Living with Toddlers: The Best and Worst of Times

Living with Toddlers

Mothering toddlers is, for me, a study in paradox: one minute, I’m losing my mind over the hitting, jumping on tables, spilling drinks, kicking, etc. The next minute I’m desperately clutching their still-tiny bodies and kissing their soft, curly heads. It’s a classic best-of-times/worst-of-times scenario.

I know I’ll live through this time period of early wake-up calls, multiple dirty diaper changes, nap fiascos, tantrums, defiance, and what feels like eons to get everyone shod, jacketed, and buckled into car seats. It’s just life, and it’s normal, and we’re exceedingly lucky to have the means to do and deal with all those things.

I also know I’ll miss certain things. None of the above, obviously, but things like the way Lena clutches my cheeks and strokes them, crooning, “Mama, Mama…” before she lays her head on my shoulder. Just to remind me she’s there and I’m holding her (as if I could forget. I’m starting to run out of room!). The way Lucy cherishes and insists on reading stacks of books with us in our bed, asking us to “close our arm” so that she’s snuggled under it next to us. And probably the most fleeting of all things is their speech, and the hilarious and cute things they say at this point (though Lucy is a great little parrot and often makes me wince as I hear myself coming out of her piping toddler voice when she is admonishing her sister).

I mean, look, this is one year ago this week…

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This is TWO years ago this week…

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And here’s this week…

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So this motherhood thing is good for someone like me, who’s largely un-sentimental and prone to extreme pragmatism. These little people, with their not-so-little needs, simultaneously show me the humbling depths of my selfishness and lack of patience, and rend my heart with their existence. Every child I read or hear about who is suffering, ill, or has died, is my child. Inexplicably, the only faces I can see are theirs. It’s both terrible and wonderful at the same time, in another set of paradoxes. I could never have felt such empathy or compassion for the suffering of the world before I really knew what it felt like to have something beyond measurable worth.

Hopefully, I can remember this the next time a tantrum comes roaring into my tired face, or a recalcitrant toddler refuses to listen, or a gargantuan mess of clutter taunts my expanding midsection and tired muscles. It only seems like the worst of times, but the fact that I even have these messes and inconveniences means it’s really the best of times too– I have precious lives growing and thriving right before my eyes.

 

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