It is becoming a special moment at the end of the day. After boundaries have been tested, battles have been won and lost, and patience is dwindling. After dinner time, and bath time, and jammie and story time. I lie next to my little girl, our forehands and noses pressed together, her sweet little hands gently caressing my face, and her big brown eyes staring into mine. This is when all of the tough moments of the day, when neither she nor I were at our best, are forgiven and forgotten. This is when she lets me know that despite my imperfections I am still her mom, her security, her safe place, and she loves me and needs me. And I let her know that despite anything she has done, she is still my sweet little girl and I will always be here for her, and I will always love her.
We are in the full throes of toddler tantrums and meltdowns. Each day brings a multitude of new tragedies. One minute she is all smiles and giggles, and the next she is in tears and screaming. I do my best to figure out what the latest injustice she is voicing her opinion about is, but often I’d do just as well trying to play darts blindfolded.
This is both one of the hardest and most fun stages I’ve experienced so far as a mother. She is growing and exploring. She is curious and interested. Her personality is shining like a bright star. But, she is also learning that the world is a big place and she is just a little person in it. She is learning despite her self assurance and confidence, she can’t in fact do anything and everything she thinks she can or wants to do. She is starting to feel so many new and big emotions that she can’t fully comprehend or communicate. All of this combines to a perfect storm for tantrums and meltdowns, of both the toddler and adult variety.
The past few weeks have not been easy. There have been moments when I am her favorite person and the only one she wants to cling to, followed quickly by moments when I symbolize everything wrong in her little world. Its hard to see her angry little face crying and screaming, to have her push me away when I try to comfort her. It brings to mind all of my fears for our relationship when she reaches those even more tumultuous teenage years. But then, just as quickly as she pushed me back she is running to me, arms open, crying “mommy, mommy.”
At this stage she is experiencing her feelings and emotions without any barriers. I am learning that the moments when she seems to hate me, are just another expression of love. Love is trust and security. If she didn’t love me, she wouldn’t trust me and she wouldn’t feel secure with me, and she wouldn’t feel safe to express all of the passionate emotions she feels each instant she feels them. I have provided her with an environment where she feels safe to cry it out when things become too overwhelming, where she feels safe to let me know she wants space – even if it’s just literally for one second. She knows I will do my best to help her work through it, and that I’ll have a hug and a kiss for her when she’s ready.
I’m not a perfect mom though. I lose my patience, I get frustrated, and sometimes I need to walk away for a minute. And just like she knows I’ll be there for her, I know that she’ll be there waiting for me. And at the end of the day, we’ll have these moments of peace, with big brown eyes looking into mine, noses squished together and hands caressing each other’s hair, and we’ll know “I love you” is more than just three little words.