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What I Remind Myself When This Parenting Gig Gets Too Hard

image source: Thinkstock
image source: Thinkstock

A month ago I wanted to completely throw the parenting towel in. I would have given my parenting skills a big fat F. I was becoming a parent I didn’t want to be. Frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed, I was yelling, screaming, and acting juvenile in response to my son’s own (more appropriately) juvenile behavior.

He’s 3.

I’m 30.

I just couldn’t bring myself to constantly be the adult. To rise above the childish antics that are so stereotypically applied to 3-year-olds: his inability to listen, follow directions, cooperate, be nice, or not hit people. The list was long. Here and there I could’ve handled it, but it was constant. Every moment was a battle of wills: his against mine, and my own sensible will versus my innate will to lash right back out at him. I wasn’t enjoying our time together and at the end of the day, I was wiped out almost like I was at the very beginning, when the parenting learning curve (and lack of sleep) was as great as ever. Only I did have the tools, knowledge, and understanding of how to parent better, I just couldn’t pull my stores out of the reserves. My tank was empty and it was reflecting both in my parenting and in my son’s behavior.

It’s a vicious cycle: when your child is frustrating you and you start reacting instead of calmly, rationally parenting, you perpetuate your child’s frustration, impulses, and negative behavior. I was, not for the first time, at my wit’s end. I was at the end of my parenting rope. I thought for sure 3 was the age that would do me in.

And then the clouds parted, the sky brightened, and the sun came shining in. It wasn’t overnight, but slowly but surely my humorous, sweet, and loving little boy came creeping back in. It was so slow I didn’t notice at first, until one day I realized we hadn’t spent the whole day alternating between tears and time outs. We were playing, having fun, and getting things done. There was no screaming on either of our parts; bursts of temper or tantrums resolved quickly instead of escalating. Suddenly, I was back to being the fun mom. I could keep my cool when things went wrong, I could put my foot down when lines were being pushed, and I had the energy to once again initiate play and adventures for my son.

I’d like to say I found my big girl panties and decided to be the adult and the parent I know I need to be to guide my son through these crucial developmental years, but the cues came directly from my son. On his own he backed off of the things that were pushing buttons and I was, in turn, able to foster and knead other good behaviors out of him.

It was, once again, just a phase.

A phase of pushing boundaries, exerting independence, and finding his way as he continues to grow and develop. A phase that I’m sure will find us again, but next time I hope I can remember it’s probably just that — a phase. It may not stop me from losing my cool along the way, but I hope I will remember that whatever it is, it’s temporary and fleeting. I can rise above and power through my own childish and overwhelming emotions to help guide him out of the phase and into the next one. If all else fails, I know I can weather through it and come out on the bright side right there along with him.

It makes me wonder how many of these phases I’ve fought and dreaded and resisted over the past few years, winding up stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed, when I really could’ve just stopped to take a breath and waited for the light at the end of the tunnel. Because really, I’m not going to completely mess up my child if a few weeks aren’t the best. The more I remember this, the easier it will be to help him pass through the phase more quickly — letting him ride it out instead of pushing back against his growing nature.

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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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