13 Realities Of What It’s Really Like To Parent A Toddler

13 Realities Of What It’s Really Like To Parent A Toddler

People make a decision to have a baby, not a toddler. And yet, a toddler is what you end up with in just a blink of an eye. You spend your pregnancy imagining newborn cuddles, but rarely do your daydreams venture into the toddler years. It’s hard to feel excited when imagining an epic toddler meltdown at the supermarket checkout, so why go there, right?

When your baby is born, toddlers you’ve never met seem to seek out your baby in public places, just so they can ‘kiss him’ aka cover him in their germy snot. When you take your baby to group, he is easy to prey to the energetic toddlers flying around the room looking for someone to hit on the head with whatever toy they have just snatched from another unsuspecting (and now sobbing) baby.

You spend your days praying that your child won’t turn into one of those toddlers. You hope with every fibre of your being that it’s just bad parenting, and that you are doing everything right. Of course, you’ll soon find out that those toddlers were just being toddlers, and you caught them on a bad day.

So, in case you’re wondering, here’s what it’s really like to have a toddler:

#1: Living With Someone With A Split Personality Disorder

Some days your toddler will be the most caring, kind and gentle person ever to grace this planet. And other times he’ll headbutt you so hard you get a black eye, throw a ball into the face of your friend’s newborn baby and knock a shop display of toilet rolls down in a rage. Obviously you’ll prefer him on the kind and gentle days, but will put all of your energies into showing him that you love him the same amount on the bad days.

#2: A Constant Game Of Charades

You know when an unknown toddler runs over, gurgles nonsense at you for five minutes and then waits for your response while you look around desperately trying to find his translator/mother? Yeah, that never goes away. Only now you’re the translator, not that you’ll have a clue what your child is saying. You’ll pretend when strangers are around, of course, but you will have absolutely no idea what your child is on about. It’s like a never ending game of charades where at least one of you cries with frustration every hour.

#3: Living With A Health & Safety Officers

You know how Health & Safety Officers take their jobs pretty seriously? And how instead of just telling you what needs to be changed, they always act out the scenario for you in a very over the top manner? That’s basically what toddlers do. They find danger everywhere, slip over everything and pull anything down on top of them. And then they cry and look at you with a face that screams “all you have to do is keep me safe!”

#4: Inviting the Compost Bin Round For Dinner

To give you an idea of what it’s like to be the personal chef to a toddler, just imagine inviting your compost bin round for dinner. But don’t just feed it compost, spends hours slaving away over a delicious and nutritious meal. And then when it’s time to eat, just pour one helping straight into the compost bin, because there’s no way your toddler is going to eat it. Even if it’s his favourite. Even if he asked for it. All he’s going to do is use it to give himself a deep head massage, fling some at the wall, and stuff a handful of it into his nappy, and then it’s going in the compost bin. Then, after you’ve finally gotten around to bed time and put him to bed, he asks for the very thing he refused to eat earlier.

#5: Having Shorter Days

Remember how much you used to be able to get done in a day? No more. Half it when you have a baby, and then half it again when that baby becomes a toddler. Everything you try to do, your toddler will undo. Sorting laundry? Yep, he’s pulling it straight back out of the drawers. Tidying the playroom? Yep, he’s just tipped over the toy box. And everything will take at least three times as long just because you’re working on toddler time now. Five minute walk to the shops? That’s your entire afternoon gone. Each and every snail, dog poo and twig must be thoroughly inspected.

#6: Constantly Being Told No

“NO!” will become the soundtrack to your day. Your toddler will say no to getting dressed, no to going out and no to eating dinner. Even if your toddler has just asked for something, and you hand it to him, expect him to give you a big “NO!” whilst smiling and accepting whatever it was. He just loves the sound of the word no.

#7: Watching Somebody Fail

Toddlers love to do absolutely everything by themselves. And they definitely do not want your help, ever. They are also lacking in fine motor skills, coordination and expertise, so you can expect to spend most of your day watching your toddler fail at things. Eventually, the frustration will become so great that your toddler will burst into tears. This will happen all day long.

#8: Being A Professional Apologiser

You will spend a lot of your time apologising for your toddler. As he stumbles round, knocking over elderly people, bumping babies on the heads (yep, yours will do that too) and pulling the tails of unsuspecting dogs, you will run round after him apologising. You will apologise when he throws his yoghurt at a passer-by, when he draws on your friend’s wall, and when he snatches from all the other toddlers. Apologising will be your fulltime job.

#9: Being A Terror Squad Negotiator

As well as your full time role as an apologiser, you will also head up negotiations for the terror squad. This means, whenever your toddler fills you with terror, you will be the person responsible for negotiating peace. You will need to negotiate with your toddler when he gets hold of the scissors/knife/matches you didn’t see lying around. You will need to talk down your toddler when he’s about to freak out in the supermarket. Make sure you always have biscuits, this is key to the success of the negotiations.

#10: Never Sleeping

Toddlers sleep better than babies, but you still won’t be getting a full night’s sleep. Your toddler will probably wake up at least once in the night, and it won’t be a short wake up. He’ll think it’s playtime and expect that you play with jigsaws with him. At 3am. Oh, and then he’ll get up for the day at 5am. Even in winter when it’s dark outside.

#11: Being Loved Unconditionally

Toddlers are definitely some of the most loving people on the planet. He loves you unconditionally and isn’t afraid to show it. He will happily kiss you in front of his friends, snuggle up on your knee for stories, and give you the greatest squishy cuddles ever. And all of this will make your heart swell so big that you totally forget all of the above points about what it’s like to have a toddler.

#12: Feeling Needed

Toddlers need comforting. Every grazed knee needs to be kissed. Every time your toddler bumps his head or falls over on his bottom, it’s you he will come running to. You are the person who can magically cuddle and kiss those bumps away, until they no longer hurt. You are the person who can help him feel safe when he is scared. You are the person who helps him to cheer up when he’s been upset. He needs you. Totally and unequivocally. You are his world, and there is no greater feeling than that.

#13: Sharing In The Triumphs

Every time your toddler makes a new or exciting discovery, for example that snails can be picked up, you are the one person he wants to share that with. When he finds a really good stick, he wants you to have it as a gift. And when he finds something really fun, like bubble wrap, he wants you to enjoy it too. Toddlers share everything they love with the people they love. Yes this means you will have a handbag full of sticks, stones and leaves, but it also means you are that person, and that’s wonderful.

Last Updated: May 29, 2015


Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.

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