Discovering Toddler Poetry

My son confessed to using ‘Toddler’ as an epitaph.

“You…you…you…you, toddler you!!!” I imagine him yelling.

Well, actually I imagine him commenting dryly…Abel

“Hmmmp…that was a bit…toddler…of you.”

This would be accompanied with a slightly raised eyebrow, and a pinch of superiority.


My own memories of toddlers are sleep-deprived and blurry. I remember long stretches of tedium, punctuated by moments of sheer terror and intense joy.

Now, thirty years later, toddlers are still toddlers.

They are terrifying. My grandson learned to open doors early. And he is vigilant. He has escaped from the church nursery, and his own house. On a trip to visit the mid-west relatives, he walked out an apartment door, and took an elevator to down one flight. The toddler likes elevators.

“It was the longest 5 minutes of my life.” My son reported.

They are emotionally draining.

Just a few months ago, my toddler’s default answer to whatever was asked was a cheerful and enthusiastic “Yeh!”

But upon turning two, he found his inner congressman. His default answer is a suspicious look and an empathic “No.”

“Let’s go to playgroup!” I propose excitedly.

“No.” he shakes his head.

“You can play in the bouncy house! Let’s get your coat and boots on!” I try to smile widely.

“No.” He sits down and picks up a puzzle.

Since I have assigned myself the role of sweet, indulgent grandmother, my default response is continuous negotiation.

“Well,” I try to explain the state of the house to my husband, “I got him to change his diaper by offering to let him take a bath. I got him out of the bath by letting him use the vacuum. I got him to stop using the vacuum by offering to let him go into the room that grows toys. I got him to leave the room that grows toys by letting him help me make a salad…really…” I added “I’ll sweep up the lettuce, the water, the Kleenex…the towels…as soon as I finish shaking…”

“But, I only left you alone with him for half an hour…”

“Toddlers!” I curse.

“Umm lov…” my husband comments… “I don’t have any of these problems…”

“I’m not talking to you. I’m writing.” I glare.

“You survived your own toddlers.” he observes quietly.

“You forgot to add the word ‘barely'” I observe right back at him. “And…” I admit grudgingly. “I was younger.”

“So why do you keep volunteering to babysit?” he asks with typical infuriating male logic.

I don’t answer. I’m remembering.

My first child didn’t say a word until he was a year and a half. But, when he was two, he spoke in complex sentences. It was like an explosion. I was fascinated, excited and proud.

Athletes understand the connection between pain and elation. And So do parents and grandparents. Toddlers say no. They are bossy. They break into sudden desperate tears. They take half an hour to do a 30 second task.


While I am standing in the kitchen, making my grandson a toasted cheese sandwich, he suddenly says.


I look at him.

“It’s a violin sound.” he explains.

I can see him thinking a bit more.

“But it’s just me.” he adds. “It’s in my mouth.”

I blink.

It’s toddler poetry. And it makes it all worthwhile.

1 comment to Discovering Toddler Poetry

  • our son, aged 2 plus refused to be potty trained. then one day, he locked himself in the bathroom and did his business.. BUT!! he could not open the door, and the only window was 20 feet above the ground. luckily, I worked for a construction company who brought a guy with a ladder, guy climbed in and opened the door. But he never had another accident!!

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