Last Sunday was one of those glorious fall New England days that serves as a cruel lead-in to the dark, cold and snowy ones which will soon descend upon us. It was also the day that I felt like I was circling the drain as a parent and allowed myself a good, hard cry alone in my room. It was one of those cries where your whole body shudders and your face looks swollen and puffy for hours afterward.
How did I end up in such a state on a fine autumn day? First off, I wasn’t feeling great all weekend. It started Friday morning with a sore throat and headache, and kept manifesting itself in various ways over the course of the weekend. Welcome back season of mysterious viruses! I expected having a kid in daycare would come with the usual passing on of colds, stomach bugs, etc. but I have been surprised by the number of vague, ‘feeling crappy’ viruses that my husband and I have endured over the last two years. And I have gotten hand, foot, mouth virus twice now – both times my daughter has gotten it. That hasn’t been fun. Anyway, back to this weekend. I was feeling off so it was the perfect time for my daughter’s “terrible two’s” to start kicking into high gear. She will be two next month and this weekend she unleashed the perfect storm of bossiness, temper tantrums, and clinginess that have been percolating up until now. I am home on Fridays with her so from Friday morning through my own meltdown on Sunday afternoon, my daughter wanted me holding her or at her side AT ALL TIMES. My husband’s efforts at distracting her with games, books, etc. were of zero interest. “Mommy do it!” was her phrase of the weekend, often said with a scream and tears. He had to take her across the street to the park at one point so that I could start a crock pot for dinner without her clinging to my leg.
Thus the players were set. In one corner, a toddler whose emotions depend on in what color cup you put her milk. In the other corner, a mother worn down by a mystery virus and a high stress work month filled with night and weekend events. The day began for the two of them at 5:45am, where mom’s pleas to cuddle on the couch and watch Daniel Tiger were met by her daughter’s demands for an early morning waffle. Soon after, the young girl turned her attentions to her new (used) snow boots sitting on the ground. She asked if she could put them on and when told she could do so after changing her diaper, gave her mother a swift swat to the face to express her displeasure at that response. Time out and screaming then ensued, waking up dad who was trying to enjoy his morning to sleep in. It was now 6:20am. Yet we soldiered on, determined to enjoy the few nice Sundays we have left and headed out to the farmer’s market. All was well on our outing, giving hope that the day would end on a high note. Then we returned home. Mom can no longer remember the sequence of events but recalls her toddler crying and yelling “Mommy do it!” for the hundredth time that day, and that suddenly her own face felt wet and she too was crying. Not wanting her daughter to see her openly weeping, mom asks her husband for five minutes alone, goes into her bedroom, shuts the door and begins to full body sob.
I cried. I cried hard. I cried about feeling like I should be able to handle my daughter’s mood swings better and not let it affect me so much. I cried because I felt like a sub-par parent to my husband; he admits to feeling this stage is easier the second time around (or third if you count each twin). I cried at feeling selfish being holed away in my room hearing my daughter scream “Mommy!” over and over again as my husband tried to calm her down. I cried because I felt guilty about being overwhelmed, when I am so lucky to have the healthy little girl I always wanted.
After recovering from my own meltdown I realized I was pushing myself when I didn’t have to and told my husband I needed to rest. He took care of dinner and bath; afterward my daughter came and snuggled with me on my bed to watch her pre-bed show. We told her that, just like Daniel Tiger’s mom, “when you’re sick, rest is best (rest is best).” She understands quite a bit when compared to the teachings of her beloved Daniel. I went to bed early and the power of a restorative sleep left me feeling much better come Monday morning. The terrible two’s are only just beginning, and I realized this weekend how much energy, patience and focus I am going to need to help my daughter (and myself) through this challenging phase of development.