Toddlers Are Not My Wheelhouse (And That’s Okay)

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As I type this, my toddler son is refusing to nap. And by refuse, I mean screeching at obscene volumes and thrashing around his bed like a wild animal. Imagine the scene:

Son (in between loudly singing the ABCs or the theme song from “Dinosaur Train”): Oh no, my excavator! Where is it? MY EXXXCCAAAAAVATORRR… excavatorexcavatorexcavatoooorrrrr!

Me (sternly, over the monitor): Your excavator is parked downstairs. You may play with it once you wake up from your rest. Go to sleep.

Son (in a tone slightly possessed): DON’T TALK TO MEEEEEE. (Then he begins to cry for his father. Again.)

He’s not quite three years old. I know there is more of this to come because I also have a 6-month-old son. One day, he too will change from the cooing sweet chunk of a boy into a rollercoaster of illogical blatherings and hair-trigger tantrums, just like his older brother.

I Was a Better Mother in My Head

Reading over that last paragraph, I cringe. I wanted to be a kind, patient mother, but I know my strengths, and kindness and patience don’t really top that list. I knew that there would be seasons of parenting I enjoyed and some I would simply have to grit my teeth and white-knuckle through.

But if I’m honest, this season of toddlers feels too long, too raw, and too close to every single source of insecurity I have. It feels endless and personal. Every meltdown, angry response, or missed potty-training cue (so many missed potty training cues) makes me feel like a failure at the only job I have right now. 

The Hope: Having Toddlers Is a Season, Not a Life Sentence

When I look around and see all of us who managed to outgrow these toddler shenanigans, I know that my son and I won’t remember most of these dramatic days. (The day we left the splash park with a gigantic swim diaper blowout so bad I drove down I-25 with the windows down and both of us crying? That I won’t likely forget.)

This season of parenting is about guiding and learning and listening, skills that need strengthening in every aspect of my life, not just parenting. I have the luxury and privilege of making this investment in my children’s lives, before they move on to school and into the sphere of many other influences. The frustration I feel is likely temporary, yet the impact of this season is huge.

I’m continually trying to shift my perspective to a healthier, more gracious place for myself and my boys. I appreciated what writer and creative Valerie Keinsley wrote on her Instagram page one day this summer after the birth of her second child:

After [her son’s] birth, I kept feeling like “this (mothering, having a newborn, change) is so hard, I must be so bad at it.” A year and a half later, I see a little more clearly. This (mothering, having a newborn, change) is so hard, but I’m going to be better for it.”

That’s what I will cling to. Whatever the season, whatever the drama, it’s not that I’m awful at it—it’s that I will be made better for it.

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Kate is a Hoosier by birth but knew in her mid-teens that she’d live near the mountains. In college she spent a glorious summer in Colorado Springs volunteering at Glen Eyrie and vowed she’d come back somehow. She's now lived at the foot of Pikes Peak for more than a decade. She and her husband and two boys live downtown in a home almost as old as the city itself. Kate attempts to garden in her free time, making a commitment to grow something strange and new each year. So far luffa sponges, quinoa, and various pumpkins have fed nothing but the squirrels. Prior to staying home with her boys, Kate wrote and edited for a nonprofit that transformed the lives of children all over the world. She is passionate and nerdy and is continually surprised at the joy she has found in this season of motherhood.