To the cycle-breaking toddler mom,
These days are tough– you are learning to navigate a whole new set of obstacles. Your child who was mostly eating, sleeping, and pooping for a while is moving into their own personality in a whole new way. You are excited and terrified at the same time. If you're like me, you find yourself in two groups of people – the first group is made up of parents who lament the dreadful toddler moods and wild-and-free ways, and the second group is parents who seem to have their toddlers sitting quietly through a church service with no fuss or discussion. And here you are just trying to maintain your dignity and confidence in front of these people while accidentally wearing the shirt with spaghetti stains and wondering if maybe you’re wrong for making the decisions you’ve made for your family about being a peacemaker parent instead of a punishing one.
I’m here to remind you– you are doing the right thing.
Sure, the toddler days are accompanied by some rough and tumble days. It comes with the turf.
These little people follow you like a shadow.
They nearly fall asleep sitting up but will suddenly muster all of the energy in the universe to fight bedtime with much gusto.
They cry when their lunch is cut into the wrong shape, when the green cup is dirty, and when you mispronounce the word they made up.
They know exactly what they’re asking for when they say “ahh bubfhryskaya” but you wonder if a high-ranking military interpreter might be able to spare a few minutes to translate for you.
Sometimes it feels like no one sees the countless hours you invest in caring for their physical, emotional, and yes, even spiritual needs. Many days your hard work goes unnoticed and unappreciated. And while it feels like no one sees - your precious little ones are watching you ever so closely. Because they adore you. Because they trust you. Because you are their safe place when everything in their little world feels too big - your love feels bigger.
This is the real reason they act spectacularly "difficult" just for you - you are their safe place.
You are the mom who is growing and learning all about them. You see their physical and emotional needs and you show up in ways no one else does to meet them.
You are the mom who refuses to punish them for lack of development. You refuse to use fear or shame to manage their behavior, and that means they're also not learning how to repress deep emotions - those emotions are being felt, as God intended them to be, sometimes without reservation or inhibition.
You take seriously your responsibility to show the heart and character of Jesus to your child. You know that spiritual and character formation begins not with managing behavior, but with introducing your tiniest disciples to Jesus, and you imitate Him as you disciple your children.
You are the mom who is doing your best and even though it might not seem like it, your child knows it and they love you for it. Your best on Thursday night might look different than your best on Saturday morning, and that's okay. Because even when you mess up and struggle, you're teaching your children how to do that well.
Cycle-breaking mama, you are empowering your little ones in ways you won't even know for years to come. You are loving them. You are modeling the heart of God to your children in a tangible way.
If you were raised in a circle of people who don’t align with treating toddlers as whole persons deserving of honor and respect, let me tell you right now–just because a whole bunch of generations taught one thing, doesn’t make it true. This feeling of “What are people thinking of me as a mother” can be a really strong emotion to conquer. I feel you on that, I've been there–so many times, actually. They’re tough feelings to sit with, but take the time to work through them. It will be worth it.
If you haven’t heard it lately – frequent meltdowns, unpredictable outbursts, yelling, saying no, and not following instructions are all normal for a child who isn’t afraid of punishment. It is part of their learning process. These things are not cause for shame or “What is wrong with me” conversations in your head. They are doors for you to walk through and teach your child through love. They're opportunities to celebrate the way God designed your child. And yeah, they're a chance for you to grow too.
I know it’s hard. The ups and downs of toddler emotions can make a mama want to lock herself in the bathroom with a pair of headphones a handful of peanut M&Ms and never come out. Ask me how I know.
Hear me when I say you’re going to get through this.
You probably won’t “nail it” every day–no one does!
But every day you learn a little more and you practice a little more, and you make a little more progress. Soon enough, the cycle of fear, shame, or abuse is broken. And guess what? It started with you.
So reheat your coffee however many times is necessary today. Take a breath. Say a prayer. And remind yourself that you were made for this.
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