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Toddlers: the mobile minefield

February 04, 2016 The Wine Time Dad 4 Comments Category : , , , ,

Disclaimer: It often goes to shit in the end. The same goes for this post. Good luck!

Let’s imagine for a second, that toddlers are like hapless fairies, flittering about, setting down little landmines here and there. Sometimes we deftly navigate the minefield, avoiding every one. Usually we don’t. Many of the landmines we can clearly see, but most of them, whether we trigger them or not, we don't see.

Sometimes they don’t go off when we step on them. Sometimes we can defuse them... Sadly, like the mood settings of toddlers, these landmines are set to caprice. Their explosions are random and only understood in hindsight. 

So then, setting off these toddler landmines, is the rule not the exception. If you’re truly unlucky, the toddler will transform into a raging hulk and personally set the mines off herself, destroying everything within a 3-mile radius. Any one topic, while seemingly arbitrary and innocuous, can instantly blow up in your face. As far as rational human adults go, we can’t always predict where these landmines are or their pressure settings; it’s not like any one of us can read a toddler’s mind.

At least we aren’t surprised anymore, right?

Of course, once you’ve stepped into the minefield, you may not notice until several steps away, when a series of detonations goes off with you in the center (these are magical toddler landmines, they often don’t blow up right away). But, you know, Shit happens. Sometimes toddlers just gotta melt down and start destroying shit. You get used to it.

By now, we’ve probably all thought something along the lines of, fuck… that turned quickly. All I did was mention the graham crackers at home. Yet, when you break it down you realize that graham crackers, a safe topic, plus being hungry and tired, a manageable situation, combined with telling the toddler she has to wear her coat outside (she doesn’t want to), gives you an uncontrollable chain reaction. If only we could always traverse the outside world in silence or amiable conversation with our kids until we reach a designated tantrum zone: the home.

Wishes in one hand…

Still, as my daughter is now almost three, many supremely interesting things happen when you engage her in conversation (slightly different from when she decides to have a conversation with you). By now she can go from talking about school and with whom she did NOT PLAY, to an unrelated hypothetical in seconds: “If you fall on the train tracks, you’ll be dead. If we both fall on the tracks, we’ll be dead together!” Jesus, that’s morbid.

She’s also found new, imaginative ways to describe desires, but we have yet to learn that expressing a desire doesn't necessitate future fulfillment.

I believe there’s a great song about not always getting what you want…

However, I’m still talking about curbing the tantrums you can foresee. If only all such minefields were clearly marked... There are those tantrums whose arrival is baffling and jarring. They can happen anywhere and at any time the toddler is conscious.  

Even in places of repose and reflection.  

For example, while in the bath the other night, we discussed the finer points of water usage and types of containers: swimming, splashing, spitting, the pool, visiting the ocean, and skipping rocks on Lake (fucking!) Michigan (I am a region rat, represent).

“Well, sometimes I like to swim in Lake Michigan,” it says, “Ah… I wish I could swim in Lake Michigan. Can we go to Lake Michigan tomorrow Daddy?”

“No, baby,” I say, still oblivious, “Lake Michigan is really far away and we can’t get there right now.”

“Well, why don’t we go to Lake Michigan tomorrow?”

“We can’t. We can go in the summer.”

“But I wanna go now. I wanna go now. I wanna…” She’s starting to cry.

“Baby, there is no way we can go to Lake Michigan tomorrow. It’s so far away that even if we decided to go right now, we wouldn’t make it until the following…”

This last explanation was all too reasonable for someone lacking in reasoning skills.

For her, the harmless conversation coalesced in her mind differently. Even though Lake Michigan was far way she really wanted to go there—it was/is a very fun place where rocks can be thrown into the water. Her grandparents live there, not here. They’re far away. They don’t say no to “nummy nums” like mommy and daddy.

Yes, she needed to go there right fucking now or there would be hell to pay!

Our happy bath time was transformed by her Hulk-smashing rage. Water freely escaped the confines of the tub; a new lake formed on the floor in place of the one she so desired to visit.

Toys were thrown out, too, like so many skipped rocks, but instead of skipping they hit me and dropped.

A small plastic chicken was hurled with such force that it knocked me unconscious.

In her rage, the toddler grew in size and color. Our measly bathroom floor could no longer hold the tub, the newly formed lake, my unconscious body, my shocked wife, and the hulking toddler. So it crashed to the apartment below, killing the unsuspecting tenant and scaring her cats.

The cats were assholes anyway…

How could we have come to this? I was just talking swimming in the lake…

But, it’s the same truth every time, repeating itself like an alarm clock going off; toddlers are sociopaths with… abrupt mood swings. Sometimes they lull you into complacency with their random leaps in human cognition, but it’s always short-lived, for in them resides the collective id we were all born with. And in toddlers, it’s in its purest and most potent form.

Be wary of your steps, there be landmines about and only the toddler’s inscrutable mind knows the location of each and every one

Just run and hide.

*I'm giving myself a +2 in alliteration points and -107 for casually co-opting two potentially sensitive topics for this post.

**I finished two beers writing this post, +1 million points.