About a year ago, my husband and I were in the midst of year two with our first born. It seemed like every day had been just plain bad for at least a week, maybe two. What once had been reveling in his language skills, turned to wishing that just once, he would respond to a question or directive with any answer besides, “No!” Marveling at how fast he could run, turned into horror that he ran directly towards the road every morning when leaving for daycare. Potty-training had begun and it seemed like we were cleaning up poop and pee all the time, or else retrieving objects from the toilet. When these things occur time after time and day after day, they really wear on you as a parent, especially once you transition to a toddler bed, and they realize they can get up and come find you in the middle of night, and you’re dealing with all of the above on less than a full night’s sleep.
One evening, we were sitting on the couch in silence, probably hoping our son had finally fallen asleep and wasn’t going to yell for us any more. Does anyone else find it hard to stay patient when your toddler doesn’t want to let you go at bedtime? On a good night, you soak in all the extra hugs and think about how it won’t always be this way. On a hard night, when you’re all hugged out and you’ve said “goodnight” about 700 times, you want nothing more than to escape, turn on the tv, and stare at it mindlessly until you crawl into bed. But somehow, you find the strength to sing one more song, give one more hug, and say one more, “Love you, goodnight.” Anyway, it was one of those nights where it had just been a tough day of toddler parenting all day and night, and one of us said to the other, “This was a bad day.”
The other one of us agreed and said, “You know what? It seems like every day has been bad lately. When does this get better?”
It was at that point that I realized that our two-year-old wasn’t going to wake up in the morning and decide to be a peach and make Mommy and Daddy’s day. They call it the Terrible Twos for a reason, right? These precious little people are learning, just like we all had to. They’re learning what emotions they have and when to use them. They’re learning new words everyday and when and how to use those, too. They’re growing taller, reaching more, discovering new abilities and access to new cabinets and countertops. Of course they’re going to be curious and stubborn and sassy, and it’s our sacred job as parents to guide them to using all those new-found skills appropriately. And believe me, they are paying close attention to our actions and reactions!
I thought about all this for a couple of minutes, and slowly said to my husband, “I don’t believe we can think in terms of good or bad days anymore. I think every day has some good and some bad in it, and we’re just going to have to take them together and move on.” And it’s true that most evenings, even on what has been a hard day, my husband and I usually turn to each other once our son is in bed and say something along the lines of, “He’s stubborn, but it sure was cute when he told me ‘Sweet dreams, Daddy.'” Right then and there, we agreed to try to look at our days as just that: regular days, each a mix of different emotions and situations. I’m not saying we don’t ever have days that are worse than others, but it sure changed our perspective.
For those of you with a headstrong toddler wondering if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll have to let you know. For now though, it does feel like the days are shifting toward more wins than losses. Sometimes, now that he’s three, he barely protests when I tell him to do something, or he goes right down for a nap, or he doesn’t cry when we turn the tv off. Those have all got to be good signs, right?