It's a phrase uttered by many a toddler parent: "Where did my sweet baby go?" We say it when our 2-year-old is throwing a tantrum, when our 3-year-old starts telling us to "just leave them alone," or even when our teenager rolls their eyes at us. While this has largely been considered a rhetorical question, I would like to suggest a few possible places your sweet baby went when they became a toddler. Because they must have gone somewhere, right? Why don't we have scientists, sociologists, and cartographers working on answering this burning question every hour of every day?
While my first child definitely made his transition into his toddlerhood known, I feel that it wasn't the jolt I had come to expect based on everyone who told me about "terrible twos" or "threenagers." The truth of the matter is the boy, bless his heart, has been a mercurial, emotional, intense child since he was born. So it wasn't really a sudden turn into crazy kid behavior so much as an evolution. My second child, on the other hand? My sweet, sunshine-filled, well-behaved, super-easy baby girl? At 2 the mischief began. At 3 the mischief has come to include deep, dramatic sighs and dismissive hand waves. I now understand "terrible twos" and "threenagers" in a way my first had never prepared me for.
So where did my sweet baby go? I have some theories, my friends, including the following:
The Parking Lot At Target
Because there was a sweet baby at your house before you left, and a sweet baby in the car on the way to Target, right? But in the store there is no sweet baby to be found. Only a shrieking, ill-tempered, demanding toddler who wants to knock things off shelves and insists that you buy them "The bone toy" even after you explain that, no, they don't need it and nothing about your child's behavior warrants you buying it for them right now. Plus, it's a chew toy for a dog and you don't have a dog.
The only possible explanation is that your sweet baby was accidentally left in the parking lot. Go back out and get them, but not before making a quick stop in the home decor section because how can you not?!
As the parent of a toddler, there's a good chance you've been watching a whole lot of the TinkerBell movies lately, which means you know all about the magical realm to which your child has flown with the help of pixie dust and an immortal boy who never grows up. In Neverland, your sweet baby is sweet and a baby forever, which leaves you with the surly toddler part of them that didn't feel like following that sweet baby to the second star to the right. Because of course they didn't: they're contrary AF. They probably wanted to fly away but didn't out of spite.
Because they're always a sweet baby at their grandma's house, which prompts her to say, "I don't see what you were talking about when you said they're driving you crazy lately. They're so good! I think you just don't know what a difficult child is. You've been spoiled by this little angel!"
Your sweet baby will then hug your mother/mother-in-law, and as they look at you from over her shoulder, the wicked little toddler you know oh-so-well will smile at you smugly.
Wherever The Socks & Tupperware Lids Go
I imagine palaces constructed of Tupperware lids and gently swaying fields of mismatched socks as far as the eye can see. Amid this idyllic, whimsical land, hidden from adult mortal eyes, your sweet baby frolics without a care in the world. In their stead they have left a snippy toddler who tells you that the bread you used for their peanut butter and jelly sandwich is "broken."
The Bottom Of That Cup
Keep drinking your cup of tea, coffee, wine, energy drink, or whatever beverage you have in there to help you deal with your monster toddler. Maybe you'll find them again.
In Their Sibling's Cup
Because they got more in their cup you guys. They wanted the pink cup! How come he gets the pink cup? It's not faaaaaair. They want the pink cup! And they want a straw! Why can't they have a straw?!
Look in the bottom of that cup. Maybe your sweet baby fell in. Fish them out and insert them back into the demanding toddler that stands before you.
On An 'Indiana Jones' Style Adventure
I don't have anything to back this up. I just think a baby Indiana with a dapper little fedora bumbling around on swashbuckling adventures is a really cute idea.
I mean, that's where I'd go if I were a baby. It's where my 3-year-old daughter always tells me she's going when I ask.
To Train As A Jedi
After all, Jedi begin training very young, so I suppose there's technically a chance that they've gone off to learn the ways of the Force. Maybe in a few years they will come back and challenge this toddler of yours to the final battle of good versus evil. (Well, not "evil," but naughty. Very, very naughty.)
(Not really, but I feel like we could all use a Buckies break about now. So let's all go "look" for our baby at Starbucks. A nice green tea latté will distract from the fact that your toddler is pitching a fit that they can't have a cake pop.)
Have you noticed owls or cats around your house lately? What about letters coming down the chimney? Have your trips to the zoo always ended up with your child staring at the python exhibit and making strange hissing noises? Well then your sweet baby may have hopped on at Platform 9 3/4 to catch the Hogwarts Express before the start of the new school year. They're so sweet they're definitely going to be sorted into Hufflepuff.
Your Social Media Accounts
Because let's be honest with ourselves: our surly, angry, naughty, mischievous toddler rarely makes it onto our social media accounts. (Every now and then, perhaps, to be funny or to "keep it real.") It's almost exclusively populated by our "sweet baby," or when our older child is temporarily possessed by the spirit of our "sweet baby." So, hey, maybe we can ultimately find them there. And, if not, we can at least go through all the pictures of our little stinker from when they were slightly less challenging.
In the end, and thankfully, no matter how old are kids get, or how challenging they become, one thing is for certain: they will always be our sweet babies.