A couple weeks ago I put my sweet, affectionate two year- old son to bed. It was no different than any other night. We played, we sang, we read stories and talked about his day. I tucked him in, kissed and hugged him goodnight and told him that I loved him.
The next morning I woke him up, as usual. Instead of looking back at me with heavy eyes and a wide smile or stumbling around, grabbing for his beloved “Pup-Pup” and blankie, he turned his back to me and said, “I don’t want mommy. Go away.”
I’m pretty sure my husband could hear my heart breaking from our room across the hall.
I scooped my son up anyway–thinking he was still tired, gave him a big hug and told him that he may not always want Mommy but Mommy will always want him. Then he looked right at me with his big, brown eyes and said so seriously, “I don’t like Mommy.” Thanks, kid.
I don’t wake up happy every morning, either. Some mornings, if I’m being honest, I’m the definition of grisly. Hard to imagine, I know. So I get it.
We all have bad days and occasionally “wake up on the wrong side of the bed” so I didn’t really think much of the way our morning progressed. Nothing made him happy. He cried and whined over having to wear pants, refused to brush his teeth and he had a major tantrum because he took a bite of toast and now the toast was broken. “Fix it!” he demanded.
When I picked him up from daycare in the afternoon, he was still struggling. I figured he was just overtired or maybe he was getting some more teeth.
Fast forward a couple weeks:
His behavior has only gotten worse. He’s not naughty, per se, and he’s not biting/hitting/kicking. Instead, it’s like his personality has completely flipped and he’s morphed into this erratic creature that refuses to be tamed.
After a particularly tough day I was certain something was wrong with him. How could his personality change seemingly overnight?! I called the doctor and made an appointment.
I told her that I’d noticed him pulling on his ears a bit so I thought maybe he had an ear infection. He didn’t really have any other classic symptoms but something had to be off. My sweet, little boy was no longer acting like himself. He was demanding, irritable, inflexible, very emotional and overall extremely difficult. Turned out, his ears were fine.
Apparently, he’s just a normal two year old.
I was glad nothing was wrong with my little love, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely comforted. Actually, frankly speaking, I felt more helpless. There was nothing that needed fixing and the only thing I could do was be patient until this stage passed. If you know me, you know patience is not necessarily my strongest trait.
Since my son was also acting really emotional at daycare, I was sure to talk to my provider about it. She’s been in the childcare business for many years so I knew she’d have some advice. She’s seen it all. I also wanted us to be on the same page regarding how to discipline him when he needs it. He thrives on routine and consistency so I knew this was important.
Everyone keeps telling me that “it gets better,” and this time I’m choosing to believe them. I don’t want to only focus on his outbursts and ridiculous demands. Instead, I want to enjoy the moments in between the tantrums, as few as they may seem. It sounds so cliche, but I know that time goes fast. “The days are long but the years are short”–or something like that.
Before I know it he’ll be starting school and I’ll be wondering where my cute, little toddler disappeared to.
In the meantime, I’m going to make it a point to work on my own shortcomings. I’m going to try and be more patient, especially in those moments when he purposely tests me. Instead of scolding him or ignoring his (nonsensical) behavior, I’m going to hold him close and reassure him that I’ll always be here for him no matter how he’s feeling or what kind of mood he’s in.
He may not always like Mommy, but Mommy will always love him.