i didn’t come into this parenting thing with an expectation it would be easy, i was under no false impression that we would sail through with flying colours. because it is hard, and i don’t think i had any idea of just how much of a struggle we were in for until dylan turned from a baby into a toddler and my world turned upside down.
some people say it gets better, it gets easier as they get older. other people say these are the best years, before they can talk back and walk away from you. i’m torn, not having experienced having grown children, and only knowing a toddler who can be so sweet and wonderful and then so grouchy and cranky and clingy.
there are days i feel like we’re on a battle field – there is no army, just the two of us on opposing sides, she wearing war paint and i wearing various bits and splotches of the food or crayon or whatever she had and threw or spit out or smooshed onto me. i’m not naturally primed to deal with defiance well, it sets off a fire inside of indignation, disbelief, and anger. i thought having kids was supposed to teach you patience. i was wrong. about me, anyway. having a kid has had the exact opposite effect, sapping me of my strength and resolve, and often leaving me completely incapable of reacting in a reasonable, calm manner. and filling me with guilt.
it’s easy to forget that we are both growing. this experience is new to us and as a person who has already spent (ehem) 30 something years on earth taking care of one individual – for the most part, taking care of her is this gigantic learning curve that can’t and won’t happen over night, or over a few months or years. everything changes, morphs and builds.
but that’s small comfort in the moment, when i want her to eat something and she turns her head away or throws it on the floor. or i need her to come towards me and she goes running back in the direction we just came. or i want her to walk “properly” down the street but she’s decided to enact the ministry of silly walks and ends up tripping and skinning her knee in the same place for the umpteenth time. or i ask her to sit still and drink her water but she grabs the straw and swings it all over the place instead (like this afternoon on our walk – which she did not want to take and insisted i carry her instead – when, in the middle of a store aisle, she whips her drink around by the straw and somehow manages to get the plastic lid off, spilling sticky, liquid milk and ice all over the floor).
i try most often to practice mindfulness through techniques i learned in various classes. focusing and centring so i can deal with the situation appropriately, because when i don’t – when i can’t get her to nap or eat or bathe or get into her stroller without a gigantic tantrum, i feel like a failure, like i’m letting her down. the truth is, though, that dylan is just a child, staring at the world through her big brown eyes, exploring and learning and growing through touch and play. it’s so easy for her to become overloaded and overstimulated with all the new sensory and emotional input. i forget we’re probably pissed off at the same things – me for her not “being clear” about what she wants, and her for me not understanding. in the grand scheme of things, i’m just a child too, and as much as she’s figuring out how the world works, i’m figuring out how to show her. we’re strangers in a foreign land, but even people who don’t share language can find their way when they do it together.
patience is a virtue, not one we are all gifted with. it definitely wasn’t on my list of deliverables when they made me (and broke the mould). every day is a struggle to stay on top of life and all our responsibilities. but if i could tell myself one thing, if i could offer one stoic piece of advice that i might actually listen to and take to heart, it would be: live your life. because whose expectations should i be living up to, if not my own?
live your life. everything else will follow.