“You’re so patient with him,” someone told me while watching me talk my son through a meltdown. I smiled and said thanks, not sure what response was appropriate.
But I reflected on her words later, and I realized that I have never thought of myself as patient. Actually, I may even consider myself impatient. I like things done quickly, and preferably the way I want them done. But after some reflection, I realized that I am a more patient mom than I could have ever thought I would be.
There is something about my son that pulls the patience out of me. I see his innocence. To me, he is a developing toddler who is deserving of my tolerance. When I look at him all I see is a little person trying to learn about and live in the world around him. Every day there is something new! Every moment there is something he has never experienced before.
Just to be clear, I don’t have a child who makes it “easy” to be patient. He is full of energy and doesn’t stop moving from the moment he wakes up until the moment he is back in bed. He is also a child who doesn’t shy away from a tantrum. Like his Mom, he wants things done his way and right away.
Yes, his tantrums can be frustrating, but they also make sense to me. I can’t imagine continuously being thrown into new settings and experiences and trying to navigate it all. Or trying to learn all of the many words required to communicate with the adults around me. If I wanted to go outside to play and you handed me a granola bar, I would be annoyed too. Luckily I have the maturity to not throw it (and myself) on the floor… but my toddler isn’t there yet. And I’m okay with that.
I try to have realistic expectations for his behavior. I’m usually equipped with any and everything he may need. I don’t expect my energetic, social child to enjoy slow, monotonous activities. I keep him on schedule and I accept that he is learning to articulate his feelings and desires. In my opinion, even the most frustrating moments can usually be summed up with a simple reminder that “he’s 20 months old.”
My tips to navigate those tough moments.
- Learn your triggers. I wish I could say that nothing my son does bothers me, but that would be untrue. There are certain things that create extreme frustration for me and just the mere thought of them can leave me anxiously awaiting the disaster. It is a daily fight to get my bath-loving toddler to get out of the bathtub. And good luck to anyone trying to get him to leave any place where he is having fun. Knowing my triggers, and what activities cause them, helps me to prepare to manage my emotions and reactions in advance.
- Learn what’s developmentally appropriate. I didn’t know anything about babies or toddlers before I had one. But I’m a reader and researcher by nature. I am not a “go with the flow” or “wait and see” type of person. Being unprepared or caught off-guard prompts my anxiety. Educating myself on what is typical behavior at different ages and stages helps my patience a lot.
- Step back. When you find your patience heavily triggered, pull back from it when you can and however you can. If you have help at home, ask your partner to take over when you are having a tough time. As long as your child is safe, a few moments of crying while Mom centers herself are safer for everyone. Try to recognize when your response feels unhealthy. Breathe and remember it’s just a bad moment, meltdown, day, etc., not a bad life.
Again, patience isn’t my thing. But life is hard. This Mom life is super hard, and I can imagine that being a toddler is hard too. So, for now, I’m learning every day to be more and more patient and even during the most difficult moments, I try to remind myself that we are both still learning.