Top 18 of '18: Sara Given's "Toddler Feelings Helpline"

As usual, we'll share our most-read articles of the year on the Tendency between Xmas and New Year's. Until then, we're offering a Patreon-exclusive peek at some of the pieces that have made the list and are one of the "Top 18 of '18," along with micro-interviews with their authors.

Title: "Toddler Feelings Helpline" 

Author: Sara Given 

Published: March 5, 2018

How did you come up with the idea for "Toddler Feelings Helpline"?

My toddler was endlessly sick last winter, and for weeks there was nothing we could do that didn't set her off. Everyone was pretty ground down by the end of it. The idea of a crisis hotline for toddlers seemed really funny, probably because I hadn't slept in a while. 

Most of the list is inspired by things that one or both of my children actually did. My youngest used to obsess over sad things that happened in books. She had a story where a mama elephant goes away and her baby is worried she might not return (she does, and ironically the point of the book is to assure children that mommy IS coming back). For weeks, my daughter would suddenly burst into tears because, “mama elephant left!” I didn’t think people would get the reference to that particular book, so I subbed in my own traumatizing childhood story, The Velveteen Rabbit. It still makes me cry, which might explain my daughter’s tendency to over empathize with fictional animals. 

There was also an incident where my oldest fled the house naked and did almost a full lap around the yard before we could catch her. She was giggling uncontrollably until I actually caught her, and then she started screaming bloody murder. Our neighbors are all out doing their Sunday gardening and I’m wrestling a naked child in the yard. Any time I feel the urge to judge another parent, I remind myself of this incident. 

How long did it take to write?

It took a few days to finish, mostly because I can only write after the kids are in bed and my other work is done (I’m a teacher). My husband and I sat around reliving all of our children’s toddler idiosyncrasies and a lot of them are in here, although no one ever called 9-1-1.

Anything about the audience response surprise you?

People really related to it, which selfishly made me feel a lot better about my own situation. It was like, “Oh, okay. This isn’t just my kid. We can’t be screwing up that much.” It was also fun to read all of the crazy toddler stories people shared in the comments. Misery really does love company.