My son is at an age where he’s constantly testing the limits. He wants to know where his boundaries lie. Moreover, he needs to know where his boundaries lie. In order to know he’s safe. In order to figure out how the world works. In order to grow and to learn.
So I have to say “no” an infinite amount of times per day. I have to be consistent and fair amidst tantrums. I have to follow through on my word when I tell him a time-out is eminent or say that the markers will be taken away for the afternoon if he draws all over his arm (again) while I’m feeding the baby.
Some days it feels as if all he does is go from one bad thing to the next. Biting one piece of furniture then another, and pouring glitter on the floor, and jumping on the top of the couch, and drawing on the floor with markers (markers I had put out of reach, and which he’d climbed haphazardly on a chair to get), and crawling out of his crib during nap-time and running down the hall proclaiming he’s done sleeping, and putting him back to bed only to check on him fifteen minutes later to find him diaper-less – his blankets and stuffed animals covered in pee. Then looking at the clock and realizing the day is only halfway through.
Those days are hard.
And during those days, it is easy to get swept beneath the current, to succumb to an overwhelming feeling of failure. It’s easy to second guess yourself when you’re in the thick of it, and nothing is going right. The arguments against you are always at the back of your mind, even if no one speaks them aloud. The fact is, you know there’s someone out there who could, and would, point the finger at you to place blame. The so-called mommy wars are so ingrained in our minds that we use them against ourselves when we feel weak.
Maybe if you had done sleep training he would be well rested and better behaved. Maybe if you had made more homemade baby food he wouldn’t be such a picky eater. Maybe if you breastfed longer he would be past this developmental stage already. Maybe if you were better at keeping a strict routine these tantrums wouldn’t happen. Maybe it’s your fault.
Maybe you’re the problem.
When you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to push past those insecurities. It’s hard to remember that every parent feels like they’re doing everything wrong some days. But we have all been there, or are there, or will be there soon. We all dive into parenthood as new to the process as our fresh pink babes. We too need time and patience and a fair share of tears. Although there are plenty of sanctimommies out there saying that parenting is an art or a science, it is neither. It’s trial and error; it has been since the dawn of time.
So next time you find yourself staring in disbelief while play-dough is maliciously forced into your carpet, or watching milk being unceremoniously poured over your coffee table, or digging bits of crib wood out of your babe’s mouth, remember that we’re in this together – through our weariness and painstaking love – even when we feel alone.
Especially when we feel alone.