When you have kids, your entire worldview changes almost overnight. It’s magical in a way because your start learning so much about society and life and especially yourself, like the fact that you have a lot in common with toddlers. That’s right, I’m 42 years old and I exhibit the same behavior as my 4-year-old daughter. I attribute some of this behavior to my battles with depression and anxiety, and some to my personality quirks. Regardless, here are 6 ways I’m a exactly like a toddler:
- I’m Easily Frustrated – I’m easily frustrated when it comes to…pretty much anything, but particularly anything mechanical, technological or Ikea furniture building. Damn Apelviken!! Like a toddler, when I get frustrated my body tightens, my teeth clench and I need to roar! I’ve been known to throw instruction booklets and to punch the floor. I didn’t even realize this was toddler behavior until my wife said, “You’re acting like Sienna!” while we were putting together some forgettable toy. It’s not just Swedish furniture; I show all the calmness of a toddler trying to put on a shirt too. The same clenched teeth. The same throwing things across the room. The same pounding on the floor. I guess I can soothe myself in the fact that at I won’t get a time-out for throwing a tantrum.
- “I Can’t Do It” – These are the first words out of my mouth when I’m having difficulty. “I Can’t Do it!” It’s like my brain turns to stone and refuses any advice or attempts to help. I can’t figure out how to manipulate my digital photos so they pop! I can’t fix this overhead light! So I give up! My toddler does exactly the same thing, although she doesn’t even try to edit photos or install a light bulb. Just wait, kid. Oh, guess what the first words out of her mouth are when I’m trying to teach her how to play catch? “I can’t dooooo it!” (you need the whine in there for effect). Then comes the pouting and the walking away…the giving up as I urge her to keep trying. How hypocritical am I? I don’t think I pout, although my wife might disagree.
- I’m A Picky Eater – Why do they have to put cheese on everything? I hate cheese! I won’t even try it because I have this mental block telling me that it’s rotten milk. Same thing with yogurt, of course. Disgusting. And mushrooms. They’re fungi! I also won’t eat any seafood, coffee, cream sauce, large tomato slices (grape tomatoes are fine) and so much more. And yet I want to lose it because Sienna’s such a picky eater. She won’t eat her veggies, of course (who’s toddler does?). She won’t try chicken unless it’s in nugget form. No beef. No bacon. NO BACON!!! She won’t eat pizza if there’s a bubble on the slice. No marinara sauce on her pasta. She does do pretty well with fruit and she loves to dip her fingers in my wife’s nightly glass of wine (aka “mommy juice”). I won’t even do that. Wine is just one more thing I hate.
- It’s All About Me! Me! Me! – When you have depression, the world revolves around you because you can’t see out of your own head. You make everything about yourself. It’s a form of myopia and it irritates the hell out of those trying to help you, understandably so. Your psychologist tells you that just because your friend hasn’t written back to you in a day, it doesn’t mean he’s abandoning you. Your spouse tells you she’s having a tough day and you worry about how that will affect you. It’s the same with toddlers. The world revolves around Sienna. My wife and I can’t have a short conversation if Sienna’s in the room because she needs to show us that she can do a “BIG JUMP!” She wants us to stay in her bed with her even though we’re exhausted and pining for the darkness of our own bedroom. We have to watch the same episode of “Sophia the First” for the thousandth time because she wants to see it. She’s unaware of our feelings and needs. In her mind, she comes first….always. “Daddy! Get down on the floor even though your back hurts and roll this car back and forth!” But you love her, so you do it. Just like my wife keeps telling you your thoughts are irrational when I’m having a depressive episode. She loves me, so she does the same thing over and over again just like I read the same book over and over again to my beloved little girl. My depression makes me a toddler.
- Obsess much? – I’m actually not ashamed to admit that I get a little obsessed when I discover something I like. I’m not ashamed to admit that I eschew sleep because I’m trying to win a Star Wars Black Series 6” Stormtrooper on Ebay. I’m not ashamed to admit that I spend hours each day trying to figure out trades in my fantasy baseball league. My arms and legs tighten. I get little hot flashes. I check my email every few minutes to see if that Stormtrooper’s been shipped. If I see something I want, I have to have it – now! It’s all I think about. I’m consumed. I’m obsessed. I’m exactly like a toddler! Sienna’s obsessed with having orange juice at night. She threw a 30-minute tantrum because we tried to give her water once. 30 MINUTES! She’s obsessed with putting little things in little boxes and then taping the boxes up. She can’t wait for you to finish cleaning the cat litter. The box needs tape!! We have little boxes all over our apartment filled with coins and little plastic toys and pieces of paper. But that’s Sienna. If she sees a little box, it must be filled and it must be taped shut in order to feed her obsession. Ok, maybe I’m a bit ashamed.
- I’m a Professional Procrastinator – I’ll do those dishes later. Oops…I dropped a book. Eh, I’ll pick it up later. I need to write a blog about the 6 ways I’m exactly like a toddler? I’ll do it tomorrow or in three weeks. All parents of toddlers know how much they love to procrastinate. Cleaning up toys should be done in 5 minutes, but instead it takes 40 because Sienna needs to “rest” or she’s suddenly attracted to a shiny object she found on the floor, one that must be played with and then sealed up in a box covered in tape instead of picking up the Magnatiles like her Daddy asked her to over an hour ago! She can’t go to sleep yet. She needs to pee even though she just went. Now she needs to poop. Now she needs more orange juice (NOT WATER!). Now she needs to know why there’s a white spot on her fingernail. Now she needs to tell us that we live on planet Earth. Toddlers are infamous for making up any excuse not to go to bed or to clean up their toys or to get dressed to go outside. Just like I make up any excuse not to do the laundry or go grocery shopping (we still have peanut butter and jelly!). Is procrastination in Sienna’s genes or will she one day confront me and say, “You, Daddy! I learned it from watching you!” Maybe I should go do that laundry now.
I honestly had no idea just how much I act like a toddler sometimes, but when we had Sienna, it allowed my wife to see the similarities and to, well, kind of give me the business. Toddlers can’t control themselves, but 42-yr-olds can. Yes I battle depression, but I can fight harder. I can take a step back and think about my behavior. I can put someone else’s needs first. I can do those dishes. I can put my phone and money away and stop trying to buy every single Star Wars Black Series figure. I can take a deep breath, count to 10 and redo the toy that I assembled backwards. I can keep trying to help myself no matter how long it takes. I can let the blood drain from my red-hot face, look at the Ikea instruction booklet and realize I’m using the wrong tool. I will no longer be a 42-year-old toddler because lord help me, I’ll chew and eat that mushroom to get my daughter to expand her palate. Though I have to stay away from yogurt. It’s rotten milk, you know!
*Flickr Photo by Mindaugas Danys, used under Creative Commons license.
Lorne Jaffe is a stay-at-home dad who resides in the New York City area. He battles depression and anxiety while being the primary caregiver to his 4-year-old daughter, Sienna. He loves film, baseball, Star Wars, Breaking Bad, toys, books and deconstructing all forms of media. Lorne loves traveling with his wife Elaine and exploring national parks.