“Has she gone through the terrible twos?”
“Just wait until she’s a teenager.”
“Pre-teendom is the pits, man.”
My daughter is almost 4. I was pretty sure tantrums and emotional outbursts were going to begin at 2 and end at 3. Naïve? Absolutely. She didn’t have many tantrums at all in her twos. But three? Three brought it on, hardcore style. I was semi-prepared for bad tantrums, because my mom still tells the tales of my emotionally exhausting outbursts. But really, until I experienced it, I was clueless.
Once it hit, I didn’t always handle the way I wish I would. Where did my patience go? Did I ever have patience? Who is this child? Who am I? It hurt me to realize that I wasn’t doing everything in my power to try and understand her feelings, to respond calmly and lovingly. Of course I won’t always be the most patient, angel of a mother, but she deserves a mama who tries harder to understand her. So I went to my friends.
It’s hard to admit that you’ve been having a difficult time. I think the best part of having mama friends is that someone will always understand your trials. They know. Even if they have no advice to offer, they can offer a hug, a meal, childcare while you have some time to yourself, the possibilities are endless. In tears, because I always cry, I expressed my grievances. In this case, I received some helpful words of advice. Two of my friends who have experienced the outbursts and meltdowns of toddlerhood reminded me that she is having some huge feelings that are hard for her to fully express. They reminded me that she is still so young, and it’s easy to have higher expectations about behavior than is realistic. And the words that hit me the hardest, “She loves you so much and feels so safe with you, that she is letting everything out. You are her safe space.” The tears, the relief, the calm all hit me. That’s what I needed to hear.
That night, she requested that I sit next to her in the backseat of the car on the way to dinner. As I stared into her beautiful brown eyes and listened to her detailed description of the bicycle she would like for her birthday, I fell in love. The intense kind of love, that’s been through hard times, but comes out stronger than before. Here was my precious baby, who gives me unconditional love and light every day. I love this child more than I ever knew was possible. Everything was okay. Everything is okay.
Parenting is hard work. You already knew that. I am forever grateful to my support system. I hope you are surrounded by honest, loving support as well. It makes a world of difference when you’re struggling in any way.
It’s hit me that this will be the last year that my daughter stays home with me before she starts school. It won’t be long until she’s starting a new adventure that will no doubt bring a new set of challenges. I’m as ready as I can be. Each stage of life is unique and I control very little except how I respond to the challenges. A little perspective goes a long way.
Thank you to my friends who listened and lovingly responded that day.
Tiara is a doula-in-training with Whole Mothering Center and has been apprenticing with the WMC doulas since 2014. She was recently a part of a local production of Listen to Your Mother, where she talked about her personal struggle with her feelings about motherhood. She is in the final stages of her training and is now accepting her OWN clients. If you’re interested in talking with Tiara about your upcoming birth, you can contact her here.