When you’re dealing with a toddler, life can be very much as unpredictable as the weather in the northern Midwest. Those Great Lakes can do some funky magic tricks with the temperatures and cloud formations, causing tornados and thunderstorms to crop up without fare notice willy nilly. Toddler’s moods can come and go just as swiftly as any boy-crazy teenage girl changes (or my 6yr old daughter who only thinks she’s 16) her clothes throughout the day. You just never know what they’re going to come out in next.
Toddler’s are the epitome of unpredictable. It wears down on a parent’s nerves over the course of the day, especially when you’re a stay at home parent. And especially on those Level 5 hurricane days when they want to play Musical Moods until pissed off raging bull in a China shop is the only chair left standing. These days can make a parent feel like the ultimate parenting failure. If they even have enough energy left to actually have feelings. Those little lifesource siphoning minions are good. Real good and sneaky, so you never see it coming. You’ll all be sitting there baby-talking back and forth over a pile of blocks, giggling from time to time and then next thing you know, they’ve let the hurricane blow in and you’re nodding out on yourself like a dope feign during their bedtime story while they’re jumping on the bed, cheering for victory over beating you down.
Over the course of ten years and four kids worth of parenting
trials and tribulation, I’ve realized there’s a few reasons for these kinda let’s-see-which-one-of-us-gives-up-first days. The first of which is to figure out where they are in their milestones. Any parenting little kid based website should have it’s own version of the designated chart by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If they’re just reaching a milestone or newly learned in one, they may just be frustrated or fed up with all the practice that goes into the mastering. Really, who’s to blame ’em, because I sure as hell wouldn’t want to do all that work, necessary for me just to learn how to stop pooping on myself, move my own limbs freely at will only, and swallow scrumptious tasting foods of non-mush textures without choking on it. But, alas, we all must grow by doing such work.
Which takes me to the second biggest reason why toddlers have those total off-kilter days. They’ve mastered their milestones, but are still yet a ways off in development to be able to begin the next set, and they’re as bored as a kenneled dog, ready to burst with pent up aggravation over their situation. It’s not a pretty sight to see. Hours upon hours of miserable attitude because they can’t find anything that holds their interest, so screaming and whining about everything and nothing all the same is a way cooler idea. At least they can watch the steam blow out of our cranial orifices by day’s end, like straight from an old Tom and Jerry cartoon, and then they finally decide to giggle nonstop, because it’s bedtime and you’re more than ready to pass out cold from exhaustion.
Either way, those time periods in a toddler’s development make for an absolutely diabolical child who’s tumultuous antics that given day can scare the devil himself. Unless you have my secret weapon that is, though it really isn’t much of a secret. Nothing fancy or extraordinary, either. It is a sanity saver, though, because frankly, I’m already insane as a mom, and I’m not trying to find out what comes after. I still have the teenage year’s to go, so I’ll have plenty of time for exploring that realm. By now you’re wanting to know know what the great mood buster for Irritable Maniacal Toddler Syndrome is, right? My absolutely, everyday-common weapon for mass-destruction of The Toddlerease Breakdown is…. a bath.
Yup. A good ol’ splash in the tub. It never fails because, if there’s anything a toddler loves more than making the top of their parents head blow off, a mess. And you can control the mess made in the bathtub. They have pent up energy that’s destroying your clean house- take a bath. Having a meltdown over peanut butter touching the jelly- take a bath. Screaming ferociously because an older sibling has something they want but can’t have- take a bath! Whatever the problem is…. just give em a bath. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no limit on the number of baths allowed a day or how long they can stay in. A couple drops of baby oil into the water will keep their skin from drying out, followed by lotion afterwards. And it helps to transfer that freshly renewed good mood back into the daily grind when you give in and let them help lotion themselves. Does it really matter at this point if it gets in their hair? I think smiles and giggles with sticky hair are worth the lack of tantrums and Whinnese getting under your skin. It is for me, at least.
There’s a small trick within the trick itself, to making bath time so relieving of your nerves from the vice grip your toddler’s cries have them in. You never give the same bath twice. It’s not even hard to do. There’s a gazillion potential bath toys hanging around your house that you probably never even considered before. Outside of the basic cooking supplies we all know and love like strainers and measuring cups, give em plastic drinking cups, medicine syringes, Tupperware bowls, Turkey basters, and straws. (Don’t act like your toddler doesn’t drink the bath water, they ALL do! And, besides, it’s necessary for building up a strong immune system, despite the gagging that may result from you.) Stacking cups and stacking rings from the toy box along with matchbox cars and Little People figurines make great bath time entertainment, little hands love washing their own toys while making up stories in pretend play or games that are fun again in a new environment. Empty shampoo and conditioner bottles give tons of squirting fun, as well. We’ve even brought the Duplo blocks in a few times. My rule of thumb is: if it’s plastic and not electronic, then it’s worthy of the bathtub.
Bubbles are always a big hit with kids of all ages. I’ve experimented with plenty of bubble making supplies and discovered that body washes (Caress and Oil of Olay brands are my top two choices), cheapy dollar store bubble baths, and low-quality shampoos (like Suave and V05) make the densest, longest lasting bubbles. Put your hand in after pouring the stuff in and viciously shake it back and forth in the faucet stream just where it meets the water filling up, if you want optimum levels of bubbleage. Bathtub crayons, fizzing color drops, shaving cream, and finger paints are lots of fun for little hands to explore textures and colors, too. Obviously, you can always hit up Pinterest for all the bath time ideas your brain could never possibly think of on it’s best, fully-caffeinated and childless day.
Regardless of how simple or fancy you go in the name of variety, it’s the bath itself that will save your sanity. There’s been many-a-times that I’ve been ready to jump off an imaginary cliff and mentally kill off the name Mom from my brain because my toddler has pushed every possible button and then some, that I’ve stuck em in with just a couple washcloths to splash around with. It’s my sanity that matters. It’s not healthy for anyone to parent when they’re at full-stress capacity. Toddler’s can’t learn limits, boundaries, and independence without testing our authority and patience levels. They’re designed to scream like banshees for hours without losing their breath or vocal cords, from back in the caveman days when their parents had to leave them behind for the hunt. Apparently, evolution found it hilarious to leave those powerful tools behind as humans grew into the mankind we are today. Really, it’s a wonder to me how humans managed to populate the earth as we have after having living through The Terrible Two’s and Tumultuous Three’s four times over now. I don’t even know how my own would’ve survived without my blessed saving grace- the bathtub.
So, when all else gives, throw those beloved monsters of yours in the bathtub! Plop down on that toilet seat and immerse yourself in something mind-numbing and braincell-disintegrating like a round of Candy Crush or Pet Rescue Saga (my personal favorite, level 867 bah-BAM!), stupidity-shaming YouTube videos, or Facebook catch-up, to bring you back down to ground zero again. If you have any bigger kids, like ages 8+, you can even pay them a dollar to sit and play with the toddler in the tub for you, because now that money is involved and they see you’re about to bring the crazy out on them, they’ll willingly entertain that toddler they banished from their room twenty minutes ago, sending you over the edge.
Or, if you’re just a blogger mom like me, you’ll sit there on your throne, proclaim yourself Queen with a plastic tiara, and then write this blog. Happiest Destressing of Bath Times to you!