How to Get a Toddler Ready For School in 25 Easy Steps

Step 1: Open toddler’s door. Softly and sweetly say, “Good morning, [insert personal term of endearment here]!” Get yelled at. Hope that when they say “I’m still sleeping!” or “Close the door!” they really mean, “Good morning, mommy! I missed you all night!” Know they actually mean, “Close the door, peasant. I’m sleeping!”

Step 2: Walk away. Give them five more minutes to wake up on their own. Make coffee, let the dogs out, brush your teeth, and prepare.

Step 3: Open the door a second time. Sit on toddler’s bed and stroke their hair. Steel yourself against tears and pleas for more sleep. Consider the fact that they will always be tired on school nights and up by 6 on Saturdays. Say nothing. Just wait for the tears to stop.

Step 4: Pick an outfit.

Step 5: Put it back. They hate it.

Step 6: Pick another outfit.

Step 7: Put it back. It’s not the right color.

Step 8: Give up on clothes.

Step 9: Attempt to remove wet diaper while dodging kicks. Ignore the headache that’s begun from piercing screams. Make a mental note to wear ear plugs tomorrow.

Step 10: Ask toddler to get dressed. Plead, cajole, threaten, punish – do what you have to do to ensure clothes of any kind go on their bodies.

Step 11: Look at the clock – realize you’re now running 10 minutes late, even though you got up 10 minutes earlier than yesterday. Bribe toddler with juice and nursery rhymes (kids YouTube).

Step 12: Panic because there’s no juice and SHE WANTS JUUUUUIIIIICE!

Step 13: Panic when there’s no milk either. (When was the last time you went to the grocery store?)

Step 14: Attempt to put shoes on toddler. Watch helplessly as a melt-down ensues.

Step 15: Consider giving up and going back to bed. Realize you’re out of sick days, grit your teeth, and wrestle ease toddler into car seat.

Step 16: Turn on DVD player to Judy and the Beast.

Step 17: Press forward because it’s the wrong scene.

Step 18: Repeat process three more times. Threaten to turn movie off.

Step 19: Sing along with movie. Stop singing when toddler insists that “mommy, you don’t sing.”

Step 20: Drop off toddler at school. Struggle to release yourself from toddler’s death grip. Watch helplessly as melt-down ensues.

Step 21: Get back in car and breathe a sigh of relief.

Step 22: Seriously consider going back inside because you miss toddler.

Step 23: Scroll through photos of toddler on your phone and cry because you love them so much.

Step 24: Ask yourself if it might be time to have another baby.

Step 25: Contemplate your sanity.



Today, you were terrible. Today, I was exhausted and your daddy was sick. Today, you didn’t listen to anything I said. Today, you climbed on the kitchen table everything even when I told you not to, especially when I told you not to, you laughed at me when (for the millionth time) I tried to stop you from eating the possibly poisonous fertilizer we’d just laid down, and you almost managed to insert a screwdriver into an electrical socket before your dad saved you from almost certain death. Today, I was sure I’d lose my mind.

When I caught you dumping out the dogs’ water and pulled you out of the laundry room, you collapsed onto the floor and threw a tantrum complete with flailing limbs and pterodactyl-level screeching. You calmed down when I bribed offered you a snack, but when it wasn’t goldfish, the tantrum began again.

I felt a familiar throb begin in my temple. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was somewhere more peaceful like a hospital ER or the front row of a One Direction concert, but your wails only grew louder. I gave in and handed you some goldfish. You smiled at me beatifically, momentarily soothed by the cheesy goodness of the fish, until I refused to share my Coca-Cola with you.

“Milk! Mommy, milk! Peeeeaaase!” I opened the fridge, more than happy to comply if milk would make the noise stop.

Naturally, we were out of milk. Since you live almost entirely on goldfish, milk, and avocado, the absence of one is nearly catastrophic. I grimaced, unprepared for the drama of a grocery store trip. Still, I packed your diaper bag and wrestled you (screaming) into your car seat. You didn’t want to be strapped in so you threw your paci and Hootie at me, but quickly realized you needed them more than you’d ever needed anything in your entire existence.

“PACI! Are you? HOOTIE!! Aaaaare yoooouuu?” You cried mournfully until they were firmly in your grasp. You were finally, blissfully quiet and I sat down, reveling in the silence that the magical pacifier gave.

But then, “MOMMY! MOMMY! MOOIE!”

I didn’t think a movie was necessary for the five-minute trip to the grocery store so I told you it was broken, but you didn’t believe me. You lifted your arms over your head, clapped your hands together, and chanted, “MOOIE! MOOIE! MOOIE!” until I had no choice but to relent because I was crying laughing too hard to continue the broken movie charade.

You were happy when Flynn Rider smoldered and Rapunzel sang, until I turned off the car and sat you in the grocery cart. You didn’t want to sit, you wanted to play, and when you couldn’t play, you wanted me to hold you, and when I didn’t hold you, you started to cry. So I let you walk, “but only if you hold my hand!” You did – for approximately three seconds – but then you saw something shiny, so you jerked away and took off running.

When I tried to pick you up, your limbs went stiff and immobile, then totally limp as you threw your weight to the ground. You lay stretched on the dirty floor, whining dolefully. Earlier today, you weighed 27 pounds but somehow you gained 100 pounds and were too heavy to pick up.

I pretended to walk away, hoping you’d follow me, but you stayed there crying instead. The woman at the deli counter with the glossy hair and high heels tried to pretend like she wasn’t judging me for leaving you there and I tried to pretend I wasn’t silently yelling at her to mind her own because HAVE YOU EVER HAD KIDS, PERFECT, SHINY LADY!?

When you thought I wasn’t looking anymore, you got up and darted to the thing you wanted to destroy touch. I used my super mom strength to wrangle all 127 pounds of you back into the cart.

I strapped you in and you started crying again. I watched you – your beautiful face scrunched up in fury, your blue eyes luminous with tears – and my frustration began to wane. I remembered yesterday when you gave me a thousand hugs, yesterday when you laughed at everything, yesterday when held my hand as I sang you another song, and I was overwhelmingly struck with love. Because, daughter, I love you so much. We stood there, just two girls in the middle of a store, until your cries finally subsided. Then I kissed the top of your head and whispered, “I love you, baby.”

And you Houdinied your way out of the strap, stood up in the seat, and said, “Gol-fish?”

Z with paci and Hootie.