Are Toddlers More Terrifying Than Rabid Penguins?

I don’t have kids, but my brother G has three. His youngest daughter is just a month old, and last night I saw him for the first time since she got home from the hospital. Let me tell you: G is barely handling life right now. Like, the poor dude is doing his very best, but he’s hanging on by a thread.

Today I went for a walk with one of my best friends, who is himself a father of two. He laughed when I described G falling asleep at the dinner table, and spontaneously launched into the most apt metaphor I’ve ever heard for parenthood:

“When you have your first kid, it’s like a snow day. You get to play in the snow, and build forts, and go sledding, and whenever you get cold you just head inside for a break. You warm up, drink some hot chocolate, and you’re ready for more fun. You think, ‘This is awesome! I want it to snow every day!’

Then you have your second kid, and now it’s like you’re on an extended camping trip in the snow. You’re still stoked to be outside, but there’s always something that needs your attention. The tent is collapsing under the weight of the snow. Your gear is getting wet. You have to cook dinner, but you’re so cold! And there’s no ‘inside’ to escape to anymore.”

“So D,” I asked, “…what do you imagine three kids would feel like?”

Three?! I can only guess that having three would feel like getting dumped naked at the South Pole. You’re freezing to death, you’re scrabbling in the snow with one hand to try and make a lousy igloo, and with the other hand you’re fending off a rabid penguin. Three… yeah, with three, you’re just fighting to survive the next five minutes.”

So… any thoughts from my WordPress parent-friends? ‘Cause right now, this is the vision of parenthood I have in my head:

Tell me I’m wrong.

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75 responses to “Are Toddlers More Terrifying Than Rabid Penguins?

  1. As you know I am on an extended camping trip in the snow with my measly two kids, so maybe I don’t know a damn thing…. But – with a one month old kiddo – if it is your first, your second or your thirteenth you kinda feel like death. I imagine you feel worse in those first few months because you foolishly think somehow it won’t be as bad because you have done it before. I don’t think it counts as experience, you’ve never been this new kiddo’s parent before so it is just as hard as it was the first time only you are MORE tired. Because you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in YEARS.

    My advice? Strong coffee and a sense of humor. It will pass. And for what it’s worth, I have heard that the switch from two to three kids is tough, but three to four? Piece of cake. So as soon as the kid is sleeping for an hour or two at a time get crackalackin’ on kid number four! HA.

    • Yeah, you and your two measly, adorable youngins! You know nothing, Kelly Snow. P.S. <– This is sarcasm. I know nothing. Like, at all. At least I have changed some diapers in my day, that’s gotta count for something.

  2. I’ve only got one snowglobe, but my sister has three. The first and the second are barely a year and a half apart and I remember she was describing it like being sucked into a blizzard. I also remember she thought making a bigger break between two and three would be a summer camp, but she was very wrong. I think both me and her, regardless of our numbers can agree kids are indeed like the weather – completely unpredictable.
    As for me, less is never more and I think sleepless chaos, plucked out hair and clothes stained with the speed of light happen anyways, so give me 3 of them and let’s have a proper party! (my husband, on the other hand, would largely disagree!)

    • Snow globe! I love it! I think I’m in your camp, that the age between kids barely matters. If/when I have them, I think my goal is to pop ’em out one right on top of the other, and then call it quits for good. Maybe I’ll have twins – I actually think that could be pretty great.

  3. I’m speaking from my own personal experience but I’m sure I speak for ALL men. Having a baby is rough going for guys. Those first five years are hell on earth. Sorry, ladies, but we’re just not hardwired for baby care. The older kids get, the more enjoyable they become to be around. I now find myself having quasi-adult conversations with my 12-year old. It’s very satisfying. That’ll last until she’s about 14, at which time we will enter anohter rough patch. So, so summarize:

    Ages 0-5 = HELL ON EARTH
    Ages 6-14 = Curiosity and bliss
    Ages 15-23 = More hell
    Ages 24+ = Back to bliss

    I would never have three kids. You’re badly outnumbered.

    • Of course you speak for all men. OF COURSE YOU DO.

      I think this timeline is hilarious and plan to print it out and tape it by my bed. If I ever get an untimely urge to procreate (this is starting to happen, but I’m trying to get through grad school first), I will stare intently at ages 0-5 and 15-23.

  4. Someone once told me that you lose one-third of your brain cells for every child you birth. The cause is probably that need to virtually 24/7 overseeing their little lives.

    I have three grown up children, and two grandchildren, and I find toddlers are indeed terrified. And some of them go past toddler stage. Young children need a great deal of focused attention – even if the house is “child proof” because there really is no way to totally child proof any kind of dwelling.

    And that explains why, when my daughter asked me to babysit her daughter last weekend that I broke out in a cold sweat. The child is four and a half, but she talks practically constantly and I was on edge the whole weekend. She wasn’t any trouble in particular; it was the need to constantly be “on.” I was out of practice.

    • I’m so bad at math, that for a minute I thought Oh no! So once you have three kids, you’re dead! And then I remembered how percentages work. Still…

      So, you had three kids, and you lived to tell the tale. It’s actually super reassuring that you can grow out of the habit of parenting… that makes me feel much better about the fact that I’m not very good with kids yet, despite liking them and planning to eventually have some of my own.

      • Yes, you can grow out of the habit of one on one parenting. Only it’s more like ripping half of yourself in the process. πŸ˜€

        I still get to parent, but only when asked, and that is kind of nice because they all do ask occasionally. I have a strict personal rule that I will not meddle in the lives of my adult children. I’d rather have a relationship with them than be constantly butting in their lives trying to help. Help I will give, but I wait to be asked.

  5. Toddlers and rabid penguins? Yeah, that sounds about right.
    On the whole one kids vs two kids vs three kids, I say never ever let the children outnumber the adults. I’m one with two kids, I have friends who are couples with three kids, and we all know those sneaky little (adorable) monsters take advantage of the lopsided power dynamic whenever necessary to steal a cookie ten seconds after being told no.

    • Yes! I was raised more or less as an only child (the brother and sister I refer to are technically my half-siblings), and I still got away with murder. What couldn’t I have done with an accomplice?!

  6. I suppose I could compare kids to angry penguins. I’m just as scared of a pack of kids as I am as a flock of angry penguins, at any rate. I think he hit this spot on.

    • He’s a smart guy, Janie. He also included a lot of entertaining hand gestures in the original telling. It’s fun watching someone fight an imaginary rabid penguin. πŸ™‚

  7. Kids outnumbering the adults is like showing up to a gun fight with a knife: don’t do it unless you like losing. My youngest sister is 13 years younger than I am, and I remember her growing up quite well. She was all cute and cuddly as a baby, but then turned into a total psycho for about 3 years. Screaming, crying, throwing, hitting, biting- she pretty much looked like those penguins all the time.

    • Yesssssssss. Even the best kids have bad spells. Another friend’s beautiful, sweet toddler has just started hitting her when he wants things. It’s not a flaw in her parenting, it’s just a stage he’s going through… but damn if it’s not an eye-opening experience to watch him flail at her over a freakin’ cookie. Knife at a gun fight, indeed. I never want to be outnumbered.

  8. At the least, I think my cousins did it right with having their kids five years apart, so by the time the third one rolled around, the first one was way old enough to help take care of the third one. (He’s an excellent big brother, too!) I can’t even fathom the idea of one at the moment, but maybe in time I’ll change my mind. Maybe. My other cousin just had her first (her and her husband waited for about 6 years), and I know it was pretty overwhelming for them. They’re thinking about stopping at one. Personally, I’d be okay with that πŸ˜›

      • Yes, a very happy one, at that. I have half siblings, but they’re much older than me, so that they never really lived with me when I was young.

        • We have a similar family set-up! I have two half-siblings, but was raised pretty much as an only child because they have 12 and 14 years on me and lived in another town. *Faux-only children fist bump!*

          • Wow, that’s almost exactly the number of years between my siblings. I have three, the youngest of them is 12 years older than me, and I think the oldest one is around 15-16 years older? I’m not sure. πŸ™‚ *returns fist-bump*

  9. Ha! Love this Jennie! As wife to G and mom to the three kids in discussion here, I have to throw out a few kudos to my dear husband. Not only is our third just a month old, I was on bed rest before she got here, then I had a c-section with complications that I’m still recovering from, baby girl was early and spent weeks in the NICU, so hubby had to drive me to and from the hospital every day while taking care of the other kids and the house… he’s been doing pretty much everything here for a long time now, poor guy! He’s absolutely amazing! β™₯

    Not that you implied otherwise, of course, just that he’s had even more than your typical 3 rabid penguins to deal with! πŸ˜‰

    • Hello there! Thanks for commenting – I know G would appreciate having the full story told. πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you guys are all home where you belong now!

      Also, if I can find/make rabid penguin costumes before Halloween, I see a family photo op in the future…

  10. I only have two kids. We do not plan to have any more. My mom comes from a family of 9 kids. She has always told me the more kids you have, the older ones will help out. I don’t believe that logic. πŸ™‚

    • Let me give what I’m sure is the typical response: “NINE!!??@#”

      I’m kind of fascinated by really large families. I always wonder what the pluses and minuses are – like amazing opportunities for fun and games, but also the possibility that there are siblings who just never get a chance to actually know each other that well. Has your mom ever talked to you about that?

  11. I have two kids. The first we video’d incessantly, gave everything to, gave in to, read books about parenting, attended class for parenting, everything. The second was lucky if we remembered to feed and water him daily. The first one just wore us out. Now we’re waiting to see which one winds up more screwed.

    • This sounds like a very familiar story! I sort of giggle whenever I read articles about how oldest, middle, and youngest children usually turn out, because of how the parents view each new baby with more and more experience… the scientific predictions for which child will be the overachiever, the peacemaker, and the “fun one” match really well with how my husband and his two brothers turned out

  12. I am really glad my kids didn’t see the pictures of those scary penguins… that would be nightmares for weeks.

    I have three kids. It’s twice the work of two kids. I know the math doesn’t make sense, but trust me. And when you have them all by yourself, it’s like the apocalypse. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s awesome, and occasionally I wonder about a fourth (I haven’t brought that up with my wife yet – I don’t like the hospital that much).

    • If they do come across the photo, you can reassure them that my brother G – who is a park ranger – says rabies only affects mammals. Never birds… and so my whole premise is flawed. (Don’t you hate know-it-alls?)

      Thanks for saying that kids are awesome. I love when parents are reassuringly open about how hard and sometimes just plain fucked-up raising children can be, but I also get really happy whenever I hear that it’s not just “worth it” but GREAT. I feel like the world needs more success stories about the joys of parenthood and also about marriage, you know?

      • Somehow, I don’t think that kind of logic is going to make my kids feel that much better about those photos… Great, there goes the summer zoo trip. Just kidding.

        Kids are great. They are so challenging. You really don’t know what the hell you are doing most of the time, but occasionally they will let you know, and your instincts are much better than you could imagine. I can’t imagine a life without my kids.

  13. This made me laugh,especially since you recently mentioned on one of my posts about being afraid when outnumbered by a bunch of kids that don’t belong to you. I REALLY laughed at Exile’s timeline and would have to agree. People with multiple children tell me it gets easier the more you have. I’m over here with a 20 month old saying, we have barely….BARELY survived our first. We are one and done.

    But, every person and every child is different. For us, I think we are like Exile and will enjoy it more the older he gets. This is not say that I don’t love and enjoy my boy. He can just look at me sometimes and I get tears in my eyes. There is no love like it. But other days, when he’s the “independent impatient toddler” screaming at me to eat but refusing everything I give him, I want to run and hide and cry. It’s the hardest best thing you’ll ever do.

    • One and done! I’m a quasi-only child, and I had a stellar time growing up. I think it really builds imagination! And I can totally empathize with enjoying kids more once they hit five or so. Watching my nephew grow up has been fascinating the whole way (especially since I get to step out when he gets cranky) but despite how good he smelled when he was really little, he’s just way more fun now that he reasons and creates and tells jokes.

      I read somewhere recently that parenting brings more moments of JOY than of HAPPINESS. Like, more deep satisfaction of doing something worthwhile and feeling profound love, as opposed to constantly feeling “up” or content or enjoying every moment. What do you think?

      • I think that describes the feelings perfectly! And it’s not so much that you don’t feel content, but it’s hard work. Every day. Without a break. At least for us anyway because we’ve never had a good support system. It’s a lot of sacrifice and it’s worth it but you do have moments where you miss the free time you used to have. But just when you have a time where your limits are pushed and you feel at the end of your rope, they smile at you, or give you hug/kiss or just do something so funny and your batteries are charged again. It’s quite amazing actually; the power of the love between a parent and child. I definitely love what you read though. (Now that I’ve gone on and on)

  14. This is hysterical! My sons are grown now-in their early 20’s. Raising them was tough work of course because of the need to be on high alert constantly. Luckily, they were great sleepers. But when they were awake we kept busy! I loved the first 10-12 years most of the time but the teenage years were horrendous. Glad they are done and truly I am glad to be done with the hard work of raising them. I do not long for those days at all but I am glad to have experienced them. We made many memories together in those small moments. It made my life richer and taught me the values of perseverance and commitment. Plus, the job I have today is a result of being a mom first! Pretty cool.

    • Pretty freaking cool. πŸ™‚ I was an atrocious teenager, and fully expect my children to break my heart endless times between ages 14 and 20 or so. I’m trying to build up a tougher skin, just remembering the things I said to my mother for no good reason. Yeesh.

  15. This is going to sound extremely jaded, but as a childless woman…every time I read something like this, it just seems like another reason to not have kids. Sometimes I think I want children in the future, other times I read stories about the sleepless night and the poop smeared on the walls the utter exhaustion of being a parent and I can think of nothing less appealing. (And I’m in my mid-twenties and married for six years; my relatives are expecting a pregnancy announcement any moment as my expiration date seems to be rapidly approaching. I’m just still not ready for kids. Apparently my maternal drive is broken.) I know, I know…all the parents chime in “But it’s so rewarding! It’s worth it just to see my child smile!” And I get it. But I also like having freedom, a full night sleep, and carpets that don’t have crayons ground into them. I do like kids a lot; my job involves working with kids, but I find babies and toddlers perplexing and patience-trying. I think I would definitely have kids if we could skip right to them being six…

    • Not jaded… just honest! Truly. I also think I want children, and a few times a year I just ache for them to be here already. Then I think of the constant exhaustion, and wonder if I really want all that when I already really enjoy my life as it is. I guess my thought is that if/when the longing outweighs the doubt, that’ll be my green light.

      However. Some of my favorite people have chosen not to reproduce, and I don’t think there’s the slightest thing “broken” about that!

  16. Funny I don’t remember it being that bad at all! I have 2 kids – well out of the evil of wee mini-hood years now. Yeah I know I will get the “but you are a man what do you really know about children anyway!” comment. But I do know! I was the lighter sleeper so I did most of the midnight wakings and 4 am wake-up calls. As the kids got into the early mobile kid-let years they knew to that waking Dad was the better call. My daughter was little Ms. 3AM wakeup with bad-dreams until she was 5 years old.
    BUT I am blessed with the ability to fall asleep as needed myself so that all just meshed nicely. I’d do the comfort and cuddle and monster-check and get her all settled back and then go back to sleep. Piece of cake! My mother-in-law (well now my ex mother-in-law!) witnessed my 3AM soothe and settle routine and said it was like I was a baby-whisperer.
    In the end however it is like all else in life you can hear everyone else’s story and then find out your experience isn’t quite the same!

    • I would never give you the “what do men know about children” comment! And I’d read the riot act to anyone who did. I know some stellar, super-involved dads (my brother is one), and don’t assume that the mom is always the most involved. My dad, like you, was the go-to nighttime problem guy. He was just better at scaring away the monsters! Anyway, I’ll get of my soapbox now – I loved hearing how you were so present for your kids, and I’m glad to have another voice saying that it’s not as bad as some would lead me to believe!

      • In our case we were both very involved and took our turn as needed. I was more Mr Nightshift and the kids mom was more of the day-time planning! Now that the kids are much older (and two homes are involved) the load is still split – just much less required!
        And thanks for the soapbox moment! Appreciate the positive vibe you had going πŸ™‚
        I made that comment because it had actually been said to me. And on more than one occasion! Now if I ever speak about the birthing experience – then I am making things up πŸ™‚

  17. Holy crap, your penguins look crazy – and hilarious! And awesome. πŸ™‚ I don’t have kids, so I can’t offer any direct insight on this one; but once the kids outnumber the parents, the game changes from man-on-man to zone defense….

    • I used to play flag football, and that’s the perfect metaphor! Before I dislocated my shoulder in one game, I tried both man-on-man and zone defense. I I know that, for the inexperienced at least (aka ME), zone is MUCH harder work!

        • Yep. FLAG football. I was accidentally mowed down by a giant of a man. He was hugely apologetic, but I had to keep playing or our team would have forfeited (there’s a minimum requirement of six players, and all our subs were out). One girl on the other team took her chance to ram me in my hurt shoulder at every opportunity, and so arrived the only time in my life where I almost got into a physical brawl. The whole thing was BIZARRE. After that – and also breaking a finger! – I called it quits with flag football. I’m a kickball gal these days. πŸ™‚ I like sport, but dislike intense competition.

          • That girl sounds like a very insecure person. (I was going to choose an entirely different set of words, but decided to try and maintain some good karma – and to keep your space “family friendly”.) πŸ™‚ I’m also not a fan of competition – so I’m not big into sports. I like to watch some, but refrain from playing.

          • I’m thoroughly enjoying imagining the words you might have been thinking. I fantasized about slashing that woman’s tires for months. Yes, it was unhealthy to hold onto the anger for so long, but it was also a really eye-opening moment – for the first time in my life, I understood how frustration can cross over into the arena of physical violence in just seconds. Before, I’d always wondered why cooler heads didn’t always prevail – surely no one wants to start throwing punches or being hit… but it’s more a thing that happens when you aren’t expecting it. So strange, but we are animals after all. When we aren’t planning to need to be very calm in the face of madness, it’s hard not to go with sheer instinct in the moment.

  18. Jennie, I love this! Hahahahahahahaa!!! No, you are not wrong. It’s why I stopped at one. And, even that was too much for my overly sensitive nervous system. I love my daughter, seriously, and at the same time, there were many, many moments when I wanted to hand her over to my husband and throw myself off the roof. Gawd, am I ever glad that child bearing and rearing are over for me in this life. Sweet relief! this post made me laugh so hard. THANK YOU!

    • I had coffee on Friday with a wonderful friend who feels serious guilt about only having one child. She’s worried she’s robbing her daughter of some future experiences. I kept trying to tell her that I adored being raised as an only child (even though I love my half-siblings like mad). But day to day, growing up and having plenty of space to do my own thing and build my imagination was kind of the best. I wouldn’t mind just having one, but J wants three and so… two it is! (Watch us get knocked over the heads with a surprise multiple birth. There’s really no planning for parenthood, is there?)

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