Confession: unlike many people I know, I have never wished for my children to be “babies” again. Granted, my oldest is only five and my youngest is two, but as they've left "babyhood," I've been comforted by all the fun we're having as they get bigger. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the infant stage, because infants are squishy, warm, adorable blobs of magic that sleep cuddled on your chest with milky breath and good-smelling heads. Straight up, though: the toddler years are the best.
I stand by this assertion but rest assured I'm not a complete idiot, as I'm well aware that toddlers are challenging AF. Surely by now we’ve all heard and understood the terms “terrible twos” and “threenagers” and some more, um, "colorful" descriptions for mini-humans when they're between the ages of two and four. Yet for all the challenges, of which there are many, I stand firm in my belief that there's no magic in the world quite like toddler magic. So much is happening in their little lives and you not only get to witness it all go down, but you get to be part of it. It’s like re-learning the world yourself and, better yet, re-learning only the pre-screened, happy, kid-friendly parts of the world. Years of jaded cynicism is sloughed off like a snakeskin and you emerge the same, but renewed. It’s like brain exfoliation, but (I would guess) far less painful.
So, what makes the toddler years so great? Why would I, a mother who doesn't particularly have an affinity for masochism, want to argue that the toddlers years (tantrums and all) are the absolute best years? Here are just a few reasons, my friends.
Toddlers Have The Best Hugs
There is nothing like toddler hugs. They’re still small enough that you can completely envelop them in your arms, but their sizable enough to give you a solid hug back. They hug with their whole bodies. Sometimes they wrap their little hands around the back of your neck and just give gentle little squeezes, which is so sweet you forgive the fact that their hands are usually sticky and they’re entwining their grubby little fingers in your hair.
Toddlers Have The Best Imaginations
I’m pretty sure that since my kids hit their toddler years, I have not communicated to them as myself save a handful of times. Instead of being "mom," I am required to speak as a series of different characters.
For example, sometimes I’m Elmo. My daughter will bring me her Elmo puppet, say “Elmo! Elmo!” and I’ll put it on and do the voice. If I stop, she says “No, no. Elmo!” My son was more passive aggressive about it. With him, I usually had to be all of the My Little Ponys. If I broke character, he purses his lips, looks at me and says, "Oh, I thought you were Pinkie Pie.” The undertone there is, “Listen up lady, get your head in the game.” Sometimes it’s annoying to be fictional characters most of the day, but it’s also adorable to see how my kids interact with them.
Toddlers Are The Most Enthusiastic
I will never forget when my son and I pulled into our driveway, one seemingly unimportant spring day. That was the day he noticed that the magnolia tree in our front yard was blossoming. As I took him out of the car, he clasped his hands under his chin, ran toward the tree and said “Oh, mommy! Look at the beautiful pink flowers! Aren’t they wonderful?!” I was just like “How did I give birth to a 1930s ingenue?” It was hysterical.
Anything has the potential to excite toddlers: bubbles, playgrounds, straws (they don’t even have to be silly straws), the ice scraper they find on the floor of your car one day and the box that their new, over-priced toy came in. Everything is interesting and that enthusiastic optimism is contagious.
The Toddler Freak Outs Are Entertaining (When You're In The Mood For Them)
In the right setting, under the right circumstances, for the right duration of time, toddler tantrums can be hysterical. Yeah, OK, it’s mean to laugh at your children, but sometimes they do mean things to you so I feel like this is fair. (Just attempt to hide your laughter from them and you’re OK in my book.)
Like when my son cried for about five minutes that he lost his toy, despite the fact that it was right next to him. I even showed it to him, saying, “No honey, look, it’s right here.” His response? “No it’s NOT!” “Sweetie, I’m holding it right now.” “NO YOU’RE NOT!” Or when I tell my daughter she can’t have Goldfish crackers and she gently lies down on the ground and then proceeds to thrash and kick and scream. It’s funny because she’s totally calm before she lies down and then turns on the tantrum switch. I usually just chuckle, walk away, and she stops in a minute or two.
You Never Know What A Toddler Is Going To Say
This can be a little bit like Russian roulette, because most of the time the things they say are delightful and quirky, but every now and then it will be really embarrassing. For example: when your child screams a curse word in the middle of the grocery store for no discernible reason and, upon seeing your wide-eyed, mute terror, decides the funniest thing they could possibly do would be to sing said curse words over and over. (Though the chuckling of the other patrons is not helping in dispelling them of that notion.) Still, sometimes they just say completely random crap —the kind of observational humor only a toddler can muster— and it makes the occasional embarrassment totally worth it.
Toddleres Have The Best Opinions And Ideas
Remember when you made literally every single decision for your baby because they didn’t care? That was convenient as hell, but it’s really fun to see what they gravitate towards and what they think of things as they get older and are capable of making their own decisions. They’re people now, and it’s so amazing to see what kind of people they are.
Toddler Fashion Is Always On Point
Toddler clothes are, in my opinion, way cuter than infant clothes because toddlers can actually move around. Sure, sure; infants can look cute in anything, but it doesn’t make much sense to dress them up because they just kind of sit there and everything that isn’t a onesie gets all bunched up.
Now, with toddler clothes, you can enjoy the clothes you get for them and the outfits they choose for themselves (remember those aforementioned opinions?). My kids pair tutus and capes with absolutely everything and it’s awesome. My daughter wants to wear hats every hour of every single day. My son was and is a big fan of pink accessories. It’s really neat to see them go from little blobs of instinct to creatures with forethought and artistic sensibilities. Also, when your toddler lets you call the shots, you can more easily dress toddlers than infants as mini-adults, and I think that is off-the-hook adorable.
Toddler Conversations Are Endearing
Every parent I know with a verbal toddler recalls a moment when they had a conversation with their child, but it wasn’t until after the conversation that they realized, “Holy crap. How did we just do that?"
We get so used to our kid not talking, and then only talking in single words and then maybe a single sentence at a time. Then, before you know it, you’re talking about their opinions or feelings or something that happened and you cannot for the life of you recall when that became normal. It has, though, and it’s really, really cool.
Toddlers Are Starting To Gain Independence
Don’t get it twisted: this can also be the worst thing about having a toddler. Because all of a sudden it’s “I do it!” or “By myself!” or “Yes I can!” and saying yes to any of those things either means it’s going to take much longer than if you just did whatever for them or it’s dangerous and you can’t say yes.
However, it’s really, really neat to see them be able to figure out things for themselves and take initiative. It also comes in handy when all of a sudden they can play independently for five minutes while you go switch laundry and you don’t have to worry too much about them getting into mischief. Usually.
Toddlers Are The Most Curious
Everything is new to a toddler, because they have done absolutely nothing yet. For one, they haven’t had much time to do anything, which is fair; it takes me at least two weeks to fold laundry and another two to put it in drawers, so that a toddler hasn’t, like, taken a pottery class yet isn’t surprising or something we should judge. And most of the time they’ve had they’ve been physically incapable of basically anything. They couldn’t sit up on their own for the first 6 months of so, ya know?
Now that they’re mobile and able to ask questions they are making up for lost time and it’s really neat to help them explore and discover the world around them. It's indescribably awesome to be able to do that with them.