My first born is turning two, which means I am entering the chapter of motherhood that has been pre-determined as terrible, albeit light-heartedly, I think?
As the weeks draw near to this adorable and exciting birthday, I can feel his baby-ness melting away. His rolls have vanished with the only trace of baby fat left being in his cheeks. His sense of self and discovery are bursting with curiosity and determination.
He is anything but terrible. He is kind, sensitive, eager, attentive, and hopeful. And I am just trying to keep up.
The part that is terrible is not the age; it’s the growing pains that we feel as the parent in adjusting to this.
He can tantrum. He can yell. He can hit. He can bite. He can throw things. As a parent, I am no longer responding to a simple cry; I am responding to any number of behaviors at any given time.
He is not terrible when he does these things. He is, for the first time, experiencing things like fear, chaos, change, jealousy, sadness, and hurt. And that is overwhelming. And he is looking to his dad and I to learn how to process all of this so that the next time he feels badly, he has healthy ways of coping and communicating.
The terrible part of this chapter is realizing that we as parents have to be better human beings. We are now in the spotlight and center of our morality as we are watched and modeled after. How I want my toddler to handle fear, change, and pain is most effectively learned by observing how we handle fear, change and pain.
It’s terrible because we as adults have grown impatient – perhaps a bit distrustful, skeptical, too. Our coping and communication skills likely disintegrated over time. And now we have to work on ourselves as people before we can expect our toddlers to work on being people. And that’s hard work.
If I want my toddler to say please and thank you, then I need to say please and thank you. Not just to the woman who bags my groceries at the store, but to my husband in our own home. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget our manners with the ones we most cherish.
If I want my toddler to stop screaming, hitting or biting when he feels angry, then why would I even think about addressing anger with aggression myself? When I am angry with other people, it is not more anger that diffuses the situation. It is compassion and understanding that helps me come up for air. When I am angry, are my coping skills ones that I want to pass onto my children?
If I want my toddler to embrace change and conquer fear, I need to do more than say “Don’t be afraid; you’re fine.” When you open up your vulnerabilities to somone and they simply tell you how you should feel, does that work? It sure as hell doesn’t work for me. If anything, it makes me close off from that person who constantly tells me my feelings are not valid. So, I need to confront change and fear firsthand with hard work and transparency.
When was the last time that someone or something in my life made me do so much work on myself? I’m not sure, but it’s terribly rewarding.
We see for the first time how impressionable our children are and therefore how imperfect yet impactful we are. We know that our babies are now feeling bad things and seeing bad things, and we can’t protect them from everything. All we can do is be our best selves even in – ESPECIALLY in – our worst moments for them.
We must find patience, empathy and humanity in things that we previously stopped giving much thought to, so that when it’s time for them to be adults, just maybe they will be stronger than we were when faced with bad things that chip away at our good.
Two is everything.