A series in which we explore the life and times of a toddler…
“I WANT MEATBALLS!”
This is how I was greeted one beautiful, recent Autumn morning, my eyes still heavy with sleep. There, writhing on the cold linoleum of our kitchen floor, my two year old – a beautiful and intelligent child – was screaming for “meatballs”…at approximately 6:16 a.m. The irony of it all is that they weren’t actually meatballs. They were ‘veggie balls’, an impulse buy from the previous day’s IKEA trip. I had heard tales told of the wonderment of these veggie balls (I believe they are called Skjapokjaftsh or something along those lines in IKEA Swedish) and I guess my speaking in soliloquies about them to the children the previous day had gotten this wonderful child so excited about them that he just couldn’t…wait…any…longer…
No, I did not make IKEA veggie balls for breakfast that day and honestly I don’t even remember how I averted a further crisis at this point. The lasting image, my ultimate takeaway, was the look of pleading in his eyes, the non-verbal begging as I explained why I wasn’t going to make fake meatballs for breakfast. Maybe if I didn’t have to drive his older sisters to school, or myself to work, I would have caved but alas time would not allow for it. I’ve come to learn time and time and time and time again that a toddler wants what he wants, but just as quickly they could be diverted to something else. It’s all a matter of the particulars involved that dictate your success rate in “Toddler Diversion Tactics.”
The biggest and most important particulars are as follows:
- What does said toddler want? Is it something simple like more popcorn? Is it something more intense like wanting to play with a set of kitchen knives or riding their bike outside in hurricane-force rain? The bigger the fish, the harder the pull to reel him in.
- Is there something comparable you can divert them with that is both easy to obtain and easy for them to comprehend? Terms like “later” and “maybe” are words even a toddler knows to call b.s. on. “Later” might actually mean ‘later in time’ but it’s also a stall tactic every parent in the world uses in the hopes that their child will somehow forget their original request. It rarely works. “Maybe” might actually mean, ‘let me think about this for awhile’ but is also a similar stall tactic when necessary. Use them sparingly and wisely because even a two-year old will get wise to your ways in a hurry.
- Where are you when all of this goes down? Like some unknown real estate agent once said a hundred years ago – Location, location, location. I’m pretty positive that children have this innate way of knowing that if they break down over something completely innocuous at home your reaction will most likely be different than if they did it at, say, the grocery store. I’m not saying all children are manipulative…but in a way I think secretly might be without actually knowing it. Where you are when the screaming starts for meatballs or <insert random thing your child wants here> will dictate, at least partially, the outcome whether you like it or not.
The takeaway of all this? Pick your battles and hold your ground when you need to. Listen, honestly, from one parent to another (or whoever is reading this) kids are weird. Toddlers especially are so bizarre. I’ve had intimate dealings with four of them now and I can tell you, with all certainty, that I still can’t figure them out on most days. Most of the time their thought process is fairly straight forward. (For example, I see it, therefore I want it.) But a lot of times the thought process is so random and so unpredictable I just have to shrug my shoulders (and usually laugh at the madness of it all).
“I want meatballs!”
“No, mommy has to get my out of the tub!”
“But I have to put these puzzle pieces and rocks in my backpack!”
When you have a toddler your world just becomes a lot less predictable, especially when you are crunched for time. Need to get everyone in your household on the same page and get them out the door in a hurry? Rest assured your toddler will find a way to frig that all up for you, albeit a way that you will probably laugh about later.
Oh, and about those veggie meatballs? I made them with some pasta (or “p-getti” as he calls it) the following night for dinner and he hated them. Hated. Them. One bite from one little ball and he was done with them forever and ever, amen. Yeah, so there’s that.
With each of these posts I’ll include a song that the incident in question reminded me of. Today it’s of course Gwar’s “Meat Sandwich”…because meatballs.