Living with a toddler is like living with a senile manic depressive. You are a captive social worker belted into their emotional roller coaster. They can deliver you, with a kiss and a “I really love you Dada,” to the clouds, and in quick succession they can send you hurtling toward the earth in a death spiral of banshee-like screaming at the back of your friend’s wedding. When the ride stops, you are a crumpled emotional carcass while they are smiling like a cherub, handing the ticket man another token.
I heard someone once say that if an adult treated you the way a toddler does, you would probably punch them and call them a jerk. You’d probably also swear at them, with the most common refrain being, “What the hell is wrong with you?” There is a lot “wrong” with them from the adult perspective, so much so that if a toddler were treated as an adult by a psychiatrist, I think they could be prescribed the following four anti-psychotic drugs. I will provided evidence for each of these drugs’ associated conditions using examples from our recent camping trip to Mt. Rainier National Park.
Lithium (for bipolar disorder). If I could choose only one drug for my toddler’s mental first aid kit it would be Lithium. If toddlers were an emotional landscape they would look like the Himalaya. Adults, on the other hand, mostly look like the Midwest. This causes friction. Iowans don’t acclimate well to being dragged up frigid 8,000 meter peaks and run back down to the sweltering Indian paddy fields over and over again. It is exhausting and gives them severe headaches. Lithium smooths things out.
Sarah and I like to hang onto the delusion that we are still hardened hikers without a two year-old on my shoulders and a baby growing in her tummy. So we do not eat at picnic areas set up by the NPS. No, we hike 0.3 miles up to a ridge, lugging our camp stove, water and noodles and cook our dinner like real thru-hikers on the trail. While I’m boiling water, Josie tells Sarah she needs to go “poop poop.” Uh oh. Josie is not a seasoned outdoor pooper. She is also tired and hungry. It is a Saturday in July and there are literally hundreds of people on this trail. Sarah valiantly scoops her up and departs for the small grove of alpine firs nearby. As I’m stirring penne, I begin to hear screaming. So do about 30 other people walking down this section trail. It sounds like a cougar is mauling a small child in the woods. I’m thrown back to a sociology class in college, learning about the murder of Kitty Genovese. Five minutes pass, and Sarah emerges. Aside for some reddened eyes and uncooperative sphincter, Josie has emotionally recovered completely. Sarah and I, on the other hand, are a little ragged.
Valium/Xanax (for anxiety). Traveling with toddlers is the worst. The reason why is that change makes them anxious. Routine is their friend, so in a way they’re a little autistic too. Therefore, taking down the tent in the morning is a rife with trauma. After a number of meltdowns, we finally got it right by having her “help” with undoing the clips and collapsing the tent poles. Then again, she didn’t collapse the tent poles. They became play things and I eventually had to take them away, which led to more banshee screaming. Thirty seconds late she was fine. Look – a squirrel!
Haldol (for megalomania) Megalomania is characterized by four conditions, where individuals believe themselves omnipotent, have a deluded sense of possessing extraordinary power, or exhibit grandiosity, which is a view of personal superiority and disdain for others.
Mt. Rainier is a massive stratovolcano 14,411 feet high, and possess more glacial mass than all the rest of the glaciers in the continental United States combined. When Josie first saw it up close from her car seat she declared it “My mountain” and referred to it in this way for the rest of the trip. Enough said.
Of course I wouldn’t recommend giving a toddler Valium. If, however, I could get Josie a prescription I can’t say I wouldn’t pilfer her stash the next time she devolved into a convulsing jelly of screaming. Just to smooth things out a little. Then again maybe I’ll just break out that ear protection again – probably less habit forming.