I’m sure we’ve all heard it from someone, or read it somewhere, but my current life motto is this: having a toddler is hard. In all honestly, they’re kinda jerks. Of course, infancy is spent mostly in an exhausted fog, so everything is amplified and seems unbearably overwhelming at times, but until my son became mobile, I was living the dream. I just wish I had known it at the time.
so much time EVERY. WAKING. SECOND. stressing while my first son was an infant, that I didn’t even appreciate how practically perfect he was. Sleeping through the night at 7 weeks, never even cried much until about 8 months old? Put himself on his own schedule for eating/napping that was like blissful clockwork? Loved (or would at least TRY) almost all foods? Happiest baby everrrrrrrr???? Sounds great, right?? Now, I’m not telling you these things to brag–I’m actually trying to convince MYSELF that I didn’t waste the first 14 months worrying so much that I didn’t enjoy any of it (I did, I promise!) Because, y’all…it got so much worse.
Full confession: I don’t always like my toddler.
Even more truth: I’m 99% sure he doesn’t always like me, either.
Absolute disclosure: I totally do not even care…anymore.
He’s 18 months old now, and I have spent the last few months really having a hard time with the various “mom guilts” and beating myself up about his freak outs and specific behaviors. Was he biting because we put him in daycare and he hated us for it?? Okay, now he’s not biting and he loves his new routine, but he won’t eat–is this retaliation for not giving him his pacifier? I could go on for pages, but yeah, feeling alllll of the ridiculous things we mom’s guilt ourselves about. So, at his 15 month check up, I literally cried with relief when his pediatrician said, “Totally normal behavior–he’s just a toddler”.
Shut the front door…so…THIS IS A THING KIDS DO?? The biting, hitting, intentionally defiant, extremely bipolar emotions induced by the wrong dinner selection, or making him put on sunscreen? I mean sure, I had heard stories (side note: I had even ugly cried in a Barnes & Noble while desperately researching if my child was possessed or not), but I had been so ashamed by his actions, that I chose to blame myself and label his behavior as a failure on my part. I was too scared to reach out to friends who have probably lived the same scenario at some point (or currently), when I should’ve been embracing my various tribes and taking Facebook polls! Lesson learned.
Now, I call his actions what they are: normal. Now, I feel upset along WITH him, instead of AGAINST him, when he can’t find the right words or tools to communicate to me how he is feeling, and help him to find the right way to handle those emotions. Now, I stick to the schedule he thrives on because, well, would YOU want to endure an hour long meltdown due to hanger or over-stimulation/exhaustion? Hearing that simple phrase, from the #1 person I trust to give an opinion on my kiddo, has made this current journey a lot more bearable.
Sure, he’s pretty much the King of Timeout some days. I get slapped in the face a lot, I’ll own that. For every 2-3 really good days, I prepare myself for the storm that is sure to roll in at about every 3rd-4th day. My husband and I have discussed disciplinary measures, read some books, and are so blessed to have him enrolled in a daycare that has the same values and methods that we do– and where the teachers are able to help guide US on those days when we are just simply out of ideas…and out of patience. Most importantly, having my toddler’s behavior accepted and explained to me by an actual person and professional, rather than judged for the tantrum he just threw in the grocery store, has made a world of difference in how I understand and react to it.
Being a parent is the hardest job most of us have ever had, and I personally don’t do well with failure, which immediately set me up for just that if I had kept up my prior mind set. When my son became a fiercely independent little person, driven by determination, stubbornness and <best of all> pure, raw emotions…reality slapped me in the face with the realization that, well, he was acting…JUST LIKE ME! I have decided to embrace it, rather than to continue to take it personally. I mean, if he’s pulling a “mommy moment” as my endearing husband calls them, at least I know from 30 years of experience what will help diffuse the situation and potentially make him happy, amiright? We don’t always have to like each other, and I assume that there will be many years of head bashing battles between us…but the lessons taught to each other, will always be done out of love.