Letters To Jacob: Oh, the toddler tantrums...

I wrote this letter to Jacob almost 2 months ago, but could never post it.  Embarrassment?  Mommy shame?  Not sure.  I think I was hoping that it would be therapeutic to write it, weather the storm for a few weeks, and look back and laugh at those hard weeks.  Well, 2 months later, and.... it actually is a little better.  Most days.  But, has our consistency paid off?  Maybe.  Some days (many days) it feels like we are really winning the battle.  Some days it doesn't.  Three steps forward, one step back.  Either way, I feel it is time to post this.  I know some people will judge me and my parenting.  But, this isn't for them.  It is for me.  And, if one other mom out there reads and it and feels not so alone because her toddler is doing the same thing, and she feels just like I do, well then, that is fine by me.   

December 19, 2013

Dear Jacob,

First, I would like to say that I love you. I love you more than life itself. My love for you is so intense that sometimes when I look at you, I have a hard time breathing. Remember that.

I know you aren't reading these letters yet, but perhaps when you are 30 and in therapy, because your mean old mom made you spend (what seems like) every day of your third year of life in timeout...you can read this letter and know that I love you.

Or, when you have a three year old of your own (and if, like your father is finding out, stubborn, strong-willed, little boy apples in this family don't fall far from the tree...), I will give you a reassuring hug, pat you on the back, hand you this letter, and oh-so sweetly tell you, “Payback is a bitch, isn't it, My Love?”

Lately, being your mom has been, hmmm...what is the right word? Challenging? Difficult? Frustrating? ... Exhausting. You turned three, and decided that obeying Mommy and Daddy wasn't so great after all. That digging in your heels and playing “Let's Have a Power Struggle” was the way to go. That flailing around, going boneless, hitting, pulling hair, biting, and having a complete and utter melt down was a good idea. That pitching a fit meant you were going to get your way.

It isn't the way to go. It isn't a good idea. And you don't get your way.

When are you going to figure that out? We have never given in. Not even when it meant holding you for 10 minutes as you spiraled further and further out of control. Not even when I was mortified to carry out a screaming, hitting, biting toddler from Hobby Lobby because I wouldn't give in and buy you candy when we were checking out. Not even when it meant canceling play dates at the park because you pitched a fit moments before walking out the door. Not even when I had to abandon a cart full of groceries at Walmart because you decided to have a Level 10 melt down/full out toddler tantrum in the middle of the produce department (complete with screaming “nooooooo!” at the top of your lungs, trying to hit your sister, and attempting to throw items- like the gallon of milk- out of the cart). Not. Even. Then.

You don't win. We don't give in. We can't. We love you too much to let you pitch a fit and get your way. We refuse to let you turn into spoiled, self serving, brat.

You are a smart kid. I am just waiting for our consistency to pay off. For you to learn that we are the parents and you are the kid. You must obey us. Trust me, little one, it would be a lot easier on everyone if you would just go ahead and learn this life lesson. Please?

Unfortunately, you haven't learned yet. Instead, you turn into a little monster that I don't even recognize. You make me question every parenting decision I have ever made. After all, a good mother would never have a child that acts this way, right? A good mother, would have a child that loves her, and her child would never want to hurt her by hitting and pulling hair. Right? A good mother would know exactly what to do to get her child to correct the bad behavior without a time out or spanking. Right?

But, unfortunately for you, Jacob, you didn't get that mother. You got me.

I know these big emotions must be scary for you. They scare me. Your outbursts are so intense. And, as fast as they come, they are over, and you are back to my sweet Jacob, who hugs me and tells me that he loves me.

I know this is “normal”, or at least hundreds of other moms on tons of message boards across the internet are searching for the same answers as me. I know. I have read them all. And, I know that “the experts” tell me how lucky I am to have a strong-willed child. “Strong-willed children are more likely to resist peer pressure as adolescents”. And “strong-willed children grow up to be motivated, go-getter adults”. And “more company CEO's were labeled as 'strong-willed' as children”. That is all fine and dandy, but right now, being the mom of a strong-willed child is exhausting!

You are not a bad kid. In fact, I think you are pretty awesome. And, there are good days. This week, we had Two. Whole. Days. with no tantrums and no time outs. And then there are simple little moments, like today, when I told you that yes, you could get some grapes out of the fridge, and you so sweetly said, “wow, thanks Mom! That is very kind of you!”. Or, the way you spontaneously will hug me and give me an unsolicited “I love you”. But lately, a lot of the time, it just seems if days and moments like that are few and far between.

We will get through this. I know we will. And, I can promise you this: your dad and I will win this battle. Like, I said, we have to. So dig in your heels if you must, little one. But, my love for you makes me even more stubborn than you.

Remember, I love you. I love you. I love you.