You may wake up at 5:32 am one Saturday morning to blood curdling screaming in the other room. You dash across the hallway to assess the situation and find a small size person, approximately 1/6 the size of a normal adult who is apparently unhappy. Why? You may never know. You rub your sleepy eyes, suddenly wondering where on the earth this thing came from. You remember being at the hospital and bringing a baby home. It was, what, yesterday? But the baby was the size of a squash. This is, like, three times bigger! How did this happen? You’re still trying to wrap your head around having a baby but your baby already’s turned into a Toddler. What is a Toddler and what can I expect this creature to be like?

First let me say, welcome to the jungle of parenthood! Before your baby makes the flying, flailing leap into toddlerhood, prepare yourself mentally, physically, and metaphysically with Josh’s Jungle Guide to the Toddler Species.

You may be tempted to try and keep life with the Toddler simple and easy. Maybe you’re a minimalist who tries to run through the jungle of parenthood wearing nothing but a designer loincloth. Please don’t. You’re only plowing headlong through the thorn bushes of reality. You’ll get all scratched up and then you’ll wander innocently into Walgreens where you’ll find 147 different ointments that may or may not do the job. Of course, you can’t just get any ointment, it has to be infant safe with all natural coloring and zero corn syrup. This makes the price go up about $10 an ounce. Wait, isn’t the infant formula more diluted? How is it more expensive!? So, to avoid buying expensive ointment to heal your brushes with reality, let me make your life easier.

The first thing you should accept is that going on a safari through the jungle of parenthood requires an entire armada of specialized equipment. The Toddler is about 28” long but it requires a minivan full of various, expensive contraptions such as strollers, diaper bags, car seats, cases of wet wipes, little three wheeled bicycles, cribs, changing tables, bassinets, pack’n’plays, and so, so much more. The equipment needed to raise the Toddler outweighs the Toddler fifty to one. It’ll boggle your imagination. Trust me on this, you need a minivan. You may be puffing out your chest and sputtering with indignation while saying, “Minivan’s aren’t manly. I’ll never buy a minivan. Minivans are stupid.” Trust me, you are kicking against the pricks of parenthood. Embrace it and get over your fickle pride. Nobody else actually cares if you drive a minivan or not. If they do, they are small minded nincompoops who aren’t worth impressing. You can quickly take all the seats out of a van which makes a cargo area bigger than a pickup. You can quickly put them back in and carry more passengers than your pickup. You also have a roof rack where you can store a cheap love seat or even a cargo carrier. You’ll need different car seats in different configurations at different stages in your toddler’s life. That’s like 5,000 possible configurations and minivans have the space for any of them. As your toddler grows, so does their weight. Minivan’s have a two sliding doors which are the size of a small sedan that open up and allow you to remove or install a toddler with minimal effort. And trust me, you’ll be installing and removing that child more times than your wife posts baby pictures on Instagram (a lot). Those sliding doors also slide instead of swing which means you’ll be putting less dings in other cars in Aldi’s parking lot, which saves you money. (Related: Why Minivans Are Manly)

Now, let’s learn more about the toddler itself. This is the creature that God entrusted you with so let’s get to know the habits, abilities, and features of this small mammal.

My mother-in-law, Clara, tells the story of growing up in Paraguay with emus (basically a slightly smaller versions of ostriches) running around the colony where they were living. Emus would sneak up on men who were lying under some tractor or farm implement and snatch their wrenches, sockets, bolts, or anything shiny and then make a beeline across the grassland. The shiny objects (and sometimes the emus) were never seen again. Toddlers exhibit the same ability to quickly locate shiny things and then lose them forever.

Also, much like emus or chickens or any fowl for that matter, the Toddler supposedly can not control its bowel movements. This requires a specialized device, called a diaper, to be strapped around the nether regions of the Toddler so as to catch any indiscretions that may occur. However, I found it curious that although the Toddler supposedly cannot control their excretions, it always seem to time the explosions so they happen in the bathtub or while they are streaking in the backyard (which brings me to my next observation).

When the Toddler is so inclined, it can weigh as much as a three hundred year old tortoise and move even slower. You and your spouse can both have an arm and can be pulling as hard as you can but that 28” Toddler will not and can not be hurried. This naturally leads you to assume that the Toddler’s maximum speed is comparable to a glacier. So naturally when you are changing the Toddler’s poopy diaper and it occurs to you that all the diapers are in a box in the basement for some reason, you assume it’s OK to leave the small mammal lying on the floor naked for just a few moments. How far can it go? You can dash down the basement steps, grab a fistful of diapers, and scramble back towards the light. Only when you get back three seconds later you find the Toddler exhibiting the speed of a Cheetah. They’ve already made it out the back door and are running, free as a bird, through the backyard with little bombs marking their path.

This series of events finds you resorting to fences or walls to keep the Toddler contained. Your neighbors, who apparently never raised kids, seem to think less of you if you allow your toddler to run around naked and pooping. So you reprimand yourself and strive to be more responsible. Now that the Toddler is confined to a small area it begins exhibiting the traits of a Howler monkey. Howler monkeys communicate by using guttural, earth shattering yodels that can heard two miles away. Your fussy neighbor, who is already questioning your parenting skills, now assumes you’re beating the Toddler inside your house. In reality, the Toddler just wants another popsicle because the first one melted between the cushions on the couch.

Once you’ve calmed the Howler monkey down, you realize that the Toddler is getting sleepy. This makes you happy because you’re tired too (chances are the Toddler is also nocturnal). If the Toddler is sleeping, you might be able to sleep as well. However, upon laying the Toddler in the crib (which you brought home from the store in your minivan) the Toddler suddenly begins displaying the traits of a camel who just finished a journey across the Sahara and is desperate for roughly 53 gallons of water. In fact, the Toddler cannot sleep without it. You sigh and go get the specialized cup that the Toddler requires. During your absence the Toddler suddenly begins cavorting about the crib like a monkey and utilizes its opposable thumbs in an effort to climb out of its enclosure. You come back and reposition the Toddler on the mattress. This triggers the Howler monkey again.

Now zookeepers have the option of using tranquilizer darts or other medication to calm their wildlife down but there are rules against doing so with Toddlers. In fact, vets aren’t even qualified to diagnose or repair Toddlers, only people called Pediatric Physicians. These folks specialize in Toddlers. So why should I take your advice? You ask. Why shouldn’t I just go get advice from a Pediatric Physician? They are so cost prohibitive that if you go to them every time you had a problem, you’d have to put up your Toddler for adoption and then this whole conversation would be pointless.

Now that you’ve had an introduction to the Toddler, hopefully you don’t go wandering into the jungle hood of parenting willy nilly. But if you do find God shoving you out of a helicopter over the vast jungles of parenthood, take heart. All the hiking and effort is the only way to experience some of the most beautiful and breathtaking wonders on this planet. It’s worth it.

With Gratitude,

Josh, Janice, & Adilene Snader

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