Being the parent of a toddler can sometimes feel like being stuck in the tenth circle of Hell; the one Dante missed. My days are sprinkled with tantrums over which socks to wear, or 35 minutes waiting for her to put her jacket on “by myself!”, or her sudden inability to walk to the kitchen and adamant insistence that she be carried like her baby sister. The emotional and mental exhaustion can be so great, it leaves me physically weakened, or, worse case, sobbing on the bathroom floor in front of the dust bunnies. It’s so easy to get mired in the pint-sized drama with the full-scale volume. I’d love to be able to take a deep breath and count to ten; but let’s be honest, I wouldn’t get past three. So instead, I’ve created a “Love List” of all the things I love and adore about my “terrible” toddler.
1. I love how my three-year-old daughter walks onto any playground, or passes any kids at the grocery store or sees them as we drive by and shouts, “Friends!” regardless of whether she knows them or not.
2. I love how she just can’t resist the urge to run… everywhere. Even heading to her bedroom, she dashes off. Need tissues at the grocery store? Race ya down the aisle! Gotta go potty? Sprint there! (Although that one I support heartily.)
3. I love how she has no interest in eating a spinach muffin, unless it’s mine. Then she wants almost all of it.
4. I love how she wants to go to bed with a few books so she can pretend to read to her four owls, pillow kitty, huggy bear and badger.
5. I love how she wants me to sing “Frosty” or “Jingle Bells” while she poops on the potty (after running to get there).
6. I love how she tries to negotiate for more time. When told, “Five minutes to bedtime,” she responds: “No, two minutes, five minutes!”
7. I love how she delights in making her baby sister and brother laugh.
8. I love how everything we plan to do is “after nappies [naptime],” including Easter and Christmas.
9. I love how she’s unconcerned with choosing the biggest or brightest anything, from stickers, to chocolates to strawberries; she’s motivated purely from the heart.
10. I love how she’s terribly concerned about others’ pain. Her friend Ibrahim cried one day because he missed his mommy at nursery school; and we hear about it for weeks and weeks.
11. I love how she’s completely unabashedly honest. If we tell her she’s earned one sticker, she will take just one (with a few episodes of some random “tummy stickers” sneaking through).
12. I love how her Daddy can get her to laugh with such free abandon it makes my heart soar.
13. I love how we sing “Happy Birthday” every night to a different person; or sometimes a whole pile of them.
14. I love how a speed bump can delight her so much.
15. I love how she tries to poop in the potty 47 times a day, now that we have added the chocolate incentive.
16. I love how a school bus, a city bus or a truck can elicit squeals of delight.
17. I love how she loves spending time with me and she doesn’t care what I’m wearing or whether I’ve showered recently.
18. I love that an outing can consist of looking at flowers and stray cats in the neighborhood.
19. I love that she loves going to buy fruit and vegetables from the local seller; and after seeing a donkey go by a few months ago, she still looks out for him and wants to pet him.
20. I love how she gets caught in seemingly-endless loops of questions; currently we’re stuck in the, “Who bought this?” phase. To which Daddy sometimes throws out “Karl Marx” or “Adam Smith,” which she accepts readily.
My Love List isn’t going to give me solace during her screaming banshee sock meltdowns, but I’m thinking of plastering all the walls with it so I can catch a glimpse as I’m waiting for her to get her breath following the “I want to put my shoes away myself” fit or waiting for her color to return after she finally receives the orange spoon, versus the venomous blue one I had initially chosen. Once peace has been re-established, then I can quietly retreat to the bathroom and share my woes with Bugs, Ears and Bounce, my ever-attentive and never-“terrible” dust bunny friends.