Taking pictures in a clean home is near impossible. My standards of a clean home pre-toddler and post-toddler are two entirely different things. Pre-toddler, I would wince if I saw a full sink of dirty dishes in my otherwise clean home. Avery's toys were neatly put away every night and were only brought out when I decided it was time to play. Post-toddler, I'm happy if I have half the kitchen table cleared off (and by "cleared off," I obviously mean "pushed over in a bigger pile on the other side") so we can have dinner at the table together (and by "dinner," I obviously mean "grilled cheeses or cereal that required little effort because my toddler has me completely drained of all energy and I have no idea how to even work the oven anymore."). Post-toddler, I'm happy if one room out of our entire house is picked up. The rest? Well, I'll get to it another day. Once upon a time, if my child was doing something cute, I could take a picture of her and not worry about the pile of laundry that's sitting behind her because.....*gasp* there wasn't any dirty laundry lying around. Now, screw it. I'm taking that picture, mountain of laundry and dust bunnies in the background be darned. This is me in all my dirty imperfection. Love me....or don't. The dirty socks will be there, regardless.
Peeing and going to the grocery alone are luxuries. I don't know how my child does it. I think she has a little alarm embedded into her brain that goes off as soon as I step foot in the bathroom. Avery could be on the other side of the house, in her playroom, playing happily with her Little People and the second I tiptoe into the bathroom, there she is. Standing at my side declaring "I go potty too, Mommy!" No. You don't have to pee. We both know this. You're going to come in the bathroom, stare at me as I go to the bathroom, ask a million questions and then declare "My pee pee changed its mind" when I ask if you're going to use the potty too. You just can't stand the idea of me peeing in solitude.
And do I even need to express the gloriousness that is grocery shopping alone? I recently read a blog about "how not to raise a brat" (because, well, I'm afraid we're teetering dangerously close over that brat ledge and I search Google to help me feel like a better mom and not a complete failure) and this blogger, Divine Caroline, boasted that her two daughters not once ever threw a fit in public for something they wanted. Well, how wonderful for you, Divine Caroline. You're either 1.) lying or 2.) raising the most perfect human beings that will grow up to be the next Mother Teresa and Gandhi of their generations. My child, on the other hand, is the one that's throwing a fit for Mickey Mouse duct tape that I'm not buying for her because it's freaking duct tape. I would rather grocery shop at 2 am, sans toddler, than take one more trip down the snack aisle with my kid begging for every single box of Disney character fruit chews manufactured. I just can't.
As a parent of a toddler, you feel like everyone is judging you. Let's be honest. Most people probably are, in fact, judging you. Like that woman in the vehicle next to yours in the grocery store parking lot, witnessing your kid's meltdown because you dared to take her out of the shopping cart and put her in her own carseat. Yes, she probably is giving you the "get that kid under control" look. Just let it go. That woman probably doesn't know what it's like to try to get that toddler into her carseat (in case you're wondering? It's like wrestling a bag of writhing snakes on speed) and buckled into the 10 safety harnesses while trying not to pinch her delicate skin while she thrashes around. For some reason, the toddler has decided that the grimy Walmart shopping cart in the parking lot under the scorching sun is a better place to be than in the car where there's toys and air conditioning and Sofia the First tunes blaring. Because that makes perfect sense. Toddler logic. My point is, those people giving you the look of death in the store while you're trying to weather a temper tantrum of epic proportions probably have no idea what life is like with a toddler (God bless their naive souls. You were that blissful once). Give them your best smile and roll on. They'll either feel sorry for you or think you're crazy. Either way, they'll leave you alone.
If it's family you feel are doing the judging, grin and bear it, friend. They're family. They have an opinion on everything. Whether it's right or wrong, they're in your life forever and there's no point in lashing out at them because they think you handled a situation wrong. Trust me from experience on this one. Unless it's your mom. Then take that opportunity to ask her for advice on how to handle your
Meltdowns are going to happen. Frequently. Over everything from the color of her socks to the plate her sandwich is sitting on for lunch (How DARE you serve her pb&j on a Minnie Mouse plate. Didn't you know that she was feeling like dining on Frozen tableware today? Fool). Hang in there, mom. No matter how many articles you read or "experts" on the subject state otherwise, there is no magic answer when it comes to raising a toddler. There may be tips on how to handle meltdowns or what to do when they happen, but remember. Not every trick works on every child. Time outs work for some, taking privileges away works for others. Or you can be Avery and nothing--not time out, not taking things away, not pleading, not acting mad/sad/disappointed--works and you just pray to God that ONE DAY, all your hard work and disciplining will pay off and you'll wake up and the sun will be shining and angels will be singing and you'll go an entire day without fighting with your kid because she finally just gets it. Lord, didn't mean to go on that tangent. Pray for me.
Those pre-toddler dreams you had of having the best dressed child around? Kiss 'em goodbye. On any given day, my child's outfit can range from "hobo" to "Princess" to "pink explosion." It just depends on her mood. Recently, I let my child pick out her entire outfit. The bow, down to the shoes, were all varying shades of pink--including the tutu she insisted was necessary to complete the ensemble. This is all because the subject of "what Avery wears" falls firmly in the "fights that I'm not about to get into" category. Picking your battles is an essential part of toddler motherhood and this is a battle I'm not willing to wage. Thank you for all your adorable emails full of smocks and seersucker pants, Lolly Wolly Doodle. I'm currently taking Avery to Walmart in socks and sandals and a neon glitter shirt featuring Dora the Explorer riding a unicorn and just hope people don't stare.
Toddlers don't have a filter. Embarrassment results. I wish I could tell you how many times I've walked into a crowded bathroom with my kid, locked the stall door, only to hear her declare loudly, "ARE YOU GOING TO GO POO POO MOMMY??" Bless. I'll be so happy when the "Just because I'm thinking it doesn't mean I should say it" ability is developed so we can actually go out in public again. When does that happen? Age 10?
Toddler moms, you're doing a good job. Yes, you, mom that yells too much (guilty). Yes, you, mom that just bribed her kid with bubbles if he ate two bites of broccoli off his plate. Yes, you, mom that's sitting in a blubbering mess her bathroom floor with a full glass of "Purple Toad Black and Bruised" wine because you're convinced you're doing this whole "raising a baby into a respectable human being" thing all wrong. You're doing a good job. No, you may not have all the answers. And if you do, please take an afternoon and visit my home to give me tips. Yes, you may be having thoughts of just running away for awhile. No, you may not be making Pinterest worthy dinners or have a child that is dressed like she just stepped out of a Lily Pultizer magazine. You're doing a good job. One day, in the near future, we'll emerge on the other side of this toddler motherhood thing. We may be forever altered when we do, but we'll make it. One day, our children will thank us. It may not be until they're 28 with toddlers of their own, but they'll appreciate the effort and embarrassment and hours of abuse we endured. One day, we'll have well behaved human beings that benefited from our parenting and we'll look back on this chapter of our lives with fondness and recall how adorable our children were when they were young. I hope.