Power-hungry “toddlers” are trying to take over. Be a grown up and don’t let them.

I’ve never understand why people want to be “in charge.” They must think there’s great status, or acclaim, or money.

But it’s responsibility, criticism, and working far more hours than one will ever be compensated for.

That is, if the leader in power is doing things right.

I suspect most who crave power are intent on doing things wrong; they want people to praise (worship) them, they want every convenience and toy available, and they want no one to stand in their way.

Those who are power-hungry are simply toddlers. You can tell by their tantrums, their screaming, their raging, their demands to get whatever they want, and everyone else can just shut up.

The first time one of my toddlers screamed at me in a fit of fury to “shut up!” I was at first astonished, then I burst out laughing. My toddler responded by screaming more and more, until I put her into time out so that I could try to stop laughing.

Worryingly, adults who demand power and influence, and throw tantrums when the don’t get it, are much harder to put in a chair in the corner. Nor are they nearly as funny. I rarely find myself laughing anymore.

I’m deeply concerned that someday they may get exactly what they want, through their manipulative bullying tactics. And the last thing they’re going to be concerned with is their responsibility to others. They want the power to serve themselves.

Such “toddlers” in power would be a terrifying thing. That’s why we all need to act like grown ups and not give in to the tantrums around us.

“If they can’t manipulate me—and they’re discovering quickly that I’m no Stumpy—then they’re going to discredit me and try a new tactic. Call me paranoid, but since I don’t know who’s working for whom—and if anyone is actually on my side besides the enlisted men who I bribe with snacks—I can’t trust anyone,” Pere confided.

“Oh,” Relf said, his voice small. “That’s why you didn’t want me to speak until we got home.”

“Exactly. There are spies everywhere, son. Walking casually past, following a few steps behind, waiting in a shrub. It’s also why I don’t employ servants, or want to move into a larger home where we would need servants. Trust no one, Relf, not even your servants. They’ll bring you your meal with a smile one day then stab you in the heart the next.”

“Pere!” Banu exclaimed. “That’s not fair! My friend is a servant.”

“And maybe we’ll employ her when all of this mess calms down. Until then, I stand by what I say, Relf. If not the servant, then the relative or friend of one. Remember that anyone in power is a target for anyone without power.”

~The Walls in the Middle of Idumea, available now on Amazon and here

If you could give your younger self a message from the future, what would it be?

That’s how I felt two days ago, and wondered if I could.

Allow me to back up a bit. My blog is a little late this week, because I spent a few days in a hospital two hours away assisting my oldest daughter with her second born, and then with her toddler son.

When her little girl was only hours old, and big brother was on his way with his daddy to meet her, I warned my daughter, “He may not yet be two years old, but you’ll be astonished at how old your son will suddenly appear in relation to your newborn. He’ll age years in just moments.”

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Big brother and baby sister.

Because that was the shock I felt when I sat years ago in a hospital room holding my second-born, and my mother brought my oldest, barely two years old, to meet her.

All I could think was, “Who is this giant child?!” It was as if time had taken a enormous step in seven-league boots, and my first baby was now a kid.

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My two oldest daughters, 2 years old and five days old, 1992.

As I warned that same “kid,” now 25 years old, I felt that immense step again, striking me with sudden reality that those two tiny girls were now women; the older a graduate student nearly finished with her thesis, just as I was with small children, the other a nursing student hoping to be a newborn nurse in a couple of years.

I wish I could have stretched through time and tapped my younger self on the shoulder—the me who stared at her two little girls and wondered, What have I done? Why did I think I could be a mother to two children?!

I would have said to her, “For just a moment, look here. See what will happen in twenty-four shockingly short years.

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“You’ll have some rough years, difficult months, and terrible days, but also many wonderful ones, and eventually you’ll see this: your two formerly-baby daughters, with your first granddaughter. Hold on to this image for when your hope flags and your confidence wanes. It’ll be good. Eventually, it’ll all be good.”

(I would not have told my younger self, however, that I’d have seven more children. I/she would have dropped in a dead faint,  never to be revived.)

As I watched my daughters and yearned to encourage my younger self, I imagined that I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I wondered if it were a distant me, another twenty-four years in the future with too much white hair to pretend it’s only highlights, and with so much experience that I’m sure I’d regard my forty-seven-year-old self as naïve.

I imagined I heard a seventy-one-year-old whisper, “For just a moment, look here. See what’s happened . . .”

I hope that I/she was smiling, as I was this week. I hope that I/she was sending me a message of encouragement, of never giving up. I’m sure there’ll be events that she’ll have witnessed in our future that will be heartbreaking, but others that will be glorious beyond my current imagining. I hope it’s to one of those scenes I/she is wishing to draw my attention, just for a moment.

And I hope that the ninety-five-year-old Trish, witnessing yet another scene of astonishment, is tapping the seventy-one-year-old me on the shoulder, and chuckling and weeping with joy as she does so.

Two hours later an exhausted Mahrree, drenched with sweat and tears, and shocked that so much could change so quickly, stared at the bundle in her arms. Her mother and the midwives were surprised that the baby was so small. Mahrree’s seeming enormity must have been a trick of the eye, they decided, magnified by her slight frame. The baby probably came early.

But she didn’t know what they were talking about; nothing about the newborn she spent the last hour and a half birthing seemed small. ~Book 1, Forest at the Edge of the World

There’s no job too tedious that can’t turn terrifying when a toddler tries to help.

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Nothing is as frightening as a toddler running with a pair of scissors . . . unless he’s running with a wet toilet plunger. And you know why it’s wet.

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I’ve come to realize that toddlers are the true terrors of the world. Sweet, hilarious, and darling, they can turn any ordinary event into something unpredictable, and anything somewhat challenging into a true trial. (Think: tents and campfires and forests and Yellowstone National Park and . . . toddlers. My heart rate’s already up, and we’re not going until August.)

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I call my current toddler “The Motivator.” If any of my older children are slow to get a job done, I release The Motivator. He can find the butcher knife in the open dishwasher in two seconds flat, can dump a laundry basket in three seconds, and what he’s able to accomplish with an overflowing garbage can in four seconds is Al Qaida worthy. When my kids see him coming, they know they better work FAST.

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I should rent him out to those who think their lives are dull. After half an hour, they’ll be cured.

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Do you find replacing bathroom plumbing boring? I have a remedy for that. Painting a bedroom? Fixing the starter motor in your car? Reorganizing a cabinet? Simply sweeping the floor? Oh, I have the motivation to make all of those jobs far more exciting.

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And if you have a kitty litter box, you’ll really wished you didn’t.

And if you have a sewing box, you won’t much longer.

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I write a bit about toddlers in my book, and I visited memories of my own nine children as toddlers (my last is 18 months old) for realism, because as Utah’s Poet Laureate Lance E. Larsen has said, “Writing is often more a matter of collecting and eavesdropping than inventing.”  I discovered there’s no way I could “invent” toddlers. They’re just far too inexplicable.

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I adore toddlers. They’re the most exciting, terrifying, adorable, terrifying, kissable, terrifying creatures on earth. That’s why I’ve taken so many pictures of them over the years, and why I say a prayer of thanks each time they drop off to sleep.