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Crazy Toddler Milestones

Michal Horevaj

One evening when my younger daughter, Genie, was 2, I walked into my bedroom to find her frowning at a twenty-dollar bill on my dresser. “He ugly!” she said, holding it up. Yeah, one can kind of see how Andrew Jackson's caterpillar eyebrows might not do it for the preschool crowd. I chuckled and left the room for a minute, but I wasn't laughing when I walked back in to find Genie proudly tearing Andrew into confetti-size pieces. “What are you doing? That's twenty bucks!” I shouted as she burst into tears. I quickly apologized (after all, she didn't know from money, and I'd left her with it) and taped it back up. My husband told me I could probably exchange it at the bank. But six years later, it's still in my dresser drawer—a reminder that my children will periodically behave in ways that throw me a curveball, and that I've got to take the small stuff in stride.

Actually, it wasn't small stuff at all, says David Hill, M.D., a pediatrician and author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro. “Genie was demonstrating fantastic hand control—something I look for in small kids during their checkups,” he says. “Sometimes a very young child will come into my office and even before I've walked into the room, he's destroyed the tissue paper on the table he's sitting on. His mother will start to apologize, and I'll say, ‘Oh no, that's terrific, he's just saved me the developmental part of the exam!’” Which just goes to show you, for every milestone and leap forward we watch for, applaud, and photograph, there are plenty of others that come disguised as less-than-scrapbook-worthy moments. Here, the bright side of some otherwise annoying behaviors.