(Alternate Title: Amanda Panda, the Dragon Warrior)
The toddler years can be a very difficult time, but they are precious too! The busiest toddlers, in all their craziness, can grow up to be world changers. If you can just hang in there, they quickly grow up! Here is hope and humor for the journey, along with my best survival advice!
My secondborn child, (first daughter) was a legendary little monster. While my firstborn had been a sweet little guy who stuck close to mama and never gave me too much trouble (at least at that age), Amanda was something else entirely. Oh she was sweet, alright. Too cute to be human, in fact. Smart, fearless, and extremely observant. But… sigh…
The Craziness Begins
At 9 months of age, she started walking. Before she was a year, she could climb out of her crib. Throwing a chubby foot up on top of the rail, she could pull herself over with her arms. Then she would lower herself down the other side and drop to the floor. She could scale a baby gate in much the same manner. So even before she reached one year of age, I could not contain her to either a bed or bedroom. Unless I shut and latched the bedroom door, which I didn’t like to do, because then I couldn’t see or hear what manner of atrocity was happening in there!
In the words of Dr. Seuss,
“But that was not all…Oh no, that was not all.”
Amanda could climb up anything. She could climb up the front of my kitchen drawers and get on the counter. Amazingly strong for her age, she could soon open the refrigerator. Nothing in the kitchen was safe. That little darling routinely emptied cupboards and drawers and got in the fridge. She liked the taste of raw bacon. I know this, because she took bacon out of the fridge and ate it once in the middle of the night. (She often climbed out of bed at night, there was no telling where I might find her sleeping in the morning. Thankfully, in bed with mom and dad was her favorite spot.)
Baby proofing, you say? I tried some of those gadgets for cupboards and drawers. However, I found that no one else in the house could figure them out. Like her daddy, or my two stepsons who were school aged. But she could. (There are better ones available now… ish.) She could also open “child-proof” medicine caps.
Same thing in the bathrooms. She ruined my makeup, often. She emptied entire bottles of shampoo and conditioner for fun. She unrolled whole rolls of toilet paper, emptied lotion, toothpaste, everything. It amused her to play in the toilet with our toothbrushes. I quickly learned, if the toothbrushes had been removed from the holder, I might as well just throw them out.
Amanda could climb onto a chair and from there get onto the table. She was on the table so often, that my mom joked she might grow up to be a table dancer. (She didn’t!)
But soon, it got worse.
She quickly learned, probably from watching my firstborn Cole who was 2 years older, that one might push a chair up to whatever one could not reach. If the chair wasn’t high enough, she would then stack something on top of the chair and climb on that! More than once I found her standing on two items stacked on top of a chair.
Absolutely nothing could be placed out of her reach. I had two tiny cupboards, that were basically on the ceiling, which she never managed to get into. I put the hazardous cleaning chemicals in there. Sadly, those cupboards were not big enough to hold everything else in our house.
Insert New Baby Sister
You might be thinking by now, did this child have no supervision?? Well you see, that is part of the beauty of this story… (Insert sarcasm.) My third child was born when Amanda was 13 months old. So while hubby was at work, and my stepsons were at school, I had 3 year old Cole, 1 year old Amanda, and a brand new baby, Dakota. So yes, she had supervision, but… as with all new babies, I spent quite a bit of time trying to nurse the teeny-tiny, change exploded diapers, and clean up the gallons of spit-up ejecting from her little body. (Dakota was a major spitter-upper. Major.) So while I was occupied with baby, Amanda managed to find moments of time where mom was distracted. And she didn’t need long, she worked fast!
I remember sitting on my couch, nursing Dakota, and having to put her down every other minute to pluck Amanda from whatever criminal activity she was engaged in. It went something like this:
- Toddler begins to tear all books off bookshelf.
- Mom puts baby down.
- Baby starts crying.
- Mom removes toddler from 3rd shelf and firmly instructs said offender to make better life choices.
- Mom replaces 25 books.
- Mom picks up baby and re-latches.
After a dozen repetitions of the above, I would realize, “The baby is never going to get full this way.” So unless her antics seemed life threatening, I would just whimper and watch her tear apart my house like a little cyclone, while I continued to nurse poor Dakota.
The Rap Sheet
In her first 3 to 4 years of life, she was responsible for most of my very best/worst “My kid did this” stories.
- She colored all over our light colored loveseat with lipstick. Completely ruined.
- She painted my oak dining table with whiteout. (Table belongs to my brother now, whiteout is still there.)
- She ate my contact lenses. Intrigued with the salty taste, I believe.
- She took raw eggs out of the refrigerator and hid them around our house, right after Easter. I discovered this at bedtime, when I saw a strange lump under the covers on her little toddler bed. I pulled back the covers, and to my confoundment, there was an undyed raw egg. Very odd. After tucking her in, I walked into the bathroom. There was a lump under the rug. Sure enough, another egg. By this point, I was getting very concerned. I hurried to the kitchen, with 2 eggs in hand, and looked in the fridge. An empty egg carton. I couldn’t even remember how many eggs had been in there, so I didn’t know how many to look for! I imagined eggs spoiling and breaking all over my house. I called my mother in tears. She laughed. A lot. Which wasn’t that helpful, really.
- She flushed a corn cob down the toilet and plugged up our sewer lines. It was a major issue to resolve, involving flooding and the sawing apart of pipes in the basement. Years later, her older brother Cole admitted that actually, she dropped the corn in, and he flushed. So it was a team effort.
- She dove off our couch onto a bean bag chair, or tried to. She missed the bean bag and hit her head. She started to cry, and then, as I picked her up, did that terrible thing where she took a breathe, and then didn’t exhale (you know what I mean?) I said, “Breathe, Manda! Breathe!” She did not. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she went limp and unconscious in my arms. Now I could tell you that I handled this situation with grace, and didn’t panic… but that would be a lie. Screaming, I grabbed the phone, and called my mom (a nurse). I was yelling at her to pick up, which is the first thing she heard when she answered. About the time she said “I’m not sure I want to,” Amanda began to come to. Mom came over and examined the little stunt woman. She was okay, but I’m pretty sure she had a headache, because she laid quietly on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Which, honestly, I didn’t know she was capable of.
Just Keep Breathing…
Parenting Amanda through the toddler years was exhausting! Thankfully, sometimes she slept. While she was sleeping, gathering energy for the oncoming storm she was sure to brew, I had moments of peace. During which, I breathed deeply and recharged. As soon as I heard her awaken either in the morning or after a nap, I started praying. I’m not even kidding. I prayed, “Please God, don’t let her hurt herself. Don’t let her destroy anything. Help me catch her quickly, before she does too much damage. Help me be patient. Help me see her like You see her. Help me love her like You love her.”
The truth is, most of my 15 toddlers have been very active, mischievous little monkeys. (Yes 15. You can read about that little detail here. ) There have been many, many “incidents” over the years. But somehow, it has never been quite the same circus that it was with Amanda. At least partly because, as time went on and I had older kids, there were more eyes to watch and more hands to help contain the little ones. (Read about the Sanity Saving Buddy System here.)
The Next Little Disaster
My seventh baby, Tadan, was a real handful also. When I began to see that he was walking in the spirit of his older sister, I experienced a bit of post traumatic stress and had a slight freak-out. On the day that he dumped 5 lbs of pancake mix all over the carpeted stairs, I instated a new policy. We would play man-to-man defense on him at all times! Every capable body in the house took 30 minute shifts guarding him for the entirety of his waking hours. I am certain this policy saved me from complete insanity.
Monster Turned Superhero
To the toddler’s mama who is teetering on the brink of a permanent meltdown, let me give you the best news ever! Amanda grew into an absolutely amazing kid, and an amazing young woman! By the time she was ten years old, she was literally my left hand. (I say left, because she is a lefty!) She could cook, clean, change diapers, care for the littles… it was incredible! I used to tell people, “She makes a better mom than I do!” The only thing she couldn’t do around the house was nurse the baby.
Those same qualities that made her an unstoppable force as a toddler have made her an unstoppable force now, in the best way possible. She is still spunky, independent, and fearless! She is artistic, creative, and talented in various ways. She is empathetic, hardworking and conscientious. She puts others first, and has a heart for serving.
The other kids look up to and adore her. My oldest stepson, Will, affectionately calls her Number 2 (as in Mom Number 2). My other kids call her Manda Panda, and consequently, my brother, who is the giver of the very best nicknames, dubbed her the Dragon Warrior. She loves it!
The toddler years don’t last forever. Sadly, neither do the chubby hands that hug your neck tightly, or the pitter patter of tiny feet all over the house. Love them hard! And hang on tight, it’s a roller coaster ride… and it’s over way too soon! Pray. Pray for strength to get through the exhaustion. For endurance, ’cause there are more days like this ahead. Pray for clarity, that your emotions don’t fool you into thinking that things are worse than they actually are. And pray for wisdom, that God will help you know what to do. Rest when you can, and spend time with other moms who are facing the same struggles. Laugh as much as possible! Joy is the cure for the anxieties of life. Be encouraged, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and you can do this! You were made for this! Tell me your best/worst toddler stories in the comments below. Hugs, mama!