The Unexpected Benefits of Raising a Toddler

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Raising toddlers is hard work, you guys. Really, really hard. They are demanding, loud, clumsy, and inarticulate. Some days, living with a toddler can feel almost like you’ve been taken hostage by a tiny dictator. Other days, they can be the sweetest, most endearing creatures on Earth, opening our eyes to magical moments that tend to get lost in the everyday hustle of adulting.

That’s the thing about kids between the ages of 12 and 36 months. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Much like everything else that takes a lot of time and patience, once you get through toddlerhood, the brighter, happier preschool years are crazy rewarding. That’s right — they are crazy and rewarding. Luckily, there are some unexpected benefits that people don’t often recognize about the toddler years, (mainly because they are too busy trying to survive them). So if you’re feeling a tad uneasy as your child becomes dangerously close to 12 months old, let me reassure you now of the benefits.

They can turn anything into an adventure.

Little boy playing with a pile of Cottonelle toilet paper in a bathroom
Image Source: Babble/Lily Glass Photography

Children seem to be born with an innate sense of creativity. Every simple item has the potential to be something more. Those rolls of toilet paper? Well, those are just begging to be unraveled around and around (and around) your little one’s body. And the cardboard rolls left over? Well, those actually make for some pretty great binoculars.

Suddenly your child is a pirate mummy, off to discover new and distant lands and you? Well, you get to go along for the ride (and worry about that mess later).

They keep you grounded.

Child drawing with purple and red markers on a white refrigerator
Image Source: Babble/Lily Glass Photography

The first big purchase that my husband and I made together was a deluxe stainless-steel refrigerator. It was a beautiful, expensive beast. I took great pride in wiping off the fingerprints and putting my obsessive-compulsive tendencies to work shining it up on the regular.

Needless to say, you can probably imagine my level of panic when I caught my son doodling on it in that special way that only toddlers do. As I was online looking up “how to remove permanent marker from stainless steel,” I was reminded that while having nice things is nice, it’s really not that important. (It’s good that I had this realization when I did, because our couch was ruined the following week.)

They keep you fit.

Yeah, yeah, yeah … our bodies are never the same after childbirth. But guess what? Once children start walking, they quickly learn to run. And once they learn to run, they begin to assert their dominance by doing things like taking off their dirty diaper and running through the house waving it in the air like a banner.

Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve chased a toddler up a flight of carpeted stairs, dodging chunks of excrement along the way. It certainly gets the heart rate up.

Tolerance level: EXPERT.

Toddler boy crying and covering his face in the back of a car.
Image Source: Babble/Lily Glass Photography

You know how in movies, when a person wants to get into a secret crime-fighting organization, they have to successfully pass a series of extremely stressful tests in order to prove themselves worthy? It always seems like the person is just about to die (maybe they’re locked in a tank that is quickly filling with water or trying to hack into a computer system before a bomb goes off) when they finally manage to break free.

Well, that is exactly what it’s like to be in stuck traffic with an unhappy, screaming toddler.

Toddlers teach us how to not sweat the small stuff.

I clean the kitchen; my kids crush cereal into smithereens and scatter the dust across the floor. I wash the table; my kids spill juice all over it. I mop, someone plays in muddy puddles. Parenthood is just a nonstop cycle of cleaning up messes, and honestly, I used to really resent it.

But the truth is, all of that cleaning taught me that none of it is really important. It took getting beat down all the way to the mysteriously sticky ground for me to realize that keeping a clean and tidy house that toddlers live in is an impossible and unhappy task. My kids have taught me (unintentionally of course) to let most things go for the sake of my own sanity.

Toddlers help you maintain skills you didn’t know you had.

Toddler boy in Pull-Ups putting a toy in a toilet
Image Source: Babble/Lily Glass Photography

I used to be clueless about everything involving plumbing or home repair. If it wasn’t something I could address with a plunger, I tapped out of the situation. Over the years, my toddlers — and I’ve raised three — have helped me develop a deep knowledge of home improvement by continuously flushing random objects down the toilet and rinsing things like latex gloves and toilet paper down every single drain in our house. If I had a choice in the matter, I wouldn’t touch our pipes with a 10-foot pole, but when both toilets are clogged, that choice is kind of made for you.

The silver lining? We save a lot of money on plumbing repairs by fixing things ourselves.

Parenthood is full of surprises, folks.

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