Not much can make me feel like a failure faster than attempting to brush a toddler’s teeth.
If you’ve never had to do this, it’s similar to wrestling an overactive alligator, trying to pry open its mouth and trying to avoid losing a finger or an eye in the process.
I sit on the bathroom floor, wrap my legs around Sophie and let her flail until she’s hanging slightly upside down over my leg. Then I can successfully brush her teeth.
There was a blog post that made its rounds through my mommy groups last week called “How to Put a Toddler to Bed in 100 Easy Steps.” It was originally posted on The Honest Toddler (thehonesttoddler.com), but was also re-posted on several sites, including The Huffington Post.
Reading through that post made me feel a little less like a failure and more like just another mom of your average toddler. It reminded me that the toddler years are just going to be this way, especially when it comes to bedtime, and I should just sit back and laugh instead of running from the house in tears as I pull my hair out.
The list included things like “wait for your toddler to stop crying,” “explain that, yes, bedtime will happen every night” and “toddler will take up a sudden interest in potty training.” Since I’ve promised the line I’ll draw with what I share about Sophie is at potty training, I won’t tell you how the most interested she’s ever been in potty training has been bedtime.
The list includes “console your toddler” multiple times. It also includes 11 steps regarding giving your toddler the wrong pair of pajamas.
I understand that all too well. Sophie thinks her Elmo pajamas are the only acceptable ones. Occasionally she will concede and agree to wear her penguin pajamas. But hey, I’m lucky to get enough laundry done each week to have clean underwear. So you know I’m not doing it often enough to keep these two pairs of pajamas clean.
“Your Elmo pajamas are dirty, Sophie. Which pair would you like to wear instead? Your doggies or your mouse with the balloons?”
“Ew Elmo pamas dirty.”
“Yes, Elmo pajamas are dirty. You can wear your doggies or your mouse pajamas.”
Cue meltdown. Cue mom explaining it’s OK to be mad and it’s OK to cry, and it’s not going to make the Elmo pajamas clean so pick another pair.
And then you realize you still have to brush your toddler’s teeth, read her two books, get her water, get her a peanut butter cracker because she’s suddenly starving. I don’t know about you, but bedtime is exhausting. It wears me out faster than a 2-mile run.
I tell myself, “Sophie is normal, and her behavior is very normal for a child her age. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.”
Toddler emotions are big, and even though she’s starting to talk in sentences, she still doesn’t have the vocabulary or tools to communicate those emotions. (But since many adults have never learned to communicate those emotions either, I’m not sure why some people hold their children to a higher standard.)
I don’t like parenting how-to books. I think we all have our own style and our own personalities, and neither parents nor children fit into a mold. But I do love humorous blogs about toddlers and books about what is going on with Sophie and why. (The series of books titled “Your One Year Old,” “Your Two Year Old,” “Your Three Year Old,” etc., by Louise Bates Ames has been extremely insightful.)
Reading other accounts make you feel less like a failure as a mom when your toddler suddenly won’t eat the peanut butter toast she spent 15 minutes begging for.
Or when your toddler impulsively decides her sippy cup needs to be hurled across the living room.
Or when you’re sitting on the bathroom floor wrestling to get her mouth open so you can brush her teeth.
So if you’re feeling like a failure today, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Besides, in 15 minutes (or in the next week sometime), your toddler will be in your lap giving you a hug and a kiss, reminding you why you haven’t run from the house screaming yet.
Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.