This photo was taken just moments before noodles and rice exploded all over, around, and under our table.
This week $hi! hit the fan in our household. All at once I felt like a Failure Mom.
Perhaps it was the moment when my daughter had a temper tantrum in Target. She wanted the goldfish, NOW. She wouldn’t sit in the cart. She arched her back, flinging those little gold fish everywhere. Then she laid flat in her back, arms spread out like an angel (how ironic), and proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs right in line at the checkout. My armpits started sweating immediately. I wanted to run. I wanted to avoid the glares and judgements. Defeated, I picked up the fish as quick as I could, grabbed my screaming daughter, and paid as fast as possible.
The only restaurants I can go to without feeling like I am ruining everyone’s dinner are places with high chairs that lock my child in. Those places typically have a menu with burgers, fries, and soft serve ice cream as the final course. My friends are always surprised by my suggestions in restaurants. Well, crap, I’m not picking places that are filled with foodies and the finest culinary delights. I’m finding places where my toddler can throw a fry or two and run around after without feeling like the World’s Worst Mom.
I guess it all came to an exploding point when I realized how exasperated I was. I realized I couldn’t control my daughter or her many moods. I felt so out of control. I looked around and felt like the room was filled with all these well-behaved tots, sitting in their high chairs eating like perfect little angels.
Thank GOD for some sane and wise friends who brought me back to reality. Just as I was feeling like I somehow screwed up my child for good by lack of consistently in discipline, they reminded me that what I am experiencing is actually normal. Sigh of relief.
They shared with me their many difficult moments, all the ways they tried doing discipline, and their own embarrassing times. The weight felt like it was coming off my shoulders.
I’ve realized a few things about parenting a toddler:
1. It is only a season.
For now I might need to say goodbye to fun pubs and restaurants until we have established good eating habits and table etiquette. I might need to hire a babysitter for nights out with friends. It won’t last forever.
2. The short, unpleasant moments are minuscule compared to the wonderful, funny, sweet moments.
Toddlers are brilliant little scientists, inventors, and explorers. Half the trouble they get into is their curiosity getting ahead of their logic. There are moments where Lillian is being defiant or disobeying me, but those are a small amount of my frustrations. Many of the frustrations of parenting a toddler are the inconvenient moments- the spilled milk on a freshly mopped floor, for example. Those little inconveniences are going to happen! I have a little learner on my hands. When I sit back and think of all the things she is learning to do- drink from a big girl cup, eat with a fork and spoon, and speak a new language, I realize how easy it must be for her to get frustrated. She is learning so many new things so fast! That gives me more patience and compassion to handle moments where she gets mad or clumsy.
3. Discipline, done right, is so rewarding for both me and Lillian.
When I calm down and try to be consistent in my discipline with Lillian, I see so much love grow between us. All our time-outs end with an apology, a clear explanation of why time-out occurred, and a hug and kiss. I love seeing her learn from her mistakes and understand how to obey me. It is tiring, and feels endless some days, but the fruit of seeing her make real changes is so amazing.
I love being her Mom. There is nothing in the world like it. Nothing prepares you for the challenge of guiding and loving a little person through life. It is such a high calling, and such an overlooked role in our society. We need to encourage one another as mother’s that we can do this high calling and that it is challenging some days and rewarding on others (or both). I found so much encouragement talking to other Moms who didn’t just try to tell me how to parent my kid, but who wrapped their arms around me and said, “Oh, I’ve been there. Your doing great. Parenting is hard.” Then, if they wanted to share some tips, I was ALL EARS!
With time and reflection, I am realizing how much pressure I put on myself and my kid to have it all together. We don’t, and we won’t. And that’s ok. I’d rather love and enjoy her than fit a certain mold. Maybe she will have another tantrum and I will have to deal with it, but I am learning that doesn’t make me a bad Mom. It makes me a normal Mom dealing with normal toddler things. So, I’ll get better at ignoring the glares from other tables or checkout lines for the time being, and just keep my eyes fixed on my daughter.