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Nap time is sacred, and other truths of the toddler years
After a big sibling gap, I'd all but forgotten the up and downs of spending a day alone with a toddler. - photo by Erin Stewart
My older daughters headed back to school last week, which meant I was finally going to have some quiet, alone time with my toddler son. Just me and him. Reading books. Singing songs. Bonding during park picnics. Probably wearing matching outfits while frolicking through meadows, as one does.

Halfway through our first morning together, we shared an uncomfortable 10 minutes wherein we just stared at each other. I looked at my watch. He looked around for his sisters, and then at me with an expression that clearly said, Youre up, Mom. This better be good.

My son came to our family on the tail-end of a six-year gap to the next sibling. So its been a while since Ive entertained a toddler. Id all but forgotten what its like to spend my days chasing after a pint-sized acrobat who thinks everything in the house is a climbing apparatus and everything on the floor is his personal feast. Seriously, how can a toddler not focus on anything, ever, but can laser-focus on a bead stuck in shag carpet until he claws it out and eats it?

Most of all, I had forgotten the toys. Oh, the toys. The inane songs in cheery voices that blare from every molded plastic atrocity in our home. If you see me humming to myself in public, chances are high that Im singing The Cookie Jar Song, which is a soul-killing song on loop from this one shape-sorting toy that goes Shapes are in my cookie jar. Triangle! Heart and star!

Im convinced that somewhere, there is some underground research lab where diabolical scientists come up with new ways to make these songs and toys both mind-numbing and addictive at the same time. I woke up from one of these trances recently to find my son had fallen asleep on the floor next to me while I repeatedly put a small ball through a hole and watched it drop down the tube.

It was a proud mommy moment for sure.

Here are some of the other toddler truths that have come zooming back to me this month:

1. A granola bar can destroy an entire house.

2. There is no point in cleaning until the kids are all 18.

3. I will cut you if you ring the doorbell during nap time. Just kidding. I wont hurt you. But I will make you baby-sit. You woke him. You watch him.

4. If you see me acting like a lunatic at a stoplight, its because Im trying to keep my baby awake. Because if he so much as shuts his eyes for two minutes, the whole nap time is blown. And mommy needs nap time.

5. When toddlers see a baby gate, they think Challenge accepted.

But for all the crazy that comes with toddlers, Im also remembering the joy. There is nothing sweeter than a quiet, mommy-child moment with a just-walking baby. Or in a high chair covered in peaches. Or in a baby swing laughing in the wind or dancing in the kitchen.

And somehow, in those one-on-one moments, all the inexplicable granola bar smears, the toy-covered carpet and the constant climbing dont seem so bad. Because I know these toddler days will pass all too swiftly, and when they do, my mind will hold on to one simple thing:

"The Cookie Jar Song."
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