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12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had a Toddler

When your baby moves from infancy to toddler-hood it can often come as quite a shock. The first time that sweet, little innocent babe, who relied on you for every aspect of their life, says, “NO!” to you, it can feel a little like getting punched right in the stomach.

And then there’s the myth we somehow believe that maybe our child will be different.  When my daughter was little I thought of all the things I would “teach” her and do with her once she talked and walked. I kind of idealized toddler-hood by thinking that I would be “prepared” and intentional about teaching her the things she would need to be a happy, well-adjusted, and of course well-behaved, little person.

But, what I didn’t realize is that as a parent, no matter how much information you have or how much you know, you are still going to feel overwhelmed and unsure, and lack confidence, direction, and words to share with this little person that has been entrusted to your care.

And now I am on my second toddler, and I still have moments every day when I wonder what the heck I am doing, and I wish someone would have told me about these things before I became the mother of a toddler.


  • Just because your toddler can sleep in their own bed, doesn’t mean they will. 1 of 12
    Just because your toddler can sleep in their own bed, doesn't mean they will.
    Every night when I go to bed I wonder which of my children is going to climb into my bed and at what time. They can sleep through the night on their own, but that doesn't mean that they always do.
  • All kids throw fits at the worst times. 2 of 12
    All kids throw fits at the worst times.
    All kids freak out, often at the worst time, or in the worst places. And yes, you will get looks from people who don't understand. But if you pay close attention, you will also get smiles of understanding from those who have been there, done that.
  • Your child that was the best eater ever, won’t necessarily stay that way. 3 of 12
    Your child that was the best eater ever, won't necessarily stay that way.
    My daughter is very fond of saying, "I don't care for this food, mom." She didn't used to think that. She used to love that food. Luckily my son is an awesome eater, but kids are picky. Mine are independent and stubborn too. At some point they need to eat, and they will.
  • You are not going to be able to get more stuff done just because your child can entertain himself. 4 of 12
    You are not going to be able to get more stuff done just because your child can entertain himself.
    I often make schedules and plans for my days. But it doesn't mean that things really work out that way. If anything, when I really need my kids to play with the train set, or sit and draw a picture, they seem to sense that I am trying to be productive and pretend like it is opposite day.
  • Discipline is super hard. 5 of 12
    Discipline is super hard.
    I have tried so many of the tips and tricks out there about discipline. But I now realize that I have two very spirited children and the discipline that worked last month, or even yesterday, may not work today. This stuff is so hard, but also so important, so I am learning not to give up.
  • Pictures are harder to take now, even though your kid knows how to smile on command. 6 of 12
    Pictures are harder to take now, even though your kid knows how to smile on command.
    My approach is to just press the button as many times as I can and hope to get at least one good picture. Thank God for digital cameras, right! What did parents used to do? Oh yeah, they just made do with less than ideal pictures, as seen on many a wedding slide show.
  • Toddlers ask really hard questions. 7 of 12
    Toddlers ask really hard questions.
    A few days after my daughter started preschool she came home and wanted to have a serious conversation about death, and wanted to know if she would die if she fell really hard. Definitely not something I expected or was really prepared to talk with her about, but I'm learning that having those important conversations is more important than having all the right answers.
  • Keeping up with the Jones’ doesn’t work in life, or in raising kids. 8 of 12
    Keeping up with the Jones' doesn't work in life, or in raising kids.
    We mothers are great at comparing ourselves to one another and thinking of all the ways we don't measure up. But the reality is that the mom you think has it all together probably thinks the same thing about someone else. And your kids don't need you to be supermom, they just need you to be you.
  • No one loves your kid as much as you do, so don’t let others’ comments or reactions impact you. 9 of 12
    No one loves your kid as much as you do, so don't let others' comments or reactions impact you.
    Sometimes being a parent takes really thick skin and patience with other people, besides just your kids. Most people have good intentions, but they don't know your kids, your family, and your situation. So, be the best parent you can be for your kid and try to let the comments roll off your back.
  • Good parenting requires time away from your kids to feed your own soul. 10 of 12
    Good parenting requires time away from your kids to feed your own soul.
    My kids need time away from me and I need time away from them. It's important for us all and makes the home a happier place. When I get away I almost always come back feeling better than when I left. Get out and have fun too, whether alone or with friends, you need it and deserve it.
  • Moments of obedience can often be followed by rebellion and disobedience — one right after the other. 11 of 12
    Moments of obedience can often be followed by rebellion and disobedience — one right after the other.
    They are sweet angels one minute and rebellious little creatures the next, that's just the way it works sometimes. Make a point to cherish, and praise, the good behavior, and remember that every tantrum or outburst or sassy response is not a step back, but a chance to keep moving forward.
  • This too shall pass. 12 of 12
    This too shall pass.
    These difficult toddler years will soon give way to dating, cell phones, soccer games, and college. The older my kids get the more I think it is going by too fast. So if I can't press pause, or rewind, I might as well try and keep the hard stuff in perspective and cherish the little things I know I will miss.

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

How about you?  Are there things you are learning as a parent of a toddler that you wish you would have known ahead of time?

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