Parenting a toddler – So good, yet sucks so hard!
3 years ago I wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea if the title of this blog was true or false, nor would I have cared frankly. I was too busy at the bike shop inquiring about the latest carbon fiber wheelset. I was deeply immersed in figuring out which of the famed areas in Jamaica were best to visit in December. But, overtime, interests change, relationships evolve, and families begin to form. So bikes were exchanged for strollers, trips to Jamaica were soon reserved for daycare costs and weekend outings and we were cementing ourselves in to the nesting phase of life. With these changes come challenges, confusion at times, and stress.
I think the most accurate way to describe being new at parenting is “you only really know… what you know”. It’s like taking a job offer with no experience. And parenting definitely doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Fortunately enough for us, however, you do learn on the job.
Before starting a family I had friends with kids, some even had lots of them. I was accustomed to seeing a myriad of kid pictures on social media (albeit, I did my best to scroll over them). And I have 2 wonderful nephews, whom I love. But not until I had children of my own did I start to understand the dynamic of the parent child relationship. You’d think being a child to a set of parents I’d be more clued into things, but alas, I was not.
So what makes things suck – some of it is science…
So where does this dichotomy of good and bad, pain and pleasure, love and um… dislike come into play? I can attribute it to a few things. One is, the overwhelming responsibility of ensuring your child’s safety when they are unable to discern safe from dangerous on their own. This is a huge component of parenting a toddler and a major underlining source of stress. This is the analogy I’ve repeatedly shared with friends that don’t have a toddler. If there was a fire burning in the middle of the living room, my toddler would go into full melt-down mode for not being able to play in the fire. Their ability to rationalize is primarily void. In essence, as parents we’re battling trying to reason with someone completely unreasonable, and essentially negotiating with that on a regular basis.
Secondly, impetuousness and impatience are ingrained into a 2 year olds head… I mean, scientifically speaking. Babies are born impatient as a matter of their survival. They start off by fussing and crying to be fed… like, immediately! Diaper change…, right now! Your toddler’s inability to contain themselves is a reminder to us that they haven’t fully graduated from being a baby. What’s known as the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for self-control (including the ability to exercise patience), starts developing most dramatically somewhere between the ages of 2 and 7. Hence, your 2 year old is just scratching the surface here. At 1 year old it’s easier to contain your child, at 2 it’s all this contentiousness wrapped in a 30lb body. It’s like a pissed off Baby Huey running rampant in the house.
Where do we find the ‘Good’?
So we’ve outlined the ‘bad’, right? Where does the good come into play? Ironically, it comes in mostly at the 11th hour. Right when you’re at the end of your rope. Just minutes before they fall asleep. It’s the unexpected hug and kiss good night, the unprovoked sentiment that they ‘love their brother’. Letting you know that they’ll ‘wait their turn’ or simply hearing them reiterate they’re not supposed to do something. Almost like a shimmer of hope that our parenting hard work is paying off, or some reassurance that our disciplining is received with love. For me, 5 minutes of my son lying down in my lap watching T.V. can erase a 24 hour marathon of the terrible twos. There is something magical about connecting with your children that trumps all of the craziness that comes along with raising kids.
It’s hard as individuals to transition to parents. There’s also ego in parenting that doesn’t want to admit how excruciating this process can be. Yet, as the time passes by I try to remind myself that these years are so special and so fleeting. Even as I watch one of my children drag a crayon across the living room wall, I still remind myself of that. Call me an idealist, but I cherish these moments and look forward to my kids growing up. Watching them becoming teenagers and seeing what they like and what they excel at. Which makes me wonder, maybe as our toddlers exceed at irreverence, we as parents excel at patience and forgiveness?
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