Everyone laments the speed with which kids grow up. (Almost everyone.) Parents are constantly warning other parents how quickly a kid’s childhood flies by and how, before you know it, the apple of your eye is in college.
But that’s not what scares me. Watching my kid get older will definitely be bittersweet in the long-run, but I’m more concerned with the now. Specifically, the double-edged sword that is my son’s rapidly increasing intelligence and physical development, and how it affects me on a daily basis. Because every new skill my son acquires brings with it an increase to my day-to-day stress.
The smarter he gets, the more difficult life becomes.
It’s been a thrill to watch my son develop, from a baby blob to a silent crawler to a little walker and, nowadays, to a loud, hyperactive tantrum-thrower. But every exciting milestone (first steps, first word, first throw, first “No!”) also opens the floodgates to new bits of behavior that are often more annoying than impressive.
Obviously, in the overall sense, it’s good for my son to progress and learn and acquire new skills. At one point I’ll be dying for him to move out, and without these basic skills there will be little hope of that happening. But in the everyday, parents-are-people-too! sense, those skills can make living with a toddler stressful and frustrating.
Annoying Toddler Skills
- Using Doorknobs – Not every doorknob can be baby-proofed. Well, maybe they can, but not if you don’t try. And if your doorknobs are unprotected, once your kid learns to use them and gain access to your bedroom, the bathroom, the closet you’re (literally) hiding in, the tiny shred of privacy you were clinging to totally evaporates.
- Using Technology – Today’s kids have an almost preternatural grasp of technology, having grown up around it in ways that we older generations never did. Eventually, my son’s understanding of how this stuff works will hopefully pay dividends, like when I can’t program my whatever-the-2030-equivalent-of-a-DVR-is-called. But right now, the fact that he knows what the remote control does (turns on Thomas or Curious George) makes his constant attempt to use it incredibly irritating. And his ability to unlock my iPhone and activate apps and accidentally delete apps and photos and emails – he knows how to do certain things, but doesn’t necessarily know what he’s doing or why he is doing it – is at best problematic and at worst very expensive.
- Walking/Climbing/Reaching – Every parent waits with bated breath for their kid to take his first steps, but it’s all downhill from there. Once they start moving, you never stop. And once they can reach stuff that was previously unreachable? Whether by being tall enough or figuring out how to climb or being able to open doors? TOTAL NIGHTMARE. Every piece of silverware needs to be pushed away from the edge of counters and tables, every remote control or iPhone/iPad needs to go on top of a higher shelf, every bottle of poison suddenly needs to be hidden away somewhere he can’t get to and where you’ll always forget you stashed it. LAME.
- Talking – I couldn’t wait for my son to start talking. I used to crack that someone’s kid wasn’t worth knowing until he could string a sentence or two together. I was so naive! My kid hasn’t shut up in a year and a half. Sure, most if the stuff he spits out is adorable, but lately it’s all questions. One question, really: a constant stream of “What’s that?” Over and over. He points his chubby little fingers at something and proceeds to repeat “what’s that?” approximately 35 times in a row. Never mind that after the third time he’s got a pretty good grasp on what “that” is; he just wants to fuck with you 32 more times.
- Remembering – We used to be able to lie to him. We could calm him down by telling him we’ll watch Elmo later, or that we’re out of cereal, or that we’re going to sleep too. But now he remembers everything. He calls us out on promises we have yet to fulfill; he walks me to the pantry and points at the cereal he knows is in there. He remembers all of it, and he makes us pay.
Living with a toddler is a constant mix of awe and aggravation. It’s impressive to watch him learn something new; the first time you witness him discovering a new trick is always kind of breathtaking. But just because he learns how to do something doesn’t mean he understands everything that goes with it, like the consequences of it and the rationale behind it. So when I’m not marveling at his ability to do something he couldn’t do just one day before, I’m grumbling at the way his mental and physical development outpaces his emotional awareness and social skills.
Until he starts understanding the Whys, his ability to negotiate the Hows is mostly just inconvenient for us. And I think it’s going to be a while before there’s any kind of balance. As the saying goes, he knows just enough to be dangerous.
It’s almost enough to make me wish he’d grow up just a little bit faster.