For those who don’t already know, Bunmi Laditan is the (brilliant) woman and voice behind the book, blog, and social media empire known as The Honest Toddler. (And yes, with a Facebook following of 600,000 followers — and counting — The Honest Toddler is officially an “empire.” But I digress.) Yesterday, Laditan posted an open letter to her “difficult child” on her Facebook page, in which she addressed just why she’s so hard on her — from sitting her in time-outs to making her apologize when she’s in the wrong.
The post, which to date has over 26,000 likes and 15,000 shares on Facebook, went viral within hours, for many of the same reasons all of Laditan’s posts do: It was brutally honest and articulated perfectly. It also got at the heart of so much we want our children to know about our decisions.
“I know that if I can just help you channel that steel will into something good, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” she wrote. “You’re fearless. You’ll move mountains. You’ll defend the silenced. You’ll shape the future. You’ll breathe fire … [y]ou may look in the mirror and see a tear-streaked child with messy hair, but I see a powerhouse. I see a game changer. I see a leader.”
Laditan continued on to say that “when you finally apologize and learn today’s lesson we’ll hug it out like we always do and I’ll pray that you get it.”
But here’s the thing: there was no resolution for Laditan or her little one. At least not yet. Last night, Latidan went to bed exhausted and angry, as did her daughter. When she woke up this morning, she hopped on her computer again to pen a new missive — this time to her followers, most of whom are parents themselves.
And I’ve got to be honest with y’all: It was a thing of beauty.
Particularly because it gets at an all-too-common, yet rarely talked about part of parenting: Disciplining our kids sucks. It’s exhausting and draining, and most of the time, they don’t ever seem to truly get what it is you’re trying to teach them. But if you’re patient enough, Laditan assures, you will reap the rewards.
“My strong-willed child woke me up this morning,” Laditan wrote Wednesday, explaining that she fully expected the battle to continue, and braced herself for a fight. Instead, she got an apology. “Sorry, mama,” her daughter said sweetly. But then, the conversation shifted.
As Laditan explained: “She wanted to know if her restrictions still stood. She wanted to negotiate the terms of her sentence.” When her daughter was told no, Laditan watched as she “ate breakfast with a half-smile” and saw “her sister enjoy the things she couldn’t have [because of her punishment] with a bit of melancholy.”
Laditan stuck to her guns; but she didn’t do so to be mean or cruel or “save face” for the sake of her pride. Latidan enforced “the rules” because she wanted to teach her daughter a lesson. Because she wanted to help her daughter realize her potential.
“Was a lesson learned? Maybe for now. But these lessons have a tendency to wear off. My hope is that even if the bulk of it dissolves, a film will remain, a grain, a speck. And with each lesson, the specks will build until they shape her character and put her on a path she can be proud of.”
“I’m hopeful, I’m scared, I’m strong, and I’m tired. Don’t believe Pinterest — the hardest work of motherhood isn’t decorating nurseries, making rainbow toddler beds out of pallets, and throwing impressive parties. The most difficult work is pushing your child to be the person you know they can. We see that person when nobody on Earth can. Once a child is ours we see who they were, are, and they can be at once with our magic gaze.”
You see, disciplining children is hard work — it is painful to watch tears run down their cheeks or to listen to the “I hate you’s,” “you are the worst,” and “you don’t love me” — but it is harder to raise them right. It is harder to hold your ground. Yet it is an imperative part of parenting. It is an imperative part of growing up.
Does that make it easier? No, not really. (I still cry when my daughter cries.) But when you feel broken and weak, when you feel like you cannot push anymore, and when you are sure they don’t care, or can’t hear you, Laditan wants to remind you that she is right there with you.
“Whether your child is three or 18, know that you’re not alone,” she writes. “We’re fighting right alongside you. There’s an army of exhausted, love-filled warrior moms who get your life. Take heart. We’ll never stop trying or loving.”More On