Super Toddler takes an art class on Mondays. She gets me all to herself, sits next to her bestie, Phenomenal Toddler, and has free access to as many goggle-eyes as she wants. It's basically heaven and she behaves like an angel while there. It's a blissful 45 minutes that I should just enjoy, but being me, I think I will cast about for reasons to stress and over-think. It's more awkward that way.
Our class is an absolute cross-section of Ann Arbor parenting. There are 12 parental figures, and they are, in no particular order: Me. Phenomenal Toddler's wonderful nanny. 2 grandmothers (1 totally bored and 1 slightly too excited). The working mom on her lunch break who never lets her iPhone out of her hand. The working mom who takes Mondays off and left her phone in the car. The ultra crunchy mom with a recycling symbol tattooed on her upper arm, a baby wrapped to her, and constant news about her organic garden. The sorta crunchy mom who likes to work her cloth diapering into every conversation she has with Ultra Crunchy Mom. 2 Perfect Moms; 1 of the tall and intimidating variety, who mentions how dusty the room is at least once a session, and 1 slightly shorter one who just dresses really well and has the most well-behaved toddler on the planet. The hippie grandfather with a ponytail who misses every other art class and always wears a t-shirt from some obscure folk band. And a fairly normal mom who never sits near enough for me to get a read on her; she may be an alien. No one is that nondescript.
We are wildly different and yet 2 things unite us. 1) Our guardianship of 12 adorable, spectacular, and earth-changing people. 2) Our near compulsive desire to force those little wonders to be exactly like us.
We can't help it. We poke at their projects, shifting things slightly more to the center. Urge them to not put green next to purple. Try to cut the tissue paper for them. We tell ourselves that we want to help, but really, we want to control.
And they can't help it. They shift their projects out of our reach. They gleefully mix brown with yellow. They rip anything they can get their hands on. They just want to be themselves, but really, they totally want to rebel.
What to know how I know this? Well, watch Ultra Crunchy Toddler. Despite his mother's pleas that he "express himself" and "put stickers on the baby if you feel so moved," he is sedately cutting paper into the perfect little suit for his gingerbread-man figure and paying rapt attention to the teacher's instructions. Got that? OK. Now watch Perfect Toddler putting the glue in his hair while his mother practices her yoga breathing to keep from yelling.
It's the circle of life, Readers. We all want to be ourselves. We all want to try new things. And sometimes we all want to annoy our parents just because. Nothing like a little danger to truly feel alive.
And when we land on the other side of this see-saw, we still want to be ourselves. The ourselves that we spend so much time with and so understand. It is natural to want to pass on this knowledge to those little impressionable babies in our care. And they let us...for a time. Toddlerhood is our first real taste that these babies are no longer babies and not remotely interested in being exactly like us. (Unless you got really lucky and got a rebellious baby; you already know all of this.) Sure, they'll take some of it. Hopefully, the really good stuff; some money skills, a singing talent, the good sense not to play beer pong at the frat house. But they are gonna shed some stuff too; stuff you thought they might want. Stuff you picked out just for them, with the best intentions and utter love. It will hurt to see your shiny gifts thrown on the floor like so much unwanted glitter and sticker backing. It will hurt but it's important. It's important because the journey of raising children is the long hard journey of letting them go. And you need to start now. I know, that's crazy! They are only 2. But believe me, this is not a ripping off the bandaid or jumping in the deep end of the pool situation. You do not want to be the mom completely losing it on that college campus 16 years from now. Don't make anyone call security to escort you off the premises because that is gonna be one uncomfortable first Thanksgiving home and the holidays are hard enough. Don't be that mom.
Basically, treat toddlerhood for what it is; your training wheels for adolescence. And you are so gonna need that yoga breathing. Start letting them go today. Don't be silly and try to make them walk home alone or something. They are only 2! But maybe let them pick their own construction paper color. Let them hold the glue stick. If their gingerbread-man figure is 18 colors, has yarn tentacles, and is really an alien from the planet Zeep, well, so be it. Make your own gingerbread-man figure if you want it your way, that one isn't yours. She never was.
I'm pretty good at letting Super Toddler do her own art thing.
Probably because I am so busy spying on everyone else!
I have reconsidered. I think Art Carney would win, hands-down, in a battle with Awkward Mom. "Ya know what I mean?"