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Toddlers: The Hours Are Long, The Years Are Short (VIDEO)

A while ago my friend Magda from Ask Moxie wrote a post called It Gets Better: Toddler Edition. She wrote:

Last Saturday I went to a party at a friend's house, and all of their parent friends and children were there. The majority of the kids were 4 and under. After about an hour, I looked around and thought, "I know I used to have kids this age, but HOW did I do this??"


The random crying/shrieking/whining. The bodily fluids everywhere. Sippy cups. Pick me up put me down. Constant need. Helping them navigate stairs. Trying to figure out what in the name of all that's holy they're trying to tell you when they point at the shelf and repeatedly say something that sounds like "murf!" The never being able to take your attention from them for a single second.


The constant







She asked her readers who had survived the toddler stage if they would share some words of wisdom with the people who are still right in the middle of it. I loved her post and the comments (and you really should go read them too). But it also gave me an idea.

What if I asked my readers about their challenges with toddlers and then made them a video that would give them hope? I tossed the idea out there to Magda and to some others and they loved the idea. I even convinced a few of them to be part of it. So, after several months of planning, soliciting, reminding, nagging, editing, and pushing the limits of my technology learning curve, here it is.

The video is on the long side - 19 minutes - so grab a coffee or a glass of wine, get someone else to take care of that toddler for a bit, and relax and watch. Or watch a bit at a time between toddler demands (the PAUSE button doesn't work on the toddlers, but it does work on the video).

A big thank you to the AMAZING moms who took part in this video:

The music in the video is the song Witness from Moorea Malatt's album Whip It Out - Songs for Breastfeeding.

What Are Your Survival Tips for Toddler Moms?

Do you have any survival tips for toddler moms? Please share them in the comments below or consider writing a post for the Toddler Carnival. I'd love you have you participate.

Want to Share the Video?

If you want to share the video, please go ahead. We want all of those toddler moms out there to have hope that it does get better. Just be sure to link back to this post when you do. Thank you.

Toddler Carnival Sponsor

« Toddler World | Main | Announcing PhD in Parenting Carnival of Toddlers »

Reader Comments (33)

Right now I'm just crossing the threshold with my last baby (age 3), growing more independent every day and I love it. All those exhausting days are getting farther behind me and although motherhood is still tiring, it's different when they can start doing more for themselves and also can understand and communicated rationally... it does get so much better. And my head is clearer to take on the big challenges to come. I always say each stage my child is in is my favorite. Right now 3 is totally my favorite. This will help get me to 4. :)

PS loved seeing you & Christine talk!


December 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAdventures In Babywearing


December 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHannah @A Mother in Israel

Thank you so much for this post. I have just had my second child and I also have a very energetic 2 year old son and some days I do wonder how I am going to make it. So thank you for reminding me I am not alone in my struggles.

December 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNat

Thank you, I needed that.

December 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

So honored to be included in this reflective series! xoxox

December 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBoston Mamas

Thank you Annie for including me. Wish someone had done something like this for me when I was in the thick of it :)

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Thank you for this amazing video!

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChanna

Why not have some dads in the video too?
I wouldn't have surrived the toddler years with out my husband.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAurora

I wanted to, but all of the dad bloggers that I know well enough to ask are still in the thick of those toddler years.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you so much from someone who is in the thick of it! My 19mth old son is making a strong case to stay an only child (he will be anyway for other personal reasons) with the temper tantrums, running away in the store and hiding in the clothes racks, the whining, and his super stubborn streak. I've had about 4 meltdowns in the past 2 weeks, but he's worth all of it! Thanks ladies for the words of encouragement!

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

[...] I’ve heard it before and I’m starting to believe…it does and will get better. Just ask these women who made the video Toddlers- You’ll Survive. [...]

Thanks, I did need a bit of a pep talk. Actually a big pep talk. I realised lately that my toddler/preschooler issue of SLEEP is mostly an issue of ego. my ego. Because what kind of parent has children who are too insecure to sleep alone and who are awake at 8/9/10/11 pm? I spend hours lying with my 2.5 and 4.5 y.o. almost every evening, not to mention the co-sleeping 5 m-o who isn't close to sleeping through the night. And most of the time, I don't even mind it except that I think it reflects badly on me. Especially since bedtime has been a challenge for over two years. And I know you didn't really appreciate the book, but that is why I found some solace in that line of Go the F*#7 to Sleep. I feel like a failure as a parent. This feeling of failure is compounded by the loss of productivity/adult company/leisure/SLEEP during my evenings.

Plus, if it's not enough that I already feel like a failure, there are plenty of people around to agree with me. In my head, my Christmas holidays are already ruined. I know the kids won't sleep when we travel to be with my family. I know that I will miss out on the evening activities. And while I'm with the kids, I will be proving my family "right" and they'll be talking about these new-fangled parenting methods that are breeding my under-nourished (I don't make my kids clean their plates), over-tired, manipulative brats. [Just to be clear, I do not think those things about my kids but people do think those things about kids who don't CIO.]

Anyway, while you're focusing on moms of toddlers, maybe you could give some words of wisdom about dealing with feelings of failure.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren L

Ah, the toddler years. Awful really. I have a 5 yo, a 3yo and a 7 mo. And it is a trial sometimes, all amidst the joyous giggles and tight hugs and marvelous wonderment.

And I know some people feel better when told they are not alone, others have/are/will be suffering too from the toddler years.

But me? It actually makes me feel worse.

Because how can it be that so many parents are also held hostage by their toddlers manias (of eating only butter, or walking only on one side of the staircase or you name it)? I would much prefer to hear about other parents who are managing well with their deranged toddlers, I would find solace in knowing that someone out there managed not to cry, yell or hide in the bathroom when their toddler threw a 45-minute tantrum about not being able to make a drawing in the paper they wanted (red! not blue!) and they weren't superhuman hero wearing a cape or handling a magic wand or anything, they were just a normal person, and if they managed then that would give me hope that I too could manage being just a normal person, not a superhero. I would dearly love to hear from them about how they are doing it now, or how they did it then to ride the wave and manage to parent their toddlers with love, dignity and respect even in the thick of it.

That would make me feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Because sometimes, it doesn't even look like a tunnel, forget even looking for a light.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

For me, it's varied day by day. Many days I've been able to handle the meltdowns with grace and patience, doing and saying the right things and managing to diffuse even the most volatile situations.

Other days i totally lost my cool and felt like the worst parent in history.

But through most of my older son's toddler years (he's 2 months shy of 4 yrs old now) I'd say I handled things well (as you say, with love, dignity, and respect) about 3/4 of the time. By now he's absolutely amazing, and getting better and easier all the time. A HUGE help in keeping calm even in the middle of massive meltdowns is having a bit more sleep, making time for ME, and having empathy for what THEY are going through and feeling (eg- realizing that that last tantrum had more to do with my kid being hungry/overtired/stressed/etc than him simply being "manipulative" or "difficult").

I don't know of any parent who NEVER loses their cool with their kids. But many of us manage to do ok most of the time. Does that help any? ; )

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Donovan is now almost 4 and I've just been marveling the past few weeks at how awesome and amazing and FUN he is now. He still has horrid meltdowns sometimes, but I can usually handle those with a little reason, or a little space/snuggling (depending on what he needs). Seeing this transition I hope will really help as I prepare to start the toddler years with Quinn (who just turned 1 year old). Although I'll still say, even with the tantrums and meltdowns and stubborness, I think I gladly welcome the toddler years over the first year!

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

I blog a lot about how to cope with a toddler so this is a subject dear to my heart. Personally, I adore the toddler years. Yes, it's tough. Many days I go NUTS with frustration because my patience is tested to the limits. It is SO HARD. But I don't think I need to wait to get past the toddler years for the "fog to lift". I'm not waiting for it to "get better". My child is a wonder NOW...even with the whining, sleeplessness, fits, stubbornness, intense emotions and all. I think holding out for time to pass just makes it harder. I say look for ways to enjoy these totally amazing and precious years NOW. Let go a little. Connect a lot. Be present. Learn more about the toddler's perspective. Address your own emotional response to a toddler's emotional intensity. Take care of yourself. And love them, love them, love them!

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia@MaMammalia

I completely agree with @Marcy. I'm still in the thick of toddlerdom (3.5 and 1.5 y.o.s), but I did find from the very beginning with #1 if I was able to figure out a way of working with them, rather than against them, it could make a big difference. The temptation to try to force toddlers to do something is really powerful (especially when we're in a hurry), but I find my relationship with them much improved when I remind myself that they are their own little selves, with thoughts and wants and needs that are different from mine, but just as real. So some things that have worked for me: getting down at their level, offering simple choices (2), when my elder was 19 m.o. and in his diaper-changing resistance mode, I sat quietly and withheld eye contact from him, calming reading a book until he came over to have his diaper changed. Once he knew no diaper = no attention, it really helped. Mostly, I think about difficult their lives are, how frustrated they are, and I really sympathize with them, and the "world of no" the live in. Everywhere they turn! You can't touch that, you can't have that, you can't eat this, you can't you can't you can't. That's really frustrating. They are happier when you show what they *can* do rather than telling them all the time what they can't do. I try to minimize the numbers of 'nos' and instead find ways to facilitate their autonomy and independence. An 18 m.o. can often do what the pre-school teachers call a "coat flip" - a method to help them get their coats on. My toddler is thrilled to help me do things, so it's often a matter of harnessing that need for both of us. They sweep with me and "fold" laundry, and empty the dishwasher and get out their breakfast stuff and bake with me. Yes, it means things take more time (and I don't always have extra time, it's true, though I found when I'm busy if I spend 5-10 minutes concentrating on play with them, then get up and do something else, they're pretty content). Minimizing the world of no really helped me - I keep asking myself, do I really care about this? Am I setting an important boundary or just engaging in a power struggle? (ie, a belief that he SHOULD just do something that I want him to do.) My elder went through a phase when he just turned 3 where basically all he ate was yogurt, grapes, and goldfish crackers. He was going through a rough transition and his digestion was in total upheaval (which I didn't realize for a while). I decided I didn't care - I offer him food and don't fuss if he eats. We integrated a bedtime snack into the routine to take the pressure off dinner for every one. He got over it. He's not a "good" eater but he eats well enough. Meals are something I never fight with them about, and that really improves the quality of my life.

I've been under a lot of stress lately and my respectful parenting has too often gone out the window and I find myself resorting to more heavy-handed parenting - yelling, ordering, saying Stop that! and other gems. I see clearly how that approach just does. not. work. with toddlers (even though I keep doing it!)

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I just wanted to say I can relate. My daughter needs a lot of help to sleep and I help her. 99 percent of the time I am happy to do this. The other 1 percent I feel like a failure and it is always because I'm worried about what other ppl think. We also have holidays with my in laws coming up soon and I'm already starting to imagine the kinds of awful things they will say... but quite frankly I would feel more embarrassed to have them listen to my baby cio for hours every night. Then I really would feel like a bad mother.

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarol

Thanks Carol!

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren L

Sylvia - I wanted to tell you that I use the unconditional parenting approach and I've found the posts on your blog really helpful for applying that approach to toddlers. I recommend it to the commenters above!

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara


I think those are great suggestions and they work most of the time in most families. However, I think part of taking care of yourself is not feeling alone and understanding that others do have rough days too. Part of it is knowing that the things that you find really difficult now, will not be really difficult forever.

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I agree that a balance of those two approaches, trying to make the best of the moment while taking comfort in that it will pass, seems to be the way to go!

Especially when you've got two or more little ones at once!

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

Annie, yes, I agree, it's really important to connect with others sharing the same journey. I gain a lot of strength talking to other mothers of toddlers (especially those who, like me, are with one almost 24/7!). I just thought the video focused too heavily on getting PAST the toddler years. It would have been nice to hear more reflections on what was good about those times, too.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia@MaMammalia

Easily the most helpful comment left on this post! I have been trying a similar method with my 19 month old since my husband has been overseas and things became more challenging with her... It's definitely helping! Sometimes it's just as frustrating for me as it is for her to have to say no no no... but when I give her just a little bit of undivided attention between tasks, she's usually happy to play on her own for long enough to let me get some things done. And she LOVES to "help" so why not let her? When I do dishes I pull up a chair now and let her play with a sponge and tupperware in the other side of the sink. When I bake I give her a bowl and spoon right next to me. When I vacuum she has her own mini toy dirt devil that she pushes around behind me.

She THINKS she's helping and that's what matters.

Since starting this I've been getting big sloppy kisses, spontaneous bear hugs and cooperative bed times. Not complaining!

It's making life working at home alone with a toddler much more bearable. Besides listening to NickJr shows and kids songs all the time ;)

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

What an awesome video - and an even more awesome message Annie!! Well done to all of you! I honestly remember loving/hating toddler years but right now, today...years later I don't remember too many specifics, honestly! I remember LOVING the playdoh and paints/sparkly glue days...and hating the sleeps, naps, and car seat struggles...but just barely...I was lucky enough to have a pretty fun mom group, and I swear I saw most of these other moms more than my own husband, it's as if I was scared to be alone with two toddlers in the house..and most of my friends felt the same way..so important to share the fun, and the frustrations with others and thats what i really enjoy about this video!!

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermarci

[...] years are. I heard you in my post asking what you find hard about the toddler years, I heard you in my video, I’ve heard you in e-mails, on twitter, and in comments on other blog posts. But I’ve [...]

I honestly wish my 19-month-old would stop. trying. to. kill. himself! With 4 kids in the family, and the oldest near 10, there are things in my home I never had when the big ones were little, and it's not always possible to keep the toddler out of all the LEGO or -- oh my gosh -- off the bunkbed ladder.

The ladder was tonight's fisco. Up in the blink of an eye, he fell off and I missed catching him by an inch. He was in the bathroom with me and his sister, so I thought. He's fine, but I don't think my heart will ever recover from the jolt. Oy.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCin

[...] and loved having the opportunity to connect with her recently on Skype as we filmed her segment of my toddler years video. I’ve been begging her to guest post for me for a while and am happy to finally have a piece [...]

Thank you for the great video. I actually love the toddler years. They are tough, yes, but they are so special. I love watching the amazing growth that happens. And don't toddlers say the funniest things! I try to make sure I notice all the little special things my kids do and take them in. It more than covers for the rough times.

The joys of motherhood really come in those special moments.

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

[...] came across a link on facebook about living through the toddler years.  And whoo-boy, the toddler years, boy they suck, huh?  Having done it twice in two years, I [...]

[...] know. Maybe some are. Whatever the motives, I fall into the Parenting a Toddler is Hard Camp, as do many others (HT Ask [...]

I adopted a now 18 month old this past January, and I am a single father. Loved the video, and can already relate to some of it. Thank you. :-)

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNew dad in Toronto

I am impressive.....!
Ow my godness just amazing of your post. we did the music and painting activity, i intended to use the rollof butcher paper! I just want you thanks for sharing this its gorgeous idea, and this is a great idea that i have been looking for your adorable kids. Children education and kids music are one of the great opportunity to bring up perfectly your kids. and your they must bound to enjoy it.

April 28, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermichale

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