Tuesday, May 20, 2014
This little munchkin is 17 (almost 18) months old, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around this fact. The last (almost) year and a half has been life altering, and now that I am on this journey, I could not imagine living life any other way.
Life with a child is...full. I cannot think of any other way to describe it. Being a parent is like being an on-call doctor: you have people constantly looking to you for leadership, you are always ready to respond to crisis, your touch heals, your presence comforts, you give life, and you are an expert in your field only after years of experience. Granted, you never get a vacation from your kids, and there is never another Everett's Mommy to relieve you, but all this hard work is totally worth it because from the moment the on-call doctor places your child in your arms, you know you would do anything to protect him. My sister said it best when she told me that having a child fills you with a love so profound that it consumes you.
Sometimes this deep, all-consuming love gets tested. Sometimes doctors get burned out, and so do parents. Having a baby who wants independence is exhausting. I have decided this is what makes toddlers so challenging: they want something, but are not yet aware of their limits or the limits of the world in which they live. "Everett, if you stand on the back of the couch you will lose your balance, you will fall, and you will hurt yourself." These are things he does not yet understand, and it is hard to know if it's worth the tantrum that will ensue as a result of my parenting intervention.
Do we let them fall and learn from their mistakes? Do we protect them from falling and make this a game (because it will turn into that) by rewarding bad behavior with attention? Where does our all-consuming love do more harm than good?
I will admit, it is more difficult for me as a parent to enjoy these firsts. A few months ago, I took Everett on his first trip to the playground. I watched him toddle around in the grass and took him down the slide for the first time, but was paralyzed by the fear that he would throw a tantrum when it was time to leave the park. Willow was pulling at the leash and barking at other dogs and Everett came up with a fun game of running away from Mom. I was completely stressed out, but when I looked up at the other parents at the playground, they were watching Everett trip and fall all over his clumsiness with smiles on their faces. They were enjoying this adorable toddler more than I was (because they didn't have to deal with a toddler fallout in 15 minutes), and I was so caught up in fear that I could not enjoy this moment: his first trip to the playground, his first slide, his first time walking in grass.
Since then, I've had to remind myself every day that this phase is one of exploration. Even though his emptying out the bathroom cabinets every morning when I am trying to get ready for work is impossibly annoying, he is learning a lot about textures, colors, tastes (yes, tastes), and fine motor skills - and maybe he's trying to figure out a better organization system for me. Having a toddler means the constant juxtaposition of joy and frustration. The innocence of a baby has worn off, and now we are attempting to focus on the joys, rather than the frustrations.
Every day I pray for guidance, patience, and endurance. I am SO blessed to have this baby - no, little BOY - in my life, and I so hope that I can be his loving mother in the way he needs me to be.