Today was a perfect day for weeding. The soil was moist from days of sporadic rainfall. My two eldest boys were preoccupied with snails, an airing tent and strawberry picking. I opened the gate and allowed Levi to follow me out to the front yard where I could keep an eye on him while I pulled weeds out of my flower beds. He enjoys running up and down the walkway like his big brothers.
I intentionally faced Levi as I worked my way through Lily of the Valley that had grass coming up in patches throughout. Our street does not have heavy traffic but like any suburban neighborhood a child could pop out between parked cars and go unseen by drivers. I kept peering up at him playing on the sidewalk with his brother’s garage-sale-find golf umbrella. It was a beautiful day to dress a little boy in only his diaper so that his round belly and chubby thighs could be enjoyed.
It felt like seconds. I looked down and then up. He was standing at the beginning of a driveway and headed down into the road.
I said, “Levi, stop.”
He took a few steps forward.
I deepened my voice to show him that I meant business and started to move toward him. “Levi, STOP!”
He kept moving forward in tiny steps. In the corner of my eye I saw a jeep approaching. This time I used all of the mommy crazed frantic yell I had in me and nearly screeched, “LEVI STOP!!”
In a moment that many mothers could relate to, as I was running to throw my body into oncoming traffic to intercept the deadly blow from the jeep, he looked up, stopped…
and laughed at me.
He looked as if he were thinking, “Look what I made Mommy do!”
I have survived the toddler phase twice. Unfortunately, the level of experience does not cement the difficulties of the toddler years in the mind of a mother. Once the toddler years end, it’s into the threes which last well into the fours. Then we are headed into kindergarten, teeth are falling out and the principal of the school…heck, the babysitter, knows infinitely more than you do. Every phase moves into another as does your focus. Mothers in the trenches don’t have much time for thinking about the olden phase.
By the time Paul and I decided to have another baby, I had forgotten the toddlers ability to have knowledge of just enough vocabulary to say thank you, I help, please, let go, stop it, mine and NO! Do you see the deterioration? It is really hard to change a squirming toddler with sand like poop that is trying ever so hard to kick you and get away. I had also forgotten the focus of a toddler that is obsessed with climbing on to the table for a better view.
Having a third child is like slowly awakening your memory after a temporary bout of amnesia.
They enjoy making you look crazy. Toddlers are not devious. They have no way to know that a correctly placed accidental head butt to the bridge of your nose will make you curse at the park and put him down suddenly. He doesn’t know that when he wails at your sudden abandonment to nurse your aching face that the other parents at the park, that did not see the original assault, will think that you are a mean, mean mommy.
How could a toddler know any of that? They just got here.
The most difficult part of parenting any of my children at any age has always been integrity. That is why one of my tags is “Honestly Parenting“. I crave approval and that bleeds into my parenting. My children are working me through my issues. You cannot crave approval as a parent. You will be an ever changing mess and your children will be just as ever changing. They will waffle at the first sign of pressure and their decisions will be based on the reactions of others.
Two words that should make you fear this description of your child’s potential behavior. Middle and School.
I rely on my intuition because I am sure it is God’s voice in me.
No, not like…psst….psst…This is God and he totally needs a time out.
I believe that the creation of these children in my body gives me a unique sensibility to their needs. That may sound like I make great choices for my children all the time and with my super mommy power I am never wrong. Not exactly. The more I learn to rely on my God gifted intuition the less I rely on cranky grocery store lady huffing and puffing behind me because my kid won’t keep his friggin fingers off of the u-scan.
I cannot tell you how many times I have felt pressured to discipline my children because they were a minor inconvenience to someone else. Not disrespectful, disobedient or rude. Just my kid is taking to long to do ________ and they are looking at me ________…..time out Mister.
In the end, I always feel guilty.
I have discovered that toddlers typically need very, very simple things. Food, rest, diaper changes and mild entertainment. Baths are relatively optional and can be given in a sprinkler. All of those things being provided, when my gut instinct tells me that my baby needs a cuddle, he gets one. No matter the amount of stink eyes diverted my way. When I feel like we have to go to the car to cry it out, we do. Air conditioner and emergency reading material stowed away for mommy.
Parenting a toddler is like playing Red Light Green Light. Your toddler is now in control. If he is sleepy you can’t go to the grocery store. If he is hungry, you will stand in the aisle of said grocery store and look up at the security cameras with a box of graham crackers in your hand and mouth the words. “I am buying these” as you rip them open so you can finish your shopping (true story). I am sorry but this is the truth and it will get better.
You will get better. You will match the rhythm of crazy and you will love it. You will learn that there is never anything more important than a nap. You will begin to know the difference between a sad cry and a pained one. You’ll stop caring about what others are thinking because you are the mother flippin’ mommy and only you know the dreams you have for your darling. Only you hold the map with the directions to get there. You will know that when you mess up that tomorrow will come. Children are also gifted with minor bouts of amnesia. They forget minor mishaps and always, always remember that they love you.
I’ll keep writing to you and as the amnesia washes away, we’ll get through this together. One sand like poopy diaper at a time.