Sometimes dealing with a toddler is like wrestling a bear. Not the cute, fuzzy kind, but the kind with dirty, matted fur and gnarly breath and claws to match.
You get them in a tight grip from the back and around the legs, you keep away from the teeth with every ounce of your strength, you try to get a grip in the matted fur, while they are jerking back and forth trying to get their teeth and claws into you. Yes, exactly like a toddler.
See, I love my almost-three-year-old. But man! Some days (like yesterday) he just gets on my nerves. Please tell me I’m not the only one?
He was overtired and hungry and wouldn’t have a nap (because he wanted to eat in his bed first!). His poor older brother looked after himself downstairs while I did a Jekyl-and-Hyde of coaxing, then threatening, pleading and then punishing. We had soccer later and I knew he would be a terror if he was tired. The afternoon culminated in me breaking my little toe while trying to put his writhing little body on time-out… for the third time.
By the time we reached soccer I was a raving lunatic. He opened his seatbelt while I was driving, was rude to his brother and demanded to go to a play area with his friend Joshie. I shouted and threatened and punished some more.
Through all of this, his older brother got ready for soccer, had his lunch, did his homework, tried to coax the little one into behaving and just kept quiet.
While big brother was playing soccer and I quickly went to run an errand, I cried out to God: “I can’t do this! I don’t want to be ‘Crazy Mommy’ every day. Why am I constantly shouting? Why doesn’t he listen to me?
You will be happy to know that I did calm down after that and we had a nice, chatty rest of the afternoon with only one or two tests of my patience.
And God is so patient with me. Throughout yesterday and today, He reminded me of a few truths that I had forgotten or conveniently ignored:
Speak ‘life’ not ‘death’
Proverbs 18:21 is one of my favourite verses.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
At some point, I stuffed it somewhere in the back of my memory, behind resentment and impatience. I did not speak words of life yesterday when I told my sister that he had to sleep otherwise he was going to be difficult. I did not speak words of life when I told him and his brother the same. So I ate the bitter fruit of tantrums and pouts later.
2. Who was I really angry at?
Myself. I was angry at myself. Because I could see the afternoon unravelling and I could see I was out of control and I could see that my precious older son was being left behind in the chaos, but I just kept going. And then I blamed it all on them. And I was angry, that I was angry. That doesn’t even make sense. If I forgave myself early on, I would have been able to say: “OK, guys, Mommy has been crazy. Let’s start over.”
3. I am the mood-control for our home
At one point, the eldest shouted at his little brother: “Don’t you dare stand up. Sit down now!”. And another time I heard him say: “Please listen to Mommy. Don’t make her upset.” *blush*
I am always talking to them about attitudes. And mine stank. And my mood affects the peace in my home, so I’d better spend time sitting at Jesus’ feet and get rid of that attitude, before the strife will leave.
I also found myself saying: “We’re late!” Or “We’re running out of time”, often. My kids do not do well with rush and fuss.
4. My morning time with God was rushed
There we go. The root that fed the rotten fruit. Yesterday morning, I did spend some time with God, but I kept getting interrupted. And I got angry about the interruption. And then I started texting someone something I ‘urgently’ needed to tell them. And that reminded me of something I needed to do later that day, so I went onto Facebook, which started stressing me out.
So I got up and got ready to go out- But I was still on ’empty’ when it comes to the time I need with God to cope every day. I don’t do well on empty.
Today was better. I still didn’t get to spend a lot of time with God, but I had them both in the bed with me this morning listening to worship music and finding verses in the eldest’s new Bible.
I forgave myself and received grace. I was consistent with discipline instead of just avoiding a tantrum and I loaded lots of love onto my oldest. And I didn’t force anyone to take a nap. You have to pick your battles.
If only he knows how he will miss those naps when he’s grown up…