Accidental Decapitation and Other Profound Toddler Insights

It was nearly time to leave. Five more minutes, and I was trying to sneak in a few more dishes, clear a few breakfast plates, and speed blow dry my hair for work. Five minutes.

I asked D2 to put on her shoes. I asked her to pick up the toys on the living room floor. I asked her to finish her breakfast. I asked her to brush her hair.

She could not. She was unavailable because the only thing she could do was find Christmas ornament Princess Anna, so that it could accompany small, plastic Queen Elsa, who needed someone similarly sized with whom to play.

I knew where Anna was. I’d seen her in a toy bin earlier that week. We needed to GO. I spent two of the five minutes explaining why we did not have time because WE ONLY HAD FIVE MINUTES, then finally caved when I realized she cared more about finding Anna than I did about my plans at work. I found Anna. Just because toddlers are small and have different values doesn’t mean they are ridiculous, right?

Wrong. They are ridiculous.


I started to go upstairs for the speed hair styling–nope. Called back down to remove a tag that was stuck to Princess Anna, obviously making her impossible to play with. Maybe even impossible to touch, given the freak-out crying that was going on. [Why are we playing with a Christmas ornament in April? Why did it still have the tag on it? Why does Disney even make clay Christmas ornaments in characters that are only going to appeal to small children? What diabolical person first invented glitter?!  I do not know.] But nothing could go on until there was no tag.

As I removed the tag, I took the chance to remind D2 about how this was *not* a plastic Anna.

Magiclip dolls are the perfect solution to toddler dexterity. Sadly, this is not their story.
Magiclip dolls are the perfect solution to toddler dexterity. Sadly, this is not their story.

This was no magiclip. This was BREAKABLE ANNA, and she COULD NOT drop it because it would break. She had to be sooooooo careful. (I knew this was true. Because Anna used to be one of a set; may Christmas ornament Elsa rest in peace.]

As I handed Anna over, tag-free, I asked

“Can you please be so careful? And make sure not to drop her?”

” I will be sooooooooo sooooooo careful.  I will not–” [drops Anna.] “Oh! It is ok, she is okay!  She did not break.”

“Ok. She did not break, but you dropped her right on the rug. If you drop her on the hard floor, she will break.”

Whatever. We both knew. I knew it was Anna’s last day. Anna knew it was her last day. Nothing could stop fate.

What D2 knew, though, was something else entirely: her mom was over-dramatic and clearly dropping the figurine was NBD. Parents.

Moments–seriously MOMENTS later–D2 quietly approached me in the bathroom where I was blow drying my hair any way, even though we were late. Clenched in her right hand, Anna’s body,decapitated anna coated lightly in glitter. In her left, Anna’s severed head, still primed with a white string to hang from the Christmas tree. Decapitated within 2 minutes.

As D2 told me that she was sooooooooo sorry (which is the same as being sooooooo careful, I’ve found, in terms of shaping children’s future behavior), I thought about how children were so hard sometimes because no matter how many times you said something or how seemingly simple the task–‘hold this one small thing that you wanted in your closed hand until we get to the car’–it never worked.  And there was breaking and crying and lateness.

I left decapitated Anna on the bathroom counter–Toddlers, ye be warned!–and we left for school with only plastic Elsa, sad and alone once more.


Throughout the day, though, I realized that as rough as parenting toddlers can be, I am pretty flake-y myself. My follow-through, pretty toddler-like, in fact. The work project that I hadn’t sent out specifics for on which other people were waiting. The appointments I needed to call and set up, the chores I needed to do, the errands I needed to run, the more chores I needed to do. The puppy I decided I wanted yesterday, only to realize that . . we can’t have a puppy, so I had to back out and disappoint people, including myself. Today, even, the hour I should have spent prepping dinner and straightening the living room that I instead spent watching Disney Toy Collector and sneaking chocolate chips out of the pantry. Flakey.


I guess the world is too big and the tasks too many, and we are only really able to focus on the handful of certain things that really matter. And the trick is figuring out what those are and doing them well, rather than scrambling to hold all of them.

When I picked D2 up from school, she was running through the playground with a pack of friends. When she saw me, she ran straight over and, with a huge hug, presented me with “the longest piece of grass ever!” She had found it herself almost an hour ago and had been clutching it for me the whole time so that it wouldn’t get lost.

I added the precious grass to my nature jar, which is full of sticks and pine cones, grass and dry flowers that my girls have given more over the years. There was once a period spanning almost two-months when toddler-aged Ella saved me a handful of grass every day (similarly clutched for hours) so that I could share the best part of her day.

We don’t have a whole Christmas ornament Anna anymore. And I did a pretty mediocre job cleaning and planning my work project. But I have the longest blade of grass ever in my nature jar, which seems like evidence of us holding on to the right things.

My beloved nature jar, with its new blade of grass.
My beloved nature jar, with its new blade of grass.

Hijacking my Soundtrack

Ever since I can remember, I wake up with a song in my head. Sometimes it is a song I heard the evening before. I imagine that it must have been swirling all night through my dreams, waiting for me to wake up and hum along again.

Or the pop song of the moment, which usually is by Taylor Swift or Maroon 5, whether I like it or not. (I like it.) The mind, after all, is a sponge; mine soaks up the most frequently presented pop wisdom of the day–See proof of Taylor’s wisdom–and stores it to be called upon in a time of need.

Every once in a while, the song in my head is something older. Something from my past that I haven’t heard any time recently that I can recall. These songs always seem special, like they were buried deep in my memory and fate surfaced them for some reason it knew before I did. Songs that would be the soundtrack I needed to guide me through that day.

My mantra has long been shaped by my internal, magically selected score.

UNTIL MY CHILDREN HIJACKED MY SOUNDTRACK.

At first, it seemed natural that sometimes the alarm would go off and my first conscious thought of the day was “Rise like the break of dawn! Let it go, let it g….” I mean, I had listened to it the day before (and before and before and before) and it was everywhere, so it was bound to sneak in sometimes. I embraced it. I would belt “Let It Go” out in the car and I didn’t always stop it immediately after daycare drop off. I kinda liked it.

But then the variety stopped. It was Frozen every day. Mostly “Let It Go” in my head all the time. I found myself singing it in the elevator. I whisper hummed it in the hallway at work. I tapped it out absent-mindedly at my desk. Sometimes–don’t tell anyone this–when I was sure I was completely alone in my office hallway, I pretended to be Elsa raising up an ice palace out of nothing to a grand swelling of the orchestra. Acted. it. out.

elsa ice palace stomp

I started wondering if I should talk to other people. I wondered if it was fair to keep showing up for my adult brain–oriented* job. I wondered if I wasn’t maybe a little bit like the deluded, thinks-she’s-cool mom from Mean Girls.
mean girls cool mom

I couldn’t get it to go away, so I decided we had to drill it out. After some (months of) cajoling, we listened to something else. Sofia the First. I liked it. My Little Pony. Really liked it. Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Meh. It was just nice to have variety again. Sometimes I was signing about puny pirates, sometimes I was the Rainbow Dash-half of the My Little Pony duet on the Best Pet contest. (It’s hilarious, for real.) I had new things to think and sing and hum.

But the pop music and the old music and the songs my mom sang to me when I was little, they didn’t come back. I remember the morning my mind arose with “Choo, Choo, Chugga, Chugga, Big Red Car” from the The Wiggles (if you don’t know it, don’t google it!! Keep your innocence and feel pleased with your life choices.), and I knew we had to make deep changes.

I started asserting my rights to sometimes choose the music for the commute again, listening to grown-up stuff on headphones while I did the dishes, and paying close attention to what they were dropping in the grocery store. Didn’t matter. My soundtrack was for the under-12 set.


I read an article on Common Sense Media that made me think my sub-conscious has made this soundtrack adjustment for parenting reasons. Apparently, it’s a good idea to:

1. Model listening to tame music. Check. My new edgy is the Ursula song from the Little Mermaid, since we had to take out most of the bad-guy arias from the other soundtracks because they were too scary.

2. Ask your kids to play their favorite songs for you. Double check. The challenge for me, frankly, is to ask them not to play their favorite songs for me. They both have figured out how to operate my smart phone’s playlists and my portable speaker, so they play their princess favorites for me all the time.

3. Discuss music messages. Like how someone asks me every time “What is happening in this part of the movie?” “Why is Anna sad?” “Is this about when Merida’s mom turns into a bear?” “Why do they say ‘Kill the beast?” We even talk about the messages in the instrumental numbers. We take our music messaging seriously.


IT WILL ALL BE OKAY

In just the past few weeks, the girls have started to request some pop music on their own. Katy Perry, inexplicably, is a favorite. And instead of feeling excited, like I thought I would, I feel a bit sad. I am the person who wants to listen to My Little Pony and sing the different parts.

My new cartoon-ish mental soundtrack reflects that fact that my whole being switched over to being a mom of awesome, smart, small people; kids who are so cool, I want to like what they like. And I want them to stay little so they they can stay mine.

I am going to see if me singing Disney songs all the time can make that happen. Either it will work, or it will make them think I am crazy, kind of embarrassing, rather out-of-date, and secretly cute in my parenting naivete. I think that is the next step, any way. Taylor Swift would definitely appreciate the wisdom of it.


*That’s right. I used an ‘en dash’ for the compound modifier in my blog post. Boom, grammar aficionados; Frozen didn’t take everything in this brain.

My kids are taking me, literally

My brilliant gymnastics teammate from college, Carolyn, is a real-life actress. And I really love one of her recent comedy sketches about children as the “Literal Police.”  First, check it out:

So, this video hit close to home because I always use hyperbole, and my kids have literally become the Literal Police at our house.

Just a Minute

There is no possible way to parent without saying, “Just a minute!” I feel completely certain and confident about this. I also feel confident that it is completely impossible to remain calm when a small person starts counting to 60 after you tell them to wait a minute. You just have to completely lose it.  It is the only way.

After all, “wait a minute,” is secret, polite-sounding parenting code for, “I have to/want to do something else, you won’t leave me alone, I sort of hate you right now, I wish were by myself.” So, when your adorable, adoring tormentor stands right next to you and counts slowly to 60, well, I am actually so annoyed just remembering times when this happened that I can’t finish writing this sentence.

I blame the whole thing on Frozen. (I feel internet readers nodding their heads in understanding approval. I mean, I’ve heard some children–like my sister–did the ‘count to 60’ thing back in B.F. (the time ‘Before Frozen’), but I can’t remember specifics about the era before Frozen, and suspect it is all just legend). Other parents of Frozen fanatics, do you remember the part of the movie where Anna tells Olaf to wait ‘for a minute’? Then Olaf counts to 60 before barging in? I remember seeing that scene unfold in the theater for the first time like it was yesterday (I think I did see that scene yesterday, like I see Frozen scenes most days. But I remember the emotion of that first time: the foreboding; the horror).

“1, 2, 3 . . .”

“Nooooo. Disney would never teach children . . .”

“59, 60!”

“OH, NO. You. Did. Not.”

Yup, Disney did. Within days, Ella was counting to 60 when I asked her to wait for a minute. I quickly converted to “moment” but it was too late. A whole world of literal-ity had literally been born. And I had paid Disney for it. 

I’ll be right there.
Just one more minute.
We’ll talk about that later.
I am almost ready.

All of a sudden, there was no safe way to talk about time or the future. All was lost. Forever.

But, after a minute of reflection, I see the other side of my kids’ taking me literally: it can be wonderfully hilarious. I love the way their minds work. For example, Ella had her first soccer game earlier this week. She was excited. I was nervous. It was her first game, her first team sport, maybe her first time listening, and I didn’t know how it would go since she doesn’t have . . . an established track record of strong athletic performance or a record of listening to anyone ever.

On the way to the game, I tried to build up her confidence and impart my sports wisdom. Engage with her team. Pay attention to her coach (MI). Run fast. Be aggressive with the ball. Listen to instructions. Be fierce.

Be fierce

The game started and she really got in there, running with the feral pack of other six-year olds arrayed in an electron-like circle around the ball. She was an outer electron, to be sure, but she was responsive and generally moving with the atom, so I was happy.

Max_and his clawsExcept her run. She was running in this wild way, swinging her arms in front of her body, in strange arcs above her head. Her fingers were spread and rigid, scrunched like talon-ed claws. She looked pretty much exactly like Max when he dances with the wild things.

When her (dad) coach finally subbed her out, I whisper-yelled for her to come over and asked her what she was doing with that crazy run. So looked confused and answered that she was just doing it how I told her to.

Uhhhh. . . when did I say, run like Grendel? Zombie manicure barbie? Deranged beekeeper? Raptor in the Jurassic Park kitchen?

She clarified: I told her to “BE FIERCE.” Animals are the things that people usually describe as “fierce.” Fierce animals are hunters. They have claws. So, to be fierce, you need claws. If a soccer player wants to “be fierce” she should channel the behavior of a cat of prey, and run with her outstretched claws.

How do you respond to that? I gave her her water and went back to cheering for her team, looking closely for other kids who were as strange as mine. (There were several. I love kids.)

Take-a-ways

  1. Ella’s team needs to discuss and practice some of the basic principals of soccer, and I should probably stay out of it until the basics have solidified.
  2. “Just a minute” is no longer a safe place for me, so I need to just hide in the bathroom sometimes.
  3. “Frozen,” beautiful American cinematic animated masterpiece that it is, also has the power to ruin lives. Watch with care. And Disney, teach no pranks, complaints, or annoyances if you want me to buy any more beaded plastic shoes or princess-branded pink yogurt. (As I typed that, I realized we already need to not buy plastic shoes or pink princess yogurt. So that’s, like, take-a-way 3b.)
  4. Be fierce.