Parenting a toddler is hard.
This week was particularly rough. Work was difficult for my husband and I for a variety of reasons, and we came home every day desperate for a little relaxation. Instead we frantically launched into cleaning up and preparing dinner all while an angry Amaliya cried, whined, and threw avocados around the kitchen. I got dinner on the table and ended up shoving it in my mouth in under five minutes, without tasting it,while my daughter screamed from her high chair. She refused to eat, or let us eat, she didn't want to sit. I was beyond frustration. Worn down. I looked at her and was horrified at the first thought that crossed my mind, which was, "you are ruining everything."
I've always known I would enjoy parenting young, school-age kids. Four-ish, five-ish. I've been around that age enough to know that we sync up well. I'm scared of pre-teens (who isn't?), and I look forward to the teenage years. The newborn, baby stage was terrifying to me in my ignorance, but I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would. There was anxiety, there was a crazy amount of sickness and sleep deprivation, but on the whole it was so easy. There are no personality conflicts with babies. No need for discipline, boundaries, or negotiation. They need, they cry, you give. Simple.
Toddler parenting, I feel, may not be my strong suit. They are obstinate with no focus, stubborn yet nonsensical. They can clearly tell you what they want, but can't understand your explanation of the "no." I know, in my rational mind, that this is just a phase and will pass quickly. Amaliya's second set of molars are coming in, which must hurt, and she's definitely gone through some developmental leaps lately that I think are stressing her out. She is gradually figuring things out, making sense of the world, and I know that once her emotions even out things will be easier for everyone. She needs my patience, even when I don't feel like I have any more patience to give.
I'm digging deep this week, to find enough grace for her and I both. Negativity seeps in when we're on the third straight hour of evening tantrums - I am a horrible parent, I'm not cut out for this, I'm not sure I want to have another kid. I am trying to let those feelings come and go without taking them too seriously. The bad moments are just moments - seemingly endless, but unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
And anyway, we still have bedtime. A few precious minutes every night when I can change her clothes without a fight, watch her do a happy little dance when she picks out her books for the evening, and hold her in my arms while we read to each other. She clings to me tightly in the darkness, head on my shoulder, and begs to hear lullabies (these days it's "Let It Go," every time) while I sway back and forth, just like I did when she was new. She lays down in her crib, asks for her blanket, gives a big stretch and looks up at me with a sleepy smile. My worn-down, deflated heart grows three sizes when she says, "I love you, Mama," and reaches up for a kiss. I close her door and am so relieved to have some peace at last, but also? I kind of miss her.
Isn't it amazing, how one little person can ruin every other moment, but make all the moments in between infinitely brighter?
This phase is just that, a phase, and we'll get through it. Amaliya is a very spirited personality - stubborn, sensitive, and quite demanding, but even on the hardest days I wouldn't change her for anything. I love that she's such a force, so determined and curious and expressive. She will always keep me on my toes.
I love her. So much.