Yes, I was that mother who couldn’t shut up about how her toddler never threw tantrums. And yes, I’m making up for it now.
People will give you all kinds of advice when you become a parent, whether you like it or not. You’ll hear all kinds of bumper stickery nuggets about being patient and cherishing moments and how they grow up so fast. Blah, blah. Let me add my voice to the countless grocery store strangers and irritating in-laws and give you a real piece of advice. One you can actually use.
Don’t ever, ever, be smug about something parenting-related. You will pay for it.
For me, this was my tantrum-free toddler. Seriously. “Terrible twos?” I would ask, innocently. “What are those?” I even doled out cloying advice on how to get little kids to eat the food you gave them or how to avoid meltdowns. Basically, if you wanted to be as awesome as I was, I could help you with that. I had this parent thing on lock. Sorry you were so bad at it or whatever.
Obviously, this would eventually go badly for me. People warned me about the threes, and I just shrugged that off. When they rolled around, my kid was just as chill and laid back as she was before. In your face, everyone else.
Then, oh then.
School started. Almost immediately, someone body-swapped my kid into a child I barely recognized. She was hyper-sensitive and cried over pretty much anything and everything. Sad movies? Check. Happy movies? Check. An argument at school? Check. What time dinner was? Checkity-check-check-checkers. Woo hoo.
As I was beginning Theresa’s wild ride, my friends were having more kids. Kids without colic. Toddlers who loved the potty so much they couldn’t get off of it. Toddlers that harfed down brussels sprouts and never melted down. As dumb as it sounds, it really took me this long to realize that parenting is a crapshoot and while it’s possible to do a whole lot wrong, you can’t ever truly take credit for what you think you’re doing right. Kids have personalities, and they change. Your impossible toddler could be the most laid-back kindergartner. Your perfect baby could morph into a shrieking hellion.
Your unflappable toddler could become a little ball of feelings and tears.
My kid has mostly grown out of that, and even in her most intense stages, she was still sweet and mostly happy. I firmly believe, to this day, that every kid is gonna hit a “stage.” Maybe even more than one. Maybe you’ll get it out of the way during the first year. Maybe, just as you don’t think you can stand one more boneless, slumped, screaming toddler tantrum, they’ll snap out of it. Or maybe they’ll save it all up for the teenage years.
Whatever you do, hold your breath. Don’t dole out advice until your kid is out of the house and thriving at Harvard or whatever. Don’t do what I did. The universe will see your smuggery as a challenge, and you will reap what you sow.
If you manage to fit some moment-cherishing in there, great. But above all, keep your mouth shut. You might regret it if you don’t.