Mommy A to Z

Motherhood, Alphabetized.

M is for… The Myth of the Perfect Toddler


“My child never did that.”

I hear this a lot these days, as my 2-year-old finds finds new and creative ways to make me want to sink into the floor. “My son never flung himself on the floor of a restaurant.” “My daughter never attempted to eat shampoo.” “My child never did (insert inappropriate, possibly illegal, activity here).” It seems like every parent besides me has somehow managed to raise the perfect toddler.

But I’m starting to wonder about this “perfect toddler.” They seem to exist more in memory than in reality. I’ve noticed that those parents regaling me with tales of well-behaved, docile toddlers are either immersed in nostalgia or are too exhausted to notice their toddler has emptied the entire refrigerator and placed all the eggs in individual Tupperware containers.

I’m convinced that this perfect toddler is a mythical creature, a bit like a unicorn or delicious sugar-free ice cream. What does this perfect toddler look like? Here are five traits of the mythical, perfect toddler, should you happen to see one in the wild, calmly eyeing the toy aisle at Target without a hint of malice in his eyes.

1. The perfect toddler is well-behaved in public. The perfect toddler never makes a scene, even when denied a cookie at the store because “broccoli is healthy and delicious.” This mythical being cheerily follows his parents through art museums, listening intently as his father expounds on the differences between impressionism and pointillism, never uttering a sound. The perfect toddler has never once thrown a tantrum, never screamed out “that man has no hair!” and never run out of a public bathroom half-naked, racing toward the toy store like he’s training for the 100-meter dash. And he never stains his clothing, because perfect toddlers are always presentable.

2. The perfect toddler has never heard of an oral fixation. Well, in all fairness, I doubt any child has actually heard of an “oral fixation.” But the perfect toddler never puts anything in her mouth that isn’t meant to be edible. The remote control, Mommy’s iPhone, a pile of wood chips at the playground — none of these has ever seen the inside of the perfect toddler’s mouth. Oh, yes, and the perfect toddler never sucked her thumb or used a binkie — and if she did, when it was time to give it up, she penned a heartfelt good-bye, watched a Lifetime movie, and moved on with her life.

3. The perfect toddler respects others’ personal space. You know that feeling when you’re lying on the couch, Gilmore Girls playing on the TV, a cozy blanket enveloping you like a warm hug — and then all of a sudden you feel 30 pounds of wiggling human land on your head? No? That’s probably because you have a perfect toddler, who keeps his distance as though he’s observing a restraining order. The perfect toddler never jumps on your lap when you’re eating or hits his sister just to see what happens. Like Patrick Swayze explaining “this is my dance space, this is yours,” he understands that parents are people, and people sometimes need their space.

4. The perfect toddler quotes Nietzsche and solves quadratic equations. Apparently, the early childhood years are no longer about exploring the world and learning to pick childproof locks. Now all the cool toddlers are watching YouTube tutorials and using apps to learn to read, add, and write their early admission essays to Harvard. The perfect toddler is so beyond saying “I love you, Mommy.” Instead, he’s composing Elizabethan sonnets expressing his admiration in iambic pentameter. The perfect toddler is ready for medical school — even if he can’t yet tie his shoelaces.

5. The perfect toddler came out of the womb using the potty. I’m currently training my son, and I get asked a lot, “How old is he?” “Two and a half,” I answer sheepishly, knowing what’s coming next. “Oh, my child was using the potty at 18 months.” Or, “my daughter trained herself — and then published a book about her method to help other, less perfect toddlers.” Or, “according to the ultrasound, my son set up a porta-potty in the womb.” The perfect toddler is beyond pull-ups and accidents. In fact, the perfect toddler never has to use the bathroom at all.

Yes, I hear a lot about this mythical perfect toddler. But when it’s all said and done, I’ll take my imperfect toddler any day of the week. Yes, he may climb onto my head when I’m emailing a client, or scream when denied ice cream, or attempt to eat his sister’s homework. And yes, I’m starting to think he may go to prom in a pull-up. But he’s also sweet, and curious, and tries his best to conquer something new each day. And that process, as imperfect as it may be, is both humbling and wondrous. As far as I’m concerned, my noisy, peanut-butter-covered little guy is perfect, just the way he is.

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  1. Ha! I remember this from our tot playgroup days. There seem to be some parents who need to try to present their child as perfect. I was never that delusional. :)

  2. I love this post so much! I hear that all the time.. why do people feel the need to come up to a total stranger and say that???

  3. Who are these people with perfect toddlers?! Haha Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with any of these annoying comments yet. I think my toddler is perfectly imperfect!

  4. Very funny post! Like you, my toddler was not perfect, but she was, and still is, wonderful.

  5. I have two teens and two toddlers. I can think back and vaguely remember the things my teens did when they were young. So in my mind, now, they seemed almost “perfect”. I know they weren’t, but those things don’t matter to me know. I have put them really far back in my memory bank. Bragging about how “perfect” your child is, really has nothing to do with the child itself. Those parents are bragging about their parenting skills. When I reality, they probably had a few glasses of wine before stating how perfect their child is….

  6. Maybe the parents who had the “perfect toddler” have just blocked out all the less-than-perfect parts! lol!

  7. :) Sooo true I thinks some forget what it was like to have a toddler! No one is perfect and neither is my little one…

  8. I definitely think the perfect toddler is a MYTH too. I have toddler twins and they are no where near perfect. Not even close. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Haha! We normally call them Disney children – with gingham dresses, white cotton socks and impeccable behaviour. They don’t exist in real life. I’ve had the “MY child” statements fired at me in conversation as if it’s an indictment on my child or parenting ability that they weren’t ready for toilet training til after they were able to walk too. Poor loves, I only hope the perfection lasts through the teenage years. (at least I won’t get smacked in the face by reality at that point!)

  10. This is priceless. I have a two year old as well and I get the same thing. Not only is it annoying but also rude. The funny part; the ones making tbe comments kid’s are usually worst.
    Loved it.

  11. The only time I’ve encountered the “my kid never” comments is on Facebook. But it was always ok because it’s fun to respond with a snarky, passive-aggressive retort. My kids aren’t perfect (my daughter is finally potty trained just shy of four), but that’s why they are so interesting and fun.

  12. The perfect toddler sounds so boring and also is utterly fictional. Maybe as parents of older children our nostalgia for those early days fogs the reality. I laughed at the eating homework bit. Every time I went for an envelope I would find the corner had been nibbled and all birthday cards were sucked. Why? I will never know. He obviously liked it as it was a regular thing. Great post.

  13. The personal space is a problem in my house for sure. Between the 20 month old and four year old I feel like a jungle gym. Forget getting to shower or shit by myself!

  14. Loved this! I can totally relate. I find that grandparents seem to be the ones who forget that their toddlers “did all that”! I remind my own mom daily that I did! She’ll say to me about my kids, “You have to stop that behavior, when you were small, you listened to me”… it’s so frustrating to hear! I am sure I didn’t always listen to her either!!!!!

    • Ha! Yes, I too was a perfect toddler. And a terrible teenager. At least according to family myth! One day we’ll probably be saying the same thing to our kids. And then my daughter will show me this blog post :) Thanks for stopping by!

  15. So funny! Love it. I am sorry to hear your son is going to prom in a pull up. Maybe he’ll date my daughter who will probably be there with her blanky :-)

    • That’s hilarious! I really hope they both move on from these things someday. I’m not too optimistic at this point on my end…

  16. Prom in a pull-up! You’re killing me! I remember feeling that way at one point. And yet, we made it – all three potty-trained and I didn’t get carted off to the loony bin. Deep sigh of relief!

  17. You are so right about this. I hear so many parents brag about their children, but always believe it’s a myth as well. Because like you said, no toddler is perfect. They’re humans and to each their own. They go through life at their own pace, whether it be potty training or getting rid of that binky. So, I’m with you. I’d take my toddler who chews anything she can get her hands into any day of the week. She may not be potty trained (yet) nor is she walking out of the womb with a Nobel peace prize in her hand, but she’s all mine, and that’s good enough for me. Thanks for sharing such a humorous and truthful piece! Wishing you a wonderful week!

  18. This made me chuckle! I have never heard a toddler quote Nietzsche! I am currently experiencing a two year old and all of the excitement that come with her 😉

  19. Love this! I’m always feeling a bit inferior when I hear other moms talk about their “perfect toddler”. Because mine are both monsters, but I love that about them. They are just as toddlers should be!

  20. Eh! There’s no such thing as a “perfect toddler.” I’d take a spirited one full of personality any day!

  21. I LOVE how your posts are always so REAL and relatable. I can’t believe your toddler didn’t come out of the womb potty trained. tutu tut ; P

  22. HA! This is incredible. I’m the proud mother of a non-perfect toddler :)

  23. Yep, I will take my perfectly imperfect toddler any day too! (Even though he sucks the life out of me…)

  24. So funny! Indeed a perfect toddler is a mythical creature!

  25. you are so right! I don’t understand how people can act as if their children are perfect all the time. It must be exhausting.

  26. I love this! Such a great reminder as my little one is just 19 months and sometimes her behavior is, well, a bit short of perfect. 😉 And honestly, her older three brothers were absolutely NOT this crazy when they were her age. I’m pretty sure I remember correctly.

    • I hear you. My oldest was not as crazy as my toddler. Or maybe she was. I think I blocked it out :) Thanks for stopping by and hang in there… they get calmer, right? Right?

  27. I think people quickly forget what life is like with a toddler or some prefer to see life through rose colored glasses.

  28. Very funny. I especially like the fact that you found a way to slip in iambic pentameter. Go you!!!

    • Ha! There’s a never a bad moment to slip in iambic pentameter. I may try it during my next argument with the husband. It’ll really freak him out :) Thanks for stopping by!

  29. Nah, i don’t believe there are any perfect toddlers out there. Definitely a Myth #JustAnotherLinky xx Mummy2Monkeys xx

  30. My partner used to swear up and down that the kids from his previous relationship never had a tantrum. Although I highly doubt it, I suppose it could be true. The part that bothered me is that he attributed it to his superior parenting skills.

    So, when we finally had a child of our own of course the universe wanted to knock him down a notch and gave us a very spirited child. Every time my almost two year old throws herself on the floor and screams for over an hour, I curse the day he decided to be so sure of his parenting abilities.

    • Ha! I love that. Toddler karma. Too bad you’re on the receiving end of it! Thanks for stopping by :)

  31. Haha! Love this post.
    Parenting would be way too boring if we all had a perfect toddler haha!!

  32. I love this! I find the perfect toddler is what certain parents want others to think their child is like. I know some people who gloat about how smart their kids are or how well behaved their kids are and I can’t help but roll my eyes. There’s no such thing as a perfect toddler! Thanks for sharing. #ConfessionsLinkUp

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