Every time I hear a story about a lost toddler or a toddler that has scaled an enclosure or basically any story where the general mob mentality is shouting through the internet comment section, “Where were the parents?!?!” – I take my pitchfork, put it behind my back slowly, and run to go check on my own two year old.
Quite early on in his life I realized that I had one of THOSE kids. The stereotypical climbing, running, destructive toddler. It started out cute enough. He took his first steps right at nine months old and by the time he was a year old I found myself chasing him through the length of Starbucks. People were amused. I was amused. I shared my chase story on Facebook. It was adorable. That is of course, until it wasn’t. Considering that he was fast enough at one year old to make me have to sprint to catch him, I should have realized much earlier than I did that I was officially done for.
My two year old is a complete joy. He is the most even tempered kid I’ve ever encountered. But he’s also determined. He is strong. He has perseverance spilling out of every one of his pores. He is curious. He is brave. And he has a twisted sense of humor. Since that initial incident in Starbucks, I’ve chased him through Target more times than I can count, through multiple grocery stores, and in circles almost every morning around my car. I’ve learned that I can’t wear flip flops when I go out with him because I must always be ready to sprint. And every time he causes a full speed mommy pursuit he has the biggest grin on his face and sparkle in his eye. He doesn’t realize that there is danger afoot – he only knows that he. must. run.
Almost worse than the public sprinting are the antics he pulls at home. Every time I leave the room for even one minute, I return to him on top of something.
He’s scaled doorways.
He’s conquered the refrigerator.
He’s basically the spokestoddler for why you need to anchor furniture.
And he’s managed this all by 34 inches.
Whenever I hear a story of a child that has found themselves in a precarious situation and see the internet mobs ready to crucify the parents, I only see my little adventurer and another situation that I could easily see myself in. It’s not that I don’t watch my child (I do). It’s not that I’m not aware of the many dangers he might encounter (I am) – It’s only that I know just how skilled in the arts of evasive escape antics my child can be, how quickly he can go from a seemingly controlled state of child where parent reigns true into a state of toddler level anarchy, and how incredibly aware he has made me over the last year that I am only one person, with one set of eyes, two children and a life that can’t always be put on hold simply because I have a “runner”.
I’ve tried keeping him in a cart (nope). Keeping him in a stroller (nope). The dreaded and often frowned upon child leash (nope). His wild heart just can’t be broken.
Probably the most infuriating responses I see to situations like these are the parents who feel the need to
brag inform the internet world that THEY also have children and THEIR children would never have been able to make it out of their site. And to that all I can say is that THEY are simply lucky. I used to be them. My older son is not a “runner.” He’s not an adventurer. He has spirit, yes – but it comes out in verbal form instead of olympic 100 meter dashes. His toddler years held their own challenges but under the exact same household rule and the same set of watchful eyes he has been a model child for staying at ground level and being content in a cart or a stroller. He left me ill-prepared for the antics of his little brother but also served an important part in teaching me just how little I have to do with the ability or inability of my children to stay under my control.
And in another line of thought – despite it’s danger potential I have no choice but to CELEBRATE my child’s perseverance. While my heart rate and stress levels may disagree, there is a certain level of pride in seeing that my son will literally stop at nothing to get what (or where) he wants! While I clearly hope that I am always there to catch him before he falls, grab his hand before he escapes into a crowd or pull him back before he runs into a street, there is no doubt that he is a force to be reckoned with and that if at any time I put my guard down even for one solitary moment, it could be me being heckled and branded a terrible mother all over the interwebz because my child had an urge to feel the wind in his hair right as my other child needed me to help him with his shoe.
So internet mobs – put your torches and pitchforks away and your seats in an upright position until the toddler years have passed, please. And if you have a toddler who also has the ability to levitate, scale walls, disappear into crowds and generally keep your blood pressure high enough to count your heart rate in your ears, well – come sit next me. I’ve got a glass of wine with your name on it!