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what is real (in toddlerland)

liz lamoreux

A glimpse into the real around here:

Yesterday, Ellie and I had a moment when I told her “no” about something she wanted to do instead of taking a bath and getting ready for bed. And, her response was to start hitting my laptop. 

I had my external hard drive attached to it (the one full of photos from the last year that I really don’t have another backup of), and she was pushing the laptop so that it almost fell. The hard drive disconnected. I raised my voice, insisting that she stop.

She yelled back, “Don’t yell at me Mama.”

I pulled a tiny bit of end-of-the-day patience from somewhere in my big toe and lowered my voice but spoke in a very firm tone asking her to please sit down in her chair, which was right behind her. 

She just kept yelling, “No. I won’t!”

After a few back and forths, Jon came in and tried to get her to sit in her chair too.

“No. I WON’T”

Here’s the thing: We don’t really "make her" sit in a chair in a time out (or “time in” as I like to call them) for lots of reasons and one is because moments like this usually pass quickly. Sometimes there are a lot of them in a day, but she doesn’t usually spend a lot of time in just one of these moments. She shifts to something else, then maybe back again to being crabby, and then back to joy. 

And I want her to feel her feelings - in her body, in her mind, in her heart. And notice what they feel like because being two is really about practicing in this safe place called home.

And I’ve found that it usually works to just let her yell for a minute. Then she will take a deep breath, and that will be my cue to say, “Do you need a hug?” And she will say, “Yes.” (Or more likely, “NO!...Yes, Mama, I need a hug.”)

But in this moment, I wasn’t listening to the voice inside me telling me this was the usual end of the day tired crabbies, and I wanted her to listen to me.

It was all about me. My laptop. My photos. My surprise that she was acting this way. My insistence that she sit in her chair.

I was calm about it with my voice. But my mind was all over the place, determined that she was going to sit in that chair because sometimes it feels like a tiny adorable dictator runs the show around here and what kind of parent am I becoming if I let her and what would have happened if I’d just lost what I was working on and if the pictures of her were gone and I was that person who lost the photos of her kid...

Oh the mind chatter that comes up around “What kind of parent am I????”

It had been maybe three minutes of this. Me saying, “Sit in your chair.” Her replying, “No. I WON’T!” Jon walked down the hall to start her bath, and she ran the few steps to the hallway and flailed her body onto the floor. 

“I need SPACE!” she said as she put her head against the carpet in child’s pose.

Seconds later, “I NEED my taggy blanket.”

Seconds later, “I need a hug MAMA!”

This series of words pierced through my mind chatter. 

I grabbed her taggy blanket, walked the few steps to where she was taking deep breaths with her head on the carpet, and as she turned to hold her arms up to me, I thought, “What kind of parent am I? The kind who is teaching her kid how to ask for what she needs. Wow.”

Most of the time I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. What works one day with Ellie, doesn’t the next. I wonder if I’m too permissive. I wonder if I sometimes take the path of least resistance and how that might be hurting her, us. I feel the guilt each day when I notice my patience slipping during those moments before bed time. I have some real pride wrapped around how patient I am with her, but when it begins to slip, I feel guilt paired with deep exhaustion.

Feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing but somehow trusting that you do, this is being a toddler mama. This is listening to your intuition. This is messing up and learning and messing up again. This is being present to all of it. This is letting your child teach you too.

Later, when Jon was reading to her and I had a moment to myself, I closed my eyes and said these words softly to myself:

Okay honey, you really are doing something good here. She asked for space. She asked for love. These are things you want and need too. These are things you’re trying to teach yourself, teach others to do. This is being a good mama. Yes. You got this.

An invitation: Even if you aren't a parent, you probably have moments where you feel like you don't know what you're doing. I believe that this is what being an adult feels like sometimes. We think it won't be this way, and then it is, and we wonder why. In this moment, spend a few minutes thinking about what "you've got" today. How are you surprising yourself with your grace, wisdom, and truth? How are you trusting all of it today?

*****

Water Your Mama Soul is a 10 day course where you explore ways to be right here in this moment and find the space to choose love...for yourself...for those around you...for this life you're choosing to live each day. You'll take photos and journal a bit and notice what you need each day. You'll reconnect with yourself. You'll give yourself the gift of remembering you.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Register right here.