Communicating with a child is one of the most difficult parts about parenting, at any age really. I’d imagine conversations later in my kid’s life like “Why is this weed in your sock drawer?” or “What do you mean Tony Romo isn’t the most underappreciated player in NFL history?” will require certain levels of tactfulness in order to best get across the parenting point that needs to be made.
However, navigating conversation with a toddler is a whole different set of hurdles. Toddlers are so sweet and innocent to the world, something you have to remember when talking to them. They’re also some of the most frustrating creatures on the planet, and half my time is spent biting my fist trying not to let the frustration leak out to someone who doesn’t always fully grasp the concept of the amount of irritation they’re causing me.
While outwardly I do my best in situations of toddler conflict to take a gentle but firm, and mostly positive tone, inwardly sometimes I’m just losing my damn mind.
Scenario: Dueling over what he’s eating for dinner.
What I Say: No, you can’t go pick out something else, this is what’s for dinner and you need to eat it.
What I Mean: Listen here, bud, you’re eating every single bite of this damn dinner because you made a verbal agreement that you’d eat it. You’re not shimmying over to the pantry like a dumpster diving raccoon to fill your stomach with a granola bar. No, don’t look at anyone else, this standoff is between you and me. You better inhale those carrots and that chicken on your plate before I have a fucking aneurysm.
Scenario: Driving to a destination.
What I Say: No, we aren’t there yet.
What I Mean: Yet again, we still aren’t there, and at this point, if you ask again I’m going to find a way to put you in a dog crate on the roof.
Scenario: Child is constantly getting out of his bed at bedtime with a litany of excuses.
What I Say: Okay, you’ve gone potty, your night light is on and here’s your teddy bear. Now stay in your bed, and go to sleep. Sweet dreams, buddy.
What I Mean: Son, I swear to God if you don’t stay in this damn bed I’m going to explode. I’ve walked up these stairs four times to hear you talk about your tummy hurting (it’s not) or your room being too dark (it isn’t). You know who ain’t buying that shit? This guy. I’m trying to enjoy the new season of Narcos downstairs and I can’t do that with you sprinting out of your room like there was a fucking bomb threat every five minutes.
Scenario: An episode of a TV show has ended, and he wants to watch yet another.
What I Say: No, that’s enough TV time. Let’s go outside and kick the soccer ball, do some coloring, or play in your playroom.
What I Mean: If I have to sit through one more episode of Peppa Pig I might lose every ounce of my sanity; I will literally pay you to want to do anything else.
Scenario: Child has taken a dump and is declining to wash his hands.
What I Say: Buddy, get back here and wash your hands, can’t go around playing with your toys with dirty hands from the bathroom.
What I Mean: Get your disgusting ass back in this bathroom with your poop-smelling hands right now. I will not be the parent with the kid who sprints out of the bathroom after taking a dump. I know for a fact you don’t pull this crap at preschool, no pun intended. You better come wash those damn hands or I’m gonna dunk your ass in bleach.
Scenario: Last words before bedtime.
What I Say: Sweet dreams buddy, love you.
What I Mean: You are the best thing I’ve ever done and the most worthwhile part of my existence. It is emotionally crippling to think about how deeply I love you and want the best for you. I’ll likely check on you at least once while you sleep, just to make sure you’re still breathing and to just gaze lovingly upon the most important person in my world while they peacefully dream. Please for the love of God don’t piss through your sheets and wake up me up at 3 a.m. to tell me. .