Maximum Cuteness (or, tiny little manipulators)

My toddler is in what we call the "Maximum Cuteness" stage.

Maximum Cuteness officially starts at 16 months and lasts until they are 3 and become assholes.

Children in the Maximum Cuteness stage have a superpower. Their superpower is the ability to diffuse hostile situations. Like a mother's anger, for example.   

Kinda like this…


It is lunchtime. The boys are set up with food. I run to the kitchen to see if we have soy sauce in the fridge.

My 4-year-old alerts me that the baby is making a mess. 

So I abort the soy sauce mission, turn around and find:

Rice. Everywhere. He is actually tossing it into the air!

I'm about to explode with frustration. How can he have made such a huge mess in three seconds? Did a single grain of rice even make it to his mouth? He is making a mess on purpose!

My face looks like this:

A serious hostile situation here. 

I interrogate him:

He pauses in his throwing and notices that a hostile situation has developed.

He deploys his superpower.

By demonstrating. Joyfully explains with a single word, "Fetti! Fetti!" (aka "confetti") 

Okay, this is a little cute. He thinks he is having a celebration.

My brow softens. Waves of heated anger no longer radiate from my scalp.

But I'm still annoyed.

He reassess the situation. Turns it up a notch.

By saying something even more cute. 

Creative grammar always gets me. He must know this.

A half-smile appears even.

He sees it and knows he is on the right path. He reaches for his big guns.

And says he is sorry with those GIANT innocent eyes.

And I'm reduced to a loving mother zombie:

Every time. 

This entry was posted in crappy pictures, food, good stuff, messy stuff, parenting, terrible twos, toddlers. Bookmark the permalink.

119 Responses to Maximum Cuteness (or, tiny little manipulators)

  1. Angela says:

    My two year old melts me with the sorry too. This is so true!

  2. Elisa says:

    These powers are innate so they survive childhood. Hah!

  3. Suzie says:

    There have been many atimes that my husband called to ask how the kids are doing and my response was (a very grumbly)”They’re lucky they’re cute.

  4. leshelle says:

    Love it. So true.

  5. Amber Dusick says:

    Yep, exactly. Sometimes it is all they have going for them, but it manages to be just enough.

  6. Amy says:

    This is exactly how they survive! Oh my gosh. I swear every time it’s like you’re reading my diary. ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. Emily says:

    No matter how cute those innocent eyes still don’t save my 2 yo. I have waves of anger coming way after the situation as I’m cleaning the mess up.

  8. Sara says:

    Can I steal the “mom” pics for my FB profile? You’ve totally nailed my four main emotions these days.

  9. Kelli MW says:

    You speak/draw the truth with so much humor & heart. Love it.

  10. Meghatron says:

    Haha – this happens to me probably 5 times a day. I’m butter every single time my 2.5 yr old says “Sowwy Mama. Love you too much Mama, it’s (you’re) beautiful?”

  11. Kate Berrio says:

    My 2 year old combines the “Sawwy mama” with a “big hug?” and “wanna a kiss!”… it’s the trifecta.

  12. I’m so guilty of this. The good news is (or bad news depending on how you’d like to take it) is that they grow out of that stage and their powers are rarely retained past 5 years. I have a 6 year old who just so happens to have retained his power to tip his head to the side and give me a half grin that does me in. *sigh* At least I’m impervious to the rest of the kids’ excessive cuteness attempts. My 17 year old tries it. Sorry, dude, it’s just not the same.

  13. Danielle says:

    I get, “Come here and I’ll give you a biiiig hug!” Gets me every time. Curses!

  14. Kristina says:

    I have said these exact two statements daily for the last 5 years! Little boys are cute with earplugs.

  15. maggiemoo says:

    My son is now 3 and 2 months. He spent his lunch smashing Goldfish against the wall and watching them crumble in a pile on the floor. Since he is 3.2, he is past his maximum cuteness prime. His cuteness no longer sways me. I was angry. He went to bed.

  16. Andrea says:

    It is sometimes the only reason we do not eat our young.

  17. Tarina says:

    PERFECT!! My 2 1/2 yr old is in this stage now. He uses his baby sisters as pawns, too. He will do something so horrendously awful, and then he will run behind one of his 1yr old twin sisters, and give her a kiss, and say “Sissy Sorry!” I explain they didn’t do it, he did. He follows up with “Mommy heart hurt. Sowwy. Kiss?” *melts*

  18. Kim says:

    Note to self – do not feed my 2yr old rice until he’s 5.

  19. Robin says:

    Haha! You had me roaring with laughter already at “…until they are 3 and become assholes.”
    LOVE this post… love all your posts, actually. My life is SO like your life, only you make it funny.

  20. Claire says:

    Have we figured out what happens at three that turns them into little monsters? We need to develop a vaccine.

  21. Hope says:

    They cuteness starts a little earlier with me. My 11-month-old does the nose-scrunch face at me when I get frustrated. LOL

  22. Kelly says:

    Love it! So true. My two year old has started saying “no thanks” in this cute and off-the-wall way. I walk into his room, there are toys everywhere, clothes are all out of his drawers, every book is off the shelf. Me: “Jack, would you please clean up this mess?” Him: “No thanks Momma.” (Comes out more like “no tinks”.) How can I be mad???? Sigh.

  23. Mandi W says:

    I remember this my song is now 3 and he’s just an asshole. Sad but true. The thing that saves him is he still cuddles with at night ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Becky says:

    hahah, phrase is used daily around here too… I really think it’s a defense mechanism… I mean, if you think about it, why would we put up with their crap on a daily basis if we didn’t find them so endearing and adorable. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. Jacki says:

    My 11 year son still has these moments except he waits until I really mad then he does something lovely, sweeps the floor without asking, is sweet to his sister (6yrs) or asks me to open the door as he is taking the trash/recycling out, then I have no choice but not to be mad at him. I swear when he grows up he’ll either be a lawyer a diplomat or a politician !!

  26. lexa brinton says:

    my 2yo has developed his favorite phrase: “Vewwy Vewwy Pwease?” (“very very please”) when he wants things… it’s tough to say no when he is reduced to begging so politely (and so damn cute)…puppies and children are so cute soe we dont kill them all off when the poop on the rug. ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Kari says:

    That is what I say all the time….they sure are lucky they are cute, that must be how babies and toddlers survive! LOL

  28. Alexis says:

    ahhhh, yet again we have the same life ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. Lisa says:

    Oh, I have one of those. My 3-year-old hasn’t outgrown it yet – people say, “Oh, he’s so cute!” and my response is “Yes, and he knows it.” If he’s on the verge of getting in trouble he stops and puts on “the cute smile”.

  30. Jenna says:

    My 2 1/2 year old makes me crack up half the time when I am trying to be mad with her. She will do something wrong, I will come after her about it, and she gets this (adorable) little half-smirk half-smile thing going on, and I just can’t help it! I end up laughing at her instead of getting her in trouble. And I think she KNOWS it will happen, too!!

  31. Melis says:

    Yes, yes! Hahahaha I LOVE the mom faces! HHAHAHAHAHA!

  32. Heather says:

    Seriously laughing out loud! Again. ๐Ÿ˜€

  33. Perfectly illustrated! Especially the “Sawee, Mommy.”

    Love your blog!

    You’re a rock star.

  34. I am at the 3 year old asshole stage…funny his powers expired at 2!

    oh my hilarious!

  35. Andrea Olson says:

    This is where a dog trumps the cats. We call our dog hoover I have no anxiety about the babies spilling food everywhere, its gone before I even notice. Lol

  36. Anisa says:

    “Maximum Cuteness officially starts at 16 months and lasts until they are 3 and become assholes.” This is a fact. Also, we must have had the same interrogation lessons. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  37. AnnaPK says:

    You are confirming the theory I have been spreading: 2 year olds are so so so cute so that you don’t kill them.

    I love your “description” of what happens when they turn 3!!!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

  38. Nicole says:

    My 5-year-old sees how the way-too-cute 2-year-old gets away with junk with nothing but a redirection and simple admonishment, then he tries it and gets in big ol’ trouble. The 5yo doesn’t see the cute.

  39. Lucy522 says:

    I just literally BURST out laughing at “fetti, fetti!”. You are a genius… thank you for making my day a bit brighter! ๐Ÿ˜€

  40. Vero says:

    Lol! I always tell my husband that! Hahaha!

    They are “cute and cuddly” like the Madagascar penguins ๐Ÿ˜‰

  41. Brittni says:

    LOL. so true!

  42. Kathi Cashion says:

    My 3 year old grand daughter says, “Sorry Grandmere’s love you soooooo much”. Works every time!!

  43. Erika says:

    LIKE LIKE LIKE our little monsters…

  44. ROTFL!!! Too good, way true! Been there…All our kiddos in this “Maximum Cuteness” stage really know what they’re doing. ๐Ÿ˜‰ This story couldn’t have been said in any better way. Thanks for the laughs.

  45. Lula says:

    As usual – spot on! Will be coming back to laugh some more, methinks! Thanks!!!

  46. Ah yes. Also, this is why dogs should be given to every family with a young child. Haven’t used a dustbuster in years!

  47. Jess says:

    My kiddo will say “it’s ok, mommy, it’s a accident!” and pat me on the head. I can’t stay annoyed after being patted on the head by an almost-2 year old…

  48. Taylor says:

    This JUST happened to me like two hours ago. My two-year-old and I walked in the door from running errands. She ran over to our leather loveseat, pointed to the arm, and said, “Wook, Ma-Ma! Someone drew this!” I looked. Ballpoint pen scribbles all over the sofa arm. Awesome. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the luxury of having a brother/sister to use as an excuse, so in these situations it is very easy for me to deduce who the “someone” is. I scolded her, explaining that we ONLY color/draw on paper or in coloring books and NEVER on furniture. She said, “OK, Ma-Ma. I WEALLY, WEALLY sowwy, Ma-Ma. I won’t do again.” Dagger to the heart.

  49. I don’t have your self control!

  50. Laura says:

    My 3 yo is lucky that he is still pretty darn cute! I feel kinda bad that is 14 mo brother gets away with soooo much more, though. That cute grin gets me every time.

  51. Ariana McCoy says:

    I agree! I have a min pin and a samoyed mix and they wait until I say go, then all of the food is gone and there is not a speck left anywhere around my 8 1/2 mos old daughter!

  52. When my kids know they’re in deep shit, they look up innocently and ask “Mommy, are you happy at me?” Ugh. Creative Grammar. I’m powerless against it.

  53. Jessica says:

    Thank you for always making me cry with laughter!

  54. Christine says:

    I actually started counting down my 2nd childs 4th birthday BEFORE she turned 3! 273 to go.

  55. TaraFly says:

    LOL!! Same here!

    My husband hears:
    “They’re still alive.” ;D

  56. Kelly says:

    OMG, I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who practically has a psychotic episode when the kids do something in like 2 seconds while my back is turned. It is so true about the cuteness stage, well done! Boys just make you insane at this age. I don’t even like to hear, “Mo-ooooom!” anymore. Remember when it was so darn cute to hear them say mommy, mama, mom, whatever….

  57. Angela Garrison says:

    I have always said that God knew what he was doing because if they weren’t so cute, we would kill them!!!! That’s also why the 10 Commandments read Do Not Kill followed by Honor your Father and Mother!!!

  58. Lynn says:

    Part 2 is how you react when your 4yr old is either “in on it” or initiating the behavior… curious to see how you react to that ๐Ÿ™‚ This was great and right on point!

  59. Hahahaha! I love the “serious hostile situation” mom expression. I must wear that expression at least 20 times a day. Three year old’s are little trouble makers!

  60. Claire L says:

    This explains my son to a T!! He doesn’t quite have the vocabulary yet, but has just hit 16 months (so i have a lot more of it to look forward to) and has this smile that totally bypasses the first two angry-steps… little monster-angel he is ๐Ÿ™‚

  61. OMG! So true! My 5yo still knows the “Cute Factor” works and uses it against me constantly!

  62. Hekate says:

    Soooooo true!!!! My daughter turned 3 a few months ago and STILL has maximum cuteness!!! My sister and I call it ‘cuteness to a weaponized level’, LOL ๐Ÿ™‚

  63. Kristina says:

    Well this happens to me on the daily! Thanks for the laugh!!

  64. Ginger says:

    If you get a big enough one, you can also use the dog to prop the baby up while drinking a bottle. My American Bulldog (160lbs – yes, one HUNDRED sixty pounds) was always so proud of himself when he was being used to feed my niece (aka: HIS baby).

  65. V says:

    Hate to say it but it doesn’t always stop at 3 LOL, My 3.3 year old is basically an Asshole, (The cuteness tactic has gone, he is just stubborn now) he makes mess just to piss me off, eg: my 4.5 year old will come in Mummy Mr 3 is doing x… i walk into the room Juice everywhere… waaaaaaaaah, Why did you do , Head drops down, i dont know… pfffft! LOL

    Just last week i have a shower come out and Mr 3 has decided to rip apart a nappy and spread the gelly stuff all over the lounge room and dining area… Waaaahhhh , why did you do that??? I dont know mummy… riiiight Think to myself Asshole! LOL Have even given him the Finger in a different room so he cant see. I swear he is on a mission to make me explode.

    Anyway i love your blog, reassures me i am not alone with the joys of parenting ๐Ÿ˜› xx

  66. Amanda says:

    I’m just glad I’m not the only one who thinks their kid can be an asshole. LOL!
    The past two weeks I’ve been feeling this way and to have you actually use it in your blog. THE BEST!!

  67. Rachel says:

    The part about three year olds turning into aholes? Love it! Sigh. It’s so very true…..

  68. jenn says:

    You should blog about trying to take a shower! I just experienced this morning. I have a one & three year too.

  69. Amber Dusick says:

    Shower? Oh, you mean that thing in the bathroom that hoses down the tub toys? I do have a story about taking a bath. It is coming. Oh yes, soon.

  70. Dani says:

    My littlest has recently turned 3 so the cuteness factor no longer applies. He’s been a bit under the weather this week (nothing big, just sniffles) and last year he would have had me sleeping in his bed to “make the ouch go away”. This week? Nup, suck it up and have some panadol big boy, mummy needs sleep and big eyes don’t cut it anymore!!

  71. Amanda Reed says:

    Did you ever consider the possibility that he seriously doesn’t know why he did it? lol ๐Ÿ˜‰

  72. K says:

    I feel that way sometimes too, Emily. There are days when their very cuteness seems an insult and a provocation.

  73. Erin Barnard says:

    Oh maggiemoo, if I could “like” your comment I would.

  74. Denise says:

    Wow that is so true. Damn cuteness will get you every time.

  75. My oldest kept the cute and was tolerable until he turned about 5. He’s given us all merry hell since then, though. (He just turned 6) Me and his dad are hoping the angst now means he’ll be over it by the time he’s a teenager.
    Getting a little bro when he was 4 1/2 may have had something to do with this.

  76. Julie says:

    I know I can’t make a universal rule about this… girls have this power to a degree.. but I see a LOT of people posting about their sons and this power. Baby girls are very cute.. but it’s the little boys who know how to work it to defuse mamas.. generally. If I get pissed with my little girl, she gets pissed too. Or very anxious and even clingy. She hates being in the wrong and it can make her fall apart, even if I’m not mad. She could argue by 15 months and would try to change my mind. But boys, generally, will just be charming. Take the words “don’t touch.” Girls, generally, will go to touch something and upon hearing the words “don’t touch” will start crying and begging to touch. With my daughter, it could be right in reach and easy to touch and she would NOT touch it because I said no. I could definitely trust her that way – even before her second birthday – no need for much babyproofing. But she would sometimes spend a half hour and a lot of energy trying to change my mind about touching it. She would end up on the floor kicking and screaming.. but she would NOT touch it. It was kind of ridiculous. With a boy, generally, you can say “don’t touch,” and they will smile lovingly and say, “OK Mommy,” and touch it. Then tell you how much they love you. My 16 month old son will smile at me and creep toward it and then laugh and and giggle and say “no no no!” as he touches it. And if I grab him to stop him, he’ll laugh harder. That would not have been funny to my daughter.

    There are boys like my daughter and girls like my son. But I do see a tendency. Regardless of gender, it is the age to say things like “What the heck? Why not just let them dump the whole cereal box out? I can sweep it up later. And in the meantime I’ll go get my camera.”

  77. karen says:

    my little man has the best line EVER! He doesnt always save it for moments like this, but it works just the same. He says “mommy….: usually followed by a grumpy what, cuz he always wants something when i am busy. “your the best mommy i ever had.” He’s 3. Or in the mornings when he gets up to early and WAY to happy, we’ll come crawl into bed with me and i ask what are you doing? “mommy” WHAT. “I love you” just kills me. So damn cute

  78. Alison says:

    My 2 year old did this to me today. We were playing around and she bit me so I told her I wouldn’t play with her any more. She got all upset, then said, “I sowwy. I sorry, mommy. Eleanor is accident,” which I think is her way of saying she didn’t mean it. I sowwy + creative grammar.

  79. My two year old things she can give kisses and everything will be ok! And- it usually is…

  80. Your 16month old son sounds like my 2 year old daughter…

    She has this adorable way of tilting her head and batting her eyes and smiling and just going for whatever it is that we’ve told her she cant do/touch/eat/etc.

    And if we tell her no, and go toward her to get her out of the immediate vacinity of whatever object facinates her, she runs away full blast, then circles around straight back to the object in question. AND SHE IS FAST, good god…

  81. HAHA I remember a conversation I was having with my parents this morning, along with my 2 year old daughter…

    Nana asks Wren if she is hungry.
    “Are you hungry?”
    Wren – “Yeahsh” – with emphatic head nodding.
    Me – “what do you want to eat?”
    Wren – “Pissa! N Two-tees! No, no pissa. Two-tees!! Uuuuum, yeah!” (she lingers on her ‘umms’)

    (translated “I want pizza! And cookies! No, no pizza, just cookies! Yeah!”)

    I am pretty sure none of us could move for the laughter for like 5 minutes. And she did get pizza for lunch…no cookies though, lol ๐Ÿ˜€

  82. Kim says:

    I was so happy to find a funny (scratch that, laughing-till-I-cry-hilarious) mom blog where the mom didn’t call her kids A-holes, and now you gone and done it. I’m just one of your 100’s of fans, but if you kept your blog clean (without f bombs and a-holes – like another mommy blog) I would be ever so grateful!!

  83. sarah says:

    my eleven month old will show me a huge beautifully adorable smile when i’m getting onto her about something. or she’ll do something funny or mock me. she’s too cute for her own good. the manipulation starts early, she’s already figuring out how to get me to not be mad.

  84. Oh no, and I thought it was just my 17 month old who was criminally cute!

  85. JCCyC says:

    They were little monsters all along. What happens is they no longer have that “this is not the little monster you’re looking for” Jedi mind trick Amber’s post describes.

  86. Jazz says:

    Haha, I love your blog. I could read it all day.

  87. Jaclyn says:

    Caitlyn uses this kind of manipulation all the time! The thing that always gets me is that she will give me the stink eye. I will scold her for something and she furrows her brow and scowls at me. I’ll scowl back, which is apparently hilarious so she will burst out laughing. She gets me every time.

  88. Karen says:

    Not really related to this post but I was thinking today about how when my husband leaves the house it’s tidy and clean and orderly and when he gets home it looks the same but inbetween it looks like a hurricane hit. Anyway the funniest thing was that my thought process was in the form of your crappy pictures!

  89. Heather B says:

    Love this!

  90. LAMR says:

    love it! but perplexed as to why my children never say sorry of their own volition.

  91. Pascale says:


  92. Mercy says:

    Hillarious. It is those cute things that keep us from going insane.

  93. Simone says:

    I am consciously trying to parent my older children this way. In fact, relate to all people this way. Cuteness is natures gift to help elicit the unconditionally loving part of us, I think after the cuteness wears off it’s up to us to start making this our conscious reality all the time. My oldest is 13 and it’s taken me until my third child who’s 21mths for me to appreciate this ๐Ÿ™‚

  94. mummyoftwomunchkins says:

    Their ability to turn on the cuteness is the only survival skill they have lol!!!

  95. Kat says:

    Ah…. so cute. I know this trick well, and have myself been reduced to mother-loving-zombie. It came back once he hit 5, too.

  96. TheUrbanMum says:

    Two boys – 8 years & 7 years.
    A state of perpetual “serious hostile situation” exists…
    Luckily they are cute arseholes…x

  97. Katie says:

    The zombie mom…a “mombie”.

  98. Layla says:

    Behind a day on PIWCP and trying to get a moment to myself, I holler across the room, “Please SHUT the door!” for the seventh time in 2 minutes, see picture 3, and my 2yo, sensing the potential for imminent parental mayhem (and lecturing) runs over and gives me the “Sawee Mama” just as I get to that exact picture. Perfect!

  99. Layla says:

    Love it!

  100. I don’t have kids, but my uterus is whining lately. So this gets me too. LOVE the renderings.

  101. humanmama says:

    OH MY. That is freaking hilarious. I love it. Those horrible children! ๐Ÿ™‚

  102. Debbie says:

    This is too funny. I have felt this way so many times. You seem to know how to make the best out of what life throws us.

  103. Heather says:

    Thank you for the serious laugh! I needed that tonight. And, best of all, I didn’t pee my pants while busting a gut at this blog post. ๐Ÿ™‚ My son is 2.5 and is, quite possibly, on the downward arc of maximum cuteness. It still appears sometimes, but mostly, he’s acting like a jerk and making huge messes. And refusing to use the toilet.

  104. rachel says:

    What if your kid has already turned into an asshole at 18 months? Then what?

  105. Lis Harvey says:

    Gawd, Ihateitwhentheydothat! I mean I love it. Unless it involves poop.

  106. Margaret B. says:

    My response to this post? See your post from 9/6: Laughing before & after kids. I would be one of those “after kids” kind of people.

  107. Mick says:

    Nothing that a smacked arse can’t fix!

  108. Allira says:

    Sorry but this blog post is pure genius. I was crying with laughter.
    So good x

  109. Beth Humphus says:

    So funny! And true, example:
    Me sitting here reading and re-reading this blog, kids get quiet…I run into the kitchen and see my 3 year old mopping with nasty mop water from when I mopped yesterday (because I got to busy to pour it out and you know that no one else in the house is allowed to help mom and pour it out for her), and my 4 year old is “making muffins” with muffin paper cups all over the kitchen, and right before that, they were getting into my 16 year old’s makeup (for the billionth time) and cutting up things in the bathroom, thanks Amber, my kids love you LOL

    Oh yeah, and as for the maximum cuteness, the 3 year old says “mom, I mop for chu!!!” and the 4 year old “mom, I make you muffins for lunch!!” (and as I am typing this, they are slipping on the kitchen floor for fun)

  110. Suzette says:

    I dunno, I have a surly teen and a surly pre-teen. My 4 year old is still the cutest thing ever in this house. Her cuteness will last a lot longer with me, especially with the older kids giving me the stink-eye all the time. I love your drawings. <3

  111. Jim Mann says:

    Wait we DONT eat our young!? Oh shiiii…

  112. Miriam says:

    ๐Ÿ™‚ This is hysterical! And even more: completely the same at our house. Nice to know things like this are the same all around the world (I’m Dutch).
    Recently, my husband got mad at our son (2yo) for some reason I don’t even remember. He got down on one knee to explain to him why he was upset and what did my son do? He walked up to his dad, put his face really, really, really close to my husbands’, looked him in the eyes and after about 7 seconds (seems much longer though) gave him a kiss and said ‘sowwy’… How could anyone keep a straight face with something like that…?

  113. Dianna says:

    LoL I must be super weak cuz all my 7 month old has to do is giggle and give me a huge grin and I turn into mommy zombie

    Love love your blog.nearly every post makes me laugh like mad

  114. Littlefoot says:

    My son’s cuteness manipulation started a couple months ago, around 6 months. Any time he needs something and that panicked baby scream is involved, or that horrible make-you-go-crazy whine, all I have to do is talk to him… No, look at him. What does he give me? The biggest smile he can possibly manage accompanied by the cutest laugh you will ever hear! He even adds an extra touch of cuteness by flaling his arms and legs as violently as he can. This produces an immediate smile from yours truly. And anyone else within earshot. ๐Ÿ™‚

  115. Sammy says:

    Now we can get each and every offerings from SWTOR ๐Ÿ˜€