Being a mother is the best and the worst of life. We pop out these tiny people who stare helplessly as they learn the simplest of skills like keeping their tongues in their mouths and opening or closing their creepy little hands. As they grow, they take on aspects of the personalities to come and our own influence becomes visible. This is a problem.
Right now my days are spent frustrated, angry and yelling at my two year old to “just” listen. I end every sentence with a question even if I don’t intend to do it. “What are you doing? Why did you do that? Why did you put your hand in the toilet? What were you thinking? When are you getting a job?” I’m not sure how most people survive the terrible twos, but I don’t know that I’m going to make it to the other side of this mountain.
Every day is a battle of wills and even when I stop fighting and follow his lead, I end up a tense, frustrated and angry mess. After that comes the inevitable self-loathing that accompanies every negative or nearly negative thing I find myself saying to my kid. “If you don’t clean up, I’m taking the toys to the garbage.” I say this knowing that with the amount of money we’ve spent buying educational toys, I certainly am not tossing them in the trash. I rationalize that if the child thinks he’s going to lose his shape puzzle, he’ll keep the damned pieces off the floor and I won’t step on them and devolve into a subhuman ooze of rage.
Who is the toddler?
Those without kids think that, at 2 years old, the worst a child can do is cry too loud. They have no concept of the high-level conniving that happens in the mind of a toddler. Their cunning is exceptional. My son knows that he’s attractive. He’s spent the better part of his two years with people commenting about this fact. Wherever we go someone inevitably stops and says, “He’s so cute.” We know and thanks to you, now he knows. Do you think a 2-year-old can’t learn enough coquetry to bat his lashes and smoosh his squishy little face into the cutest expressions to beg for your breakfast or to “pwease” go to the park even after you’ve already spent the entire morning getting sunburned and sweaty at the park? Oh my, you have a lot to learn. These imps aren’t cut from such sweet cloth these days.
I’ve been struggling with the frustrations that every mother has felt at some time or another during the toddler years. We want to be our best selves: sweet, compassionate, calm and instructive but end up a wire-haired crazy person that does her best to remember to eat while trying to refrain from tossing said homunculus into the nearest firehouse with a box of doughnuts and a letter of warning: Asshole incoming! We understand that we’ll probably miss them and the fathers would be disappointed, but we enjoy the moments of levity our breakdowns occasionally bring.
Sometimes the levity remains at bay and in the instance that toddlerhood becomes too much — it always becomes too much at some point — we just lock ourselves in the bathroom and pray for five minutes that the creature doesn’t find us. Those five minutes we cry, pace, scream and try to regain any shred of calm that keeps us from crossing a vital line in the bond of parent and child. I worry about this a lot. It is easy to understand the level of anger a misbehaving child can create and how quickly it can escalate. It breaks my heart. Thankfully, the bathroom has saved many a child from a monstrous parent at the end of her rope.
All of this is my way of saying, “Take a timeout.” Stop hating yourself. You probably aren’t that terrible of a person, and I don’t think your occasional loss of composure is going to damage your child beyond repair if the majority of the time spent with the little bugger is positive. I say this to you as a mother who admittedly has an awful temper but has managed so far to raise a relatively sweet and well-adjusted, albeit somewhat odd, child, who articulates his own anger much better than myself. I can’t take all the credit but I am encouraged that my occasional outbursts have not darkened his spirit too much.