Parenting

3 Things That Are Totally Okay to Do With Your Toddler (No Matter What Anyone Else Says)

“I just don’t think he should touch that. It’s dirty,” said a random man on the street, watching my toddler pick up a rock. Oh, well I just don’t think you have any say on how I parent my son. But thanks. And also, your fly’s open.

These days it seems like everyone’s got an opinion on how to raise our kids. And they’re all under the mistaken impression that we care. Just in case these busybodies are starting to get to you, here are a few things that are absolutely okay to do with your toddler. No matter what anyone says.

1. Let him have a Happy Meal (or other junk food) every once in awhile.

In our gluten-free, sugar-free, sodium-free, everything-free world we are loathe to allow even a single bite of anything that might be considered unhealthy to pass our toddler’s lips. But, honestly, have you tasted the french fries at McDonald’s? Or, better yet, have you watched your toddler’s face when he eats them?

I mean, sure, we can’t just let our kids do things because it makes them happy. One of my son’s greatest joys is sticking his hand in public garbage cans. And you’ll notice that’s not an item on this list. But a french fry? Come on.

Food is joy. We know it is. Otherwise eating wouldn’t be a social occasion. Until you let him try one, a toddler is someone who has never tasted Doritos. He’s never licked an ice cream cone. Never bitten into a Twix bar. That’s an amazing thing. Don’t you want to be there when he does? Don’t you want to watch his face? Don’t you want to be the one who gave it to him?

And please don’t tell me that if you never let your kid eat junk food, then he’ll develop healthy eating habits and won’t want it when he’s older. Are you kidding me? At some point in his life that kid’s gonna get offered a bag of chips at a playdate and his whole world is going to explode. And when he comes home you’d better have a really, really good reason why you never let him try this stuff before. Honestly, he’ll eat healthier if he knows what’s out there and has been eating it in moderation all his life, rather than suddenly discovering it and then wanting to eat only that. And you guys won’t need to go to family therapy to get over his feelings of neglect, either, so it’s win-win.

2. Be loud.

So, sure, your monthly visit to Great Aunt Mildred’s nursing home is neither the time nor the place to encourage your toddler’s interest in the bongos. But if, on the way home, he wants to pretend he’s a tyrannosaurus rex and happens to roar loudly near a woman on the sidewalk who looks like, but isn’t, Great Aunt Mildred I say that’s A-okay. Even if the woman looks at him disapprovingly and, yes, even if her eyes then slide up and away from him to meet yours with a look that so clearly says in my day nobody pretended to be dinosaurs! it’s still okay. In your day, lady, there actually were dinosaurs. Nobody needed to pretend.

Kids love noise. They love to make noise. My son, for example, loves to bang the flat sides of two wooden puzzle pieces together and yell “loud!” very loudly. And yes, sometimes this drives me crazy (which is when I tell him to stop) but other times I know it’s just his natural exuberance and I’m grateful for the chance he’s getting to release some pent up energy. The judging stares of strangers are only their way of telling you they have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be raising a toddler. And if they start to get to you, you could try roaring too!

3. Change his diaper (or clothes) in a public place.

Now, let me begin by saying that, when I say public place, I’m talking about a public park, say, or an airport waiting area. Not, for example, the historical home furnishings exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (regardless of the fact that there is a really convenient chaise lounge in there) or the middle of the sidewalk at a busy intersection. If you don’t trust yourself to know the difference, perhaps this particular item isn’t for you. And you should seek counseling. But I digress.

Having married a man who is 6 foot 5 I am blessed with a toddler of incredible height. Trying to change him on the precarious, fold-down bathroom changing table is an activity I prefer to avoid. Not to mention the universal wiggliness of toddlers. Or their penchant for greeting anything dangerous as if it is their long lost auntie from the old country. (Oh! Loose Screw! I’ve missed you so much! Come here so I can kiss you!)

So, yes, you might get a few eye rolls or even the odd dirty look if you change your kid al fresco or in a place that, technically, isn’t a changing table. But you also won’t end up in the hospital because he fell off the tiny changing table into the toilet. Plus, you get the added bonus of offending some uptight weirdos at the park. And who doesn’t love doing that?