Toddlers can be loveable, cuddly, and sweet. Watching them learn about the world with fresh eyes can be a miraculous experience. Hanging out with a kid at two or three can be one of the most joyous human experiences possible.
Except when it isn’t.
Toddlers need to push boundries. They are trying to learn exactly how dealing with social situations works, and that means that sometimes they act like absolute assholes. They develop a burning need to know what happens when they wait out that countdown, what happens when they refuse to eat their food, and what happens when they do the exact opposite of what a frustrated parent asks of them. They have to understand what boundaries and rules are and how they work. They can’t learn that without experimenting by breaking the rules a little. Unfortunately, learning about boundries often looks like hitting their sibling, spitting on stuff, or telling their father that they “want a new daddy,” and laughing when their parent looks hurt.
What’s worse, they usually start doing it when they are at their happiest and feeling safe, which means that just when you have been working your hardest to make your kid feel loved and important is the exact time they will choose to start throwing things at the grocery store and shouting at you.
Which, of course, means that when toddlers start experimenting, it is going to feel as vicious, cruel, and ungrateful as it possibly can.
And, of course, they also will be trying on feelings like schadenfreude and spite as well. They will realize that it feels good to be cruel and laugh at other people’s unhappinss. Which can sometimes make you wonder if you are raising the next Jeffrey Dahlmer. Especially when they are trying on a few things at once. They have to learn that those feelings aren’t really rewarding in the long run.
This means that raising a toddler is like walking through a beautiful forest with a light scattering of unexploded ordinance – fun most of the time, but once in awhile your kid is going to go off and it is going to ruin your day.
And it doesn’t matter how enlightened a parent you are. It doesn’t matter how good you are at compartmentalizing your feelings from your parenting Behavior, there are days when your toddler is going to hurt you deeply. In fact, they are going to make you feel like shit. It would take a bodhisattva not to occasionally have your kid dredge up some serious negativity.
It is important to remember on those days that this is your kid learning, and if they don’t find being an asshole rewarding, they will stop being one. It is also easy to remember that you are no good to your kids if you are emotionally exhausted. There are times when you need to step away, and let someone you trust and all the kids while you regain your composure and find your Centre again.
There are days where you will not be able to hug it out, or apply intelligent peaceful parenting techniques because your dander is up. Being aware of that, and reminding yourself that your child’s behavior is temporary if you insist on expecting better can keep it from completely souring you on your kids. Some days, all you can do is the best you can do, realize that neither you nor your kid is perfect, and that tomorrow you can both do better.
…and maybe go scream into a pillow…