the one about those days

I asked for this.

I wanted this.

I prayed for this.

I can do this.

I have been repeating these four phrases over and over for the past hour.

I have a difficult toddler today.

She is exercising every last freedom of speech that she has by telling me I'm "too warm," don't smell good, and am fat. I'm also a mean mom who never lets her do anything. She never gets to have fun, and she never gets to watch any of her TV shows.

She's only 3 1/2. I thought for sure she'd be at least 11 years old before the never talk began.

And it's only 1 p.m.

I have a difficult toddler today.

It's an uncomfortable thing to admit when your child is acting horribly because you feel as if your child is a direct reflection of you as a parent. Surely, she learned how to call someone fat from me. Surely, she learned how to act in defiance from me. Surely, she learned how to hurt someone's feelings from me.

In my heart, I know that is not true. I know she has never heard me even call myself fat because I am very careful not to use that word around her. I know that the TV she does watch is limited to PBS and Disney Junior, and I'm always right there watching it with her. I know that we do not tolerate insulting others or yelling to get her way.

But why, despite my best efforts to parent, model, and discipline, does she act this way?

I have a difficult toddler today.

I can see it now. The teachers meeting behind closed doors at her elementary school, talking about her behavior, and then switching the conversation to us as her parents.

"They must let her get away with everything at home."

"What kind of language do they use with each other if that is what she repeats here?"

"Do they even try to discipline her?"

I've been there, as the teacher, passing judgment on my students' parents. But now, as a parent of a difficult toddler (today), I feel their pain. Not every child who displays inappropriate behavior or acts out in anger or yells unkind words is the offspring of Go-Go Juice-chugging, beer can head-smashing, inattentive parents who leave it to The Simpsons to teach their kids what they need to know about life.

Not that there's anything (too) wrong with that.

Sometimes, the time out doesn't work. Sometimes, the privileges lost don't matter. Sometimes, the tiny human has to feel big and powerful, and sometimes, screaming that I'm a fat, mean, smelly mommy is her way of doing that.

Am I happy about that? Am I proud of that? Do I condone that?

No.

But I have a difficult toddler today.

She's difficult on other days, too. Like when we go to a friend's house for a play date and she's bossy or selfish or antisocial. Or when we go to the store and that $15 piece of pink plastic has to be hers or else.

I see the looks. I feel the stares. My neck gets hot with anxiety.

And it hurts. Because I think I'm a good mom.

But just as she is learning more and more each day about boundaries, social norms, and what will and will not be tolerated, I'm learning, too.

And right now, I'm learning that my difficult toddler needs her fat, smelly, mean mama now more than ever.

3 comments

  1. oh man i needed to read this. <3

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  2. Thank you, thank you for sharing this! We also have a very difficult, strong-willed toddler at times (honestly, more often than not, at this stage). Every judgemental thought I ever had as a non-parent, has come back full-circle and I now realize that a child's behavior may be in no way indicative of poor parenting. You hit the nail on the head - "It's an uncomfortable thing to admit when your child is acting horribly because you feel as if your child is a direct reflection of you as a parent." It's hard to hear, "Go away, mama!". (Thank you, daycare, for that lovely phrase - enter, more guilt.) Or get pushed away when you try to give a hug or a kiss. I try to remember that she feels stress and needs an outlet too...and, as parents, that we feel the brunt of their frustration because they know we will love them unconditionally. As you said, that's when they need us the most. :)

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