We've all been there. When a seemingly innocent action by us (the parent) is met with hysterical wailing - or, if we're really turning up the heat, full-blown rage - from a small human being (the toddler).
It's the moment you realise you've ruined another person's day just by cutting their sandwich into squares. If only you'd known.
Actually, you may have known, and had done as instructed by the Toddler/CEO, but you didn't anticipate their last minute change of mind. Shame on you. You probably deserve everything you get.
Here's some of the crimes that have almost ruined the lives of my toddlers:
1. I made her change out of a summer dress in winter.
2. I turned Playschool off before the end of the final credits.
3. I made raisin toast for his sister. He hates raisin toast but felt it was entirely unjust that I would dare make it for another member of the family.
4. I washed teddy/blankie that was 50 shades of grey and a legitimate specimen for the CSIRO.
5. I served up banana - her favourite fruit. My crime was thinking that what she liked yesterday is the same as what she likes today.
6. I said no to chocolate for breakfast.
7. I wouldn't let her in while I was on the toilet.
8. I gathered the 5 browning apples with one bite out of each and put them in the compost. I didn't realise he was reserving the right to finish them at any point in the future.
9. I let her brother look at her.
10. I let his sister look out his car window.
11. I requested she smile for a photo.
12. I moved him away from the oven as I opened the door.
13. I couldn't make the sun go away.
14. I said it was bedtime.
15. And of course, I cut a sandwich into squares, not triangles.
Toddlers are those weird little creatures that have been likened to stumbling, crying drunks (Johnny Depp), blenders without a lid (Jerry Seinfeld), germ-warfare machines in cute packaging (Deborah Geary), and narcissistic psychopathic terrorists. Okay, nobody said that last one. Maybe I did. Once.
What I didn't appreciate through those crazy, messy, emotionally unstable, unreasonable, frustrating and tiring toddler years was that the struggle is real in the toddler world. Their mood swings and the rapid change-of-mind abilities slap us like whiplash. In the time it takes us to prepare a sandwich of their choice, cut it in the shape they request, and deliver it to the Emperor Toddler, they have decided they want spaghetti. They are now heartbroken and outraged that we even suggested a sandwich.
Robin Barker, author of The Mighty Toddler, explains the emotional rollercoaster that epitomises toddlers: "It is difficult for him to regulate his intense emotions – a reason why a toddler can veer wildly between excitement and anger". She suggests managing (ie, lowering) your expectations of your toddler and their behaviour, as well as avoiding (as much as possible) the supermarket, long car trips, restaurants and "spending time in the child-free houses of trendy DINKs or aging relatives".
As much as I relied on Robin Barker when my toddlers were having regular conniption fits, I now think her book could have been a single page that went something like this:
The vital key for smooth sailing with toddlers, to ensure you have no crimes levelled against your parenting reputation is to know and understand this: THEY OWN YOU.
That is all. I wish you luck. May your coffee be stronger than your toddler.