In the words of a blog-writing physician, “toddlerhood is far more exhausting than internships or residency”. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve observed two close friends survive and thrive the challenges of medical school, residency, and enter and establish new practices while growing and parenting two children under five. I’ve nodded in sympathy at their 30-hour shifts and sleep deprivation, and empathized with their frustrations, and shared the bright spots in parenting a pair of very, very young people. It seems to be that there can’t be much worse than the rigors of residency in a professional context, so for this guy to claim raising a child from age 18 months – 3 years is actually tougher than his experience gaining experience in medicine was alarming.

Toddlerhood isn’t all bad. Toddlers are funny, silly and smart. They know what they want, except when they don’t know what they want. Toddlers are like “Pick me up! no put me down! Not there! There! Now up!” This frequently happens within a 30-second interval and then happens over and over again. Fun, right?

Remember the words of George Bailey to his wife, Mary:

You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?

But that was before he met Clarence the Angel.

My youngest doesn’t have any words yet, but he is an effective and persuasive communicator. Recently I bought a pack of dried mangos. I had not realized that dried mangos are like crack to the set under five. When something doesn’t go his way, like when I had to cut him off of the tropical fruit, he physically and emotionally falls apart. The injustice pours out of his every chakra. Drama unfolds. Tears flood his personal space.

Often, my four-year-old tries to help me out when the little guy disintegrates under the weight of unjustice. He’s like, “Relax, Max. I’ll read you the bird book”.  And our big old black lab will give him a nudge, or a friendly lick, trying to cheer him up. It’s very sweet.

And sometimes it works. The tears dry up, a smile plays on his lips. All is right in the world again.

Until 30 seconds later, when something stirs up the teeny monster hidden deep in the body of a happy little guy. Calm the monster! I announce to the family. Use your words! I sing to the angry child. We go to work, father, brother and dog, everyone pulling together to bring peace to the toddler.

As the good doctor said, toddlerhood is tough. For everyone involved.

Wishing you parents of toddlers a peaceful evening filled with hugs, books and crayons that remain unchewed. Wondering if you parents of grown-up kids (by definition age 5 and older) have any reflection of parenting the non-speakers, the tiny people of mashed peas and carrots and sloppy sippy cups. I’d love to hear from you. 


One thought on “Meltdown

  1. My daughter was pretty much delightful until she hit 4. Then I had a whole week of wondering if I had done everything wrong before she reverted to her usually sweet self.

    My son (second child) was two when we decided on a vasectomy. Enough said.

    He’s 28 now, and utterly amazing. She’s pretty darn special, too.

    They’re worth all the work, the worry, the doubts, the exhaustion. May they forgive me for my mistakes!


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