It started when my baby became a toddler. Gone was the sweet innocence of the gentle coos and the delight at simply rolling over or crawling around with his toys. No, he was no longer content to stay in one place, he was EXPLORING. Every parent who has raised a child knows this stage. It’s the stage of locked cabinets, baby gates, and child safety EVERYTHING. It’s the stage guaranteed to threaten gray hairs, when silence is nearly as alarming as the dreaded pain cries, and when messes are made in abundance of our powers to prevent them.
At the age of 18 months, it became very clear that my child was not much different than many toddlers. He wanted to get into every locked or unlocked cabinet, door, or appliance, he was stubborn, and he was QUITE interested in having and doing things his own way. He was, however, different from my older two children in that he was actually strong and clever enough to figure out how to defeat the majority of the child safety latches. I watched in amazement as he simply overpowered the cabinet latches I had over the knobs, broke or removed the rubber bands I had put underneath those, and proceeded to explore, quite happily, the contents of the cupboard under the fish tank. I had to replace all of our cabinet knobs with handles that the latches could slide through, in order to prevent this action from recurring ad nauseam.
Next to be defeated were the doorknob covers. Parents know these–they are those annoying plastic covers that simply slip around instead of giving you the ability to get a good grip on the knobs themselves. They have two halves to them, holes to put your fingers in to get a grip, they snap in place over the knobs, and they are incredibly frustrating for many of us, especially for my seven year-old son. He quickly figured that in the haste of needing to use the restroom or get back into his own room, it was much quicker to simply break apart the two halves of the cover. The first time I watched the toddler perform this EXACT same action and stroll into the room he was being kept from, I was amazed. How many not-even-two-year-olds have figured out that trick just by watching an older sibling? Surely my older children couldn’t have defeated those knobs, and certainly not that early!
After we gave up on the doorknob covers, we decided to simply ensure that all the interior doors had locking doorknobs on them, and we lectured the other children about the importance of locking the doors behind themselves to prevent their baby brother from getting into trouble in the rooms. This meant that all the doors were locked from the insides, forcing us all to have to inject a very thin pin (which we hung on a tack above the reach of the toddler) into the knobs and catch on a specific pressure point inside the knob, to release the lock so that we could access the room. This move takes quite a bit of dexterity and precision, not to mention access to the “key” pin, so I expected that to be that, and that the toddler would give up on attempting to subvert my safety features…I was wrong.
The first time I caught him, just before his second birthday, trying to stick a jewelers screwdriver into the tiny hole in the doorknob to unlock it, I knew that this kid was something I’d never experienced before. This is a child that has the focus and attention to not only be able to study what his siblings and parents do, but to understand the reasons behind our actions–to understand WHY we do things–and to not only notice HOW we do things he wants to do, but the ability to find substitute tools when the one we use is not available to him. This kid was CLEVER, and he was going to make my life harder than I ever expected a child to make it. I would have to use every ounce of creativity, ingenuity, and understanding in order to survive this period with my sanity intact. This is when the pictures and the stories started.
When the dog food was spread all over the kitchen floor, I took a picture instead of complaining about cleaning it up. When he emptied out our seasonings on the floor and in one of my skillets, I took a picture, and told myself that he was just trying to “cook like mommy”, and I shared my messy picture with my friends. When he learned how to climb up on the TV stand to get over the gate keeping him from the DVD shelves, I sighed, took a picture, and told myself I was happy that he was using his problem solving skills in such an applicable fashion. When he pulled the strawberry milk container off the counter, snuck it into his bedroom, and ate it with a spoon, I laughed, took a picture, and pulled out the vacuum.
I published my pictures on Facebook, along with the stories that accompanied them. Most parents empathized with my struggle, those without children were suitably warned, and EVERYONE laughed. Some said “Hey, you should start a blog!”, and i said “You know, I do enjoy writing…” and said I’d think about it. At first my excuse was that I didn’t have a computer, because the Toddler Terrorist, true to form, had broken my laptop. I started exploring the idea anyway, because I was intrigued, and when I eventually was able to recover my computer, I started searching for the right platform. Well, here it is. I’ve started. Here is my blog, my stories of light and love, and my loving reflections on my very own Toddler Terrorist.