When we first have our babies each new developmental milestone and stage is exciting. We look forward anxiously to signs that our little one is ok, normal, maybe even advanced. Parents brag about how early their drooling bundle started holding their head up, smiled, rolled over and crawled. Strangers ask “has she started walking yet?” upon encountering a mother or father with a baby anywhere over the age of 9 months in a stroller or carrier.
Then they actually start walking. After the initial excitement wears off parents are hit with the reality that their once adorable slow mover is now an adorable potential disaster on two legs. One that, before you know it, can outrun mom and dad and suddenly develops a stealth mode.
Walking isn’t where the patience testing, keep-you-on-your-toes talents for our little ones start and stop though. No, within days most toddlers begin developing an entire arsenal of skills that they physically can accomplish but lack the developmental capabilities to use reason in applying and enjoy just for the fun of it. Meaning: watch out.
Seven skills I wish my toddler couldn’t master before being able to explain why she needs to do it.
It’s great on a playground but toddlers figure out climbing by practicing on anything they can find handy: bookshelves, chairs, tabletops, counters, back of the couch… just about anything that is less than safe. Any furniture that can should be bolted to a wall to prevent tipping and possible injury. I’m glad my kids love climbing, I understand that it’s important for development even but the whole pushing chairs over to the counter to climb up and then into the cabinets to reach some snack instead of asking me for it does not help my blood pressure. And I’ve had kids that climbed before they walked, getting their “I-can-freak-mommy-out” on even earlier.
Flushing the toilet.
She doesn’t even use it but she’s figured out that the sound it makes is cool plus she can say and wave “bye-bye.” We try to keep the door closed but it’s forgotten from time to time and with 4 big sisters this isn’t surprising. My favorite is when she accompanies me to the toilet and insists on flushing while I’m still sitting there. Hello!
Turning on the facet.
The step stool in the bathroom seemed like a good idea for getting your child to brush their teeth but then they figure out how to turn the water on in the sink. I get it, it’s way too much fun that every time you turn the handle water come out. A trickle or a gush it’s like a mini-water park to a toddler. Add in cups, spoons, and other water receptacles and it’s a complete adventure of splash time goodness. As an added bonus it means the bathroom will get mopped. Again.
The best doors for a toddler to open are those that led to the rooms of big sisters. Where big sisters have treasures and art supplies stashed or even better… candy. I know there are door knob covers to keep curious hands from going into forbidden entryways but since my older kids also struggle with being able to open doors with safety knobs I can’t spend all day opening doors for everyone. Instead we are all just trying to get smarter about our hiding places.
Opening marker lids.
Even more than glitter, markers are my least favorite craft supply. The siren of all potential mess-makers, my toddlers simply can’t resist the call of colored ink with a felt tip. Get the lid off and watch out walls, carpet, tables, clothing, faces, books… you name it. I’ve banished markers from our house multiple times but somehow they always sneak back in to lure my toddlers into some sort of damage. With bigger kids around now too there seems to be a particular affinity for the permanent kind. Those lids should be child-proof.
Taking the diaper off.
No matter what kind of diaper my toddlers always eventually master taking it off. Disposable, applix cloth, snaps, prefold and snappi, even diaper pins, my toddlers are diaper Houdinis. Dirty or clean, if given the chance they will get it off and are guaranteed to run from me once the situation is discovered, more often than I care to admit running right through some #2 and leaving their mark everywhere.
For a while as long as there is clothing covering their diaper my toddlers forget about their magic trick of escaping the poop trap. Then comes the fateful day when they realize they can take their clothes off BY THEMSELVES! With my first born I clapped and cheered for this new milestone thinking of her blooming independence but those days are long gone now. I just had no idea. In a flash the child that I had ready to walk out the door is naked, clothes scattered, and shoes hidden all in the time it took me to grab my purse and keys. Running around as though they’ve been craving fresh air on their private parts for decades, they squeal with delight while I sigh in exasperation. It’s not like they go naked almost all day every day inside as it is. I’ve given up on keeping clothes on them if we’re staying in, there’s no point, they’re just going to take it off anyway.
Getting ME undressed.
Because I’m *cough* “still” *cough* breastfeeding my children when they are toddlers they enjoy learning how to get to my breasts, on their own if need be. It always puzzles me, have I not been responding to their requests to breastfeed easily and readily for the past many months? Why suddenly do they need to alert me to their desire to breastfeed by taking it upon themselves to physically undress me? Dear sweet child of mine, I am perfectly capable and willing to get my breast out for you to feed but we’re going to have some boundaries here and work on developing some breastfeeding manners, ok? Trying to pull my shirt over my head as the first sign that you want to nurse is a bit rude. Funny, yes. The first time. Maybe even the second. But by the 115th time I’m not amused. So here’s the deal, sign milk or ask for “bobbies” and it’s all yours but getting the boob out is left to me, mmmkay?
Thankfully we usually survive the toddler stage just fine with only a few less hairs on my head and my blood pressure only slightly more elevated than normal. Reminding myself that it’s normal and actually a positive for them to explore and make messes helps me keep it all in focus. Sometimes. Besides, before I know it we’re into the stage where they can forcefully articulate why they want to do something and quite succinctly: “Because I want to!”
What are some of your favorite toddler skills?
How have your toddlers kept you on your toes and how have you survived the challenge?