As moms, I think there are some things we choose to forget, or at least remove from our conscious memory. This is self-preservation. It allows us to move forward with building a family with multiple children, remembering only the happy milestones, the fun of raising a child, the quality time.
As my daughter nears her second birthday I am remembering what we went through with my son at this age. The time period where kids begin to exercise their ability to make their own decisions, ask for things they want, and explore the concept of doing things on their own. This age of discovery is marvelous, yet heartbreaking.
Too young to be able to verbally convey what she wants, I find my daughter struggling to forge her path forward. What seems to start out as a simple request to follow her to the kitchen turns into a total meltdown as we stand in front of the refrigerator, door open, with me playing a guessing game.
The poor thing doesn’t just cry. You can see her physically overtaken by her frustration – wanting so bad to communicate with us what she wants, and we just don’t get it. Sometimes she throws herself on the floor, other times she screams out in desperation, wanting so badly to be able to communicate.
I think we do a pretty good job of interpreting our kids’ needs – knowing when they are over tired, when they are getting sick, when they are getting hungry. But this period of time where free thinking emerges and the vocabulary of the little ones has not caught up is so frustrating for them. And can quickly make you feel like an inadequate parent, incapable of meeting your kids’ most basic needs.
Although I can’t always “figure it out”, I have come to learn that I can help her manage her frustrations by coming down to her level. No, it wasn’t some mom epiphany, I actually owe thanks to Supernanny. Jo jo taught me that when communicating with your kids in times of frustration, anger, or trouble, it’s important to be at eye level with them, and communicate in a calm tone.
So, we work through it together. I look at my poor pouty little girl, bottom lip trembling, eyes welling up with tears, and I kneel in front of her so our eyes meet on an even plane. I want to cry myself, but recognize it wouldn’t help one bit. And so the conversation begins. In my most empathetic tone, I start listing out everything that is in the fridge. Instead of her yelling and screaming, she quietly and softly responds to my questions (cheese stick? no. yogurt drink? no.), looking me straight in the eye, almost as though we really understand one another.
We may not be speaking the same language yet, but our body language connects us and gets us through those moments. And while I can’t completely alleviate this frustration, I can assure her that I am there by her side in good and bad times.
When push comes to shove, isn’t that what parenting is all about?