I’ve been thinking lately about something our pediatrician told us: that toddlers are sort of like teenagers.  As my twenty-month-old daughter Harper begins to precociously behave like a textbook two-year-old, this has started to seem more and more true to me.  Now, I’ve never parented a teenager but I do vaguely remember being one, and I often see them milling about our neighborhood pretending to be unprivileged and pissed off.  And I think it’s really true, that toddlers really are a lot like them.  Except of course that they aren’t potty-trained, as I believe most teenagers are, and they often conclude their tantrums with love-attacks of hugs and slobbery kisses, which teenagers might actually do too, albeit with more aloof shows of affection.

So the other day, when my sweet girl came up to me during mom-tot yoga, kissed me full on the lips, smacked my cheek, and then kissed me again, I thought of a new term to describe this befuddling age: tweendler.

Toddlers are tiny teenagers, Exhibit A: The Urge for Independence

Teenagers pretty much consider themselves to be adults, and yet are still dependent on their parents for such niceties as shelter, food, and the keys to the car.  Harper also pretty much considers herself to be an adult.  She is extremely offended by the suggestion of sitting in the stroller, and would much rather walk, or better yet, push the stroller herself everywhere we go.  This transforms a one-block walk into a 30 minute journey, but she’s on tweendler time and doesn’t care.  The other day she had a complete meltdown because she wanted very badly to put on her own pants and couldn’t quite figure out how.  Our days are punctuated by orders:  “Hahpah do it!” And then if that doesn’t work, a begrudging “Mama do it!”  I feel for her, I do – it would be incredibly frustrating to want and not be able to do so very many things – I also admit that it can try the patience when a small person has a temper tantrum inspired by the impossibility of eating string cheese while wearing mittens.

Exhibit B: The Increasing Influence of Peers

It’s well known that teenagers pick up all sorts of terrible habits like doing drugs and saying “like” from their friends.  Harper too has a sudden interest in what the kids around her are doing and will completely ignore me, her best playmate of an instant before, if a big kid on the playground invites her to run around (even if the invitation was only in Harper’s mind).  She will study the other kids at tumbling class and then join their unsavory activity of smacking the radiator cover, which I feel like is the tweendler equivalent of driving too fast or blowing off studying or some other awful thing.  Most of all, she desperately covets every other kid’s toys/mini strollers/shoes/snacks.  Especially the snacks.  Even if they are the exact same snack as what’s in her own snack cup.  Not the point, Mama, not the point.

Exhibit C: Weird Clothes Things

Teenagers are known to experiment with clothing and related identity styles, sometimes cycling through goth, punk, and hippie stages in a matter of a few years or months.  The other day Harper was devastated at the idea of taking off her puppy pajamas, and would only be placated by a shirt with a puppy on it, and even then would not allow her coat to be zipped up over it, presumably in order not to smother the puppy.  Obviously, she’s keeping it real in a pretty hardcore puppy stage these days.

Exhibit D: Weird Food Things

When I was a teenager, I tortured amused my family by being a vegan.  Harper goes whole days where she’ll eat nothing but cheerios and pureed fruit/vegetable mixtures from little pouches, which, I argue, is pretty much the same thing.

And maybe this is just part of being a parent in general, but it seems to me that at both of these ages you find yourself saying things you never thought you’d say.  When Harper’s an actual teen, I imagine I’ll hear some shrill mother-voice emitting from my mouth something like, “Wait till your father gets home!” For now it’s “Um, Harper? Why is there milk all over the dog?”

Tweendlers!

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AMY SHEARN is the author of the novel How Far Is the Ocean from Here. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a baby, and a dog. Visit her online at amyshearn.com.

6 responses to “Tweendlers”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    Tweendlers. Ha!

    And instead of “Hannah Montana,” they have “The Fresh Beat Band.” (If you’ve not seen this, consider yourself lucky!).

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Amy,

    Why was the milk all over the dog?
    You really can’t leave us hanging here!

    (This is all so very true, by the way.)

  3. M.J. Fievre says:

    Hi Amy,
    I don’t have kids yet, but I have nieces and nephews and found your piece quite enlightening. Tweendlers… I like that.

  4. Marni Grossman says:

    Harper’s getting so big!

    As always, hilarious.

    (And, incidentally, I’m back in NYC. For good, I think. We should play.)

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