Toronto Star

Saturday, August 7, 1999

Fear of toddlers can be conquered

Author and mother Vicki Iovine sends dispatches from the trenches in her new book

By Janice Turner
Toronto Star Life Writer

``Frankly, toddlers frighten me.''

With that line, four-time mommy (roughly two years apart) Vicki Iovine opens The Girlfriend's Guide To Toddlers (Penguin Putnam, $17).

The last time I read Iovine, I was more than seven months pregnant. Her Girlfriend's Guide To Pregnancy came to me a little late in the game, but was nonetheless highly entertaining.

In person - she dropped by The Star on a promotional tour back in 1996 - she really is funny. She hammed it up for a photo. She was sincere in her good wishes.

So, when I read her opening line to Toddlers, it caught me off guard. I thought if anyone can make light of that stage, this is the lady. My son is plunk, right-in-the-middle of the ter-rific twos and I could sure do with some comic relief. (Why, of course, he's a darling.)

Well, it turns out she has retained her wit and irreverence, and does manage to make light of pretty much everything - bless her - including the emotionally loaded (for parents) issue of potty training, eating (I think she occasionally mentions the word meal), discipline (firm but not stern), sleepy time (your toddler's), matters of preschool and beyond mothering (I told you, she's funny).

But back to the issue of fear . . .

``It was so much simpler when you could put the baby down in one general area and expect him to pretty much stay there safe and sound,'' Iovine writes.

``Now he's streaking from one peril-fraught room to another like a lunatic with a death wish and you would give anything for him just to be still. I'm beginning to find the humour in the situation now, but there were times when I felt like a fool trying to put a collar on a bumblebee.''

Sounds about right.

``I know what it is that is so scary about those little people between the ages of 1 and 4 - they are raw and uncensored examples of our human nature. They are the urges, frustrations, desires and fears that all of us feel, but they have absolutely no veneer of civilization to make them more palatable to their fellow human beings . . . I still don't like to sit still in my chair, eat my vegetables, share my toys or wait my turn to do absolutely anything. I'm just a lot better at pretending all those things come naturally to me.''

Oh, Iovine reassures, toddlers are cute. They're charming, curious and spontaneous, all right.

``Is toddlerhood something I'd like to relive?'' she asks. ``Yeah, right after I re-experience my own trip through puberty.''

Her guide - ostensibly a compilation of wisdom culled from other, not always like-minded mothers - is a breezy 264 pages. What follows are some hugely subjective highlights: basically, bits of wisdom and advice that jumped out at me. My comments are italicized.

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