5 Ways Parenting Toddlers is Like a Day at the Beach

If you are currently in the trenches parenting toddlers, it goes without saying that you could use a vacation. Unfortunately, you might not be able to escape for that much needed R&R. Fear not; your toddlers can bring the vacation to you! Kick back and relax, here are five ways that parenting toddlers is likea day at the beach.


1) The feeling of sand between your toes.
Don’t you love stepping onto the beach, barefoot, and feeling the sun-warmed sand between your toes? Having toddlers is a similar sensation, only it’s the soft crunch of Cheerios beneath your feet and the feeling of tiny pieces of everything-your-child-ate-today between your toes. Why go to the beach when your toddler can create a sand-like experience covering your entire kitchen floor? Every meal is a new experience, a new sensation. Might I recommend day-old dried peas combined with crusted who-knows-how-old Playdoh crumbs? Pure paradise!

2) The sound of waves crashing against the shore.

The repetitive and soothing sound of loud waves crashing into the shore is universally relaxing. There’s a reason ocean sounds are included on most white noise machines; they drown out other noises and offer a sense of calm and focus. The constant dialogue and questions that toddlers emit can offer an equivalent sensation. Since toddlers will summon you no less than ten times, you can relax to the therapeutic soundtrack of “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommmmmy!” Or “What’s that? What’s that? What’s that? What’s that?! What’s that?!” Much like the lapping waves at the seashore, your toddler’s questions can take you to a place of serenity and calm. As you learn to drown out the noise, (wine also helps with this) you’ll eventually start imagining yourself on a beach. Without toddlers. And more wine. Voila, vacation!


3) Long walks searching for seashells.

The quest for a delicate unscathed seashell is a challenge, as the force of the ocean and its journey to the shore often shatters or damages most shells. It’s the search to find beauty in the rough. Living with a toddler is similar, in that they will destroy everything that you own and hold dear. Searching for a piece of unstained clothing, a pair of unbroken sunglasses, or a book without a freaking page ripped out can give you the same sense of delight as a peaceful hunt for shells on the beach. Such a satisfying scavenger hunt!


4) Easy breezy wind-blown beach hair.

When you hit the beach, it’s time to let your hair down and feel the breeze flow through your locks. Beach hair is a natural and effortless look that you can also accomplish by caring for toddlers day in and day out. Usually you’re too tired to shower, so your hair takes on a matted and tangled texture sure to impress. Combine this with the number of airborne foods your hair will intercept and you’ve mastered a style similar to that casual and simple beach look. Your wind-blown beach waves will be easy to pull together, since most days your brush will get stuck in your hair (probably on some yogurt or applesauce). So just scrunch it a bit while your toddler tugs on the other side and you’ll have instant trouble-free tropical tresses!

5) The fresh ocean air.

You know that smell unique to the ocean, a combination of salt water, sea weed, fresh air and freedom? Having toddlers kind of smells like that, only what you’re really smelling is poop. It always smells like poop. So maybe this isn’t that similar to the beach. I just wanted to remind you that having toddlers smells a lot like poop, all the time.

So suit up ladies! Although I’m guessing that since having kids you probably dread wearing a swimsuit. A smock or just your bathrobe would be fine too. Ain’t life a beach?

If You Teach a Toddler to Fish…

My husband took our twins ice fishing. No, you heard me correctly. I love my husband, but clearly not enough to discourage him from taking my two 3 year olds off my hands for the day.

When my husband goes ice fishing, he likes to get an early start so he can savor the daylight hours and get in as much fishing as possible. So his plan for the day started with him waking them up nearly an hour early. I was kind enough to gently express some concerns about bringing mildly sleep deprived toddlers ice fishing for an entire day, but I was quickly admonished. 

“They’ll sleep during the hour drive up north.” He told me. Oh, that’s cute. You have two wired toddlers loaded up into your truck, ready to pee their pants (which they’re likely to do anyway) with excitement over the idea of ice fishing. They’re not going to sleep. The first rule of toddlers is: They never sleep when you want them to. The second rule of toddlers is: never wake a sleeping toddler, and the third rule of toddlers is: AHHHHHHHH! Stop talking about sleeping, you’re going to jinx it!

Ok.” I said in reply. Who was I to argue? I had a day with only one child to care for in my sights and I wasn’t going to risk ruining that by trying to give my husband helpful advice like, “by the way, our daughter usually poops about 3 times before lunch, so have fun with that out in the middle of an ice covered lake!” He’d figure it out, right? “I’ll see you all tonight! Have a fun day!” I said with a smile, as I shoved them out the door and locked it behind them.

Freedom! It was only about three hours later that I got a text that read “I can’t handle another minute of whining! Maybe I’ll try this again when they’re eight.” I resisted the urge to reply, “Welcome to my world, Daddy. I’ve changed the locks and won’t open the doors until our previously agreed upon evening return time, so don’t even think about packing it up and coming home.” Ends up, toddlers aren’t super keen on sitting and doing nothing while they wait for a fish to bite their line. But who could have predicted that?

On the other hand, little dude and I spent the day running errands in record time and remarkable silence. I’d forgotten what it was like to go to the store without fielding 700 questions from the peanut gallery about why we aren’t going to be purchasing ice cream cones or pop tarts. Then, after nap, we kind of just looked at a each other for a while and twiddled our thumbs. I’m not going to lie to you; it was amazing. 

I did feel guilty for a hot second, thinking of my sweet husband and our beautiful children out on the cold ice, attempting to snag fish for sport. I feigned a few “So how’s it going?” messages to satisfy my morbid curiosity. They eventually settled in and snagged a few trophy fish.  Which I’m told they promptly complained about not being able to immediately eat. 

 
Their day on the ice concluded with my son stepping in one of the holes in the ice and one really cold foot. Daddy brought them home at bedtime very soggy and completely exhausted. My daughter put on her pajamas, climbed into her own bed and literally put herself to sleep. In that moment, as I stood watching that scene with mouth agape, I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing. All the great mysteries of parenting and toddler psychology were clarified before my eyes, and I’d be selfish not to impart that wisdom to all of you:

If you give a toddler a fish, he’ll whine about not being able to eat it. If you teach a toddler to fish, OMG THEY COME HOME EXHAUSTED AND GO RIGHT TO BED. 

The Mothership Goes Down

We’ve been wrestling with a stomach bug for the past two weeks, and by “wrestling,” I mean throwing a couple weak punches and then curling up in submission on bathroom floor while succumbing to my body’s will to empty my stomach contents in anyway possible. It wasn’t a fair fight.

My three year old son was the first victim. I can’t be positive, but there is a good chance he acquired the illness after making it his life’s mission to touch every single candy bar he could find at CVS. He concluded that shopping trip like he concludes most outings, with shoving his germ-ridden hands into every available facial orifice. So in retrospect, we should really be thanking our lucky stars he didn’t catch the Zika virus or Polio.

14 hours later, we were all regretting the trip to the drug store. The wonderful thing about sick toddlers is that it’s the only time they will sit still enough to cuddle. The horrible thing about a sick, cuddling toddler is that they have no concept for proper vomit recepticals. So seven hours of surprise vomit sessions and three loads of laundry later, big guy was on the mend. It was violent, but short. I gave myself a high-five, sprayed some Lysol in my mouth, and started the process of sanitizing any surface the other two kids might have access to. I had survived toddler norovirus, and I didn’t need to see the sequel. 

Fast forward four days later, when I’d convinced myself that he was no longer contagious and that the other two kiddos must have gotten lucky, having escaped the wrath of the stomach flu despite their shockingly unsanitary personal habits. Then the unthinkable happens: The mothership goes down. 

If you think peeing in the company of all your children is unpleasant (and it is.) then I’m sure you can imagine how unpleasant vomiting in their company is. Toddlers don’t have the same sense of disgust that most adults do. I find myself trying not to vomit when my kids do. When it’s my turn, they’re frantically trying to sneak a peak while spewing a constant dialogue of observations and questions.

“Are you frowin’ up, mommy? Why is you doing that? What made you frow up? Why you makin’ that noise? Why is it green? Why you frowin’ up in the toilet? Why are you not talkin’?”

Never mind the fact that you feel completely terrible because YOU HAVE THE STOMACH FLU, but now you’re tasked with desperately trying to keep them away from whatever germs have infested your body. For only the second time in my At Home Parent career, I called in Daddy Daycare. 

Dad took over while I had the first stretch of alone time I’ve experienced months. Unfortunately, it was spent dry heaving alone in my bed. There was no sleeping involved either, since my kids were playing what I can only assume was a loud and spirited game of rugby right outside my bedroom door. 

I had to rebound quickly, since we had a funeral to attend the next day and my house was in desperate need of a bleach bath. I sprayed my kids down with vinegar, every kind of essential oil, put them in full-body bubble suits and crossed my fingers. 

  
A week later, Valentine’s Day, everyone was all clear. I was finally feeling well enough to make good on our Valentine’s Day plans to order Chinese, drink wine and rent a movie. This, of course, was the most convenient time for my husband to start vomiting. My Valentine’s Day present was solo parenting to the sound track of violent wretching. Romance. 

So, we are infected. It’s taking us down, one at a time, like a long drawn out game of dominos. She’s a devious virus with an extended dormant phase tricking you into a false sense of healthful confidence.  In two months, when it’s finally gone through the whole lot of us, I’m sure it will have mutated enough that I’ll get it again. You messed with the wrong Mothership, norovirus. I’m armed with Lysol, vitamin water, and adult diapers, and I’m coming for you. 

Seriously, let it go.

I did it. I ignored the warnings of those that had gone before me, those that had already traveled to this point of no return. I let my kids watch Frozen.

My nearly four year old twins sat through the whole thing, which was nearly a miracle in itself. It was enough for me to initially think, “This isn’t so bad! Maybe they’re old enough for movies now, maybe we could even go to the theatre!” Initially. Now that Frozen is all my daughter can talk about, I am revising some of my original thoughts.

My son was entertained. My daughter was enthralled. She immediately began referring to herself as “Elsa,” and nonconsensually referring to her brother as “Anna.” She insisted I drape a blanket, secured with a chip-clip, around her shoulders so she could wear a cape. I regularly catch her spinning and singing as she throws imaginary icicles out of her fingers. She wanted cape and long hair, like Elsa, so she put a fitted sheet on her head. Two birds, one stone. Then her brothers thought, “hey that looks fun.” Next thing I know I’ve got Elsa, Anna and Olaf running laps in my hallway. 

  
I’m constantly fielding questions like, “but why is Anna’s hair another color?” Or “why did Elsa run away?” I’m regularly explaining the major plot points to people who have seen the movie at least 4 times. I mean, three years old or thirty, you see a movie 4 times, you shouldn’t have this many questions. 

Those questions are at least factual in nature. I have more difficulty answering questions like “Why does Elsa have a cape? When will my hair be yellow like Elsa’s? But where does her magic come from? Why can’t I make snowflakes?” Go ahead, try and explain the answers to those questions to a toddler. Curse you, Frozen! You’ve given us more questions than answers!

If you or your children have had the pleasure of viewing Frozen, then you are well aware of the most profusely problematic side effect; the flesh eating brain mole “Let It Go.” It will burrow a hole into your mind and ironically, you will NOT be able to let it go. It will slip into your mind while you’re driving, you’ll be humming it while you’re making dinner, you will be spinning through the house and singing it dramatically. And then you’ll be left wondering why you were spinning through the house and singing it dramatically. 

My daughter asks to watch it on the regular. We don’t watch movies that often, and I feel a bit bad for my son who much prefers other films when the rare opportunity to have a movie night pops up. His twin sister already forces him to pretend he’s Anna to her Elsa, when I’m confident he’d rather be spear tackling her or smashing a tower someone else has built. 

It’s my own fault. I assumed my daughter was immune to Disney’s charms, but Frozen is toddler crack and I willingly handed it over to my children. I was never angling for a Mother of the Year award, but I had hoped to protect my children from crippling addictions prior to the age of four.

I’m telling you to do what I could not. What your kids don’t know, can’t hurt them. They won’t know that they “need” an Elsa braid wig. They won’t know that they “need” to watch Frozen whenever they possibly can.  You won’t, at age 31, end up singing yourself to sleep to a Disney soundtrack. I’m telling you to just say no. I’m telling you to let it go.

When it’s so cold, your face hurts.

My kids are going stir crazy. Even crazier than usual. So if you’re tracking and quantifying, that’s really freaking crazy. Winter in Wisconsin is enough to make a completely sane adult lose their mind, so I’m sure I don’t need to explain what that means for the toddler mind.  

It’s been about negative bazillion degrees outside. While I normally suffer through the 45 minutes it takes to bundle everyone up in their snow gear in order to have 15 minutes of peace and quiet while they play on the back patio, it’s been too cold for that. Heaven help us.

Since the cold snap, everyone in the FaceBook Mom groups are all, “What’s the rule for when is it too cold for kids to be outside?” And I’m all, “just throw on an extra layer, put some Vaseline on their faces, and shove ‘Em out the door.” They will tell me if they’re too cold. These are little people who whine about the shape their sandwiches are cut into and sob about the color of their socks, they’ll tell you if the temperature is not to their liking. Bearing this philosophy in mind, when I see the temp is -15F and -37F with windchill, not even I can stomach sending the troops out…Which means it’s the four of us, locked in the house. All. Day. Long. 

My nearly 4 year old son needs to run around. There is a lot of energy that gets bottled up if he isn’t throwing snow at the house or running laps on the patio. (Which has to be pretty difficult in full snow gear.) if we can’t go outside and get a little cardio in, the unused boy energy is then converted into shenanigans that manifest in behaviors that I like to categorize as “Why the heck would you do that?!” It’s all very scientific, folks. 

“Why the heck would you do that?!” Behaviors include (but are definitely not limited to):

  • Taking the (insert miscellaneous toy of the moment) your baby brother is playing with and smacking him across the face with it.
  • Emptying your sock drawer and UNMATCHING all the pairs. (Because your mother didn’t spend hours hunting down all your lost socks and repairing them with their lonely mates.)
  • Dumping all the Legos out of the box and then kicking them under the couch. ::eye twitch::
  • Locking your sister in the bathroom.
  • Locking your brother in the bathroom.
  • Locking yourself in the bathroom.
  • “Painting” your face with “raspberry paint” at lunch. (For the record, this is just smashing and smearing raspberries all over your precious 3 year old face and then attempting to convince an adult or guardian that you were being artistic.)
  • Emptying the contents of your sister’s bed and throwing it down the stairs.
  • Shoving cheese up your nose because you “like how it smells.”

In an effort to reduce or, best case scenario, prevent these happenings, we go outside. We push dump trucks around in the snow, build snow mountains and chuck handfuls of snow at the side of the house. We watch our shovel-aversed neighbor attempt to use a leaf blower on his driveway. (That’s fascinating for both toddlers and adults.)

  

  
Some days they’ll play for a solid hour, and that’s totally worth having my patio door frozen shut because they piled snow on the threshold.  Other days,  they’re pounding on the patio door to come in after five minutes screaming that their faces hurt. It was worth a shot, right? Those are the days I take a deep breath, lock the door, pull the blinds and put in some ear plugs. 

Just kidding. But I do hide the Legos and brace myself for a couple bathroom lock-ins.  

Call me “Mommy Spider”

One of the greatest parts about having a toddler is having a front row seat to their imagination. Since I have twin three year olds, we have imagination up the wazoo. Since three year olds are seemingly incapable of compartmentalizing, that imagination saturates all aspects of their lives.

Quite recently, the twins decided they were spiders. That was not a wording error on my part. I did not mean to say “the twins decided to pretend they were spiders.” I meant that they decided they were spiders. It’s an important distinction. In fact, they keep reminding me of that. Whenever I refer to them by the wonderful and thoughtful names I provided them upon their birth, they abruptly correct me, “No! I’m baby spider!” Do they know they aren’t really spiders? It’s questionable.

They crawl around on all fours, trying to mimic some spastic spider moves. This is probably my favorite part of the whole spider routine, since they stick their little rumps up in their air and walk around on their hands and feet. It’s a fairly disorienting position and they look more like drunken raccoons. It’s a good, deep stretch that I haven’t been able to accomplish since college.

  
They go to sleep in their “webs.” I am not allowed to refer to their beds as anything other than “webs” without evoking great offense from the baby spiders. It’s worth mentioning that a major part of this role playing exercise is that they now refer to me as “mommy spider.” Yes, I am the official arachnid matriarch. I’ve held better job titles, but at least they know who’s the boss. Here’s where the whole issue with not compartmentalizing comes into play; They don’t just call me “mommy spider” when they are actively pretending to be spiders. They call me “mommy spider” all. The. Time. At bedtime, mealtimes, family times, out in public…I can only imagine what strangers might think. Perhaps they assume I’m some hardcore biker Mom, “Spider,” or that I moonlight as a super hero, “The Mommy Spider.” It’s almost as bad as when my daughter loudly informed me that “her bottom itches” in a checkout line at Target. Almost.

Despite going on two months of living with spiders that I’m expected to keep alive, (definitively not the normal relationship I have with most spiders I find in my home) it’s one of the better imagination games they have come up with. It’s infinitely better than when they decided to paint their bodies with yogurt. And it’s definitely better than when they kept telling me there were ghosts in the hallway. I don’t care who you are, that will make you trepidatious even if it is being suggested by a three year old with no formal education or life experience.  What if there really is a ghost?!

I can’t lie, the spiders make me laugh quite a bit. They’ve even recruited their baby brother, and watching him attempt the drunken raccoon spider crawl is one of the highlights of my life. It has also made mealtime a bit easier, since the baby spiders are much more prone to eating something if they’re told its “spider food.” MmmmHmmmm. We’ll call that a Mom win…or, I should probably say, Mommy Spider win.