You think your day was hard? Try NOT laughing at some of the shit a toddler says. This be-the-responsible-adult-and-don’t-laugh thing is really difficult. Especially when you are chronically sleep-deprived because things are always funnier when you are tired. The problem with laughing at something your toddler does is that it encourages them to do it again. This is not a secret to toddler parenting, but a fact of human nature: It’s fun being funny. And toddlers are often funniest when their innocent curiosity crosses the line with inappropriateness. They are candid comedians, but, if you're trying to raise conduct-appropriate citizens, you must represent a stone-faced audience. Here are a few instances where it’s been the most difficult and simultaneously most important that I NOT laugh.
1. Toddler is being irrational.
This happens a lot. Take, for instance, when I unwrap a granola bar that’s split in half and Brayden absolutely refuses to eat it because it’s “broken”. Screaming fit ensues because he’s starving. Starving!! And yet, he can’t imagine eating a perfectly good, albeit broken, snack. Or, here's another example: he’s throwing a tantrum because I simply cannot do anything right. I push his seat in too close to the table, then pull it out too far. He wants the yellow cup with blue lid not the red cup with green lid (obviously). He wants his pancakes cut up smaller, but not THAT small (clearly I’m an idiot). And on and on it goes until he ultimately decides he doesn’t want pancakes and eggs at all. Instead he wants the slice of pumpkin bread that I’d offered him at the start of this whole debacle and he’d refused. It’s funny because it’s all so absurd. Is this little person really THIS irrational? Yes. He is. But he's also clearly distraught so laughing would be a cruel response. Look away from that ridiculous but equally adorable pouty face. Leave the room. Give him a hug. Whatever you do, don’t laugh at him.
2. Toddler reacts unfavorably to having to share his mother.
I want my sons to know I love them both. Equally. And that, though they have to share their mommy and daddy, they get a brother out of the bargain. So, I like to use their bouts of jealousy as learning opportunities. I can’t do that, however, if I’m laughing. Picture this: I am making lunch and a cranky/hungry/i-don’t-know-why-I’m-crying Tyler is gripping to my leg like a spider monkey. Meanwhile, his older brother is having a fit of his own across the kitchen. When I ask him what's wrong, he screams, “that’s MYYYYYYYY leg”. In other words, my right leg, the one Tyler is clinging to, actually belongs to Brayden. Maybe it's the chaos of the minute, but his claiming possession over one of my limbs triggers a giggle. I quickly rein it in. “Actually, Brayden, that is my leg. But if you really must borrow a leg of mine to cry on like your brother, you can use my other one. I have two boys I love and I have two legs.” Learning opportunity seized! Christ help me if I have a third child.
3. Toddler discusses his private parts.
Ugh. The innate fascination a boy has with his penis is truly remarkable. My 14-month old can’t find his nose but he can easily say “pee-pee” and locate what he obviously identifies as a more important body part. I’ve read enough about this to know that it is normal. For the sake of preserving what is a natural and healthy curiosity, it’s best not to scorn their behavior. But you don’t want them running around in public yelling “Look, mommy! There’s a ball in my penis” either. So you just have to develop some matter-of-fact responses. “Yes. I see that.” and “No. You shouldn’t play with them in public”. Or, you might need to practice non-reaction. This is probably a more difficult alternative because when I hear my two-year-old say “Look, mommy! My penis is getting bigger” it’s really hard not to cringe.
4. Toddler uses the potty in a public place.
There’s a lot of descriptive dialogue that my little guy uses on the toilet. When we are in the privacy of our own home, I am generally unfazed by the exclamatory remarks about the bubbles in his pee or the size, smell, and consistency of his “poopies”. It’s when he’s pooping in public restrooms, something he’s actually quite keen on doing, where my maturity is really put to the test. It’s hard not to laugh knowing there are strangers listening to the whole thing… his grunting, followed closely by a, “That was a BIIIIGGGG splash, mommy!” I can’t fault the kid for anything more than stating a fact. I mean, it WAS a big splash. Should something so big come out of someone so small? I make a mental note to google that later. “That was a stinky poopy, mommy.” Another truth. That woman waiting for the bathroom picked a really bad time for a pee break. I really don’t want to encourage potty-talk so I swallow the yes-this-is-the-story-of-my-life-now laugh that’s stuck in my throat. And it’s not easy because I’m also trying not to breathe.
5. Toddler premeditates assaulting his younger brother with a vegetable.
You always know when Brayden is up to no good. Just ask, and he will tell you. The other day, I spotted him walking towards the kitchen with a large cucumber in hand. Why he had a cucumber at all, let alone outside of the kitchen is irrelevant, but I'm guessing it has something to do with Tyler helping me "unpack" groceries earlier in the afternoon. The part that really got me was his very matter-of-fact response when I asked him what he was up to. "I'm going to hit Tyler in the head with a cucumber". What did you just say? “I’m going to hit Tyler in the head with a cucumber.” Oh. Ok. Just wanted to make sure I heard you correctly.
Don’t laugh, Sarah, don’t laugh.