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The Trouble With Toddlers (And Us)

The Trouble With Toddlers (And Us)

It’s been a few years since we had a toddler in the house. She was very mellow as an infant — she slept through a welder fixing our air conditioner in the same room. She never complained when placed in her pack’n play — she’d just recline with her hands behind her head and serenely watch me prepare dinner.

At her one-year checkup, the pediatrician asked how she acted when we told her “no.” We didn’t know. We hadn’t had to say it.

Then, she turned two.

In just this past hour, I took away the scissors she was trying to eat, stopped her from diving head-first off of a sofa and searched for the five very specific blankets she wanted for bedtime. She rises at 2 a.m. wanting to hang out, and she waves us away at 7:00 a.m. when we try to wake her up. 

This is the third toddler we’ve parented, and we agree that the most exasperating part of the experience is that their confidence far outweighs their competency. As the adult, I know that making sandcastles with ant hills and headfirst dives onto hardwood floors are not in her best interest, yet I am the one treated with skepticism and even hostility when I try to intervene and save her from herself. Just this evening the toddler fled to me, distraught. I thought her brothers had scared her. They had simply told her she could not eat their crayons.

The antics of a toddler are so cute but so exhausting. One day they’ll thank us, I'm sure, for keeping them safe, but for now our efforts are unwanted and unappreciated.

If I’m perfectly honest, my relationship to God frequently resembles my toddler’s behavior. I can tantrum when I don’t receive what I ask for, or wonder why I’m left hurting when I do the spiritual equivalent of diving headfirst off a sofa onto a hardwood floor — like when I go extended periods of time without prayer or Scripture, or if 

I spend months away from Confession or adoration.

It can be very challenging to incorporate sacraments or faith formation into a busy family schedule. The older our kiddos get, the more activities and interests demand our attention.

With all the confidence that my 2 year old displays attempting to eat sand for breakfast, I can quickly find myself plowing through my day hoping that some of the most important parts of life — prayer, sacraments and the overall awareness of the presence of God — will magically show up in eight hours of work followed by an afternoon of extracurriculars and homework.

I’m imagining that — in these moments when I’ve tried to rely completely on myself — God sees me the same way I see my toddler when she throws a tantrum that she can’t wear two shoes on one foot — she’s tried easily six times this week, and each time she glares at me like it’s my fault. 

John 15:5 gives the powerful image that Christ is the vine, and we are the branches. He reminds us that whoever remains in him “will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” We can check off our lists or sync up calendars, but it’s remaining in the Father through regular prayer that will bear eternal fruit in our lives.

We won’t always get this perfect, but unlike my earthly parenting, our Heavenly Father never loses patience with us.


Alison Blanchet lives in Panama City with her husband and three children. She works as a therapist for children and teens. Email her at alisondblanchet@gmail.com.