When You Love, But Don’t Like, Your Toddler

I had a “moment” the other day; we moms are allowed to have those every now and then. A moment of truth when you sit in your car on the verge of tears after fighting through yet another tantrum with your 2-year old, thinking, “I don’t like my toddler right now.”

Does that moment make you a terrible parent? Probably not. Because you do love your child, more than words can ever describe. But that doesn’t mean you always have to like them.

Think of it this way: if you had a roommate who flung Cheerios all over the house and then ground them into the grout and carpet, would you like them in that moment? If your husband decided to poop in a corner while you were showering and then draw a picture with it, would you appreciate that? And if your dog got so hyper she jumped all over you, effectively elbowing you in the most tender part of your body, wouldn’t you get at least a little annoyed? So, yeah, you’re going to have those moments where it’s tough to make yourself focus on the positive aspects of the beautiful little person you made and all of the reasons you actually do love them.

The next time you “have a moment” like this, here are some tips to remember why you really love your child, even though you feel like ripping out your hair:

1. Take a deep breath. Many react to being overly frustrated by first crying or yelling. I’m a good (or perhaps bad) balance of both. There have been too many times I’ve instantly yelled at my daughter for whatever mischief I’ve found her in. But the times that I actually control myself and take a moment to breathe deeply, I find my patience returning. Or, if nothing else, it allows me to control the volume and intensity of my voice when I speak to her.

2. Remember that this is how toddlers explore and learn. Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember that we, too, threw the broccoli off our plates and hit our younger brother for taking our toy. We, too, had our mothers pulling their hair out and praying for patience! And we learned, and we grew up, and now it’s our turn to remember that our child is in the process of learning. We don’t come to earth knowing right from wrong. Children do what they do because they are exploring their boundaries and learning from every action. So if we take a moment to remind ourselves that maybe Billy didn’t actually know you shouldn’t drink the water from the toilet, then we can use that moment as a teaching tool. If Billy keeps drinking it, then he’s being a butt (ha! See what I did there? Just kidding…). If he keeps drinking the toilet water, he’s probably testing his boundaries and needs gentle reminders that that’s disgusting.

3. Focus on a happy memory. If you don’t have to immediately tend to whatever your toddler has done to make you freak out, then take a moment to focus on a memory that brings you peace. For me, it’s thinking of how I first felt when the doctor placed my newborn on my chest. There was so much love in that experience. Usually, that love will overpower whatever I’m feeling in the moment and will encourage me to keep going through the rough day.

4. If all else fails, go eat some chocolate. Or take a bubble bath after your child’s bedtime. Or call up a good friend and ask if she can watch your kid for an hour so you can walk around Target alone. When your child has had a rough day, and you find yourself not really liking him in that moment, make a promise that you’ll do something for you the first chance you get. When we take care of ourselves, it’s easier to remain calm and take care of that crazy toddler. There’s no such thing as a perfect child, and just like we have our bad days, so will our toddlers. So it’s okay to have moments where you don’t like your toddler.

I’m sure they have plenty of times when they aren’t too fond of mom or dad, either. (In fact, I know that there are times my feisty two year old doesn’t like me, because she expresses that dislike with her fists. Yeah. We’re in THAT stage.) Still, I know she loves me because when we are past those moments, she comforts me when I’m sad by bringing me tissues and wiping my eyes. She gives me “penguin kisses” by rubbing her (usually snotty) nose on mine. She forgives me for my “moments.” And because you do truly love your toddler, you forgive him for his.

toddler girl