E suddenly entered the terrible twos this week. Butter in Daddy’s coffeemaker. Dumped out all her tiny choking hazard elastic bands on the floor right in front of the baby. Emptied half a brand-new container of clorox wipes into the toilet. Got into the fridge and ate the tips off of a bunch of strawberries. Got into the hand lotion I’d bought for our stocking for a soldier and spread it all over herself, her clothes, and a bunch of toiletries for the stocking. Dropped her sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich on the kitchen floor and ground it in with her heel. Tore open the granola bars for the soldier stocking, and when my back was turned, egged T on to cut the tags off the baseball cap I’d bought for our Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Whereupon I announced tartly that it was quiet rest time and everyone had better wash their hands and get into bed. At which point she pooped in her panties and sat down on the potty, smearing it everywhere, and wiping it up with the hand towel. This was all in under five hours.
By the time everyone was down for naps and the poopy clothes were in the washer, my sinus headache had grown to a full-blown throbbing body ache. I just had enough energy to cry out to God, “Please help me. I can’t keep doing this!” What a way to start a week that will have my hubby gone Tuesday evening for a candidate dinner and out of town Wed-Sat for a conference in DC. One or two instances of severe naughtiness in a day don’t phase me anymore. It’s the cumulative effect (plus fall colds) that knocks me off kilter. (The afternoon included incidents with a pencil sharpener, the toilet bowl brush, the rest of the clorox wipes, more poop, an overripe banana, stickers, and two more wardrobe changes.) Several times lately, I’ve been so tempted to just shout, “I’m done! This is too much!” Rachel Jankovic recently had a great post on this whole phenomenon. She notes,
I think it is common to have this mental ideal of what your days as a mother are supposed to be like. We think that if we were doing it right, then it wouldn’t be this hard. Of course there are a lot of ways to improve what we do, that make things easier. But it is like improving the form of a runner. They still have to run in order to use it. It still won’t be easy. You can continue training to the point that you are no longer puking in the bushes and all red in the face by the end of the first block, but you aren’t ever going to take the running out of the running.
She’s great at reminding me that right now, motherhood is instrumental in my sanctification. I keep thinking I’ve been at this for almost five years and shouldn’t be surprised by anything now, but I guess I have a lot more growing to do!
I thought I’d share this blast from the past with all of you to say a few things. First, toddler days are hard. I think my life is crazier now with my kids being older and having to juggle activities and tween issues and whatnot, but it’s not harder. Two year olds are hard. The two year old in the scenario above was by far my easiest child. She is generally a cheerful, helpful, sweet right hand woman. But even she was difficult at two! Moms of toddlers, you are in a hard phase. I promise that you’re not stuck there forever.
Second, with five year’s distance from that crazy day, I can see the progress of sanctification in my children and myself. I’m writing tonight with a horrible cold that has knocked me out of commission all week (while my husband has been busy at work), but I’m managing to hold it together better than the Emily of five years ago would have. I see that as God stretching and training me to keep my temper, to have patience, to feel compassion for the child who is really just pushing all my buttons. And while my kids did bicker and act up today, I see the progress in their lives, not just in basic maturity (which helps!), but in growing to want to please God (and please me). I’m not saying that motherhood is no longer a challenge for me or that I don’t still lose my temper way too often, but that when I look back over the past decade, I can see progress in my own heart and mind. When you’re in the trenches, it’s hard to see that growth, but I want to encourage you, dear readers, that it’s happening, slowly but surely.
Third, I was reminded by my 29-year old self that whatever crazy stuff my kids throw at me in a day, I can choose to be complain or look for the blessings. It’s hard when we’re sick and tired and our kids are sick and tired and we probably let them watch too much PBS Kids and the house is a mess and there’s nothing for dinner. I’ve been there–we all have been there! We don’t need to pretend we love cleaning up kid poop while hacking our lungs up and breaking up fights over stupid toys. It’s not fun. But we can check our attitude when we respond to a super stinky day. And after the fact, we can try to laugh at how crazy it was and how we all survived. I have wise friends who encourage me to laugh about these things. Do you have friends who will listen sympathetically and help you react to your rough days in a positive way? Can you use your own experiences to empathize with and encourage others?
We’re all in process, my friends. Press on!