Newsflash: Being a Parent is Hard

Oh toddlers.

They’re so much fun when they’re not screaming in your face.

Unfortunately, we’ve been having a lot of in your face moments for the past few weeks. Evan’s favorite word is NO and he uses it every chance he gets. Even if he means “Yes please, that would be lovely Mother” he says NO.

Would you like some juice? NO JUICE! Would you like an apple? NO APPLE! Do you want to watch tv? NO TV! Do you want to go to the park and see our friends? NO FRIENDS! NO! NOOOOOO!!! *sobbing hysterics* *tears* *throws self on floor*

Evan, what’s wrong? JUICE! APPLE! TV! FRIENDS!! *sob sob sob sob*

Blarg.

Thank God for our new best friends, Nick Jr and Sprout and whatever other channel is planning something vaguely child appropriate that perhaps also includes a catchy song I will find myself singing later as I vacuum up pretzel crumbs (We got a green light! We’re gonna take a ride! Come on! What are you waiting foo-oo-or? It’s time to move it! It’s time to groove it! Are you ready? Cause here we goo-oo-oo!) Honestly, in the scheme of “things that get stuck in my head” the Fresh Beat Band is NOT THAT BAD. I may in fact actually…like that song. Don’t tell anyone.

I don’t feel even a teeny tiny little bit bad about letting Little Evan watch TV if it means no one gets smacked in the face, buried under a mountain of dirty laundry, or left at the fire station under the child surrender laws. (Not that I’VE ever Googled those in the midst of a meltdown. Nope.)

In the long run, my toddler learns to speak Chinese and I am a better parent. I see no problems.

Sometimes, even all the happy songs and Blue’s Clues on the planet can’t solve the huge, life destroying problems my toddler faces – such as “Why can’t I eat fourteen lollipops for breakfast?” or “Why did I get yelled at for punching my sister in the head?” Life’s mysteries are SO MYSTERIOUS when you are 2. And when you lack the words to explain why you are so upset, the only way to express yourself is flinging your body on the ground and hitting anything that comes within reach. Obviously.

I have learned the suggestion that one “take a deep breath and count to ten” when one is faced with those kinds of meltdowns isn’t just an expression or a general way saying “chill out”. For it to work, you have to ACTUALLY STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, close your eyes, take several deep breaths in…and…out…and count to 10 VERY SLOWLY. It’s not going to stop the toddler’s behavior, but it will stop you from throwing your own tantrum in return.

Because that is my biggest parenting challenge: not responding like a toddler when faced with a toddler. Which sounds totally ridiculous – I am a GROWN ASS ADULT. I have leveled up appropriately and unlocked all the adult life achievements (college +1, apartment +1, marriage +1, mortgage +1, credit card + a zillion) and yet when someone screams in my face and lashes out it takes every ounce of my strength not to react in kind. It’s stupid and childish and makes me feel like I truly have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to this parenting gig.

WHY ISN’T THERE A TEST? Or a LICENSE? Some sort of oversight program or home visit or preparedness class I had to attend before I was allowed to get pregnant? Why wasn’t I given some sort of practice training child I couldn’t screw up before I got the final draft? Terrible planning, mother nature. Terrible.

But despite all the toddlering going on, I am taking my deep breaths and learning to be patient. I remind myself (over and over and over and over)(and over and over and over) that this too shall pass. I refuse to argue with a 2 year old and pick my battles much more carefully – is it worth losing my cool over pajama shirts or hair washing or sandals or 3 more bites of dinner or keeping the cushions on the couch or how many blankets to bring downstairs or sharing the red truck instead of the blue truck or the five billion other things Little Evan wants to fight about every single day?

No. No it is not.

At the end of the day, he’s a wonderful boy (Especially at the literal end of the day – bedtime is one thing we’ve got worked out). Smart and funny and kind and generous and joyful and friendly. I look forward to spending time with him and seeing the world as the Super! Awesome! Exciting! Place! he thinks it is. We have such GOOD good times that it makes the bad days seem so much worse. I want to just grab him by the shoulders mid-meltdown and shout “WE COULD BE HAVING FUN! WHY AREN’T WE HAVING FUN?!”

But that’s not very grown-up of me.

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24 Responses to “Newsflash: Being a Parent is Hard”

  1. raincheckmom says:

    That’s why the two’s got the name “terrible”. Fortunately he’ll grow out of two and the tantrums. You three kids had your “terribles” at age three…oh wait…maybe I shouldn’t have said that….Seriously, I think kids only go through it once (until they become 14)….

  2. Robyn says:

    i hate to admit i kind of like that song too…it’s catchy, lol. Rory loves it too! i think you are right on picking the battles. i think that is key with toddlers. Rory has worn pajamas all day for the past three days…and that includes going to daycare and all the other outside the house activities. it just wasn’t worth it to me to argue with her when she felt so strongly about it. i’d rather save the arguments for things like not hitting or throwing things are the cats/dog.

  3. cakeburnette says:

    Toddlers are AWFUL. I also did not enjoy preschoolers or elementary-schoolers. BUT! Middle- and high-schoolers are AWESOME. I was given some advice when mine where Evan’s age and horrible: when strong willed-children test your authority continually as small children, if you are consistent with them & teach them that they MUST respect your authority as their parents, you’ll be rewarded with teens who realize they aren’t going to win, so it isn’t worth it to fight. That one thing is all that kept Mark & I from selling our two to the gypsies sometimes. (A side note: there are no elementary boarding schools; don’t ask me how I know this.) And you know what? We have found that to be EXACTLY the case. Ten rotten years have resulted in two of the greatest teenagers EVER. So, hang it there and hang tough. It pays off.

    • bebehblog says:

      I am crossing all my crossables that ignoring tantrums and refusing to argue now will pay off exactly like that.

  4. Anne says:

    yes! yes. That’s all it. I have to do the deep breath count to 10 thing too. I know I make it so much worse. We have so much FUN when he’s NOT being a little shit!

    Once dad defused a tantrum by saying, “let it all out.” Which somehow worked like magic. Everything was suddenly OK. I was the one who was sulking for the rest of the day. Real mature there, mom.

    • Robyn says:

      I completely agree with just letting them get it all out. i just reassure my daughter when she has her’s that her feelings are valid and i still love her. she only has one about once every few weeks, and i think this is why. once she calms down, then we can talk about what the solution is, but i don’t try and argue with her when she’s too upset to listen. they have really big feelings that need to get out.

      • bebehblog says:

        I feel like I DO try VERY HARD to validate his feelings – even the bad, angry ones – but he is capable of crying/screaming inconsolably for at least 45 minutes straight. After he’s done we talk about how he was sad, but during the middle of it? I am biting through my cheek to keep from shouting “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!”

        • Robyn says:

          i honestly think Rory is pretty easy going right now (she was super tough as a baby though), except on a few issues, so i probably have a different sense of how bad temper tantrums can get. her’s never last longer than 15 mintues, and i only have one kid to deal with…so take my comments with a grain of salt. i just know it helps me get through it when she does have a tantrum to remember that it’s good for them to get the emotions out and that life is really frustrating for a toddler. but again, she’s a REALLY easy toddler. which means the next one will be super hard, lol.

  5. Jessica says:

    Can you email this to me in about ohhh 10 months? Right now I have a 14 month old but I can SEE this in her devilish little eyes. She is a strong willed, opinionated little girl and I fear what is going to come! That said… from what I read I think you are doing great and exactly what you should be doing. Good luck!

  6. brigid keely says:

    I have a really awful temper. Like, so awful that for a long time I didn’t want to have kids because I was afraid I’d lose it and do serious harm to one of them in a fit of rage. Time went on, I grew up, I matured, I got a bit more control over my emotions and my temper, and I have a kid. And it’s really hard sometimes.

    We’re really lucky because our kid is seriously laid back and easy going 90% of the time. When he’s flipping out, there is a reason– he’s tired, he’s hungry, he’s over stimulated, he’s scared, SOMETHING is going on. With that in mind, we’re usually able to address the CAUSE of the flipping out and then have a sunny kiddo again.

    Right now he’s saying “no” automatically, even to things we know he wants. So we run through a (short) list of options, then offer them again. Do you want an apple? Do you want some crackers? Do you want some milk? Do you want an apple? Or we’ll give him a choice. Do you want an apple OR do you want some crackers? Do you want your blue shirt OR do you want your red shirt? Feeling in control, making his own decision, is very helpful.

    We also give him a time limit, and mild consequences. “I’m going to count to three. If you don’t pick your trains up, I will put them away.” The time limit (we count slowly, usually to 3) helps him transition, and the consequence lets him feel he has a choice. He could pick his stuff up or leave it and we’ll do it. He has a choice. And there’s a price if he doesn’t do it, so he has to make a decision. HAS TO.

    I also am careful to pick my battles, and limit them mostly to Dangerous Stuff. Wears pyjamas all day? Don’t care. Gets pretzels on the carpet? Wish he wouldn’t, but don’t care. Walks around with his potty on his head? He’s never actually put body fluids in there, I don’t care. Jumps on the couch? No. Climbs on the windowsill? No. Runs toward the street? No. We try to say “no” as infrequently as possible so that when we DO say it, it has impact.

    • bebehblog says:

      Counting to 3 has been very successful, and recently time outs seem to have the desired effect as well. But I say “No” far far too often and I KNOW that’s why he does, but there are so many things I do not want him to do!

  7. becca says:

    oh, the whining of the 2 year olds. geez. i mean, i thought i knew what was coming, but my thoughts and what actually is going down? two totally different things! i never realized that so many little things could set such a little person off. i don’t know ’bout evan, but cayden’s 2 year molars are also causing a lot of this drama. ugh. but they’re certainly precious little beings all at the same time.

    we have started putting him in time out for the most obvious tantrums. or when he’s just being flat-out rude. but most of the time, we try to talk through it. try to get him to use words instead of whining so we can try to figure out exactly what it is that is troubling him. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    and just when i get frustrated over something silly, little dude will run up to me, say “hi, mommy” and then squeeze my legs in a hug. and well? that’s makes all the little tantrums ok in my book. not easy. but definitely ok :)

  8. molly says:

    Gosh, I sure do love you Suzanne. You write exactly what I want to say about my newly turned three-year-old but don’t have the balls (boobs?) to say.

    The one thing I’ve learned and find myself saying to my husband is “pick your battles.” Sometimes I lack self-control and make a bad parenting decision. WE ALL DO. But I try to keep this at the top of my brain files because seriously, if he wants to squeeze into one of his brother’s 18-month shirts instead of wearing the cute new shirt that matches his shorts? Go for it, kid. I’m not gonna stop you anymore.

    Putting clothes on Landon in this house. Es no bueno.

  9. Jennie says:

    I love how intent both of your E’s look staring at the TV. Fresh Beat Band is Mezzzzzmorizing! (I actually like the show too- It’s one of the few that don’t make me want to throw my head through a brick wall… yet.)

    Love the post. Tantrums SUCK!

  10. HA! Do you know ten minutes before I read this post I ordered “Happiest Toddler On The Block” on Amazon because I’m at a total loss of how to effectively deal with toddler meltdowns. I have a really bad temper, & an even shorter fuse. I’ve really tried to stop yelling. I’ve spanked him a handful of times. That doesn’t work. He’s confused & has hurt feelings. I immediately felt like the most giant piece of dog shit on the planet. So I am for the first time going to read a parenting book because I DONT want to be a screaming mom, I DONT want to be a spanking mom, I want to be a happy mom that can communicate with my kid & help him learn WHY I’m telling him NO all the time. Bottom line, I need to learn how to discipline him better so I’m crossing my fingers that this book helps tremendously.

    • bebehblog says:

      Let me know how you like it, because I will subscribe to ANY method of disciple that works on angry, screaming toddlers. Because I too am tired of feeling like shit for losing my temper at my poor little 2 year old.

      • Robyn says:

        it’s a great book. sort of repetative, but really good advice, in my opinion. i also loved Unconditional Parenting, if you guys are looking for more parenting books.

  11. Kimberly says:

    I have totally tried to eliminate yes/no questions from my vocabulary, because I can’t stand the NO. Hubby is really awesome at the caveman speak from Happiest Toddler, but I just can’t get the hang of it- or I don’t remember it in the moment. Oh, and I try really hard to ignore the advice of my FIL; he threw water in Hubby’s face whenever he started a tantrum.

  12. Veronica says:

    Nods head in agreement. My toddler has taken to telling me to be quiet and stop talking. It is GREAT!

  13. Krista says:

    I love you and I love every single person who admitted that they have a temper in your comments. I’m getting better, I swear I am, but there are times when I do want to be the 2 year old and pound my feet or throw something (like a plush toy that can’t break anything cause that would really piss me off). And I swear to all thing holy that every time I think I find the magic trick to calming a tantrum the very next day it stops working. Drives me bloody insane.

    • bebehblog says:

      We ALL punch pillows/the couch when we are mad – I’ve decided it’s a legitimate way to express anger without anyone getting injured. And I am so with you on the magic tricks that only work once – even my best bribes fall short when he’s in the middle of a really serious meltdown.

  14. So you already saw my post from today… But try this one that I wrote in June. http://www.its-fitting.com/2011/06/terrible.html . I feel every single bit of your pain. Every.single.bit. But I must commend you on doing it with two kids… Because after this? Two kids is getting scarier and scarier

  15. Sarah-Anne says:

    this post made me laugh…and tear up {from laughing, ha}. you are a great parent, Suzanne; any mom who says her kids are PERFECT is obvs not in touch with reality.

  16. Julie S. says:

    The terrible twos- *sigh*. You are right though, the best thing you can do is NOT respond like a toddler, but dang, sometimes it is hard. Sometimes when the hubby gets home from work, I just tell him “I am so done right now, I need a break.” I sneak off to the bathroom/our room and just breathe. Then I come out, rejoin them, and we keep going with our day.

    When Brayden throws fits at my moms, she always says “life is so tough when you are two!” :)

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