Yesterday, I disliked my toddler.
Yes, I said it.
Her budding teeth poked through her tender gums. Her drool fell onto the furniture, soaked our sleeves, and smeared on all the surfaces on which she cruises along. When not completely occupied, her screams of pain pierced every eardrum within a square mile.
Distractions lasted mere minutes. Getting her to practice walking was like torturing a slippery baby seal. We watched several times as she writhed herself silly on the floor, flinging her head back, back arched into an impossible half-circle.
Taking her to an outdoor music concert proved pointless. In an attempt to coax her out of fussy state, the promising fresh air tricked us into believing we could have an evening of peace. With all of her senses engaged in the milling people, the salty snack food, and the loud bluegrass music wafting from the speakers only 20 feet away, we lived on borrowed time. Within minutes, her bull-headed thoughts drove her to go to the bottom of the mini-amphitheater steps and climb them — one-by-one, again and again. Too large for her knees to reach the top, the old cigarette butts, bird droppings, and tiny gravel peppering each step became her new clothing adornments.
As we ended her exhausting (to us) run after round trips on the stairs, she squealed in displeasure, with a giant clown-sized frown. Strapping her into the stroller was a two-person job. One of us tried to hold onto her flailing arms as the other strapped her in in record-breaking time. As we did the walk of shame out of the amphitheater, the glaring stares of many bored holes into our backs.
My overtired daughter’s screams continued in the car. It was as if a Royal Rumble had erupted in the back seat as we wrestled with the car seat. And then five minutes later she fell silent. Her eyes finally closed, her peaceful face leaned to the side. Her rosy cheeks were angelic in the late afternoon sun. Tears streamed down my face — tears from a lack of any iota of remaining patience, tears of fear from being a bad mom, and tears born of pure exhaustion. I frightened myself with the thoughts that dared reveal themselves from deep within me: I hate being a mom. I hate spending time with my daughter when she’s like this. Was it a mistake to have a child?
Countering my irrational thoughts, my true love for my daughter is boundless. I could not imagine my life feeling remotely fulfilled without her. Yet at the end of these relentless days, I pine for my previous life. I yearn for a time of peace, of music-filled evenings and nights out for drinks. I fondly remember a time when my own thoughts flowed freely without battling with a screaming child. I talked with my husband with an ease that is now nonexistent and did not have to scramble to remedy (and fail to remedy) our toddler’s unpredictable crankiness. I sat and wondered why we chose to ruin our lives. And the guilt for having such self-centered thoughts brought on full-blown sobs.
Today was different. Today was a new day. The toddler woke up silly, smiley, and full of giggles. She willingly brushed her teeth and played quietly in her playpen. She did not fuss at the clothes we picked out for school, nor at the car seat. She gladly walked around her crib and waved “Hi!” with endearing cuteness.
Today revived my belief in my ability to mother. Dinner was blissfully quiet as she happily ate her grilled cheese and corn. My husband and I uttered spoke to one another in full sentences. At times, we even strung together enough thoughts to have something that almost always alludes us — a conversation.
Today reminded me of why we decided to create life and bring a child into this family. Her beautiful smile melted my heart. Splashing in the bath, her silly giggles were infectious. I sat on the floor, her face inches from my own, and we laughed at each other.
Today renewed my vision for my own happiness. While I am not the person I was even two years ago, I am a better version of my former self. I have more patience, more compassion, more love flowing in my soul. Making it to the end of a long day with a toddler who is asserting her new-found independence is proof enough of that. I am a role model to a precious little girl. I have a tiny being who learns from my actions, my knowledge and wisdom, and depends on me for her happiness and security. I am somebody’s mother.
While not every day is going to be good, or even bearable, I clung to the pain, embraced the aggravation, and ventured to the end of my rope. Allowing the tears to flow, I stewed in my frustration. Then I picked myself up and made it to the next day. And I’ll do it again — and again and again. I’m sure there are many intolerable days in store for us. But I know if we hang on, the good will fill my heart with the joy I crave.
So while yesterday broke me, it was worth it. After a night of rest, I woke to find my self-esteem rebuilt and ready to take on the next cycle downward.
Yesterday I disliked my toddler. Today I did not. But through it all, I could not love her more.