The absurdity of toddlers

Toddlerhood is defined by Having Opinions. Our youngest (a.k.a. “Hurricane”) is current smack dab in the middle of Toddlerhood, and so has some Very Definite Opinions, not just on food, but on life in general.  We currently believe:

  • We Can Do It All By Ourselves
  • Animal Mechanicals is Very Silly
  • We are Afraid of the Bathtub
  • Daddy is Very Silly
  • Mommy is the best source of all snacks, and therefore her location must be known at all times
  • We Can’t Like Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Honeynut Cheerios is the Best Cheerios
  • LET. ME. DO. IT.

If you have not had the mindmeltingness joy of a toddler in your life, imagine your new housemate is a miniature, incontinent Saddam Hussein, complete with lots of shouting, garish outfits, and absurd demands. Here you are, trying desperately to retain what little sanity you might have remaining from having reared them this far, and then they enter The Phase.

It’s as if there was a coup in Nowherezistan and you are now facing a determined terrorist opposition.

Like the United Nations, you meet feverishly with the rest of the security council. There are a lot of speeches made. The new regime is denounced. First, you try to reason with the new dictator and are stonewalled.

Put on your shoes so your feet don’t get cold.

No I caaaaan’t find my shoes.

Carrots are employed.

If you put on your shoes, we can go to Starbucks and you can have some popcorn.

No I want to stay in my jammies!

Sanctions are threatened.

If you don’t hold still and let me put on your shoes, you won’t get popcorn!


Finally, the conflicted is escalated.

*Grabs half dressed, screaming child and carries child out of the house*

*screams, cries, kicks, goes stiff as a board to avoid getting strapped into a car seat*

Eventually you win the battle, if only because you’re bigger and stronger and have figured out where on the hips to press to fold a child in half without doing any internal damage, but you are fighting never-ending war of attrition.

I have chemical warfare going on over here. In my pants. Where's your bright red line now?
I have chemical warfare going on over here. In my pants. Where’s your bright red line now?

Without doubt, though, the most frustrating Toddlerisms are food related.

Our children don’t eat so much as graze continuously.

I have been told this is better for them for a variety of reasons –smaller stomachs, faster metabolisms– but for me, it means I can never get the kitchen cleaned up and raisins are everywhere.

Open the bread cabinet, see ... rat droppings? No, just the game "Hide the Raisins"
Open the bread cabinet, see … rat droppings? No, just the game “Hide the Raisins”

And then there’s just the sheer randomness of it all:

  • Cereal, but only Honeynut Cheerios, and only if the milk and cereal are presented in separate containers and he is allowed to pour the former into the latter BY HIMSELF
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches, but only from Panera
  • Chicken nuggets, if presented in pleasing shapes, like dinosaurs
  • Peanut butter and jelly, but must be cut into halves diagonally so as to form triangles, but don’t you dare cut them into quarters or I WILL SHANK YOU

I get it, I have to feed my children, no need to call social services. Also, I have an amazing and wonderful wife, so the kids will always have box of wine three square meals.

We start’em young in the Nostrikethat household

I have been through this four times now, and in a way it does get easier, if only because the bar was set to “survival” a long time ago.

There are perks, though.

No seriously, it's exhausting.
This is moderately worth it.

15 thoughts on “The absurdity of toddlers

  1. As a parent I have no comment as I have no kids.

    As a personal trainer, lifestyle coach, nutritionist, and all around health & fitness enthusiast I’d say that kids are better off with their three squares a days than grazing all day. True, eating lots of small meals is very good for adults as it’s easier on slower metabolisms. (It’s a lot harder to spike your insulin that way, which then sends your body into fat storage mode.) But children’s metabolisms are cranking so fast that it’s more about learning what healthy, complete meals are.

    Generally speaking, at any age snacking is a load of crap. Meals are where it’s at. As long as a person/man/woman/child doesn’t in a day exceed the necessary amount of calories consumed from macronutrients, and they throw in some fruits and veggies to get enough micronutrients to keep them from getting things like eczema, they’re fine. An adult can eat three squares a day and all will be right in their world. Eating lots of small meals is better for people with more specialized dietary restrictions (ex: elite athletes, people with slower than average metabolisms, etc). But most people just need to learn that if they’re “hungry” and it’s not time to eat yet, then they need to focus their attention elsewhere until it is time to eat. I.e. we all need to go outside and play for another hour.


    1. SO I broadly agree with you on principle, but I violently disagree with you on specifics. I agree on the points that children need to learn what constitutes a healthy, complete meal from their parents as they transition into adulthood. I also agree that there’s nothing inherently wrong with not giving in immediately to a feeling of hunger, and instead drinking a glass of water.

      In terms of children, it’s both physiologically and socially extremely difficult to align a small child (pre-adolescent) with a 3 meal a day schedule. Physiologically, the combination of high metabolism and stomachs the size of their own fists means they feel hunger quickly. Neurologically, they lack even the wiring to learn impulse control, and don’t have very much experience at all in evaluating their own feelings. Crying out in hunger, and escalating the attention until hunger is satisfied, is the most basic of human instincts. The only way to maintain a happy toddler (and therefore one who is receptive to learning) is to make sure their basic needs are met, and that includes a steady food drip.

      In terms of adults, 3 meals a day is a social construct and a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. There’s nothing inherently biologically special about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Google “history of 3 meals a day”, there’s a lot of fascinating reading there.

      “Snacking” as I used it in the article is really shorthand for “ingesting food in the absence of a formal meal”. We aim to provide reasonable snacks (cheese and crackers one time, sliced fruit another time), but I would be a liar if I said we never slipped in industrial snack food like goldfish crackers or teddy graham bears. As they get older, they branch out into trail mix, sunflower seeds, peanut butter anything… but it’s an ongoing evolution.

      Ultimately, I believe that our modern, sedentary lifestyle is a prison of our own making. We can free ourselves from prison by eating more vegetables, drinking more water, and standing up more (walking around barefoot is a bonus). I also believe that when dealing with miniature third world dictators, you need to make some compromises.


  2. How are there not more comments?! I seriously laughed so hard my stomach hurts. Oh my.
    My son just turned four and we get a lot of the “NO, let ME do iiiiiit!”, constant requests for “chocolate peanut butter samiches”, and “you’re not my best friend anymore” because I wouldn’t let him jump off the tv stand. Kids.


    1. I am not an an expert at the whole blogging promotion thing, but I’m learning. Glad you got a laugh, even if it’s a knowing laugh from prior pain.


  3. I have totally katate-chopped my daughter to fold her into her car seat!! It’s usually because she wanted to climb up into her seat BY HERSELF but mean mommy didn’t let her.
    This blog post was loaded with absolute truths about parenting toddlers, including the bits about meals vs. snacking. Some days are snacky days and some are 3 squares but let’s face it: kids eat when they’re hungry and it’s hard to tell them to wait until dinner or eat more right now. Mom of 3, I know how it goes!


    1. Hahahaha I am surprised by how many people have also done the Toddler Karate Chop– I thought I had some mystical Mr. Miyagi action going on, but it seems like everyone has forcibly folded a screaming child into a car seat. Thanks for dropping by!


  4. My wonderful 2 year old refuses to eat dinner on a regular basis. I’ve come to the conclusion that after 3pm his main interest is only in sugar and manufactured snacks. This usually means we attempt to bribe him to eat real food, but inevitably he just pushes it around on his tray for 10 minutes while we eat our dinner.

    That said, enjoying your blog. Your latest attraction that has gone “viral” caught my attention and I’m back reading :0)


    1. Thanks for reading!

      Your situation sounds not very fun at all. Is your 2yo your oldest? With some kids, dinner is a bust because by the time the food is ready, they might want to be asleep. All of mine have been up with the birds, so bedtime is usually between 6-7 for the youngest ones in the dark months. So if you haven’t tried that yet, give it a shot for a few weeks. As an added bonus, you get to have an adult dinner again, which can lead to adult beverages and sometimes adult Other Things. Like folding laundry.


  5. Yep. Couldn’t have said it better myself! Love your style. I’m so glad to be out of ToddlerLand (though my tweens still eat like chickens and miss the toilet bowl every single day).


  6. That sound just like my son not too long ago. His sandwiches had to be cut a certain way and chicken nuggets had to be certain ones. He didn’t like dinosaur shapes. They had to not have a specific shape. We recently started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and now all of those he isn’t allowed to eat at all.

    It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. He has learned he likes cheese and more fruits other than bananas (though they are still a favourite) and blueberries. I still have no luck on vegetables. We got a juicer so we hide the pulp in burgers and “crackers” and “bread” and the juice is mixed with other fruit juice. I think that’ll be the best we can do for awhile.

    Looking back at my childhood and how unhealthy I was anyway, I’m not sure it was worth the fighting nor all the ice cream to get me to take three bites of green beans.


    1. The art of surviving as a parent is the art of picking your battles, and the food battle is well-nigh impossible to win. Thanks for commenting!


  7. Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading this post reminds me of my good old
    room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


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