Remember the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle? “You’re not the boss of me, yeah.“ I found myself singing that a lot during my kids’ younger years, specifically in those moments when I realized my toddler was the one calling the shots. Those instances were serious wake-up calls for me. I actually had to remind myself that I was the mom, and thus the boss by default. It may come across a bit authoritarian, but putting my foot down with my toddler (at times) was sending a message loud and clear: you’re not getting your way, and it’s for your own good.
Saying “no” didn’t come easily to me, though. I have always been a people-pleaser (to a fault, in some cases, like when I was too afraid to risk someone not liking me to speak up about getting my own feelings hurt by them). And, of course, you don’t want your only response to children to be negative. We always tried to look for opportunities to say “yes,” or at least spin our answers positively. However, part of being a toddler is being completely and irrationally self-centered. Little children really do think they’re the boss and, as parents, our job is to manage their expectations and not consistently give in to their whims. “I am not your servant,” I occasionally remind my children, especially when they ask for something to drink as soon as I sit down. They are old enough to pour their own water. So, my goal is to get them out of the habit of trying to pass off tasks, and to be more self-reliant.
But it wasn’t that long ago when they were tiny diapered tyrants who thought they ran the world. Though I’d chalk up the following instances as parenting fails, the moments that made me realize my toddler was calling the shots also showed me that I was doing no one — not me, not my kids, not the world — any favors by enabling their bossiness. Though they ultimately were teaching moments for me as a parent, here are a few times my kids assigned themselves the role of dictator, regrettably under my watch:
You’re Carrying Them Everywhere
It took having a second baby to realize I needed to stop hauling my toddler around. She suddenly was so heavy, especially when compared to my newborn. I needed her to walk, and she was fully capable of doing so. She was just playing me.
You Haven't Watched Anything That Doesn’t Involve An Animated Character Trying To Engage You In Conversation
There is so much good TV out there, but everything on the queue features a plot line about a disenfranchised woodland creature who functions solely as another character to be featured on merchandise my child will beg me for on a trip to Target. Ugh.
We have one TV in the apartment and, as my kids get older, it’s getting harder to agree on what to watch for our Sunday movie night. If only I hadn’t given in to so many of their screen time demands when they were toddlers, I might have actually been able to get them to enjoy Better Things with me.
Your Sippy Cup Collection Is Out Of Control
She wants the princess one for daycare, but the double-handed one is just for milk. Then there’s the one with the missing straw that she won’t let me throw out because she uses it to feed her baby doll.
When I started getting frustrated our apartment was feeling too small, it didn’t occur to me that it might have been because I was giving in to my kid’s whim of hoarding her drinking vessels.
They’d Rather Talk To Siri Than You
Recently, I heard my son propose marriage to Siri. She was flattered, but I had to stop that nonsense. It is not cute when I see my kids chatting up the disembodied voice of a robot, especially if it’s in lieu of talking to me, their human mother.
If they’re giving more attention to Siri than their own parent, it’s my fault; I have granted them too much access to my phone.
You Watch Everything In Closed Captioning
For the first year of our daughter’s life, my husband and I were convinced that we’d wake her up with the TV, so we read subtitles for everything. This was, of course, ridiculous. Not only do we live in New York City, with its constant sirens and street noise, but we were setting our kid up for failure in the sleep department. After all, if my daughter was trained that absolute quiet was necessary in order for her to doze off, she would never sleep for the rest of her precious life.
With my second kid, we didn’t turn down the volume. I might have vacuumed during his naps. He slept through it all.
Your Carb Consumption Consists Solely Of The Crusts You Cut Off From Their Sandwiches
I could sustain myself solely on what my toddler insisted I trim from her lunch. Whoever is savvy enough to invent and market crustless sliced bread is going to make a mint off spineless moms like me.
They Dress Like Clowns
I gave in when my daughter insisted on picking out her clothes when she was around two years old. I made sure she had climate-appropriate items to choose from and let her have at it. Almost daily, she chose to outfit herself in a garish clash of prints. The good news was that I never lost sight of her in a crowd.
The ‘Frozen’ Soundtrack Is On A Constant Loop In the Car
That’s how it was for my younger kid when he was around three. For current toddlers, it may be Hamilton. Whatever it is, it will be constant and endless and should you attempt to take a turn choosing the tunes, you will be stopped cold by high-pitched whining and the thunderous kicking of the back of your seat. Let it go.
Your Partner Is On A Permanent Parenting Vacation
“Mommy! I want Mommy! Just Mommy!” Oh what a wonderful thing to be loved. Oh what an exhausting existence for moms whose children insist their mothers do everything, every hour of every freakin' day.
Note to self: stop being good at your job.
They Voice Their Strong Opinion On Cream Cheese Very Loudly And In Public Places
Toddlers really know what they want. No confidence issues there. The only problem is, of course, that they often want unreasonable things. Like “spreadable cheese product” that is not on sale, let alone barely qualifying as actual food. Fight them on this, and they will throw down, right there in the dairy aisle.
They Call Everything ‘Mine’
The remote. The cat. My wine. This is part of their development, sure, but it’s eye-opening to consider that children operate from a place of entitlement when they’re starting out in the world.