“And for those of you traveling with small children or those acting like a child, be sure to put on your own air mask before attempting to assist others.”
I breathed a sigh of relief that, for a change, I wasn’t flying with twins. I may have failed Southwest’s boarding system and ended up with a middle seat every dang leg of the trip, but compared to flying with a toddler in my lap, it felt like first class. In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, the only person I had to worry about was me. No toddlers here.
Except that really, sometimes I’m the toddler.
Told she can’t have something she wants, my toddlers will get out their slappy hands. They’ll throw themselves to the floor. They’ll use the word “mama” like something you can’t say on television. They’ve been known to throw whatever’s nearest, or to sweep an entire stack of books off the shelf, just to prove a point.
Just a toddler being irrational, I’ll think to myself. One day they’ll be able to control themselves.
Except that sometimes, a lot of the time, I’m the one being irrational. I am the one who can’t control myself. When angered, I have been known to throw things. I’ve been known to use my words as weapons. I’ve been known to make a lot of noise, to flop down on my bed and cry, or to attempt to run away. I’ve wanted to slap away hands that try to hold me. I deceive myself into thinking that I’m a grown up, able to handle myself, but the truth of the matter is, a lot of the time, I don’t really WANT to control myself. I want to be out of control, crazy, to let the storm of my emotions rage. And nothing provides such constant provocation quite like my kids.
Parenting toddlers means I often must first stop to put on my own air mask, or rather, to parent the toddler inside of me who is triggered to rage by the toddlers I birthed. I find myself telling myself the exact same things I tell them. Take a deep breath. We don’t throw things. We don’t yell. Your feelings are OK but what you’re doing with them is not. When you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four (OK, that one’s from Daniel Tiger.)
Parenting toddlers means I’m finally facing how, in a lot of ways, I’m not really a grown up. I still have much to work on. Luckily, mercifully, blessedly, for as crazy-making as they can be, my toddlers are also excellent models of forgiveness and grace. This morning, we got off on the wrong foot. Sippies were thrown, lids flew off, and apple juice exploded everywhere. Of course, now having no apple juice to drink, fits were thrown. I am not proud to admit that I yelled and then hated myself for yelling, because it scares my kids. I treated all of us like toddlers– muscled us through the motions of getting dressed, got us some breakfast to calm the hangry, refilled our cups with apple juice and coffee. Soon, I was snuggled in a chair with sweet babies with soft hair that still smells like baby shampoo. I was covered in wet toddler kisses. All was again right with the world. They don’t dwell, and neither should I. We just move on, we grow up a little each day, and we keep on working. Kisses help. So does coffee.