Let’s Build Each Other Up
I have always heard about the terrible two’s. And now lately I’ve also been hearing about the terrible three’s. And even the fearsome four’s. I had no idea what any of these actually were until my daughter turned two. It’s so funny too, once you see a melt down from your own child, your empathy grows when you see another person’s child have a melt down too. Before I had children, I’d see a child having a temper tantrum in a store and immediately think “What a brat!”. Now that I have an almost 3 year old girl, if I see a child having a temper tantrum, my heart literally aches for that child and that parent. Why? Because that is SO hard.
It’s not easy, or fun, or pleasant, to watch your child cry, or roll around on the ground, or lie limp while you try to get them off the ground, or worse when the kick and buck and thrash as you’re trying to pick them up. It’s awful. There. I said it. It’s horrible, it’s frustrating and you just want them to listen to you. Listen to reason. But guess what? They’re SO little! They have all of these really big emotions and are still working through their thought processes. Maybe they didn’t sleep well. Maybe they’re hungry. Maybe they’re confused or scared or overstimulated. These tiny children are NOT like us. They are not adults, and sometimes I think it’s good to remind ourselves of that.
Sometimes when my toddler is being stubborn or not listening, or if she’s having a melt down; I’ll find myself taking a glance at her baby brother and sometimes I am struck by just remembering that she was once that little. She was once a very tiny baby where I had to support her head. I used to have to burp her. And change her diaper. And rock her to sleep. And I would clap when she rolled over. And cry with joy at her first steps. She is, and will always be my baby. Even if she’s almost 3. Even when she’s 30. Yes, I will treat her by her age accordingly, but that’s just it. She is a very little girl. I cannot expect her to act any older than she actually is. Yes, I ask her to do things that I think she is capable of, and she always surprises me when she does. She loves to get a fresh diaper for her baby brother, or help me carry some laundry to the washing machine. She loves trying new things. So I cannot fault her when she cries if I tell her it’s time to go take a nap while she’s playing with her toys. Would I rather she just listened and dutifully walked upstairs for her nap? Sure. But that’s not always real life. Real life is sometimes getting down to eye level with her and explaining that we can play later, but it’s nap time now.
I sometimes hear from people “We never explained things to our children back in our day. You’re the parent! They’re the child. Just say ‘Because I’m mom and I said so’.” Well, that’s great that that is what YOU did as a parent. I don’t parent that way. Sure sometimes when I’m exhausted I might snap that out. But ya know what? It doesn’t make things any better. My toddler doesn’t look at me and say “oh ok, that makes sense”. She gets even more upset and shuts down. For us personally, if I take the 60 seconds to explain “Sweetie, we can’t play right. Ow because it’s nap time. I know it’s fun playing, but we need to take a nap. We can play again when you wake up”, she actually DOES get that. She understands. She might not like it, but she gets it.
As parents, we love our children so much. Yes, they sometimes will drive us nuts when we’re just trying to do something simple like walk from the grocery store to the car and they are having a fit. Who wouldn’t get stressed out from that? We’re human. We aren’t saints. It’s normal. And it’s also normal to look at them later and have your heart just melt when your child wraps her arms around your legs and looks up at you to say “You’re the best mommy ever. I love you too mama” even though you were just picking up toys and hadn’t necessarily done or said anything to warrant that. Bottom line, children are going to be children. That’s reality. So the next time you see a child having a melt down or getting overly frustrated, maybe take a second and remember that you actually don’t know what’s going on at that moment. Instead of dismissing them as a “brat” or “a handful”, maybe give that kid a smile. Give the mom an encouraging look. Maybe throw her a high five and a “You’ve got this Mama”. Let’s unite in motherhood. In parenthood. Let’s build each other up instead of taking them down. They’re only this little for so long.