Today was a bad day. Maybe one of our worst. Molars coming in. Autonomy to be asserted. My need to control, be listened to, be cooperated with. It all came to a head today. Multiple meltdowns, terrible sleep, and angry outbursts were had on all sides. The whole day all I wanted was for her to give me some room, a moment to collect myself, to not need so much from me. To please just do what I ask, to not fight every request, to not push every boundary...please, just for a few moments. When my husband got home I felt a wave of relief, only to realize that it’s not actually over, this day, because even with him here in all his joviality, love, and engaging play, she still wants me. She wants to be held by me, she wants to push me away. Back and forth. Back and forth. Over and over. Push. Pull. Push. Pull. It’s maddening. Hair tearing, crying in the shower, maddening.
But now she is asleep and all I feel is grief. Grief for a lost day I’ll never get back. Grief for the moments when she felt out of control and I made it worse. Grief for her tears. I want a do-over. And I know tomorrow I will get one, sort of, but I also know that I’m running out of days when she is this small. When she relies on me so heavily. When I am excruciatingly responsible for her well being. That is the good news and the bad. It won’t always be like this, and I am running out of time.
So, I have a good cry. I try to get some sleep. And I attempt to have some self-compassion, because the therapist part of me knows I need it if I’m going to move forward. So I remember the stuff that is easy to forget on a “bad day”. Stuff like, we have many more good days than bad. That she is a confident, loving, and funny girl - which came from somewhere. That I love her so dearly I can hardly breathe. That her daddy feels the same way, and she knows. It all matters. It is enough.
My anger is gone, for now. I remind myself that every bad day helps me practice doing my best even when it feels impossible. I can see that I am getting better at responding to my new toddler with warmth and calm and joy, little by little. I’m slowly but surely understanding who she is and what she needs in this new stage. I will make mistakes again. Probably tomorrow. But I hope I am modeling something of value for her - that people have big feelings and it’s not the end of the world, that there are times to apologize and times to forgive, that when we wrong someone we work to repair, that anger and love are not mutually exclusive, that relationships and the humans in them are complicated and messy and we all do the best we can. She’s not old enough yet to really be conscious of all this, but she is learning from my example all the same.
We all do the best we can. Mamas. Toddlers. All of us. We have good days and not so good days, we cry and we laugh, we apologize and we forgive. Love isn’t either or, it’s both and.