My 20 month toddler is at a really difficult stage at the moment.
He’s at the age where he is learning to communicate, and discovering how to change the world around him.
He is impossibly frustrated by his own lack of words. So he spends all day crying and shouting at me.
MAH-MEEEEEEEEE MAH-MEEEEEEEEE MAH-MEEEEEEEEE MAH-MEEEEEEEEE MAH-MEEEEEEEEE MAH-MEEEEEEEEE MAH-MEEEEEEEEE!! MAH-MEEEEEEEEE!! MAH-MEEEEEEEEE!! MAH-MEEEEEEEEE!! MAH-MEEEEEEEEE!! MAH-MEEEEEEEEE!!
He demands that I stand next to him at ALL times. That I play with him, talk to him, give him food. He wails and calls out to me when I’m out of his sight. He clings on to my legs. He shouts for me to pick him up. He shouts in my ear for me to walk to the door. He shouts at me to put him down. He shouts at me because I’ve put him down. He is utterly inconsolable. Everything I do, there are tantrums, tears, wailing, crying, howling, and he just shouts and shouts and shouts at me till it drives me TOTALLY AND UTTERLY BATSHIT CRAZY.
(In this photos, I was so stressed that when getting Liam dressed, I grabbed the first items of clothes I could find. I later realised that I dressed him in CLASHING DOUBLE STRIPES. The stress is affecting even my fashion sense!)
I’ve tried to teach him “No Shouting”. I’ve use a kind voice, calm language, cuddles, eye-contact, rewards, distraction, ignoring, a stern voice, putting him in his room… you name it.
You’d think I’d be pretty ace at this parenting thing, given the fact I’ve already had TWO OTHER CHILDREN, who are like, way past this stage. This is like, so 5 years ago. I’ve been screamed at, spat on, and pooed on for the last 8 years. This ain’t new.
But I still stoop down, look deep into my toddler’s eyes and say with undeniable, genuine interest, “Are you speaking to me Liam? What would you like? Oh you want me to take off my shoes? Sure! Let’s turn this into a game! Again!”
6 hours a day I am at home alone with my toddler. 5 days a week. Every 5 seconds the little guy shouts at me to MAKE POPCORN! DO A DRAWING! PUT MY SOCKS ON! LET’S THROW A BALL! GIVE ME WATER! I WANT AN APPLE! I’VE DONE A POO! CHANGE MY NAPPY! I WANT A NEW T-SHIRT! NOT THAT T-SHIRT! LOOK AT THAT CAR! I SAID LOOK AT THE CAR!
But of course, he can’t talk properly, so it all comes out like this:
MUMMY MUMMY POP POP! NO NO MUMMY MUMMY DRAW! NO NO MUMMY SOCKS! NO! NO! NO! MUMMY BALL! MUMMY THROW! NO NO NO NO MUMMY WATER! NO NO MUMMY APPLE! NO! NO! NO! MUMMY POO! MUMMY NAPPY! NO NO NO MUMMY CAR! NO! MUMMY CAR! CAR CAR CAR MUMMY! NO! NO! NO!
To have a person you completely, unconditionally love shout and shout at you for fricking hours… I want to bash my head against a wall until my head is numbed.
By the end of the day I am exhausted. I am crushed, at my wit’s end, tense, lonely, in tears. I don’t want to be shouted at. I don’t want to be a mummy. I don’t want to be in the house. I don’t want to cook any more food. I don’t want to clean up any more crap. Or sweep under the table. Or pick up any more toys. I just want to run very, very far away.
Then I pick up my other children from school. Each of them is a gift from heaven, but they grunt at me and they tell me that the sandwiches I made for their lunch were crap. WHY do they have to do their homework? WHY can’t they play computer games? WHY can’t they go to their friend’s house? WHY haven’t I made them an after-school snack yet? WHY do they have to eat rice for dinner again? WHY WHY WHY? It’s the same old after-school routine.
But, I’m *so happy* that I can actually talk and reason with the older kids. Much better than having them shout senselessly at me. I can at least make them do things by threatening them with no computer games (a fate they think is worse than death!).
But then my toddler starts up again, and clings onto my pants and starts shouting at me. Again. MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! SNACK! SNACK! SNACK! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY SNACK! NO! NO! NO! PLAY MUMMY! PLAY! PLAY! MUMMY NO! NO! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY!
On and on and on.
So these last few weeks have been rather… awful.
I’m a bloody wreck. I love the little guy. Really I do. But it feels like loving him is eating my very soul.
However…an hour after my husband and I wrestle all three of them to bed, I often sneak into their rooms. I watch them, their bodies finally abandoned to sleep. I see the beautiful calm on their faces. I listen to them breathing, and I wonder what they are dreaming of.
And I am overcome with the miracle that they grew inside my body, and how impossibly lucky I am to have them in my life.
I am filled to overflowing with deep, deep, deep contentment.
And even though I know it will all start again in the morning, in those quiet moments – I wouldn’t change my life or kids for anything in this world.
And that, folks, is what it is like to ride the emotional rollercoaster of parenting.