Along with the tips and advice, one common underlying theme emerged: Making it through this rough toddler phase is a matter of perspective and understanding. In this light, these are the perspectives I decided to focus on:
- Evan's will of iron is what will make him impervious to peer pressure and confident in himself and his abilities.
- His desire to do things his way will push him to find creative solutions to problems and expand his skills along the way.
- His intense emotions will teach him to be empathetic to the feelings of others.
- His cries and whines are his only way of communicating his deeper needs, and it's a great place to start to teach him about how to express his needs and feelings.
And, most importantly:
- The day will quickly come when Evan will be done holding my hand, running to me, asking to be read to and wanting to hear a song. I must seize every moment to forge a close, loving bond before his independence leads him away.
A few years ago I learned from personal experience that if you want to change someone else, you have to change yourself. Apparently I keep forgetting this lesson, so my son's tantrums are providing me more chances to get this lesson—and those perspectives—into my head. One incident in particular helped me see that I myself have a lot of room to improve.
Evan and I were getting ready to go to the store and pick out a present for his cousin. He was excited and very cooperative, until I tried to change him out of his skeleton pajama pants and he kept kicking or running away. This went on for about 5 minutes, then I finally asked him, "Do you want Mommy to put on your blue pants?" He stopped screaming, looked very serious, and said, "No blue pants." I said, "Do you want to wear your skeleton jammies to the store?" He immediately answered, "Yes!" and nodded emphatically, as if to say, "I've been trying to tell you this for 5 minutes!" And so he wore the skeleton pants, and his little heart's desire was answered, and that compromise paved the way for a new understanding and respect for his tender feelings — and I do believe we went the rest of the day without a tantrum.
I'm working hard to keep this lesson at heart and to keep compassion and empathy at the core of all I do as a mother. In doing so, I am not only fostering love between myself and my child, I am encouraging his trust, building his confidence, helping him understand emotions, and telling him that he is very important.
Admittedly, it's taking a huge amount of patience on my part, but that's OK. In fact, it's more than OK. It's an opportunity, because if I have to summon the patience to make it through these little trials, it means I don't have enough patience, love and compassion in store, and I'm being given the chance to cultivate more.
I recently read a wonderful article in the Ensign, found on LDS.org. It's called "A Better Mother, With the Lord's Help" by Cheryl Cole Burr. I highly recommend you read it all, because it not only reminds us as mothers that we are all struggling with the same difficulties, but that we can find perfect examples to follow when we look to the divine. She writes:
"After studying the life of Jesus Christ, my goal as a mother became to have my children come to the Lord and also to me—to give them the time and attention they deserve, even when I'm not quite feeling up to it. As I have worked toward developing this kind of atmosphere in our home, I have discovered several ways to encourage my children to come to me—that is, to feel a stronger sense of understanding, peace, and comfort in my presence."
She offers several excellent ideas for "responding to the demands of motherhood," as she puts it. All of them are excellent, and I can attest that they will bring you much more success with your children than anything you will find in a parenting book.
So, I am vowing once again to keep my perspective turned toward the good. I will look for the positive in my child and in myself and strive to cultivate those admirable qualities wherever I find myself lacking. I invite you to do the same and share with us your experiences along the way.
And while we know perfection in this life is nearly impossible, it's never a wasted effort to follow in perfect footsteps and strive toward perfection in any way that we can — especially when it comes to the most precious gift we've been given, our children.
In the meantime, watch out. This kid is confident and he's ready to take on the world, cape and all.