What Mommy Says Versus What A Toddler Hears


Now that my third and youngest child is, officially, a toddler I think I can say I know a lot about parenting a child of this age. What I know above anything else is that a mother’s body can handle a lot of the stress hormone cortisol at one time and still function.

The mayhem is non-stop and this is definitely why we can’t have nice things; and yet the crazy part is how absolutely worth it my tiny destroyers are. Nothing in my life has been able to drive me quite as nuts as they can, and yet nothing in my life has brought me so much love.

Of course, the toddler years seem like an obstacle course of tears, snot, broken furniture, and bad ideas, at the time, but looking back on those years, the memories are also precious (and sometimes hilarious).

It has become clear to me, this third time around, that what you say to your toddler goes in one ear, gets turned into something else entirely.

After much study, I present these translations to you in the hope that you will better understand why your fearless, inventive, stubborn, reactive, and energetic human love bug, well, does the things he does:

  1. When mom says, “Hot!” a toddler hears: Stare at mom with big eyes. While she’s distracted by the cuteness, slowly stretch your hand out and check that she’s right and that thing is Hot! You don’t know, unless you touch it.
  2. When mom says, “No!” a toddler hears: Nothing
  3. When mom says, “Gentle!” a toddler hears: Better hit this twice as hard, just in case. Whoops, it broke.
  4. When mom says, “Get down!” a toddler hears: Time to hustle my little diaper butt over there and get up on that shelf pronto before mom gets over there. Go for it with all the frantic energy of a 1980’s exercise video.
  5. When mom says, “Uh-Oh!” a toddler hears: A fun, silly word that means that I should definitely repeat spilling my food all over the floor just so mom will repeat saying it over and over and over and…
  6. When mom says, “If you don’t stop by the time I could to 3,” a toddler hears: Run and laugh. Laugh so hard you fall down and crash into walls, but don’t ever stop when she finishes counting to 3.
  7. When mom says, “I’m going to take a quick shower,” a toddler hears: Now is the perfect time to fill my diaper, find something messy to smear on my face, run into something and bang my head for the tenth time today, and pull out my best tantrum. All at once. Hurry! She’s getting away!
  8. When mom says, “I think they’re asleep,” a toddler hears: Rise and shine! Wakey wakey eggs and bakey.
  9. When mom says, “Time to go!” a toddler hears: Ooooh, mom’s in a bit of a hurry? Trying to get somewhere on time? Perfect opportunity to perfect that impression of an anaconda.
  10. When mom says, “I love you,” a toddler hears: My favorite word in the world. Time to break out the big mushy grin and put all four teeth bright on display. When mom picks me up and squeezes me, it’s the signal to snuggle my sweet, little troublemaking head in the curve of her neck, while raising one fat, little hand to pat her back for the win.


S.E. White is an author and blogger, offering hope and humor on the long road to becoming a published author. She is a mom of three, ages 10, 4 and 16 months. The kids assist in the writing process by asking when dinner is and hitting the power button on the computer at random intervals. Her work can be found on sites like Her View From Home, Mamalode, Women on Writing and Parent.co.



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