by Erica Davis
The Day We Let Our Toddler Call the Shots was originally published on Babble.com and has been reprinted with permission.
It started out as a dare, or maybe more of a challenge. “What would happen if we just said ‘yes’ to everything she wanted, all day?” I jokingly asked my husband, referring to our 2 ½ year-old daughter.
“Oh man, it would be a disaster. A big, sugar-filled disaster,” he replied.
“Let’s do it and see what happens,” I laughed.
So one day, in the dead of winter and on our toddler’s half birthday, my husband and I decided to conduct a little experiment. We decided that we would do everything she wanted, all day long, with no exceptions besides safety.
At first, the day took a somewhat usual and mundane tone. She wanted yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, and granola for breakfast with two jelly beans and one chocolate chip thrown in the mix. That is what she wants for breakfast every single day, so nothing new here.
My husband gave me a pointed look. “See,” he said, “She does not understand this concept.”
But he had spoken too soon.
Once breakfast was complete, our toddler hastily stood up and announced, “Okay then, it’s time for some exercise!” What kind of exercise did she have in mind? She certainly didn’t mean the boring, droning process of selecting an elliptical to gruel out 40 minutes of cardio — she meant the indoor trampoline park, of course!
I put on my yoga pants, and we packed up into the car and went to the trampoline park. Luckily it was family jump time, and they were blasting Disney music through the speakers as we jumped around together, laughing and burning off those jelly beans we had for breakfast.\
When we got home, she decided she wanted to bake dog treats for all of the dogs in our neighborhood. We don’t currently have a dog, and she treats the neighborhood puppies like little celebrities when they stroll around the block. We weren’t surprised that she wanted to involve them in her special day. So, to Pinterest I went, to discover a recipe that would produce acceptable bone-shaped treats for the various poodles, labs, and schnauzers of our neighborhood. We made a huge mess, and by the end of baking we were all covered in flour, and could really only laugh at how ridiculous this was. We set up shop in our driveway and waited patiently for the dogs to trot by and receive their due.
During the dog wait, our toddler came up with another idea — an instrumental parade in our driveway! Nothing says “we are in this together” like watching your husband parade around your driveway with a Hello Kitty tambourine, while you are trying to work a kazoo and beat a plastic drum, and your toddler shakes maracas loud enough for people from the next town over to be disturbed. But when we saw how uninhibited our daughter was with her musical debut, we began to let loose, too! We completed several renditions of Jingle Bells, pausing only to reward cute dogs with our baking as they passed by. We clearly looked crazy, but we were having a blast.
For lunch, our toddler selected macaroni and cheese, which she wanted specifically from our local Panera. Since it was her day after all, my husband was sent out to get this item. The running out to fetch random food demands gave us good memories of my pregnancy with our daughter, and we laughed remembering the many times he dashed out for bags of Skittles or grapefruit.
Of course, after lunchtime comes nap. Our daughter decreed that we would all nap together like a camp-out. She asked my husband to set up her play tent in the basement, complete with sleeping bags and flashlights, and we all snuggled in. It was surprisingly refreshing to take a little mid-day nap, as this is the time I usually reserve for getting work or home projects completed. Taking the time to just rest was glorious — and the ambiance of the tent (once my husband added holiday lights around it at my daughter’s request) was delightful.
After nap time, we played doctor to all of our daughter’s stuffed animals, read what felt like hundreds of her books, played Candyland three times while munching on all the random candy from the back of our cabinets, then ordered her favorite pizza for dinner.
Sometimes, as adults and as parents, we forget to just have fun. With all that we have to remember and accomplish, the random delights of childhood can be easily forgotten or tossed aside.
When we decided to do whatever our toddler wanted all day, we didn’t realize how freeing it would be for us as parents and how much fun we would have bonding as a family. While this day was completely silly and ridiculous, I think it will become an annual tradition in our house.
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