Lately parenting is stretching me.
People have been cautioning me about the, “terrible twos,” since Nia started walking at ten months. “Oh just wait until she turns two. Those twos are terrible.” I listened. I know toddlers. I worked with toddlers for YEARS. I know how to manage a room of two year olds without threats or violence. I didn’t think the twos were so terrible. I refused to language that for my daughter. It wouldn’t be easy but we would make it through. I was even excited as I watched more and more of her
stubbornness independence emerge.
“I doan WANT to Mama.”
“I doan like that.”
Lord have mercy, my child is willful. She knows what she wants. She knows what she likes. She operates under her own timeline and Lord knows she doesn’t inform me. LOL I tell her ahead of time what my behavioral expectations are. I give her warnings when a transition is coming. She says, “Yes Mama,” in the sweetest little two year old voice. Then she FREAKS out when it’s time to DO what I am asking her to. LOL
Parenting is humbling.
This week we had quite a few behaviorally challenging days in a row. I’d arrive at my parents’ house after work, tired and ready to hug my baby and one look from my Mom would tell me that today was a tough day. “How was your day Nia?” “I didn’t listen Mama. I made bad choices. I said No to Mema. I ran away from Mema. I hit Destiny.” I’d take a deep breath and ask about each choice. “Why did you…” do blah blah blah. Sometimes she had an answer, sometimes she didn’t. I’d talk to her. Her Dad would talk to her. We would revoke privileges, take away toys, no TV. We were trying it all. She’d cry and apologize. “I’m so sorry Mama. I’m so sorry.” She wailed. She seemed so contrite. Then she would walk in to our house and do ten things that she KNEW she was not supposed to do.
Mornings were brutal. She’d refuse to put her coat on. She’d refuse to leave the house. She’d cry like I beat her when I tried to put her hat on. Most mornings I was flustered as I carried a crying child to the train station. At the end of the day it was rinse and repeat. It felt like everything was a power struggle.
As I racked my brain trying to uncover the reasons why my sweet baby was turning in to the Tasmanian devil I felt myself getting angry. “Why won’t she just listen?” I went to parenting blogs, websites, Facebook groups, relatives, friends…anyone who might have some advice. What was wrong with HER????
Finally I had a conversation with another Mom and in the process of empathizing and sharing some stories about her kids and their toddler years she said, “I wish I hadn’t come down so hard on them sometimes. When I think back, most of the time I overreacted because of something in me and not really whatever thing they were refusing to do.”
I had to really think about that. She’s two. She’s learning that she CAN assert her will. She’s learning that she is not an extension of me but her very own person. She’s testing her boundaries. She’s testing me and all of the other adults in her life. What does our no mean? She’s testing cause and effect. She’s learning. She’s not trying to make me
choke discipline her. If I come to pick her up tired and frustrated by MY day I’m already losing. If I engage in power struggles I am already losing.
I am the adult. I am smarter, stronger, wiser and more patient than she is. I’m designed to be that way. She is the child. She is learning, emotional, sensory and lives in the moment. She’s designed to be that way, I am determined not to kill her will. I’m determined not to put out her fire. She’s going to need her fire. This life is long and knowing your own mind and heart is a priceless gift that I am determined to give my child. I didn’t birth a robot. I birthed a human child. Her behavior…good AND bad is her way of learning. How I react to her misbehavior is TEACHING her.
I changed tactics. In the morning when I was rushing to get us out of the house and she said she didn’t want to put her coat on I sat down in a chair and held her. I murmured that I loved her and whispered that in a few minutes we would be putting her coat on and going bye bye. I couldn’t rush her. She needed to connect. She needed time. And yes…it took time to stop and hold her but it also took time to fight her in to compliance. But more importantly I felt better about the lessons I was teaching her.
When life hands you a roadblock you don’t lose it. You take a deep breath and you hug it.
Lately parenting is stretching me.