Lessons from a two-year old
For the last three days I have been angry, short, and frustrated with my kids… especially my precious two year old. The secret fear arising within… that old-angry Ang is back again. Maybe I am not so different. Maybe I haven’t learned these lessons yet. Maybe nothing has really changed. Maybe my healing was just a fluke, a fleeting moment of wholeness I got to experience temporarily, are the thoughts that begin to swirl around in my head. The accusations dripping with bitter like vinegar.
I have a friend that always asks one simple but immensely profound question, “what is it that your heart needs right now, Angie?” I sink into the lingering question, begging to be answered. I come up with all sorts of answers.
I need a break from this child! If I could just get a break I would feel better!
Most people get to leave their homes to go to work, all while I’m pecking away one-handed because she obsessively needs to soft the other!
She’s too much! She’s too hard to handle!
She’s so bossy and demanding!
The list of my inner-victim goes on and on of all the ways my life could be better… all the ways that make my kids the problem rather than my own inner turmoil that rolls like brooding thunder clouds on the not so distant horizon.
As I laid in my bed last night, I asked what my heart needed once again, and in the stillness of my breath I heard the quiet whisper… shame and self-condemnation.
You see, three days ago I took two of my girls to the park. I watched from a distance to see just how far my youngest would go. Surely she won’t leave the confines of the park, I wagered. I was wrong, and as soon as she reached the edge of the park, she bolted… right towards a busy street and I was too far away to catch her. The adrenaline coursing through my veins kicked me into the fastest sprint you can imagine. My heart racing and breaking all in one breath as I saw my two-year old’s life flash before my very eyes. I have never felt so helpless. It still brings stinging hot tears to my eyes to think about what could have happened. Hard lessons…
When I finally caught up to her, she was crouching between two parked cars lined up on the side of that busy street. In a flash my fear turned to fury as I scooped her up from her crouched position. I spanked her diapered butt and screamed “Shiloh NO NO!” It was the first spanking she’s ever received. She’s learning her own hard lessons. She ran back to the park and wouldn’t come anywhere near me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t get the image of her getting ran over out of my racing head. My six year old was terrified as well.
One costly mistake on my part could have cost me the life of my child. Like a broken record on repeat, the voice of shame crept into my very being, convincing me that I am a failure as a mom.
My parenting style has caused a few brows to raise and hearts to race for concerned onlookers. I allow my kids the freedom to make mistakes. In our old house we had a tall staircase that fanned out at the bottom so the baby gate would be placed four stairs up. I felt it would be more dangerous for my children to fall backwards from four stairs up than to naturally roll down the stairs if they fell. It used to terrify visitors as they witnessed my tinies climbing those stairs, eyes wide and waiting for the fall. At two years old my middle child insisted that she could do the zipline all by herself. Family members turned their heads in fear as I honestly held my breath, but she didn’t think anything of it and loved every minute of it. If you’ve been around me for any length of time, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
One of my favorite quotes is “What if I fall, oh but darling, what if you fly,” by Eric Hansen. So that is how I have parented. I want to teach my kids to be unafraid, to do what makes their hearts soar, to give them the confidence to try new things even in the face of fear, even if it means they might get hurt. There have been plenty of whispered prayers as my mama heart looks on, wanting to intervene, wanting to tell them that whatever they are trying is not a good idea! For the most part, it always works out and my children gain the confidence they need to try new things.
This time was much different. This time, the cost was too high and the consequences of learning a lesson proved to be far too great and as her parent I should have seen it coming. This time I could not forgive myself. The lack of unforgiveness towards myself has been seeping out all over my husband and children for the last three days. I get overly critical of their mistakes. I get less patient with their blunders because I have no patience for my own. Everything they do becomes an irritation because honestly… I’m irritated with myself. More hard lessons.
As I finally got to the root of what my heart was needing, and I heard the quiet whisper from within this is what she told me…. I need your forgiveness. I need you to forgive yourself for being human, for still making your own mistakes, but learning through them. The floodgates of tears burst me wide open as I realized where all my anger was coming from. I was angry with myself. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a whole lot of us walking around in this same condition. This is a hard lesson to learn.
How many moms are feeling this every single day, I wonder…
Mom, just because you lost your shit for the tenth time in one day, it does not mean you’re a failure… it means you’re human.
Mom, just because you forgot the note in the lunchbox, or the permission slip, or the field trip, it does not mean you’re a failure… it means you’re human.
Mom, if you have completely forgotten about the awards ceremony for your children at school, all while they desperately scan the crowd to find you, it does not mean you’re a failure… it means you’re human. I did this and I don’t suggest you try it. This was one of my worst lessons learned.
Mom, if you need extra time and space so therefore feed you kids chicken nuggets three days in a row, it does not mean you’re a failure, it means you’re human. I do suggest you put them in the microwave because I have been informed that radiated chicken nuggets somehow taste better anyways, so save yourself some time and nuke them. You may also substitute for a bowl of cold cereal. In all seriousness, my point is this. Mom, you’re allowed to do what needs to be done in order to care for your own heart. It’s time we laid down the lies, the shame, the condemnation that whispers in our ear that we are not enough, that we’re not doing enough, that we could and should be better.
I told my husband my next blog was going to be me telling you to never listen to my parenting advice again, because I suck at parenting. I am learning hard lessons. He told me I might want to wait on that for a bit. As with all advice though, we get to take what works and throw out the rest. I have learned a few things through these last few days. My youngest child is lightning fast, like unusually fast, and although I will still allow her a sense of freedom and independence, I will be doing it from a much closer… more hovering position. I also learned, once again, that how I feel about and treat myself inevitably spills out onto those I love. Kindness even and especially towards ourselves matters more than we can possibly fathom.