Their whole life is completely ruined and you are a horrible person for even insinuating that the drink will taste the same regardless of cup color.
Now, when your sweet angel experiences something like this in public, all eyes are on you. As a parent, you feel like a failure. Like your kid is a spoiled rotten brat and no child on the Earth has ever acted like this. Yours does, because you suck at being a mom or dad.
You don’t. The secret here is that ALL kids have these moments. Some more than others, granted, but they will all act out in public at one time or another. And all those eyes one you? Yes, some of them may be judging. Those would be the ones without children of their own, or the ones whose children have long passed this stage and they’ve forgotten what its like. Most of those casting looks in your direction are secretly commiserating with you, and recalling the time when their own child acted like they were suffering from demonic possession over literally nothing.
The Language Development
This is something that seems to be becoming more common lately. Everyone is worried their child isn’t learning speech fast enough. There are children that are speech delayed, and need therapies to help their language develop. If this concerns you, try not to stress out and compare your child to every other child their age. Instead, talk to a trusted medical professional about the concerns, and do any testing or therapies they recommend.
On the other side of the language development problem, there are those children that talk way too much. I have one of these. My son has a massive vocabulary. Unfortunately, this also includes almost all the “bad words” and other things I find distasteful to say.
For example, as I am typing this, my son is playing in his room. I am watching him from the couch. He just dropped the toy he was playing with, and clear as day yelled “DAMN IT!” Great. Fabulous. Wonderful. At least he used it in the proper context, right? Now I should have another conversation about words that are not appropriate. At least I am the only one home to hear it this time.
One of my biggest worries is that my son will be the child to teach these words to all the children on the playground.
The Academic Pressure
Parenting toddlers is hard enough, but these days, it seems like they want children doing advanced Calculus before Kindergarten. I just do not get it. I am a firm believer in kids needing to be kids, especially when they are young. My toddler is still trying to figure out why its socially unacceptable to poop his pants. I don’t want to further tax him with learning to read novels at the age of 3.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for education. We are working on things like colors, letters, numbers, and other things. I am actually doing Preschool at home. Learning is great at this age, and their little minds absorb so much. However, I know some parents pushing their preschooler to do things and learn things that most 1st or 2nd grade level children haven’t learned yet.
If this is one of your worries, look into what your local preschool and kindergarten programs require. Work on the basics and try and make it fun for you and your child. Sometimes pushing kids too hard too early can cause bigger issues later on. Now, if your child soaks up learning and is mastering all the skills, keep going with it. Do what works for your family. But don’t feel obligated to force your child to keep up with the overachievers if they aren’t quite there yet. They will get there. Every child has their own pace.
The Milestone Stress
Everyone knows the big baby milestones: sitting, crawling, standing, walking, etc. Parenting toddlers comes with its own set of lesser talked-about milestones. Can your child ride a bike? Write their name? Say the alphabet? Go potty by themselves? Some parents seem to make it a competition. But like with the academics, these milestones will all happen at their own pace.
The example I will give involves potty training. This one hits close to home because we are currently in the midst of it. A year ago, when my son was 2.5, we first tried potty training. Now my son is pretty smart and mature for his age in a lot of ways, but in some ways, he is EXACTLY his age. He is also stubborn as hell. I’ve gotten a lot of grief from family and friends about why he isn’t potty trained yet. One friend and I were talking recently, and she gave me this look, like a sympathetic look, and said “Oh well, (her daughter) has been going for a year already.”
Well congratulations to you. I don’t need sympathy. My son is perfectly capable of doing this too. He’s just a huge butthole about it. He is stubborn and wants to play. He doesn’t want to stop to go potty and honestly, I haven’t forced him too hard. Now, he is more mature and at a point where he is more willing to go. So I could’ve put myself through a year of fighting with him every day and forcing the issue, and making a huge negative experience. Instead, I chose to wait, and now he is more responsive and its been much easier that our original attempt.
Every child is different. My kid doesn’t need to be exactly like yours. Yours doesn’t need to be like mine. Its their individual quirks, and personalities that make them so special. Children will hit their milestones in their time. All you can do is support them in their journey.
Parenting Toddlers: It’s Not All Bad
Parenting toddlers can at times be a lot of fun. Watching them learn, grown, and discover is such a blast. Hearing them learn to use their words, and communicate their thoughts can be a real joy. Nothing melts me more than the spontaneous, “I wuv you, momma,” or the occasional, “I had a fun day wif you!” It makes all those hard parts worth it. It keeps me focused on my true goal, which is raising a polite and caring little person, and not keeping up with what everyone else thinks or does. That’s what its all about.
What is the hardest part of parenting toddlers for you? What is your favorite part? I’d love to hear them in the comments!