Toddlers ‘feel all the feelings.’ They don’t hold back and can go from 0 to 60 faster than most would consider humanly possible. They are wishy-washy and don’t know what they want until the exact moment they want it. And then they want it NOW.
The random things that will make my kids flip out never cease to amaze me. Take Sunday mornings for example. Lately, we have been in a struggle with our 3-year-old regarding his church attire. Again, I’m not going to make him wear a 3-piece suit, but I don’t want him to look like he was just jumping in a mud puddle either. A meltdown ensued when the weather changed and he now had to wear pants to church instead of shorts. It wasn’t so much the pants as it was the type of pants he was asked to wear. He sobbed for ten minutes because I dressed him in an outfit with ‘hard pants’ (jeans) when he wanted to wear ‘soft pants’ (sweats). Son, are you for real!?
A few nights ago, my husband was working and JJ actually took a long nap. When he gets up from his nap, you can usually tell immediately how the rest of the night is going to go by whether or not he is in a good mood. Needless to say, this night was going to be rough. Jett and I had already eaten our dinner. It’s bad news bears if I try to get JJ to eat as soon as he wakes up, so I just let him come to me whenever he is hungry on these occasions. Within fifteen minutes he was asking for food. I had made some homemade macaroni and cheese so that’s what he had for dinner. I got it ready and placed the plate on the table for him. He went berserk. Not because he didn’t want the mac-and-cheese, he just didn’t want it on a plate.
“Why would you put it on a plate!? Why? That is sooo weird!!! I won’t eat it like this!!! WHY? WHY? WHYYYY?”
He was screaming ‘why’ over and over again more brutally than Nancy Kerrigan after she got whacked in the knee by Tonya Harding’s people. (I did the research and that happened 20 years ago. So no, I don’t think it’s too soon for that joke. I felt really old when I saw the date.)
How dare I put food on a plate!? What is wrong with me!? I just walked away and let him work it out with himself. I also needed to remove myself from the situation just to ensure that I didn’t toss the plate across the room in a fit of frustration. Seeing that I am the adult, I need to display appropriate self-control and I wasn’t feeling it in that moment. He eventually calmed down and discovered that mac-and-cheese tastes the same when served on a plate as it does when served in a bowl. Who’s the weirdo now?
During the same week, JJ got up from a nap and just bawled for half an hour for seemingly no reason. I literally didn’t have a clue what was going on. I sent him back up to his room until he could calm down – not because he was in trouble, but because he’s wasn’t going to ruin everyone else’s evening while he threw a fit. After a few minutes, Jett and I went up to check on him. I held JJ and attempted to find out why he was so upset. He didn’t even know why he was crying, but he didn’t think to turn off the tears. Meanwhile, Jett is trying to drink out of JJ’s cup. JJ had just gotten over a 24-hour bug (which probably had something to do with the crying) so I grabbed the cup out of Jett’s hands so that the germs wouldn’t be passed. This infuriated Jett and he began to wail. Jett is pretty even-keeled until he just isn’t, and then it takes a while to get him to settle down.
So now I had both JJ and Jett screaming and crying and clinging to me with no way to calm them down. What is going on? Am I on ‘Candid Camera’? Is the preschool version of Ashton Kutcher about to jump out of the shadows and declare that I’m being ‘Punk’d’? Things just reached a level of crazy that I couldn’t even describe.
I did the only thing I could think to do – locked myself in the bathroom. At that point, I couldn’t calm them down and I knew that they were crying for no good reason. No one was hurt, no one was hungry, they just wanted attention. I love to give them attention, but not negative attention. I wasn’t going to play their game. So, in order to keep my cool, I just stepped inside the bathroom and shut the door. Without me around as an audience to their weeping, they shut it down within the minute. I was only in the bathroom for two minutes total, but when I came out, JJ was playing calmly in the living room and Jett was just knocking on the door Sheldon Cooper-style saying, “Knock, knock Mommy,” three times in a row.
I should mention that this was the week of the full moon. Any parent, teacher, and healthcare worker can attest that all bets are off when the full moon rises. But this wasn’t any full moon, it was the blood moon (cue menacing music here). At one point, I thought the boys had totally lost their minds and were going to run out onto the deck and start howling at the moon.
Thankfully, just as suddenly as the crazy comes, the crazy goes. On the same night that I placed myself on a bathroom timeout, JJ snuggled up next to me before bed and said, “Mom, I had the best night ever with you.” Wow. Do you know what the phrase ‘best night ever’ means or did you just genuinely forget about everything that happened earlier?
I love that JJ said this because it was such a great reminder of how God views us. Just as JJ was able to forget about our struggles earlier in the evening, God is able to forget about the mistakes we’ve made in the past. When we ask for His forgiveness, He gives it freely and then in God’s eyes what’s done is done. Move on. Sure, we need to learn from our mistakes and do our part, but God doesn’t hold them against us. How incredible is that!?
As a parent, and just in life in general, it can be very difficult to let things go and to be able to forgive and forget. When my nerves are shot by noon on Saturday and I know that I have nine more hours until bedtime, am I able to move past a tough morning and enjoy the rest of our day? Or am I hanging on to everything that went wrong and letting it rob me of fun times in the present? Oftentimes, my kids are a better example of God’s grace than I am. They can forgive easier than I can. Yes, I need to teach them appropriate behavior and not let them get away with things. But, when my toddler’s feelings abound, my mothering forgiveness needs to abound too.