Mandy Fabel: Parenting Advice From A Two Year Old

Columnist Mandy Fabel writes, "Dear Mom and Dad, In honor of my 2nd birthday I would like to share a few thoughts on how you’re doing as parents."

August 03, 20235 min read

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Dear Mom and Dad,

In honor of my 2nd birthday I would like to share a few thoughts on how you’re doing as parents. Overall, I think you’re doing a pretty decent job. I really like it when we laugh, ride bikes, and eat mac and cheese together. I still do not like cleaning up my toys or eating vegetables despite your many attempts. Beyond those very important items, here are a few more lessons I keep trying to teach you.

Let your Plans Hang Low

You know that song, “Do your ears hang low?” My role in this family is to make sure our plans hang low. To ensure that sleep patterns wobble to and fro. To take your plans for a work trip and tie them in a knot (and very occasionally in a bow). I see your attempts at consistency, and I throw them over my shoulder like a continental soldier.

I think it’s OK that you are always making plans. I just think you have unrealistic expectations about how many times those plans will actually happen the way you imagine. Because from my experience it’s like .01%. Even still, it usually all works out in the end. Like the other day when we got everything ready to bike to the swimming pool, but when we got there it was closed. So we went to the park instead. But then I cut my lip open on the slide and blood was everywhere, so we had to leave. But then we randomly stopped by my friend Geo’s house, and he had great snacks and the best couch for jumping. I’m ok with changing plans, but it might be an area for you to practice chilling out a bit. Just let your plans (and your expectations) hang low.

The Emotional Canvas

Listen, I know that my emotional state can be a little volatile. Like how some days I wake up snuggly and happy. But other days I wake up in a fit of rage and it takes seeing a puppy, an airplane, and a backhoe all at the same time to get me to snap out of it.

My emotions are sort of like an artist’s color palette. I get the sense you think you are the artist and you should get to decide which very specific color goes on the canvas of life in any given situation. But actually, I’m the artist. I tend to think the more colors that move from the palette onto the canvas, the better. What I really need is for you to be the canvas. To absorb whatever emotion ends up coming your way and help me direct it into something with purpose and beauty. When you don’t have the patience to help absorb my emotion, usually it means all my colors get mixed together on the canvas. And we both know that can get ugly real fast.

You Don’t Have to Know All the Answers

I see you guys reading those parenting books and I hear you talking to your friends about things like sleep, food, and the potty. I know it probably feels like there is a lot to manage when it comes to all these areas of my life. But you have to remember that on top of figuring out those things, I am also learning how to walk, talk, share with others, solve problems, have independent thoughts, and navigate a constantly changing world. Not to play the victim here, but I feel like I’m doing just fine learning about all those things without reading any books or discussing them with my friends (although shoutout to Finley for her help with potty training).

I guess what I want you to know is that we’re both learning together. I don’t expect you to get it right all the time, and I certainly won’t get it right all the time either. But a little grace for each other and for ourselves can probably help a lot. Oh, and I am listening when you talk about me to other people. So please be sure to share all my success and best attributes. And maybe stop referring to me as a tiny terrorist when we’re in the airport security line.

It Matters That You’re Happy Too

Yes, I love heavy equipment, popsicles, and puppies. But I also love when I can tell that you are genuinely happy. Like when you two come back from a day of adventure in the mountains and your smiles are bigger. Or that time that you left me with Ms. Marley for a week and you went on a vacation together. When you got home your eyes didn’t look so tired. I respect that you are both working hard to make a good life for me. But the life that I want is the one where you are silly and kind to each other and to me. So if one of you needs time to yourself to exercise, I think you should take it. Or if you both need a dinner date while I play with friends, that’s totally cool with me.

Ok, I think that about sums it up. I really like being your kid. Honestly, you’re the best parents I’ve ever had. Let’s go on a bike ride to the park and then eat mac and cheese.

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