It smells stinky in my whole life.

One day, a month or so ago, Emilia skulked across the living room, flopped onto the sofa, stared at the ceiling and exclaimed with a sigh, "It smells stinky in my whole life."

And right she is. On multiple levels.

In a literal sense, Emilia's life is stinky because she is insanely sensitive to the aromas around her. Grace's drool is stinky. The mulch in our neighbor's yard is stinky. Dinner is stinky. The nighttime is stinky. Basically, everything has an off-putting odor. There isn't much that can be done except to empty the Diaper Genie and hope that this too shall pass.

In a figurative sense, Emilia's life is stinky because she is a toddler. And lately I've been reflecting on the fact that, no matter how much wonder and awe and magic exists in early childhood, in a lot of ways, being a little kid must be really, really hard.

My brother Paul made this. 

Being a parent is hard too, but we get all of the empathy. We get the tongue-in-cheek lists from Babble and Buzzfeed, allowing us to commiserate with one another about bedtime, withering social lives and the fallacy of work-life balance. We blame our toddlers for making us crazy, imagining them blithely skipping through life, temporarily ruining ours in the process.

But sometimes Emilia's life is stinky too. In between trips to the zoo, Curious George marathons and toast with peanut butter, jelly, honey and sprinkles*, there's a lot of uncertainty. And turmoil.

There is a baby who has suddenly taken over the house and stolen a large portion of our attention. Plus, said baby pulls hair like a champ.

There are monsters.

There is a basement.

There are public restrooms with automatically flushing toilets.

There are parents who trick you into thinking they're awesome and then suddenly get mean.

There is timeout.

There are threats of being sent to timeout that only come to pass roughly 9% of the time.

On that note, there are mixed messages and inconsistencies.

There are so many emotions.

There is logic. Or a lack of logic, depending on who you ask.

There are disrupted schedules and promises broken.

There are frustrating toys, torn pages and shoes that no longer fit.

There are days when nothing makes sense.

So, even though there are still times when I'd love to trade places with my sweet, stubborn girl (olfactory sensitivity and all) -- because a life unburdened by the stresses of being an adult would be pretty great -- I'm trying to look at life from her perspective. I'm trying to practice patience and react to the tantrums, trauma and frustration with a little more empathy.

And, in the process, I hope I can help her see that someday soon, life will smell so much better.

*This is something I was goaded into making once, and now it's somehow become a house specialty (and, I would imagine, our pediatrician's nightmare).


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