If we—meaning you, my gentle readers, and I—were to gather all together in a bar (ZOMG HOW FUN WOULD THAT BE?!), I’d imagine we could sit down, order a few cocktails, and commiserate over our many past (and maybe some present) terrible relationships. There are precious few of us who get through young adulthood without at least one tale of how we once intimately connected ourselves to a horrible person who brought out the worst in us. (If you did manage to avoid this: Congratulations! Please write a how-to book and share your secrets. It shall earn you the tearful gratitude of legions of people and probably millions of dollars.) But as we began sharing our tales of headaches and heartbreak, I can assure you that most of the stories we would tell about our unspeakably horrible exes could just as easily be about some completely jerky thing my kid did recently. The context might be a bit different, but the fact remains: Having a toddler is very, very much like being in a dysfunctional relationship.
Just so we’re clear: I think my children are completely amazing. 95% of the time they are loving and sweet and smart and fun. That other 5% of the time they are manipulative, volatile little goblins with ice water in their veins and a fire in their belly. It’s in those moments where I’m like, “Is this real life? Is this actually happening? Because if you were someone I was dating there is no way in hell I would have put up with it for this long.”
Here are some of the ways that having a toddler is like being in a relationship you needed to get out of, like, yesterday. (Disclaimer: Unlike most people with whom you're in romantic relationships with, your kids are almost assured to grow and evolve into amazing people, thus the reason why we stick around to take all the sh*t they throw our way, bless their hearts.)
You Fight Constantly
Even with the most mild mannered toddler, ish can get ugly fast. Unlike the communication failures in a bad relationship, though, there’s no hope of fixing this with a toddler, no matter how many times you read and discuss The 5 Love Languages at bedtime.
Me: “... the end. So, William, what I get from this is that my love language is "words of affirmation," which is why I always praise you. But after reading this I can see clearly that your love language is "gifts," so…”
Toddler: “I want another story.”
Me: “Sweetheart, no. We read three, so it’s time for—”
Toddler: “Don’t say no! I don’t want to hear that word! I want another story! Are you listening to me?! You need to listen!”
Demon spawn that sprang forth from my loins to torture me: “Mooooooooommmmmm!”
They Withhold Affection To Punish You For A Perceived Wrong
My daughter is a young toddler, so she can’t have full conversations yet, but she always makes her feelings known. For example, you'll know exactly how she feels if she doesn’t get to watch videos of Elmo on YouTube whenever she wants. It’s like:
Her: “Elmo?” (Actually she says “Melmo,” which is adorable.)
Me: “Not now, sweetie.”
Her: “*brings iPad over* Melmo! Melmo! Breathe!”
Me: “I’m sorry, baby, but no. No videos right now.”
This is usually followed by a solid minute of shrieking, which eventually subsides and she goes over to play with something else.
A few minutes later, I’ll go to give her a hug. She’ll simply turn and look at me, say “no” and trot briskly away. It’s her way of saying, “You’ve done effed this up, woman, and I’ll let you figure out precisely how before I give you hugs again.” (Side note: Really love her ability to declare personal space and withhold consent for physical contact at such a young age. I stand rejected, yet proud.)
They Leave Their Crap Everywhere No Matter How Often And How Nicely You Ask Them To Tidy Up
I’d show you an actual picture of my living room, but I’m too ashamed.
Everything Is Always All Your Fault
Once my son was jumping on our couch despite me telling him not to on an hourly basis. In accordance with my prophesies, he fell and got a boo-boo. His take away from all this? “Mommy made me fall off the couch.” “What?!” I asked, flabberghasted. “How on Earth do you figure this is my fault?” He looked up at me in equal parts disappointment and stone-cold disdain: “I fell and you didn’t catch me.”
Oh. That’s how we’re gonna play, huh?
You Become a Deceitful Liar, Despite Not Wanting To Lie
It’s not just your kid that makes life with a toddler like a bad relationship—having a toddler makes you lie all the damn time. Fie on the Smuggy McSmugsteins who claim they never lie to their children, because they do.
“Mommy, I want to go get ice cream!”
“Sorry, the ice cream store is closed.”
It’s 4 p.m. on a Saturday. The ice cream store is not closed, but saying it is is way easier than telling them you can’t go right now. Sometimes you just need to tell a little white lie to shut down what you know would have otherwise unreasonably escalated. Some days, all that keeps your world from exploding in a mushroom cloud of pure toddler emotion is a delicate and intricate web of lies. Each lie is as sticky and seemingly fragile as a thread of spider silk, but when woven together they become the crucial support system that sustains you.
They Accuse You Of Not Being Their Mother
In a bad relationship, this is an immature way for your partner to say, “I am an adult and you do not get to tell me what to do!” When your child says it, it’s simply because they’re being a d*ck.
They’re Always Threatening To Leave
Like this little girl, who is a national treasure.It’s annoying when it’s your kid, though.
They Destroy Your Self-Esteem
Toddler: “You’re beautiful.”
Mom: “Thank you, baby!”
Toddler: “Except your hair.”
Mom: “Ummm… what?”
Toddler: “Your hair is not beautiful. You should cut it.”
Mom: “Oh. Uh… well, good night, honey. I love you.”
Toddler: “I don’t love your hair.”
This exchange actually occurred between my friend and her 3-year-old recently. It is classic toddler in its brutal honesty.
Images: Bradley Gordon/Flickr; Giphy(7)