Ever have one of those days where you’re pretty sure you’re screwing everything up?
Where you spent most of your day arguing with your child, picking up toys/food/books/clothes and counting down the minutes until bedtime, or at least wine time?
Today was one of those days for me. And it sucked big time. Because there’s nothing worse than going to bed feeling angry at yourself and at your child for pushing every single one of your buttons.
My child is two. Today, she was terrible. And, yes, I feel terrible writing that, but, honestly, she was an absolute horror today.
She woke up early and was exhausted by 9am. She refused to wear anything but a dirty (I’m talking, snot, sweat and spaghetti stains) T-shirt that was already in the pile of washing. She dumped the entire contents of her playroom in my office. She peed on the carpet.
All this before 8am.
The day got worse and worse. I suggested she watched TV and she threw the remote at the window. I gave her an apple, which clearly was the worst thing I could possibly do.
She cried when I told her to take a nap, when I told her to clean up her toys, when I took her for a walk, when I asked her to take a bath, when I asked her to get out of the bath, as I put her to bed.
Now she’s asleep, her cheeks still stained with tears. And I am wide awake, cleaning up the disaster of today, feeling like the worst mum in the world. And wondering what the hell went so wrong?
Why did she act like this? What did I do to upset her? What did she want? She obviously can’t tell me. Well, not with so many words. But I can read between the lines.
My daughter’s perspective
I am two. Today, when I woke up, I felt scared. It was still dark so I went to get Mummy. I tried to go back to sleep in her arms but I was too awake and squirmy.
I wanted to show Mummy I could dress myself. But I couldn’t find the shirt that felt soft on my skin. I asked for it but Mummy got cross. I felt upset I didn’t get to show mummy I could get dressed so I started to cry. Mummy got me the soft shirt but it didn’t make me feel better.
Then Mummy told me to play while she worked in the office. I wanted to be close to Mummy so I brought my toys to her. She got angry again.
I felt confused. I forgot I didn’t have a nappy on and I peed on the carpet. This made mummy even crosser.
I felt sad. And ashamed. I needed a cuddle but Mummy told me to watch TV. So I got upset and threw the remote.
I felt hungry. I wanted to get an apple by myself. But Mummy got it for me. She cut it up and put it in a bowl. I didn’t want it in a bowl. Or cut up. I wanted to choose it myself. After that, I didn’t want the apple anymore.
I felt overwhelmed. Mummy told me to go to sleep but I couldn’t. I needed tickles but mummy was busy. So I got up and played with my toys instead.
I felt alone. Mummy came in. I wanted to show her my tower but she got mad. She said I should have been asleep.
I felt excited when Mummy said we would be going for a walk to the park. But then she made me sit in the pram. I wanted to walk instead. She told me no. I felt angry so I cried again. After that, she went home. We didn’t get to go to the park.
After dinner I felt tired. I wanted to sleep on the couch but Mummy made me take a bath. The bath made me feel warm and I felt wide awake again. But then Mummy said I had to go to sleep.
I felt upset again. And angry. And sad. So I started to cry. Again. I cried until my eyes closed and I fell asleep, hoping tomorrow I would feel better.
Same day, different story
The thing is, we all have bad days. Even our toddlers. Toddlers are fragile, frustrated little beings with more emotion and energy than they know what to do with. But they are also the most loving creatures in the world and, at the end of the day, all they want is to be with us.
You see, after replaying the shittiness of today, after stroking my daughter’s hair as she slept away the sadness, after writing it all down, this is what I realised: even when she is upset, angry, frustrated, confused, ashamed, tired or scared, all my toddler wants is to be with me.
Some days, like today, I forget that. Some days, we all forget that.
Embracing the tears and the tantrums
One day my little girl won’t be two anymore. She will be five. Eight. Fifteen. She will have her own life, friends, boyfriends. She won’t be crying over apple slices and I won’t be dealing with toddler tantrums. And, as hard as these days seem, I know I will miss them.
How do I know I will miss them? Because I already do.
You see, I wrote this nearly four years ago, when my daughter was two. And when she was being terrible.
Now, she is no longer two. She is no longer dumping toys in my office or peeing on the floor. No. She is at school, the office is clean, the toys are put away in her room and the house is quieter than it has ever been. Too clean, too tidy, too quiet.
She is no longer crying about sitting in the pram. She can communicate exactly how she is feeling without the need for toddler tantrums or tears. And she’s growing up to need my reassurance, my cuddles, my constant presence, less and less every day.
But I still remember these ‘terrible’ moments. Strangely enough, I miss them. Yes, they were hard for both me and her. But they led to a better understanding of my daughter and helped to foster our relationship.
So, to the mums with toddlers, remember we’re allowed to have bad days. And so are our kids. Take a step back, consider your toddler’s perspective and remember, at this stage, all your little one really needs is the reassurance that “Mummy is here”. Your toddler won’t always need this. But, today, she still does.