A few months ago, I was really struggling with my son’s behavior. He was in the throes of the Terrible Twos, and even the simplest of requests would prompt a tantrum.
“Come upstairs with me.”
“Let’s change your diaper.”
“Let’s get dressed for school.”
I tried everything, from talking it through (it turned into an argument) to time-outs (he took his clothes off and peed on the floor). Nothing worked. I was frustrated and feeling like a bad mom. Was I not being consistent enough? Was I giving in too easily?
“I feel like it’s a constant battle between the two of you,” my well-meaning husband observed one especially difficult morning. So was I too much of a disciplinarian? My other half assured me that wasn’t what he meant and said he, too, was at a loss. Together, we worried our perfect angel was turning into a brat.
Then I turned to a friend who said, “Maybe try to be a little bit clever…and don’t forget to have FUN.”
Fun? With MY child? I was at the point that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d really enjoyed spending time with him (Hello, mom guilt!) because it seemed that either he was behaving poorly, or I was bracing myself for the next meltdown. I took a deep breath and made a mental list of things that might make him laugh.
Later that day, I asked him to go upstairs and was answered with an exaggerated pout that may as well be a red light flashing Warning: Tantrum Zone. So I started hopping around and ribbiting like a frog.
“Hey! I’m a mommy frog and I hop, hop, hop up the stairs! Where’s my little froglet? He’s so quick I’ll bet he can hop up the stairs even faster!” His frown dissolved as his eyes squinted into the smile I found so dear.
“Wait for me, Mommy Frog!!!” came the enthusiastic answer. As we giggled and ribbited up the steps, I felt progressively lighter. I’d become so consumed by my own expectations that I’d forgotten what it was like to be a child. Until recently, I’d always been my son’s favorite playmate. That didn’t have to change! I just had to meet him in the middle and combine my own adulting with his magical world of fun.
I can’t say the meltdowns disappeared after that (he is, after all, still two), but the shrieks that echo through the halls are generally shouts of joy, not anger.
Score one for mommy.