Here’s my first truth. I have a 4-year-old son, and I only enjoy about 10% (maybe) of our time together. Considering he’s in daycare 40+ hours a week, our time spent together to begin with isn’t much. I dread coming home. I get anxious about spending weekends with him. I dread all of our interactions. I live in fear of his volatility, hostility and tantrums.
Here’s my second truth. Feeling this way breaks my heart. It makes me physically sick. It makes me sad, angry, anxious, and defeated. Very defeated. Isolated. Alone. Frustrated beyond anything I could have imagined.
Have any of you reading this ever felt like you were standing in a crowded room screaming, but nobody hears you? That’s the only way I can describe what having a strong willed, defiant child is like. To the outside world, you’re being dramatic. You’re overreacting to things. You talk to your friends, your family. “Oh yeah, toddlers are tough” they say. And in my head, I’m screaming, “NO, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, I’M DROWNING, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO”. You tell them that it’s not just normal toddler behavior, but they don’t know. They don’t understand what life is like at home with this child. You’re desperate for someone, ANYONE to understand what you’re going through. When I was trying to come up with an analogy I thought about a colicky baby. Yes, all babies cry. They cry a lot, but most normal healthy babies can be soothed. But a colicky baby cries all the time, with no solution. Nothing a parent does will stop the crying. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. That’s what having a strong willed, defiant child is like. It’s never ending. It’s their temperament, something that cannot be changed!
Here’s my third truth. I think this affects me differently than it affects my husband. Don’t get me wrong, he often times will look at me and say, “I just want to cry”. And I know he’s serious. Because when you have nothing left to give, and you’re battling constantly, you break down. But my husband seems to be able to compartmentalize things much better than me. When my son tells me to get away from him first thing in the morning, it hurts. When he looks at me and tells me that he doesn’t like me, it hurts. These aren’t “once in a while” occurrences. These words get thrown at me daily. Several times a day. Here’s this little human that you love so much, and they want absolutely nothing to do with you. When they’re not throwing hateful words at your, they’re screaming, arguing, hitting. And you mourn. You mourn the loss of what you thought this would be. You mourn the fact that your child isn’t who you WANT them to be. And then you mourn because you feel like you’re failing them. These are hard truths. Truths that are hard to admit to the world, but even harder to admit to yourself.
Here’s my fourth truth. I came up with the idea to write this blog while on a run. On my way to my favorite running spot, my husband called to remind me to take something to school for our son’s end of the year party. It had been a worse than usual morning in our house, with defiance and hostility from the moment our son opened his eyes. I left the house with tears in my eyes, and then hearing my husband’s voice opened the flood gates. So, I cried, sobbed actually. Hiccupping, uncontrollable crying all the way there. Lamenting to him that I’m lost. I feel alone in a crowded room. I’m screaming, but nobody hears. And I feel alone in this. He said that I’m not alone, because he’s there with me, he understands. And I know he does. And he’s wonderful. But, maybe because I’m a woman, and mom, I think I crave other women understanding. Other moms say, “yes, you’re right, it’s not just like everyone else, this isn’t the average toddler behavior”. I wish I didn’t care so much what other people think when it comes to this.
My final truth. The irony of this isn’t lost on me. I’m a pediatric nurse. And let me tell you, I judged. I judged parents and their kids for years before I became a parent. I’d see defiant behavior and think, “if only the parents did XYZ, those kids would behave better”. “If my child spoke to me that way, I’d…….” “If my kid hit me, that’d be the first and last time…” I said it all. But guess what? My kid speaks horribly to me. He hits me. He fights me at every single turn. And we’ve done all the right things. We have a set schedule, we feed him good food, strict with sleep. We follow through with what we say, always. We’ve tried time out, withholding, spanking, you name it. Doesn’t work. In my darker moments, I feel like this will never get better. That I will never be close with him, because I’m scared to be. Like if I put myself out there for him and love him as much as I want to, I’ll end up hurt.
So, if there are other moms out there that feel this way, know that you’re not alone. My husband and I will be seeking professional help with this, and will continue to work towards some peace.
**Triad Moms on Main also has the following directories for readers to turn to when seeking support:
Triad Area Support Groups
Counselors, Psychologists, and Therapists for Your Family
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