Loving a Strong-willed Toddler

Coffee that has gone cold, the kitchen counter lined with cooking wares and sink that’s full of dishes to wash, house seemingly ran by a tornado. A typical first day of the week when husband goes back to work and our boy goes back to school. Busy Sunday for everybody in the Middle East.

Sundays are never ordinary for our household. It feels like we need to beat the buzzer. All. the. time…

After sending my boys out, I should be starting my Cinderella Sunday. Deep-cleaning. But I just can’t. My heart is heavy from last night when my strong-willed toddler threw her biggest tantrum ever. One that had me lose my patience. And rather than being an adult, I found myself in tears too, just like a child not knowing what to do anymore. So, let the dishes wait while I process my lapses and guilt, and try to achieve self-forgiveness and peace.

The issue was simple. Her father needed a good rest. He needed to prepare for the first day of work; and so I was trying to put the children to sleep in a separate room. Nights like this have never been easy because once upon a time, we have chosen to bed-share and co-sleep with our kids for as long as they have not outgrown it yet. With it, rest is always a challenge. Thus, once in a while, and because they are already 6 and 3 years old, we try at least for my husband to enjoy deep sleep. The issue last night? Our little girl wants her daddy. But, I was just so tired. For some reason we were off-schedule and it was already 10PM and I just wanted the easiest and shortest way to deal with it. I wished she would just behave and stopped being a defiant child. And yet the firmer I became, the more she fought tooth and nail to get what she wanted. It was our biggest power-struggle so far. Pure pain.

For a moment, I just wanted to get an earphone, lock myself in the bathroom and listen to anything… Anything but her wailing. I wished to wait there in peace, until she stops… But she wouldn’t let me leave her side, too. She was grabbing my hand, forcing me to bring her to her father. To make the very long story short, our 30-minutes struggle ended when I gave in and told her, “Ok, when you are done crying, I will bring you to Daddy.” Then she suddenly stopped. And she got what she wanted. Or at least that’s what she knew because the moment she fell asleep, husband carried her back to her room. I stayed with her and made sure she got some good sleep.

Here’s what I realized this morning: She needed me more last night than any other time. Despite all the screaming and protesting, pushing, kicking and scratching, she needed me. I was too tired to recognize that need. When she was pulling my hand, did she really need me to follow her? No. I should have stood firm with our decision yet gentle in explaining. I should have looked her in the eye and made her understand why Daddy needs to rest. She needed me to help her process her thoughts and feelings. She was confused and tired, too, like me. And it’s too late to realize this: She was also scared of me giving up on her. She is a little child with feelings and issues bigger than what she can handle. How did I miss that? We have been practicing that a lot when it was only Matthew, our son. It was easy because we only had one. And we’ve seen how obedient and understanding Matthew has become. We have proven so many times that gentle parenting is the most effective way to go. Building relationships rather than demanding obedience. And I’ll be honest, the latter is always the easier path to take. When Ruth came, we often failed to brave the harder way out, especially me.

Few weeks ago, I needed to soak up again on gentle parenting books because my patient husband pointed out I’m becoming an impatient mom. He’s definitely a patient dad, as well. I was thankful for the gentle and loving reminder. It was a blessing. I was once a strong-willed, defiant wife, too. My family and friends know it too well. It was his love that softened me. It was like experiencing the never-ending love and mercy of God first hand. Through my husband. That kind of love has the power to transform people, to melt stone-hearts. It never fails.

How much more do these little, helpless children need that kind of love? The love that is patient and kind. The one that is not easily angered. That kind of love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

To every mom, I know how tiring it can be. And when I say tiring, the physical exhaustion is nothing compared to the emotional fatigue. We sometimes suffer with an amount of guilt nobody can ever imagine. We often deal with judgements and unsolicited advice from people. We lose our cool and patience at times. We are humans. Often, we don’t know what to do because these little humans do not come with a manual. But nobody can question the love a mother has for her children. Hear this, fellow moms: Let’s love ourselves, too. Let’s forgive ourselves as often as we need. We need it. I need it just like I need God’s love to forgive me of my imperfections always. And with the absence of formula to raise children, love is all the solution.

As I was writing this, I successfully freed myself of the lies in my head and I was filled with grace again. I am definitely publishing this in my blog hoping to bless other moms. As for my little girl, she woke up a few minutes ago and she’s cheerfully playing and asking for so many things again. This little boss certainly needs discipline. I pray I can always do it in love, believing that God’s grace is always sufficient even at tough times.


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