Everyone always talks about ‘terrible twos’ but my daughter has ‘PMS 18 months’. It doesn’t sound as good but it’s true. And it seems like the meltdowns always come when I’m battling an inner meltdown myself. And it’s like meltdown + meltdown = monster. And the monster is not the toddler. It’s me.
I imagine that the Hulk got pretty freaked out when he transformed the first time (I don’t know, I don’t remember the movie), but it definitely scared the living daylights out of me when I first felt the ripples and the shutters. What scared me the most was the strength of it and that self-control was the only thing keeping it from surfacing.
The other day I had to go pick up a big bag of items from a friend. My friend only lived a ten minute walk away and so I saw a perfect opportunity to let my 18-month old go on an actual walk. So off we went and the trip there went great. She skipped along – almost ran – the entire way and was so so happy to be out without the stroller.
On the way back however our luck turned. Heavy clouds were rolling in and the bag we picked up was much bigger and heavier than I’d estimated. Also, my toddler decided she’d had enough fun for one day and wanted to be carried home. Optimistically I scooped up my daughter, swung the heavy bag over my shoulder and headed back down the street. The first of countless breaks came only 20 steps later. Soon I was sweaty, my arms aching and baby girl was getting impatient. And yes, it was beginning to rain.
It was when we turned the corner onto our street that the big bag tore and all the contents went crashing down onto the pavement. I just stood there for a minute in disbelief. I could literally see our building down the street, we were almost there. But I had no idea how we were going to get there. The rain picked up, my little teenager sensing my stress opened her own flood gates and I fell to my knees frantically scooping the items back into the broken bag. And then, in that wild agonizing moment, my daughter suddenly found her legs and took off running back in the direction we’d come. For a second I was paralyzed with shock that the situation could possibly get worse, but I chased after her and caught her before she reached the end of the sidewalk. In that moment I felt like I was turning green. For a flicker I lost my sanity and could not comprehend that a child could be so oblivious to the situation. I wanted her to stop crying because I felt that that right was mine.
And then all I was thinking about was my newfound sympathy for mother’s who lose control. I realized that anyone could have it in them – even me. It’s not having it in you to take your anger out on your child that makes the difference, it’s having the strength not to.
Just the other day I was watching a talk about pride, and this part felt like it was speaking directly to me:
The great enemy of charity is pride. Pride is one of the biggest reasons marriages and families struggle. Pride is short-tempered, unkind, and envious. Pride exaggerates its own strength and ignores the virtues of others. Pride is selfish and easily provoked. Pride assumes evil intent where there is none and hides its own weaknesses behind clever excuses. Pride is cynical, pessimistic, angry, and impatient.
Even when you are not at fault—perhaps especially when you are not at fault—let love conquer pride.
Ah, pride. Isn’t that what it always falls back on?
Well I’m going to take it back. I wonder if what makes the difference isn’t really about strength but rather about fear. Essentially just how high, how many inches exactly, you jump in the air when the ugly green face appears. And more than anything keeping that fear alive and making sure you jump as high – if not higher – next time.
Fear is what slapped me back to my senses that day, and it is what motivates me to transform my girlish pride into motherly charity. My favorite part of motherhood is the endless pinkness of love and happiness that will only grow more pink, soft and endless as I allow my heart to open and receive it. What importance is there to pride, anger or impatience when I have that, which also happens to be the one thing that will tame the monster within.
Btw don’t ask how we got home. I hardly remember – but we did. And what a glorious nap that followed it was.
// I’m putting together a follow-up post about how to overcome the bad mom – stay tuned!