Life lately has been full of … trials… lots and lots of parenting trials (I know, how original is this post title?!). This parenting-thing is no easy task! And two kids definitely makes it a bit more complicated.
I was extremely anxious and nervous before Maddie was born on how I was going to juggle and love two children all day long. It seemed like such a hefty feat for me at the time. Once we brought Maddie home and took a couple of days to let the newness settle, things seemed to just fall into place, I structured a manageable routine for our family and life went on with few bumps along the way. I felt like “I got this.”
Well, lately I have not been feeling like “mama got this.” Most of my days recently have been ending with feelings of defeat, frustration, and just pure exhaustion! What has changed, you ask?! … My baby #1 (aka Tate) has officially entered the toddler years and with that all the fun challenges that come with raising a young, ever-learning toddler.
^^How could you not love that face?! Here he is saying, “hip, hip, hooray!!”
For months and months and months now Tate has been running around the house blabbering away. For the most part we could maybe, on good days, be able to understand one or two of those sounds/words. Basically he was just testing out his vocal cords and trying out new sounds. It was fun for him and fun for us to listen to him. Now, Geoff and I are able to make out more of what he is saying and Tate is beginning to see and understand that we are reacting to his verbal cues. Exciting, huh?! Yes and no… exciting that we can finally understand him, but frustrating for him and us when we cannot understand what he is trying to say.
With the new ways of communication have also come a few annoying behaviors … i.e. hitting and screaming. And, I am basically at my wits end with both of these habits!!
[I know all your veteran parents are shaking your heads, smiling and/or laughing at me right now as I complain. And you don’t have to tell, I know this will most likely not be the hardest “phase” we deal with… but right now it is hard. So. Very. Hard]… regrouping…
Last week was bad, though. We attend play dates most mornings at various parks throughout the city and every day there was at least one episode of hitting another child. I was so embarrassed, mortified. Each day I would drive home so flustered, anxious, upset. How could I have the kid that hits?! Where is this coming from? Where is he learning this from? Once we would leave play groups and I put the kids down for naps, I would sit alone and be so frustrated with myself. “Why does my child hit?! What am I doing wrong?! I need to fix this “problem” because it is just so embarrassing.”
During one of those afternoons of sulking to myself and trying to cope with my feelings of embarrassment, I had a huge moment of repentance. Why am I thinking about myself and my feelings in this matter? Why am I so embarrassed? I began to think about the reasons why Tate hits. …He hits when he gets a rush of intensity or big feelings and is unsure how to express his emotions. He hits when is frustrated by someone taking his toy or snacks because he is still so young and has little impulse control. He hits when another child has something he wants because his empathy is not yet well-developed, so if other kids are in his way, he might run right over them, literally. He hits when you are not paying attention to him, or when he first sees you to say “hi, what’s up?!” because he has not yet learned to use his words appropriately. Basically at his current pre-verbal toddler stage, his hands are his main communication tools – good or bad. Before I was so focused on how am I going to deal with this “problem” and instead I began to think about why is he hitting. Tate hitting is not a “problem,” in my opinion, it is just the phase of “learning” we are working on right now. It does not make him “bad,” it makes him 21 months old, a learner (which we are all learners of something)!
It took a big step away from the situation to see the clear picture. Before I was first thinking about myself and how I was going to discipline him for being bad, but instead I began to focus on the core, the root of the situation to understand how I should appropriately handle it.
We all come to Earth to gain a body and to further grow and develop. We did not have a body before this Earth-life and so, we do not know how to use it or control it. Controlling our bodies is one of the first things we learn. It is not easy. It is hard on the child with such big emotions to know the appropriate way, or sometimes any way, to express their emotions. It is hard on the parents to calmly, patiently teach their child. Right now, Tate is in the learning-to-control-his-hands-and-body phase of life (the fun phase I keep telling myself!).
I am not trying to make excuses for my child. I feel like some may look at me and think that. But, I am really just trying to understand my child better. Understand his actions. Understand his emotions. Understand his struggles. And then, understand the best reaction and form of discipline I can have towards him to help teach him.
Being a parent is hard. Very. Hard. For me, whenever I am faced with a real challenge, an I-don’t-know-how-to-handle-this-situation problem, I make myself pause for a minute and think about my Heavenly Father and what would He do in this situation to help teach my child or to teach me. I know that we have a loving Father in Heaven who is so very patient with each of us as we learn and make mistakes every day. I am grateful for His perfect example of the parent I should be with my children. I am grateful for His patience and understanding with me. I pray each day to more emulate Him as I parent my own children, especially during this frustrating phase (as I know there are plenty more phases to come!). I am grateful for the continuous love He shows to me even through my struggles and I pray I can view each person with the love He has for them with their imperfections and current struggles.
So, you have all been forewarned. Our family is a learning family. We are all working on a lot of things, and currently one of those things is hitting. We will get there, but we are a work-in-progress.
Now onto this cute girl. Overall she is a happy, giggly, bright spirited girl. Her favorite time of the day is first thing in the morning because her brother is still asleep and she has her mama all to herself and we just giggle and giggle together.
Her newest struggle is learning to not roll over and over in her sleep. While she is sleeping, or trying to soothe herself to sleep, she rolls and rolls over until she gets stuck somewhere in the crib and cries out for her. This little episode occurs anywhere from 2-6 times each time we put her down. I remember going through this phase with Tate, but with my foggy-mommy brain I cannot remember how we dealt with it except pray that the phase would quickly move on (and it did – well, maybe not the “quickly” part). Other than the rolling-over-in-sleep struggle, this little girl is so happy.
^^Oh how I cannot wait for the day(s) these two can really interact with one another. I love seeing the relationship they are forming already. Sometimes when I am in the other room and Maddie is crying in her bouncer, I will ask Tate to go and check on her (though, I really only anticipate a strange look from him and then him going back to his cars). To my surprise, a few times, he has gotten up from his “station”, walked over to her area of rest, and will lightly (or not-so lightly) shake her bouncer to help soothe her. I watch from the corner of the room (mainly to make sure he isn’t going to pounce on her) and sometimes get a little choked up as I see how sweet he is with her.
^^Tate picking me flowers for the first time. He was so excited to run up to me and hand me the “flower” … literally only the flower and no stem. Just plucked it off.
The snuggles and hugs make up for all the trials and hard times times 100!! This kid can give a mighty big hug!!
Though being a parent is hard. Really. Really. Hard. I wouldn’t trade any of the hair-splitting, inside-screaming-to-myself moments for anything. Thank you for teaching me patience and true, unconditional love.