Don’t Lick the Outlet!
By Jessica Guerrieri
My best friend texted this morning that all she could get her son to eat for breakfast was a single graham cracker—that was until she broke it in half, rendering it inedible. If I had a dollar for every time I incorrectly cut my children’s food, I’d be able to open my own parents-only hotel. Each room would come with lavender-scented pillows, especially constructed to endure long bouts of parental screaming. In fact, during lockdown my sister-in-law and I had the million-dollar idea to create a Mom Mobile. This traveling minivan would conveniently park in your driveway, where gathered moms could unload their COVID-related grievances until they felt ready to face the next undoubtedly outrageous thing the universe had to throw at them.
It doesn’t take a pandemic to activate a toddler’s or any child’s unreasonable requests. All that’s required is for them to be awake. It helps to know that I’m not alone in this struggle. There are hash-tags on social media dedicated to all the ways we are spectacularly failing our kids by doing our darndest to keep them alive. I’m so sorry, darling. You can’t drink from the tube of toothpaste.
More often than not, being a parent of a toddler can feel like being Punk’d or like starring on another hidden-camera reality TV show. Surely my two-year-old didn’t just heave her body onto the kitchen floor because I wouldn’t allow her to touch raw chicken. But, alas, here I stand trying not to smirk next to my burning fajitas. Last week she wanted to stick her face inside the toilet bowl to go “swimbing” and was inconsolable when I wouldn’t allow her to eat dog food. I wonder if I can find a bedazzled “Mean Mommy” hat somewhere on Etsy.
I thought perhaps these power struggles would lessen with age, but I’ve found that somehow they’ve gotten more ridiculous and often more complex. For example, my five-year-old is obsessed with spraying her bangs with water to get them out of her face. She applies it in such a way that she looks like a mini cast member of the Jersey Shore. I’ve tried offering her hair clips or headbands, but she claims they are “too pokey” and the water helps make her hair the right amount of “swishy.” If there was a retort to that argument, it was in none of the parenting books I skimmed.
I often wonder how these seemingly small, insignificant things can manifest as the end of their world. What I wouldn’t give to go back to a time when my greatest emotional struggle was over a broken graham cracker. But what I try and remind myself (although it can be hard to hear over all the screaming) is that, right then, their world is that graham cracker or tube of toothpaste. If they could find a way to enact a peaceful protest and articulately express why it is paramount that they be allowed to wear socks in the swimming pool, I’m sure they would.
While the inevitable tantrums and meltdowns are draining, children have a way of being unintentionally hilarious. Their misguided logic can help guide us back to what matters—not that the red cup is superior to the green, or that bananas must never be fully removed from their peel, but rather, our role as parents is to help them make sense of this crazy, mixed-up world. Even when that means using our bodies to shield them from the outlets they so desperately want to lick.
Find Jessica Guerrieri at witandspitup.com and on Instagram @witandspitup.