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We’ve all heard toddlers described as jerks, and they sure do act like it sometimes. OK, maybe they act like it most of the time. But calling them jerks isn’t quite fair; not just because they’re our precious offspring, but because considering the circumstances, they’re handling toddlerhood as well as should be expected.

I know it seems like their lives are cushy and privileged. I mean, how often have you been sweating and huffing while pushing around a heavy stroller and thinking “Dang, I wish someone would carry ME around and feed me fruit snacks all day.”  But toddlers seriously have it rough.

They may not always be able to show it, and we may not always be able to see it, but these little guys have big personalities. And they are there from the beginning. Like, BEFORE birth. My youngest son is by far the busiest of all my five kids and I knew it way back when I was pregnant with him. He would turn somersaults in the womb and regularly did what I called “The Jackhammer,” violently shaking my belly. None of my other unborn babies were that active and even then I just knew it was foreshadowing things to come. And oh boy, was it.

With these very distinct, innate, full-blown personalities come staunch opinions and finicky preferences. But because they still have tiny bodies, limited motor skills and immature brain functioning they have little to no capabilities, choices, or freedoms.

It must be a living hell. No wonder they act like jerks.

But here’s why they’re not really jerks, just adult personalities trapped in tiny bodies.

1-They’re not verbal enough to explain why they do what they do.

They aren’t able to announce, “I would now like to run naked throughout the house. It’s much more comfortable and natural to be without clothing and running around is infinitely preferable to sitting in a slippery tub and getting repeatedly doused in the face with lukewarm water.”

Since they can’t articulate that, they simply book it for bathroom door the second we get their clothes off for bath time.

2-They are too uncoordinated to get where they want to go.

It’s no picnic having a head that’s disproportionately large for your body. Nor is falling and tripping and getting bumped and bruised every single time you get on your feet to go somewhere. My youngest son has a huge head (95th percentile, huge) that seems to be continually fighting a losing battle with gravity. He bumps it so often that I’m convinced he must have a perpetual headache.

3-They are too small to get what they want.

They can’t say, “Excuse me, but I would prefer the yellow cup to the purple one, would you mind accommodating this small whim of mine? I only have so many joys in life and the yellow cup is one of them. I’d get it myself but you inconveniently placed it on the top shelf and while I am able to climb on top of the table when no one is looking, I’m not yet able to reach quite that high. I’m sure you understand.” Unable to meet their own needs and unable to verbalize them, they resort to screaming their little heads off because #1 that’s all they can think of to do and #2 they’ve been conditioned by months if not years of screaming for what they want, that it’s the way to get us hustling over to that yellow cup the fastest.

4-Their caretakers are hypocrites.

We are shocked when our kid grabs a toy away from another kid. But we do this to them all the time. When my one-year-old ingeniously figured out how to unscrew the lid on my lip-gloss I unceremoniously snatched it away from him without a single word before he could eat any more of it. And then I’m surprised when he yanks a toy right out of another kid’s hand.

5-They have no freedom whatsoever.

Every time a toddler makes it up on a table or out into the street, they’re picked up, yelled at and carried off, and there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it. Except scream, hit, flail, or bite. Hey, they’ll take whatever control they can get.

6-They’re not rational enough to work through their problems before completely melting down.

Unfortunately they can’t tell us, “Pardon me, but I’ve been strapped into that five-point harness before and it was uncomfortable, to say the least. I would much prefer running around outside barefoot.” No, they shriek and arch their backs the moment they see that carseat and as we elbow them in and restrain them with buckles they have no recourse but to pee themselves and screech loudly for the duration of the car ride. Quite honestly, they handle it better than I would if I were in that situation. I lose all semblance of humanity the moment I see brake lights on the freeway, I can’t imagine being harnessed in so I can’t move and being trapped there indefinitely.

You gotta hand it to toddlers, we wouldn’t do half as well if we were stuck in their tiny Velcro shoes. So the next time you’re in a restaurant and your toddler is screaming bloody murder, try to imagine how the kid feels being corralled in a booth when he’s starving and told to wait when everyone else in the room already has their food. Just be grateful he’s still small enough to pick up and carry out of there when he starts throwing crayons at the people behind you. And don’t worry, someday he’ll actually be eloquent enough to roll his eyes and elucidate all the ways that particular restaurant is the stupidest one ever.

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Crystal Hill

I've been a mom by profession for the past 17 years. My qualifications are: raising 5 kids and having a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development from BYU (yes, that's a real degree). I'm particularly experienced in the areas of carpooling and diaper changing. My hobbies include watching crime dramas and absurd comedies when I have the time, reading when I have the attention span, and running when I'm not too fat. I'm also really good at oversharing and cracking myself up, usually at the same time.

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