Do You Have Toddleritis?

Have you been popping Advil like E.T. with a sackful of Reeses Pieces? Have you been reduced to a quivering ball of stress after finally wishing your child goodnight? Do you have a sudden thought that you want your kid gone…just gone…coupled with a crippling guilt at even thinking such a thing? Then perhaps you’re suffering from Toddleritis, a very real but treatable and curable mental exhaustion created by a myriad of both exotic and commonplace actions and behaviors.

Possible Todderitis causes include:

  • Your toddler purposely pouring a bowl filled to the brim with milk and cereal on to herself, her high chair and the floor forcing you to clean her up, do a load of laundry, scrub the floor and vacuum the carpet all while she wails to the point where it sounds like she’s barking like a seal
  • Your toddler refuses to eat lunch for some unknown reason, pushing away all food and utensils and crying as if you’d threatened to never let her see the clip of “Let It Go” from Frozen again
  • Your toddler decides not to nap and instead sits in her crib intermittently whimpering and talking to herself as you try to read or watch a television program or get some work done
  • Your toddler poops during nap-time and because she’s rebuffed sleep, her inability to stay still allow the poop to seep through her diaper all over her clothes, sleep sack, sheets and stuffed animals forcing you once again to the laundry room
  • Your toddler keeps climbing on bookcases, tables and anything she can reach despite the amount of times you’ve asked/told her not to do so because it’s dangerous
  • Your toddler decides mac and cheese, vegetables, grapes, etc. aren’t good enough for dinner; all she wants are “Puffs!” and she’ll scream unless she gets them
  • Your toddler wakes up in the middle of the night screaming for Daddy and after you wait the required 5 minutes to see if she’ll fall back asleep, you go in, hold her, sing to her, rock her until she falls asleep in your arms looking precious – so precious – but a half hour later when you try to put her back in her crib, she reawakens and starts crying forcing you to do everything all over again and wonder if you’ll ever get back to your own bed

And it’s very possible all of these things have happened on the same day!

Toddleritis symptoms may include:

  • Extreme physical, emotional and mental fatigue
  • A wish to tear your hair out and run down the hallway yelling incomprehensible words and phrases
  • Severe pain from wrenching your back while preventing your toddler from grabbing something she’s not supposed to touch
  • An inability to sleep or at least sleep well enough to function
  • As reported above, a desire for your toddler to disappear instantly followed by oppressive guilt
  • An urge to strangle Elmo (though that could also be an ordinary feeling)
  • In your mind, your toddler has morphed into this:


The good news is that Toddleritis symptoms can be treated and the disease has numerous cures. Perhaps a loved one is willing to take your toddler off your hands for a night or even a few hours allowing you much needed alone, sleep and/or spousal time. It’s possible your spouse will “give you a day a off” allowing you to meet up with some friends, watch something like The Wolf of Wall Street and then debate Matthew Perry preparing to write and play Oscar Madison in a remake of the beloved sitcom, The Odd Couple (as Darth Vader so famously said, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”). If no loved ones are around, you can maybe pay a babysitter an exorbitant, yet well-deserved wad of bills so you and your spouse can have a wonderful date night. All of these can act as treatments and/or cures, but the best and most effective are the following:

  • Your toddler does something hilarious like finally answering “Braaains!” along with a throaty laugh when asked what a zombie says (ok, I’m weird)
  • Your toddler runs into your arms and gives you a warm hug
  • Your toddler gives you a look that melts your heart
  • Your toddler smiles, jumps up and down and says, “Daddy!” when you walk through the door

Toddleritis can be a serious condition, but rest assured, it won’t last forever because at any moment your toddler might exhibit such glorious glee at the most run-of-the-mill thing that your body swells with pride and love. In essence, your toddler might all of a sudden look like this:


And how could you feel anything but enchantment when faced with a moment like that?


I Learned It From Watching You!

Last week, when my mom was babysitting while I was at session, our cat, Gleeb, had a bit of a hairball. Now, I know this sounds mundane, but it was actually quite an event. According to my mom Sienna was in her room on the changing table when she heard these wheezing noises coming from the living room.

“What’s that?! What’s that?!” she asked excitedly with a hint of concern to which my mom proceeded to explain what was happening.

“Geeb!! Geeb!!” Sienna yelled, “E okay?? E okay??”

“He’s ok,” my mom said, letting Sienna down from the table. Apparently Sienna then ran out of her room and straight to Gleeb who had by then recovered (thankfully he didn’t spit anything up!). She then hugged and kissed and pet him all the while shouting, “Geeb!! Geeb!! E okay?? E okay??” to which my mom kept reassuring her that indeed he was.

This happened about 10 minutes before I came home and when I walked through the door I was greeted by my daughter pointing at Gleeb and repeating her refrain, “Geeb!! Geeb!! E okay?? E okay??” Then she’d hug and kiss and pet him until he walked away to which she’d yell, “E goes!” and then run after him to start it all over again.

Sounds like nothing, right? But there are a few significant things about it. This was the first time Sienna called Gleeb by name (she’d been saying “Ginky” or “Dinky” when referring to our other cat, Minky, for months). That one I was smart enough to figure out myself. It was also weird that it would happen shortly after I’d blogged about dealing with the loss of a pet now that I’m parent. The other thing I learned when I relayed the story to Elaine later that evening and she teared up.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said, dabbing away tears. “I missed it, but it also shows she’s watching and learning from us.”

Elaine was right. Sienna watches us treat not just Gleeb and Minky, but each other with love and care. Elaine and I are especially affectionate if one or the other of us is in turmoil. If I’m the verge of an anxiety attack, Elaine hugs me immediately. I do the same for her if she’s struggling. We kiss each other in front of Sienna. We hold hands. Our daughter’s absorbing this and it clearly came out when she worried over Gleeb.

Both Elaine and I grew up in families that lacked physical affection. In my family, for instance, the men never hugged. I remember one time when we were talking about this during a family gathering and my uncle went to hug my late grandfather. My grandfather went rigid, blushed and chuckled nervously. All of us were laughing at how ridiculous my grandfather looked, but thinking back, it’s sad.

My father too has trouble showing affection. As I’ve written before, it came out in therapy that he stopped hugging me when I was around 4, which is most likely when his father stopped hugging him. My uncle, having married my dad’s sister, has an easier time with it, but growing up I’d always shake his hand because that’s what I thought males were supposed to do. Inside, though starving for physical affection, I became uncomfortable hugging anyone in my family, male or female, especially my father. When I yelled that my dad owed me 30+ years of hugs during a family therapy session after my nervous breakdown, I was dead serious, and to his credit, he’s been so much better at it (though we’re also both still a little awkward when doing it). I’m proud of him.

I also don’t remember my parents being physically affectionate towards each other. Elaine has the same memories of her parents. In fact, Elaine didn’t know what to do when I’d have emotional trouble when we first started dating. I had to teach her that I needed to be hugged and though it took awhile, now it’s instinctual. Thus we decided long ago that we’d never stop hugging each other and that when it came to Sienna, we’d emulate the Keatons from “Family Ties”: we would be those annoying parents whose teenage children would come into a room, find their parental units holding hands and kissing, roll their eyes and go, “Ugh! They’re at it again!”

Nearly 21-months after Sienna’s birth, we’re still going strong in how we treat each other. With love. With caring. With respect. With hugs and kisses. And as I said before that affection extends to Gleeb and Minky and of course, Sienna, who receives so many hugs and kisses it’s impossible to count and who gives them right back to Elaine and I.

“Geeb!! Geeb!! E okay?? E okay??” *Kiss* *Hug*



Sienna watching carefully over Gleeb

Sienna & the Moon Remind Me How Lucky I Am

Her utter excitement and bewilderment swept through me like nothing I’d ever experienced, for as much as I’d like to say I’m seeing things anew this might have been the first time where I truly felt the power of watching the world through my daughter’s eyes. It was a crescent moon, the type of moon that in the immortal words of Cookie Monster, “looks like a cookie, but you can’t eat [it].” In my arms Sienna stared at the sky, eyes wide, mouth agape. She pointed.


Her rush of joy filled me. Sienna had been saying “moon” for some time now because she has a toy that lights up and spreads a starry sky across her bedroom ceiling. Elaine and I spent time in her darkened room save for the electric stars and crescent moon teaching her words. This was the first time I could remember her seeing the celestial body and calling its name.

The moon disappeared behind some fast-moving clouds. “Where’d it go?” Sienna asked, arms outstretched, palms up, questioning. I assured her it was still there. We waited until it reappeared.




I felt so lucky to have witnessed something so wonderful, a parent watching a child’s recognition of Earth’s natural satellite, an occurrence that’s been going on since the beginning of human existence. In that moment I felt no fear. The heaviness of failure that I’d applied to myself because I am a stay-at-home dad was further than the moon from Earth. It was so special that it made me realize how quickly Sienna’s language skills are developing. How because I’m a stay-at-home dad I’m fortunate enough to enjoy childhood leaps and bounds that generations of men could never experience. I feel like I can see Sienna’s mind and personality flourish, the gears turning behind her eyes. I’m head over heels for my daughter, even if I need a break from her quite a bit.

My one regret is that Elaine wasn’t there to share the moment with me; my family was incomplete. Because she’s currently the breadwinner, she does miss out on certain things, and I know she’s devastated by that. But she’s an incredible mom and when she’s home with Sienna the love between them is palpable. When she’s home Sienna runs to her, so excited to see Mommy.

I never thought I’d have a girlfriend, let alone a wife and a daughter. My brain still fights me when it comes to having it all. My view of success remains warped. I still feel like I’m depriving Sienna by not taking her to a different museum or park or class every day, but I do feel enriched when we’re home together singing the old “Batman” theme while she pumps her arms up and down, Batman in one hand, Joker in the other.

It’s been thought forever that the moon has special powers. I’ve never believed that, but last night proved me wrong.


My body’s still shivering with child-like wonder.