Bonjour, dear humans, and welcome to the most ridiculous day of my life.
For those of you who’ve parented or cared for toddlers, this story will not come as a surprise. It may even seem like your average Tuesday. But for the rest who don’t know the insanity that is frequently interacting with two-year-olds, buckle up. Cause this story is a doozy.
As many of you may know, I work afternoons at a preschool. On a normal day, there’s anywhere from 12-30 kids between the ages of three and six. Apart from the occasional escaped chicken and exploded trash bag, the preschoolers are relatively easy. I guess I should’ve known a curveball would be thrown eventually.
The preschool recently added a toddler age group for kids that are eighteen months to three years. Since there are only 6-8 toddlers there on a given day, only one teacher is needed at a time. At the time, I didn’t think I would ever have to be that teacher. Oh, how naive was I.
Last week, the afternoon toddler teacher was sick and didn’t have time to call a substitute. Of course, I was the chosen one to fill in. And just like that, I was alone in a classroom with six sleeping two-year-olds, and no idea what to do with myself. Fortunately for my uncertainty, one of the girls woke up immediately, so I was no longer at a loss. I knew that she would probably need a bathroom break, so I walked her over to the “potty chair,” removed her pull-up, and sat her down.
“Alrighty, sweetheart!” I’d exclaimed enthusiastically, “Time to go potty!”
As she sat there incredulously, staring at me like I’d just yelled at her in ancient Greek, I discovered the first difference between the preschoolers and the toddlers. The toddlers are not potty trained.
Upon this realization, I may’ve momentarily forgotten my own potty training and almost had my first accident in over a decade.
Mustering as much courage and control over my bladder as I could, I lifted her off the chair and strapped her in a new pull-up. I reminded her to let me know if she needed to go so I could help her, and I sent her to the table to get ready for snack. I began to wake the remaining five toddlers, and came to the shockingly-unsurprising realization that all of them had used their pull-ups.
As I was changing the first, I was yet-again reminded of the unique traits of toddlers: they DO NOT listen when told to keep their bodily fluids to themselves (In fairness, high schoolers don’t either, but that’s another story).
So, I hurriedly re-pull-upped the first and separated the next two. Though it was extremely difficult and may or may not’ve taken me half an hour, I eventually changed all of them and got them ready for snack.
Snack, of course, was a whole new experience. While the preschoolers are usually capable of serving themselves without making a huge mess, the toddlers are decidedly not. The snack of the day was peaches and cottage cheese; a deadly combination when handed to what are essentially pint-sized-leaf-blowers. Sure, toddlers are cute and all, but when given the perfect fuel for a sticky miniature food fight, things can get ugly.
By the time I’d passed out snack, one of the kids had accidentally dropped their cup of cottage cheese on the floor. As I stood up and moved a good two feet away to grab a napkin, another child pushed their cup over. This time, however, the mess wasn’t confined to the tile floor. When the boy dumped out the cottage cheese, the cup fell onto the girl sitting next to him, who promptly burst into a fit of angry tears.
Leading me to my next revelation – no matter how close you may think you are, NEVER EVER MOVE AWAY FROM THE TODDLERS. They will almost certainly take advantage of your distance.
Fortunately, I had not yet reached my breaking point. Months of engaging with preschoolers will give you nerves of steel. I decided to put on my big-girl-pants and show the toddlers that though they were good, I was better. By that point, I’d convinced myself that I could handle anything. So, I told them to finish up so we could go outside to play.
I cleaned up their messes, helped the cottage-cheese-covered girl change into new clothes, and told them to get their shoes and jackets on.
Mistake #5268 – assuming they’d be able to do it with minimal help.
In that moment, all the zippers and shoelaces in the world seemed to mobilize right there. It was like playing a game of Wack-A-Mole; no matter how many shoes I thought I’d tied, or coats I could’ve sworn I’d zipped 0.3 seconds ago, there was at least five others that I hadn’t. And each time I moved on to a new child’s shoes, one of the others would burst into tears at how long they’d been waiting. My newest lesson: toddlers have absolutely no patience.
But somehow, despite the infinite zippers I’d been faced with defeating, we managed to make it out the door and to the playground in one piece. And that led to the final and most treacherous task of the day; having to explain to a parent why their child’s shoes were on backwards.
Though we had our ups and downs in the toddler class that day, I was ultimately reminded why I chose to do my job. The kids are funny. The kids are kind. And the kids are completely, 100% capable of erasing the plight of high school with their adorable smiles and hilarious behaviors. After that shift, I don’t think I could’ve remembered what classes I’d had that day, let alone all the crazy situations I was surely faced with. Seriously, people, I couldn’t make this stuff up. Children are crazy. Children are goofy.
And those children are worth it every day.
Your fellow crusader