Dear Mamas of Toddlers: An Honest Letter from a Mom Who’s Been There

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This post was originally posted by MotherWise.

Dear Moms of Toddlers,

I see you. I see you having a hard time. I see you chasing your wild child through the grocery store, having decided in a fit of bravery to take the chance and see if the madness could be contained this time. Will it be adorable and pleasant? Or will you get kicked in the face by a flailing two-year-old because you simply can’t allow them to scale the shelves in the cereal aisle?

I see you using your sweetest voice, reminding your toddler, “Please use gentle touches,” “We can’t eat dog food,” “It’s time to go now. You are frustrated.”

I see you picking up your screaming child and carrying them out of the room, store, restaurant. I see you leaving because it’s really your only choice.

I see you at the playground, constantly on your feet, chasing your little one around, trying to stay one step ahead of this tiny human who is still a baby and suddenly in a bigger kid body.

Because that’s what toddlers are– babies in bigger kid bodies. Hence the erroneous title “Terrible Twos.”

I see you at the playground, unable to blink before your toddler picks up a handful of sand and launches it at their playmate.

I remember when it was me chasing my baby-big-kid around. I looked at other moms, sitting, socializing, drinking their coffee, checking their phones. I wondered how. How do they get to be distracted? How do they get to take a moment of rest? How is the playground a break for them?

I have good news! It will be a break for you one day, too. There will come a time when you can happily let your child play without direct supervision for an extended period. The day will come when you will be one of those moms socializing or sitting and taking a break while their child wanders off to play.

It can be exasperating sometimes. Your toddler communicates. They speak, they have preferences, they’re delightful little humans who seem like your best friend half the time.

The other half, not so much. “Why did you just have a gigantic, irrational, embarrassing meltdown when we had been having such a good time?” you might wonder when a play date or trip to the grocery store becomes much more chaotic than you had anticipated.

A toddler is much closer to a baby in terms of brain development. They don’t have much to offer yet in the departments of emotional regulation and impulse control. This is why lessons need to be repeated, this is why environments need to be toddler-proofed, this why their emotions get so huge.

Too often our society does not have room for toddlers. Too often a tantrum is seen as “bratty” behavior, rather than a totally normal, developmentally appropriate, although unfortunate phase.

Toddlers do things that, if we did those same things as adults, would have us categorized as huge jerks. Sometimes it can feel like your kid is being a jerk. But they’re not.

As the saying goes, they’re not giving you a hard time; they’re having a hard time. It’s frustrating, undoubtedly, but getting frustrated at a toddler for being unable to practice emotional regulation is the same as getting frustrated at them for being unable to learn a foreign language. It’s not personal. It’s brain development.

So what can you do? Pretend to be a Sunday school teacher with the most never-ending pool of patience in all the land. Use your sweet voice and repeat, remind, and toddler-proof. Take nothing personally, and try to smile through it.

I’ve heard questions before: “My toddler won’t stop touching the dog’s water bowl! No matter how many times we tell him no, he won’t stop touching it! What can I do?!?” The answer is: move the bowl. That’s the only option. Every toddler in the world will touch the dog food bowl. They are tiny scientists who must explore everything. There is no disciplining, training, or punishing it out of them.

Soon enough, though, your toddler will be three, four, five, six. And they will outgrow it. Children get more and more independent every day, and eventually they will need very little from you. Sit with them in these moments for now; the moments will be over before you know it.

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Photo by Photographer Jaci Kulish

10 thoughts on “Dear Mamas of Toddlers: An Honest Letter from a Mom Who’s Been There”

  1. I LOVED this article thank u soooo much!! I am a single Momma of a wonderful, fiesty, loving, beautiful getting into everything almost 16month old… thank u for putting words to what we have all felt and gone thru at times!!! much love to u!! I really like your Blog!!!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. I can’t tell you how needed this was in my life. You’ve encouraged me to make more room in my life for my toddler knowing it’s a much shorter stage than it seems right now.

  3. Thank you… this was refreshing water for my soul tonight. Thank you for blessing me with your encouragement and wisdom.

    Sincerely,
    Mama of three little boys

  4. As a busy, working mom of three, including one who has autism, I fondly remember my sweet, crazy toddlers. I was alternately enthralled and appalled by their behavior. As a ‘been there, done that’ I can honestly say that those toddler years are best enjoyed AT HOME. When someone offers to help, RUN to the grocery alone. Bring another grown-up to the park or better yet, ignore the mess and invite the play dates to you. Less stress, calmer mama.

  5. Thank you for this my son David has been 2 now for 3 months and I was laughing while reading this because this has happened to us. I appreciate knowing that this will pass. I am trying to enjoy it because like you said they will not need me much some day.

  6. Thank you so much for this post. After the day I’ve had with my two year old I really needed to read this. My toddler is a whirlwind of mischief lol

  7. I just posted in my local mom’s Facebook group about being at my wit’s end with my the year old. Thank you for reminding me she having a rough time, too… She’s not a baby anymore and doesn’t understand what that means. Tomorrow’s a new day for both of us. And maybe tomorrow I won’t have to carry her out of the store, or i won’t have to bring a carrier the next day so I can do the shopping I want sake to do yesterday.

  8. What a powerful, moving, honest post. Seriously hit me on so many levels. Practicing mindful minutes in the few free I seem to have a day seems to help as well!

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