This summer, Nick will be three. If you’re thinking, ‘Eeeek! What?!’ then you’re on point.
Toddlerhood is an adorable, yet annoying age. It’s a good age, and probably my favorite. The conversations are hilarious, and the cheeks still quite pinchable. But it’s a challenging age no less. And brings forward one of my worst fears concerning parenting: what if I lose my shit?
When I was pregnant with Nick, I often worried that I wouldn’t be a good mom. Admittedly, I’m not the most patient person, and, to make matters worse, I’m a perfectionist, read: uptight and rather inflexible. Nick, like most toddlers, easily picks up on my anxiety, and knows all the right buttons to push to send me into panic and shouting. The first time I raised my voice at him, I was more shocked than he was. At the sudden and unexpected bout of anger I felt towards my tiny child.
Recently, I witnessed an argument between my dad and my brother. When my dad couldn’t win the fight, out came the incoherent screams and insults. Not an easy thing to watch, but now it all makes sense.
Perhaps it’s wishful, and selfish, to think that I can be a better parent than my own. But I strongly believe in the whole lead by example, teach by doing, yada yada. So, as Nick is right smack in the middle of the terrible twos with promising signs that he is headed for the even-more-terrible THREES, the question I’ve been asking myself lately is, how do I respond to his hourly tantrums while maintaining control? (So I don’t become this guy.) I have no delusions of thinking I can turn my son into a different person from who he is, or who I am. I take full responsibility for the little guy’s strong spirit, and his spitefulness mirrors my personality. But it’s my hope to teach him to be slightly better than me at handling stress. Just like, I think I’m a slightly better version of my dad, when it comes to keeping it together.
So, after a tough morning resulting in much yelling, and beating myself up a bit, I consulted the Google. Of course like most parenting advice and books out there, it’s mostly crap. I mean, when my child’s act of defiance is throwing himself on the ground and banging his skull on the wood floor, how do you expect me to keep my cool and remember I’m the adult. Oh right, I’m supposed to ignore bad behavior and encourage good behavior. But then I’m supposed to keep him safe from harm, so do I ignore him or put a stop to the head banging? More yelling follows, leading to another meltdown and tears, mostly mine. If my own voice frightens me, then it must be ten times more terrifying for Nick to see me that angry.
My takeaway from all this, there needs to be less yelling. None, if possible.
Once in a while, you encounter very wise people, and they tell you, go with your gut. No one knows your child like you do, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So true that I want to write it on my forehead as a daily reminder.
My gut tells me change isn’t happening overnight.
Ever heard of the Seinfeld Strategy? You take something you may have been procrastinating for a while, and you make it a daily action. You do it enough, it becomes a habit and leads you to great success. Sounds amazingly simple, right? In my case, success just means being a less shitty mom. Guys, I’ve got this.
So I’ve got my Seinfeld calendar ready, appropriately titled: Dude, just keep it together. And I’m doing this one day at a time. Perhaps instead of a big red X, I’ll reward myself with some ice cream.