As I type this, my toddler son is refusing to nap. And by refuse, I mean screeching at obscene volumes and thrashing around his bed like a wild animal. Imagine the scene:
Son (in between loudly singing the ABCs or the theme song from “Dinosaur Train”): Oh no, my excavator! Where is it? MY EXXXCCAAAAAVATORRR… excavatorexcavatorexcavatoooorrrrr!
Me (sternly, over the monitor): Your excavator is parked downstairs. You may play with it once you wake up from your rest. Go to sleep.
Son (in a tone slightly possessed): DON’T TALK TO MEEEEEE. (Then he begins to cry for his father. Again.)
He’s not quite three years old. I know there is more of this to come because I also have a 6-month-old son. One day, he too will change from the cooing sweet chunk of a boy into a rollercoaster of illogical blatherings and hair-trigger tantrums, just like his older brother.
I Was a Better Mother in My Head
Reading over that last paragraph, I cringe. I wanted to be a kind, patient mother, but I know my strengths, and kindness and patience don’t really top that list. I knew that there would be seasons of parenting I enjoyed and some I would simply have to grit my teeth and white-knuckle through.
But if I’m honest, this season of toddlers feels too long, too raw, and too close to every single source of insecurity I have. It feels endless and personal. Every meltdown, angry response, or missed potty-training cue (so many missed potty training cues) makes me feel like a failure at the only job I have right now.
The Hope: Having Toddlers Is a Season, Not a Life Sentence
When I look around and see all of us who managed to outgrow these toddler shenanigans, I know that my son and I won’t remember most of these dramatic days. (The day we left the splash park with a gigantic swim diaper blowout so bad I drove down I-25 with the windows down and both of us crying? That I won’t likely forget.)
This season of parenting is about guiding and learning and listening, skills that need strengthening in every aspect of my life, not just parenting. I have the luxury and privilege of making this investment in my children’s lives, before they move on to school and into the sphere of many other influences. The frustration I feel is likely temporary, yet the impact of this season is huge.
I’m continually trying to shift my perspective to a healthier, more gracious place for myself and my boys. I appreciated what writer and creative Valerie Keinsley wrote on her Instagram page one day this summer after the birth of her second child:
After [her son’s] birth, I kept feeling like “this (mothering, having a newborn, change) is so hard, I must be so bad at it.” A year and a half later, I see a little more clearly. This (mothering, having a newborn, change) is so hard, but I’m going to be better for it.”
That’s what I will cling to. Whatever the season, whatever the drama, it’s not that I’m awful at it—it’s that I will be made better for it.