This week has me dying to talk about the life of a toddler mom. I've had a particularly toddler-y week this week with my two-year-old and it has me thinking. Between the constant scowl on his face and the countless meltdowns caused by, the wind blowing, something falling off the table, or nighttime being too dark-just to name a few-I found myself feeling like a crazy person more than once this week. With a toddlers limited communication skills and their wildly unpredictable emotions they could possibly be the hardest creature on earth to keep happy. I went from being the mom of a baby, responding to every cry of help, to the mom of a toddler ignoring my son screaming-because I know it’s about some irrational problem that I can neither change nor fix. To say the adjustment from baby to toddler has been drastic would be an understatement. I was blessed with an easy baby, which I thought was a sign of his easy-going personality.
It was so effortless cruising the aisles of Target with my little in some trendy baby wrap, no need for a big diaper bag, no race against nap time. I honestly thought this mom thing just wasn’t as hard as everyone made it out to be. Little did I know in just a few short years I would be the mom with the messy bun begging her toddler to get off the floor of Target, bribing them with promises of candy or toys. Ok, if I’m honest I always had the messy bun-but the toddler brings out the messy in it! The transition has been rough for both of us. I know you know what I'm talking about moms, especially if you had one of those easy newborns like I did. You really take the hit of the toddler years that much harder. I just straight up didn't see it coming. I honestly believed that my easy baby was just an easy-going dude and would handle toddler years with this same laid back attitude I’ve come to appreciate. Boy was I wrong!
Ever since my son turned two it’s like something clicked on in his mind. He activated toddler mode the day he turned two and hasn’t turned back. Most of my day, every day, is spent mediating between my son and literally anything he interacts with in the world. Just this week he came to me in tears telling me that Dory was being naughty, as he tightly held a Dory figurine in his hand. This lead to an hour-long ordeal of talking about why she was naughty and Dory not only sitting in time out, but also saying sorry to my toddler. An ordeal caused entirely by something that occurred in my two-year-old’s imagination between him, and a toy. Feel like you’re crazy yet? The feeling of raising a toddler can be incredibly isolating and your first instinct is to hide this embarrassing behavior from the public. It was this week, in a moment I was feeling particularly isolated, the task of mothering a toddler felt impossible-that's when I was reminded of a very important thing I had forgotten since my easy baby grew up. Moms are not alone; parents are not alone. YOU are not alone. Your toddler shouldn’t isolate you, they should unite you with parents who know the struggle.
This week as we were cruising the aisles of Target, one of my favorite activities to do with my easy baby. This was one of our first trips since the ugly reality of toddlerdom had hit; he was upset by something-who knows what this could have been. Something I learned very quickly about my toddler is literally anything can upset him, even if it doesn’t affect him in any way rationally. This day I offered him every bribe in sight, all swiftly rejected with the sharp 'NO!' I'm so used to hearing all day long. Then I watched as the toddler monster took over. He insisted on getting out of the cart so I let him out-rookie mistake, he immediately threw himself on the floor screaming and crying in a typical tantrum. I honestly had no idea how to fix it because I still have no idea what’s made him so upset. In my head I’m thinking I should have just stayed home. As I'm squatting next to him offering anything I can think of to stop the tantrum, begging him to stop screaming, I look up to see a familiar face. Not someone I know, or knew, but a face familiar to me because I've given that look to so many other moms. There she was, a fellow mom, with her toddler sitting nicely in the cart, looking at me with that look telling me 'I get it'.
And that's when I remembered what I had forgotten in those moments of motherhood that were so easy on me, the moments I didn't need support. I forgot that motherhood is not something you are ever alone in. As they passed us she gave me a smile and I said something that I have found myself repeating again and again. 'We just turned two and, well, he's two...' usually this is followed by a gesture to my sons’ undeniable terrible two behavior. It's such a simple sentence, doesn’t really make sense, but any mom who hears it gets it. We all know that even a good toddler is still a toddler. My son is such a joy and easy in so many ways, but that does not stop the toddler in him from taking over more times than I'd like. She was what I needed in that moment, on that day, when the task of motherhood seemed to be crushing me. I needed to not look up and see yet another judging face, not understanding why I can't keep my kid under control-and trust me these judgmental looks are something you never struggle to see as a mother.
Since that small moment of support, I've felt less alone, and less shamed by the public tantrums. I feel more safe and supported just knowing there are other moms, likely just in the next aisle who get it. So, to the moms and dads out there who are just in the next aisle, I encourage you give that parenting dealing with the tantrum that understanding look as you walk by. You never know when that look is going to be what that parents needed that day, or that week, or that month. Mom-ing is hard. We get judgment from so many different places, and we are held to expectations that sometimes feel impossible. Motherhood can isolate you and make you feel like an outsider in normal society. This week was a reminder for me that even when I feel alone, I'm not. I am not an outsider, I'm part of a community of motherhood. Something that will always connect me on a primal level to mothers everywhere. Not only did this small interaction inspire me to be that friendly glance in those isolating moments; but it also reminded me I'm surrounded by support, even if I don’t feel like it. Next time my toddler melts down in public I won’t bow my head in shame to avoid the judgment, I will hold my head high and look for the mom close by who just gets it.
Be that moment of support for a mom near you this week.