The other day, someone dear to me called to talk about the frustration and the struggle of being eye-ball deep in toddlerhood and raising littles. As we were talking, I began to examine the differences between my parenting style 6ish years ago when Jace, Aubrie, and Kherington were almost 4, almost 2, and almost 1, verses my present parenting style with Levi (almost 4), Truck (just barely 3), and LG (5ish months). At the foundation level, things are the same. On a more practical level, and definitely in the atmosphere of our home, things have changed quite a bit.
I asked myself what it was that made things so different. Our strategies and expectations hadn’t changed much. After a little while, I realized it came down to plain old experience. We’ve seen the fruit of our hard work come to fruition with our big kids.
If I could go back…
I’d tell myself to breathe.
That it was going to be okay. One day, love, you won’t just be surviving until bedtime and praying they don’t get up a dozen times. Instead, you’ll be having meaningful and adventurous conversations about who they are and what their perceptions are about the world around them. There is sweetness and a sacred kind of love between a parent and their little one, but to experience the slow transition from fierce and instinctual love to love for WHO they are and what fires them up, breaks their heart, makes them frustrated- gosh it’s a beautiful thing.
I’d say keep at it!
The consistency you’re giving them now will lead to them trusting you with their secrets and dreams later. One painful, frustrating day comes back to me vividly when I think about the fears I had years ago. Jace was 5 or so and he’d been pushing boundaries all day. After correcting him AGAIN, I sank behind the kitchen counter and just cried and cried. I was convinced that my baby’s only memories of his mama would be of my angry face and my stern voice. There would be no happy he would be able to recollect, just discipline. I felt like a failure. This wasn’t how I pictured myself as a mother.
My dad walked in the kitchen and saw the state I was in and gave me solid ground to stand on. “You’re the parent,” he said, “You don’t have to raise your voice and then beat yourself up, you hold all the cards. It’s going to be alright. He’ll learn and then you won’t have to do this so much.” So simple. I know. But it turned me around. Gave me some perspective. What my little guy was doing wasn’t personal. He was just figuring things out. Every time I corrected him, he learned that I was going to be there and that he could rely on me.
I’d say, mama (or daddy), the work you’re doing is good work.
It’s hard work, the kind that requires a sacrifice of self, and sleep, and the majority of your thoughts. Consuming. Life-long. Worthwhile. Right now, in the middle of it all, you can’t see the positive returns your investment of time and love will have, but I’m there! I’m on the other side of toddlerhood and do you know what I have? Relationship.
There’s a difference. A wonderful evolution happens as Littles transition into Bigs. You’ve gotten all of the boundaries set and fortified, you’ve taken time to let them know why they’re in place (because you love them), and now they’re not pushing up against them and crashing into the guardrails seeing if you’ll let them run off the road because they know that you’re stronger and that you’re constant. And they’re thankful. Now when a ‘no’ comes, you can talk with them about why and they’ll try to meet you where you are, because they trust that you have their best interests at heart.
The confidence I’ve gained through seeing hard work pay off makes me a more patient, consistent, and emotionally healthy mama this round. So, mama in the often frustrating field of small people stretching their strong wills, I see you. They see you. You’re all going to make it.