The World’s Most Stressful Accessory

I don’t think toddlers and dogs are the same thing (except when they kind of are). No one could possibly think that.

For one thing, dogs have fur. For another, dogs can be trained. They’ll actually listen to commands. You can use a leash without getting strange looks and, as mentioned above, your wife can even carry certain kinds of dogs in her purse. You can’t do that with toddlers. But sometimes I wish you could.

Taking toddlers places is stressful AF!

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I love animals. I love dogs and cats, because I’m not one of those psychos who thinks you can only appreciate one of the two and have to draw a line in the sand.

But I am not a fan of cat-sized dogs. When I get a dog (it’s gonna happen, honey!), I want a real dog. I’ve never seen the point of having one of those teacup things that you can carry around in your bag.

Of course, having lived with a toddler for the past year, I’m starting to see the point.

This weekend, Mom and Buried and I visited a condo complex that was holding a “Margaritaville” party around the communal pool, in order to try and attract potential buyers. We weren’t in the market; we just wanted to relax, ignore the insipid Jimmy Buffett cover band, and drink some free booze.

Unfortunately, we brought our two-year-old. Relaxation was not in the cards. Taking a toddler to a party or a pool or a beach or a friend’s house or a restaurant or a bar or on an airplane is the least fun thing ever.

Imagine going to a party and having to carry around a bowling ball the entire time. Carrying something so heavy and unwieldy would make it really hard to relax and hold a drink or eat some food, right? Now imagine that the bowling ball can walk and talk and run and yell and trip and fall and break things and eat things and throw up and pee itself and drown.

Sounds like a blast, right?

It doesn’t have to be horrible. In fact, my wife keeps telling me that if I’d just chill out and give him a little more leeway, Detective Munch would be totally fine. Sue me, I get a bit stressed in certain public situations when we’re around strangers and my kid is being hyper and there’s an open pool nearby. But I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to my son, I just love him so mu– GET AWAY FROM THE POOL YOU’RE GONNA FALL IN GODDAMMIT HOLD MY BEER I HAVE TO GO GET THE IDIOT.

It’s enough to make you want to skip right to the teen years.

I’m not crazy. I parenting, fatherhood, flying, travel, kids, funny, humor, dads, dad bloggers, mommy bloggers, family, parenting, airplane, mike julianelleknow teenagers come with their own unique sets of problems and complications. But at least by the time your kids are thirteen, they’ve acquired a certain level of independence. And at least the mistakes they’ll inevitably make aren’t always going to be mistakes that your supervision could have prevented.

The toddler years occupy a strange middle ground between completely helpless baby and actual independent adult. The scary thing is, most of your years as a parent are spent managing that middle ground, especially since, these days, it doesn’t seem to end until your kid hits thirty. You spend so much time waiting for them to get older – while simultaneously being sad about it – and yet when they do, their independence scares you. Every incremental little bit of it.

With toddlers, they are learning to be independent but they have a long way to go. And while it’s necessary to let them explore their limits, there are no excuses when your two- or three- or four-year-old gets hurt. In almost every case, they don’t know any better. They aren’t making educated choices. They’re essentially just saying “why not?” and doing something idiotic. Since they aren’t yet equipped to do it, it’s your responsibility to protect them from themselves. That’s what’s so exhausting and stressful.

So on one hand, my wife is right: I need to relax and let him spread his wings a bit and let him stumble and fall a little. But I also want to make sure he makes it to the part of his life when I can blame his mistakes on him, and him alone. It will still be nerve-wracking, but at least I won’t be carrying a bowling ball around anymore.

I’ll just be trailing after it, from a safe distance, hoping it stays out of the gutter.

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6 thoughts on “The World’s Most Stressful Accessory

  1. As a mom of three, I hear you loud and clear. Hell, I’d still carry them around in those moby things if they didn’t wriggle around so much you just know they’re going to fall out and bash their skulls in.

    Yes, they need to learn. Yes, we need to give them their independence, but be ready to pick up the pieces when they get hurt. It never ends, even in the teenage years. But, that one shining moment, when they finally get something right and look at you so happy? Totally worth the aggravation of the past 47 fails.

    Great post. It echos home

  2. Loved your post! Especially the toddler in the bag I could have used one of those but it would have gotten more stares than a leash I’m afraid.
    I now have teenagers and can go out with my hubby with friends with out to much worry. How ever I do need to warn you the “this is dangerous” switch is still not fully functioning my teenager. He came home limping from school one day, when I asked what happened he informed me he tried to par core over a table in the cafeteria and missed. ( good thing his knee wasn’t too messed up) then he did it again a few days later and cut his leg. He finally connected the dots.
    Conclusion I’m going to consider my self lucky if they all make it to adulthood.

    Good luck and God speed to all fellow parents!

  3. Still wondering at what age, my own guilt/responsibility for my kids’ actions will ease up. There are ongoing milestones that currently put the parents’ judgement to the test. When are they responsible enough to walk to school by themselves, ride to DQ on their bikes with friends, play Capture the Flag without supervision, go canoeing without an adult, have a Facebook account, a cell phone, Internet access from their bedroom… it just keeps going and with each new experience you ask yourself, is my kid really ready to take this on? So far, it’s been working out but it’s nerve-wracking as hell.

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