Amy Roberts: The traveling twos
Red Card Roberts
May 9, 2017
If you are a parent, there's a good chance I owe you an apology.
For years, at least the last two decades really, I have passed judgment on you. I have rolled my eyes when your toddler was throwing things out of your grocery cart. I have urgently prayed, "not next to me, please do not let them sit next me," while you boarded my flight. I have sighed with heavy annoyance at restaurants when your young offspring has screamed and started a food fight because you refuse to let him or her play with a steak knife.
Many, many times I have wondered: Why can't these people just control their kids? The public meltdowns, the tantrums, the ridiculous concessions made for the sake of not making a scene (or keeping your child alive) — I have generally always assumed was a result of poor parenting. Children who behave like rabid monkeys surely only did so because they had no boundaries or consequences or respect for their parents.
I thought all of this until last week, when I went on a Caribbean vacation with my 2 1/2-year-old niece.
Netflix and chill morphed into turning on the Disney Channel so I could use the bathroom.
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For the record, I adore my niece, Addison. I spoil her unapologetically. I allow her to do things her mother won't. I buy her things my sister says she can't have. Until last week, I had only told her "no" once, and that was when I took her to the zoo and she asked to swim with the polar bears.
Between my parents and my sister, Addison is fretted over constantly. So I have committed to being the fun, "let's take a few risks and skin a few knees" adult in her life. And for that reason, because I do let her push the limits and explore and fall and fail, and give her cookies for dinner, she loves to be with me. Which, until now, I assumed meant she would listen to me and behave and do as I say without question.
Boy, was I wrong.
Much like my parents, my sister is always irrationally worried. So when Michele started to voice her concerns about the pool at our vacation home, I told her to relax. I would simply tell Addison she had to wear her lifejacket when outside. Which worked for about the first seven seconds. When I tried to put it on her, it was like my niece turned into an MMA cage fighter. She screamed, she cried, she kicked, and she refused to wear that thing.
I told her she would sink. I explained she couldn't touch the bottom in parts of the pool. I showed her how the lifejacket would help her float. And that's when I learned you can't reason with a toddler.
Another day she had her crayons out and made a move to color the couch. "No, Addison, only on the paper," I told her. She looked right at me and I swear she mouthed the words "I own you," right before making a green squiggle mark on the sofa.
A few days later I awoke to what I assumed was a goat being skinned alive during an exorcism. The sounds I heard were not of this world. I ran outside to stop the torture, only to learn it was my niece, upset my sister would not let her put scissors in the electrical outlet.
"Why doesn't she listen? Why does she look right at me and do the exact opposite of what I tell her? Why does she scream when you prevent her electrocution?" I asked exasperated.
"Because she's 2. That's what toddlers do," everyone in the house answered back.
Throughout the week, my niece woke me up at 4 a.m. to tell me her sock came off. Netflix and chill morphed into turning on the Disney Channel so I could use the bathroom. And I learned that hell hath no fury like a toddler who wanted the green sippy cup, not the orange one. I only had seven days of it. I have no idea how parents manage this day in and day out. I would be the 2007 version of Britney Spears daily.
So from now on, I will only offer my sympathy to parents whose little person is in the midst of a big tantrum. Parents of toddlers are essentially hostage negotiating with a bipolar chimpanzee who is allergic to sleep. They deserve respect, not judgment.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.