Monday, March 1, 2010

In Which I Give Myself A Pep Talk

There's something about being with other parents of similarly-aged kids that makes me feel confident.

To sit in a messy living room, dodging toys and toddlers, while having to converse over the noise of rambunctious play, feels like a bonding experience. Like we pricked each others' fingers with a needle and signed a contract of belonging. Like we exchanged secret handshakes and spat on our palms. Being with other parents of toddlers draws me in and tells me you're normal. Because their kids are just as crazy as mine.

We went to a handsome 2-year-old's birthday party this weekend, and among the six kids in attendance, I think four had meltdowns at some point. Or at many points. A few times, three of them melted down at the exact same moment.

It was noisy.

But it was also refreshing. I know that's weird, especially coming from a mom like me who so values quiet and calm spaces. Especially knowing how I can lose my cool when my own kids are doing the exact same thing when it's just us at home. And it's not that I didn't look around and think Yikes! This is chaos! -- it was more that I thought This is chaos and it's completely normal.

There was a sense of camaraderie among the parents there when everything started going downhill into a mess of too-tired toddlers plus too-much fun. I looked around and realized just how often those parents probably went through the exact same struggles and battles as my family does. And I realized how self-centered I can be.

Of course other families experience willful toddlers and petulant preschoolers. Of course other families hope for more peaceful days. Of course other parents wonder if they're doing their job right in raising respectful, well-rounded kids. Why on earth have I put myself in a box, assuming that when frustrating behavior hits, I've been to mostly blame? Why do I center their behavior around my own actions, when it's so clear that THIS IS JUST HOW KIDS ARE.

Within a 'normal' range, all kids can exhibit these moments of insanity. The times when a simple transition becomes a disastrous struggle? Normal. The times when my toddler has such intense feelings of anger that she just doesn't know what else to do but scream and wail? Normal. The times when a usually beloved food is refused and thrown to the floor in either disgust or glee? Normal.

All normal.

Makes you want to scrape your eyeballs out with a pine cone and rip your clothes away with a garden hoe and burn your hair off with a blow torch, but still: normal.

It's not because I handled the situation wrong. It's not because I misinterpreted my toddler's needs. It's not because of teething or sleepiness or the last Goldfish cracker or diarrhea or clinginess or a wedgie or a ripped page or the wrong ratio of chocolate to milk or a stolen toy or a dirty look or a bossy big sister or an inside-out sock or a too-small onesie or constipation or separation anxiety or carrots or a lost blankie or a commercial break.

Rather, it's a combination of all those instances and more that make the child a CHILD. She's going through a terrifying and irritating stage called GROWING UP. And we're just along for the ride.

The hope is that while on the journey, we'll learn a few things (which will inevitably change as soon as we've become used to them) to help us raise those darling kids of ours.

The lessons I learned at the birthday party? Surround myself with other people, so the journey isn't so baffling. Trust in the normalcy of my kids.

And perhaps most importantly, pack earplugs for the parenting journey. It's a loud trip.

And that's normal, too.

10 comments:

  1. It really does make everything seem better when you realize that what you're going through is normal, and that your child is not crazy :)

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  2. "... or a wedgie..." Haha! It's never occurred to me that this could be stressing one of them out! Definitely makes sense, though. I mean, wedgies bug me...

    Love this, Sarah. LOVE IT. I've been trying lately to surround myself with fellow parents and you're right: it makes all the difference.

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  3. Loved this. Made me want to call up all my other mommy friends and pow-wow amongst all our screaming toddlers. Just so I can feel "normal." :)

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  4. Yes, it is essential that we spend time with other parents and kids to know that we are not alone. If only my husband could join us more often, so he would see that our kids are not the demons he sometimes imagines them to be. ;)

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  5. It IS comforting, isn't it? I secretly love it when I am in a grocery store and I hear someone else's child having a meltdown. I'm just glad that it's not my child (for once) and I love seeing that I'm not the only one dealing with it. I try to smile nicely when I see the poor parent.

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  6. You wrote out everything that was going through my mind on our long trip home yesterday! You know what the best part of the trip has been, even though it was long and a little stressful I woke up today feeling refreshed and better about my parenting skills!!

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  7. I'm glad to know that you're grateful that more of the noise of Saturday afternoon came from my little angels than yours. :) When I feel stressed about their misbehavior, I'll just take comfort in the reality that it's helping you. :) I like this!

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  8. Tooo true!! There is an added benefit of being among fellow parents and their kids...you can blame THEM for teaching things to your kids when your kids act up later! as in "My sweet Jr never bit anyone until my friends little Daemon taught him how-we are working with him now but it's SUCH a long process once they get a taste for it."

    Once after approx 9 meltdowns in a Chuck E Cheese my friend and I had one together just to see what the kids would do...got the pics to prove it too (I wouldn't recommend it though-their floors are kinda icky) :D

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  9. The way you put words to our insecurities ... you have a gift!

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?