The littlest things set my first son off when he was a toddler. He used to have a screaming fit, demanding that I reattach grapes that I’d plucked off the stems and placed in a bowl.
‘Mine,’ he’d say petulantly, grabbing the bowl. ‘Me do it! Meeeee doooo iiiiit.’
He’d then throw himself on the floor and cry uncontrollably. How could I explain that the grapes won’t go back on? Or that you can’t re-peel bananas?
I spent years taking deep breaths and trying to control my urge to walk out the front door and not come back. I wrote a piece about this time of my life and submitted it to a local magazine. It was rejected by the editor as he told me it was too negative and ‘didn’t capture the magic of parenthood’.
Magic? There’s nothing magic about toddlerhood
It’s a dog-eat-dog time of survival. The only magic comes from knowing that if you hang in there long enough, this toddlerhood stage will pass, like the Lego they ate for breakfast.
It helps that I am a guilt-free half-arsed parent rather than a needy, overprotective helicopter parent. Half-arsed parents like me know kids sometimes have tantrums and don’t beat themselves up about it. Rather than listen to disapproving outsiders tell them off, they’ll stay sane by going to the Tumblr account, ‘Reasons my son is crying’.
Reasons my kid is crying include ‘I wouldn’t let him keep eating dirt’, ‘I wouldn’t let her wipe my butt’ and ‘I told him he couldn’t take an unwrapped tampon with him to run errands’.
The list also includes parents who wanted to put used nappies in the bin, those who failed to make food whole again after a bite had been taken and those who stopped their toddler from using the toilet-cleaning sponge for a face washer.
‘I broke his cheese in half ’, ‘He doesn’t want the banana he wasn’t offered’ and ‘I wouldn’t let him wear his dirty underwear as a hat’ are other hilarious reasons for epic meltdowns during toddlerhood.
Short cuts and kabana sticks
Half-arsed parents toddler-proof their house and do their best to avoid situations where tantrums are likely to happen, such as taking kids to the supermarket when they’re tired and hungry. My daughter is now a teenager and I still employ this rule.
Rather than taking toddler misbehaviour to heart and blaming themselves, they find routines and short-cuts that make things easier. For me, it was buying half a stick of kabana when I first got to the supermarket, opening it up while I was shopping, and letting the kids munch on the fat-injected processed meat by-product while I trawled the aisles.
It’s not really food but at least it kept them quiet. I also used to feed my first son in the bath as a way to streamline the evening routine. I still remember pushing the little bits of meat sauce through the plug hole as the water drained out.
Rule #1 of toddlerhood: Don’t judge.
I remember one almighty tantrum my first son had more than a decade ago. We were at a shopping centre and he didn’t want to leave the crappy temporary playground set up in the dingy basement food court. I had his newborn sister in a carrier wrapped to me.
When I tried to drag him off the little slide, he threw himself on the ground and wouldn’t stop screaming and kicking. When I tried to get him back in the pram, he started kicking me, which made his sister scream.
With her on me, I couldn’t physically force him into the pram because I was worried he might hurt her. I was tired and overly sensitive to all eyes that turned my way.
Before long, I was crying too. Luckily, a few other mums worked out what was going on and came over to help. Soon, I had a protective circle of helpers around me. I unstrapped my daughter and handed her to a complete stranger to hold while I picked my son up off the floor and physically forced him into the pram. Someone held my handbag. Another watched the pram and my shopping bags.
Only with these ladies’ help did I manage to get my still-crying daughter back into the sling before leaving, tears still streaming down my face. I’ve never pushed a pram faster in my life and it took me years to return to the same centre.
If you see a mother or father struggling in public, offer practical assistance, not advice or judgment.
Hold the bag.
Hold the baby.
Watch the pram.
Block her (or him) so others can’t see them crying.
Half-arsed parents know that we’re all in this together. They care rather than compete. By the way, my son is now a terrific footballer – all that kicking as a toddler must have paid off.
I am not saying I have all the answers. Once when my daughter was one, I found her having a breakfast of used ear cleaners from the bathroom bin, so who are you to take advice about toddlers from me? Get through the day, keep the cap on the gin bottle until 5 pm, and muster the strength to do it all again tomorrow.
And if you find a way to reattach grapes or repeel bananas, let me know, will you?
All hail the half-arsed parents out there!
Looking for more ideas on handling every age and stage, from toddlerhood to teenage years, the half-arse way? Dr. Susie O’Brien’s book The Secret of Half-Arsed Parenting is out now. You can get it at Booktopia, Dymocks, Good Reads or Big W.
Check it out on Insta and stay tuned because we’ve got more parenting pearls of wisdom to share every week!
What to read next
- Bringing up Toddlers – Just How Low Can You Go?
- Aussie Research Reveals Toddlers Lap the MCG SEVEN Times a Day!
- A Toddler’s Perspective of How They Really Feel