I wasn’t planning on posting this today – it’s been kicking around in my drafts for awhile, mostly since I feel guilty for complaining, but hey, it’s time for another Mommy Confessions, and this is a good one!
I really believe that every parent has a favorite age – the age of a child when you know, as a parent, that you’re kicking ass and taking names, and doing a great job – and, the age that you just really love.
For me? That was the newborn stage. I know, I know, it sounds crazy. We were blessed with a very easy baby. Benjamin cried when he was hungry and that was it. He easily slipped into our lives like he'd been with us forever. I loved that newborn stage so much – the little coos and gurgles, the sweet smell of new baby, the teeny tiny everything – all of it was pretty much magical. Save for two memorable nights where cluster feeding sucked the life out of me, even the lack of sleep didn’t bother me as I expected.
At that time, I sensed things wouldn’t always be that easy, so I lived in slow motion, taking it all in and trying to enjoy every moment. We went to lunches and movies. Shopping and appointments. I could take him anywhere, anytime. There was no nap schedule to adhere to, no fussy time of day holding us back. All-night feedings and constant diaper changes were nothing compared to the challenges of the future. I enjoyed every moment with my tiny, agreeable, easy baby, knowing that someday he’d learn how to throw a temper tantrum and say, “NO!”
That someday is now, and I’m here to tell you that this toddler phase is kicking my ass. Don’t get me wrong, Benjamin is still a generally easygoing, laid-back kid, and pretty adaptable to a variety of non-kid-friendly activities, including fancy children-are-frowned-upon restaurants (a.k.a., bring your own high chair because the restaurant has none), wakes/funerals, and chilling quietly in his stroller for over an hour while we visited a friend and her new baby at the hospital (of note, he didn’t seem to mind me holding a baby… score one for hypothetical baby #2!).
But oh my stars. I am really, seriously struggling with this age. There are many mornings when I contemplate having a glass of wine for breakfast, because the day just starts off on the wrong, whiny foot. I am so worn down by the whining, and getting-into-everything, and mini-tantruming, that I feel like I’m yelling all. day. long. That’s not the kind of childhood I want Benjamin to have, with a quick-to-snap mother, but it’s just hard.
So many parents say, “Oh, toddlers are SO fun! They start communicating, and giving back some of the love you’ve been showing them!” and “It’s such an amazing stage! You can play with them, and they interact, and you actually can see them learning!” There are parents who plan all kinds of fun activities and crafts, and really dive into this new stage. I want to be like those parents.
Yes, it is fun to see the incredible brain development, and experience the interaction. Seeing Benjamin smile and laugh is the best, and when he gives me unsolicited kisses, I melt into a pool of mama mush. But oy. I could certainly do without the whining, tantrums, and my constant worrying and guilt.
I didn’t doubt myself when Benjamin was a baby. I was unusually confident in our parenting decisions and the direction we were going in – I’d never experienced confidence like that in any other area of my life before. I worried about things out of my control, like SIDS, but I had no concerns over the things I could control, no guilt for feeling like I was doing it “the wrong way.”
When people said, “Parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever have,” I thought, “Psshh. I got this!”
Now? I doubt myself on the daily. All day, every day. I am constantly worrying.
Am I doing this right?
Am I damaging him in some way?
Is he learning enough?
Do I show him enough love?
Is my temper too quick? Should I be more patient?
Does he not have many words because I don’t talk to him enough? Or because I don’t try hard enough to teach him?
Why am I so frustrated all the time? I bet other moms don’t get angry this much.
Am I stifling his natural curiosity?
Would he be better off in daycare?
When I really think about it, I don’t like the answers to those questions. I could be doing a much better job. I should be doing a much better job. Lucky for me, a toddler’s love is unconditional – he doesn’t see me as his grouchy mother – he simply sees me as his mama and loves me all the same, and lucky for me, every new day is another opportunity to start fresh, be better, and improve.
Tomorrow is another day, and I resolve to be more loving, more patient, and more like those toddler-phase-loving parents that I admire, with each passing day.
Make me feel better – share your mommy confessions with us – and say I’m not the only one!
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