When Toddlers Develop 1,000 Hands

I don’t quite know when it happened, but sometime over the course of her first 18-months of life, my youngest daughter developed 1,000 hands.

These hands are used for many useful things, like giving hugs and blowing kisses. They are also used for not-so-useful things, like making messes at the dinner table and reprogramming the television so it only speaks Spanish. When there are two grown adults to keep the hands under control (such as my wife and me), it’s not so bad. One of us can try to entertain her while the other one stands guard like a pit boss at a casino, eyeing the crowd for any shenanigans. But when my wife is out of the house and has, against all logic and reason, left me all alone to watch our kids—which includes a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 1,000-handed toddler—I spend all night using one phrase:

“I turn away for TWO SECONDS and (fill in the blank)!!!”

Every parent I know has used this phrase at one time or another. And if they haven’t said it, they’ve thought it. Many times. Why? Because two seconds is the precise measurement of time it takes for any 18-month-old to use any one of her 1,000 hands to draw a picture for you ... on your freshly painted bedroom wall.

It’d be nice if the phrase was used to indicate something pleasant, like “I turn away for TWO SECONDS and she made us all dinner!!!” or “I turn away for TWO SECONDS and she reorganized the linen closet so all our towels are arranged by color and our toiletries are neatly tucked to the side!!!” Unfortunately it’s more likely that you are yelling, “I turn away for TWO SECONDS and she reorganized the linen closet by throwing all our towels in the toilet!!!”

This brings me to the other night. My wife left to help a family member who needed some help, which we all know is code for “Mario Kart Tournament.” She gave the kids hugs and kisses, and then turned to me and said, “Good luck.” Then she let out a loud laugh as she sneaked out the back door.

I turned to my daughters and noticed my youngest was missing.

“Where did she go?”

Then I heard a noise come from the dining room. She had pulled a box of crayons off the table and dumped them all over the floor. I started cleaning them up when she disappeared. Two seconds later I heard a noise come from the living room. She knocked over the toy bin. I moved my way in when I heard a noise from the kitchen. She somehow managed to reach a roll of tape that was placed on the counter—so far back on the counter that even I have trouble reaching it—and managed to unravel it and get tape on everything in sight. When I finally started removing the tape, I saw her trying to call someone on my phone. When I started apologizing to Time Warner Cable and explained that my daughter dialed them by mistake, another noise came from the dining room: She had knocked over the crayons again!

Keep in mind, at this point my wife had only been gone for about 4 minutes.

This game continued for the next 3 hours. Before I’d finished cleaning up a mess, she’d make another one. My older two girls even offered to help by watching my 1,000-handed toddler. It was the sweetest gesture in the world! It also lasted an amazing seventeen seconds before they abandoned this operation for something much, much more important: Bubble Guppies.

By the time my wife returned home, I was beat. The house was a wreck. I was sprawled out on the floor, all three kids sitting on top of me as if I were awkwardly-shaped couch.

“What happened in here?” she asked.

“Well, I turned away for TWO SECONDS and the house exploded.”

“I guess that means you didn’t have time to do the dishes?”

“That’s the one thing our 1,000-handed toddler didn’t touch.”

While I know this is just a phase, it’s an exhausting phase. It’s one that ends in chipped picture frames and broken bobbleheads and, occasionally, someone needing an ice pack. I’m sure one day I’ll miss her toddler hands and having to chase her around our house, but right now I don’t have time to do it. I’m too busy wondering what that noise was in the other room.

OMG—It’s the crayons again! I turn away for TWO SECONDS ...

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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