They call them the terrible twos, and while my son is nearing three and generally a very well-behaved child, we have reached them. The struggle between no longer wanting a mid-day nap and still being young enough to need the sleep, has left a whiny and grumpy little boy where my usually articulate and smiling child once lived. Yet, I wonder who should really get the label of ‘terrible’ – myself or my son.
The picture above suggests the dark side of toddlerhood. The battle between what a child wants and what a child can have, yet I can’t help but think it should be mommy shrouded in shadow instead. I can’t say this stage brings out the best in my parenting. My husband has been calling this photo ‘dark I–‘, perhaps the photo should have been of ‘dark mommy’.
The whining is the most difficult part to take, that and the constant need for mommy. My mother-in-law has been visiting for a few weeks and, though she tried her best to help, the repeated refrain of ‘No! Mommy do it!’ was pretty overwhelming. I feel like I should step back and appreciate how much my son still needs me because it won’t last for long, but most of the time I have to stop myself from banging my head against the wall. Sometimes I yell. I hate admitting that but I hate even more that I do it.
My patience is being pushed to the limit and unfortunately it’s not a trait I have in abundance. I’ve been blaming my short fuse on what I have been assuming is the larger than normal share of stress: a widowed mother fighting cancer, a step-daughter moving in, a military husband with unpredictable absences, and other unnamed family health problems. I think I have to stop that.
I’m not the only one under pressure. Stress is a normal part of life. I watch other women with, what I think is a much larger burden, handle it with grace. Sometimes we face more than we’re ready for, but it can’t be a crutch. I only get one chance with these kids and my mother being sick or my husband being away can’t be a reason for bad parenting. My kids deserve better than that, sometimes they deserve better than the mommy I’m offering. I need to do it better. My stress should not be their stress. My problems are not theirs.
The question now is how.
I wish I had the answer. I know there isn’t an easy one. For now, I guess I just do my best. I will breathe when the whining starts and retreat to my corner when necessary. I will lean on others for help (not my strong point, I’m better at offering than accepting) and I will remember how precious these years are. I hope. The terrible twos are just a stage. Maybe dark mommy is too.