I’m writing this post to give hope to you moms who have that one child that you think just might be the death of you! You know the one … they make you question your ability to be a good parent along with your sanity!! Here’s what I learned from my “Tigger” (because he had boundless energy!)
After 6 years of parenting our oldest child, our daughter, my husband and I were pretty impressed with ourselves. She was easy as a baby and we could take her anywhere--she was more like an additional accessory than a child. Easy to travel with, to engage with as she grew, put to bed, obedient – boy, we had this parenting thing all figured out. It took close to three years to conceive our second child, so we were thrilled and excited to be welcoming this little guy to our family of three. This is where the similarities ended.
“Tigger” was colicky from about 2 weeks to three months old. He would only nurse so until he was able to start using a sippy cup around 4 months, it was me and me alone who could take care of his basic needs. And when my husband or anyone else watched him, they were in for a lot of bouncing and crying until I returned to feed him. We tried for a short time taking him out for car rides to settle him down in the evenings but he would scream until you drove through a stop light and then he would stop, as though he didn’t like feeling alone and in the dark. As he began to grow and get more independent, he had some happy times but the overwhelming feeling I got from his frequent outbursts were those of frustration. He just always seemed to be frustrated and unhappy, and it was a challenge to figure out what he wanted. While I took my daughter everywhere, with him I quickly gave up that plan. Every outing would have me so stressed from his vocal expressions that it simply wasn’t worth it—we would both be in tears.
At one, he would get frustrated and bite himself or bang his head on the tile floor. And yes, he also bit other kids in the church nursery, which doesn’t tend to make you too popular with other parents and volunteers. As we headed into toddler and pre-school age, naps and going to bed at night become a real issue—I believe he truly had FOMO. He didn’t want to be alone or to miss out on anything. I now had a third child and was exhausted from having another baby. If I let him skip his nap he was so out of control, we all had meltdowns by dinner time. But the only way I could keep him in his room was to physically hold his door shut while he’s kicking and crying and trying to open it on the other side. I would sometimes sit there for an hour holding the door closed, both of us crying. He would finally fall asleep on the floor and come out a few hours later just as sweet as could be. But I was done in – that issue only got better when my husband turned the door knob around so I could lock the door until he fell asleep. These were exhausting times. And while I home schooled my daughter, I could not wait for kindergarten to begin so I could have a few hours break.
Once he was in school, it did begin to improve because he loved being with other kids and his mind was so active, it helped him to have more mental challenges. Gradually he began to settle down, at least physically the bouncing began to slow. But emotionally, it was only picking up. He wanted to be side by side with someone at all times, and when he misbehaved (still rather frequently), he was devastated by being disciplined. As a young child, he would become very melancholy and say, “I hate myself” and other statements that would scare us that he could hurt himself. While there were definitely a lot of happy and funny times, there were also many frightening and confusing times as well as we just didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, I had worked for professional counselors so I had people to help us all from going over the edge.
Seeing this in print reminds me of the overwhelming feelings that I was such a bad mom as I remember all confusing, hard days, and wondering if it would ever get better. There were times I really did not feel I would survive parenthood. I remember on Mother’s Day for a few difficult years telling my husband to just take the kids and let me go someplace to be by myself. I just needed some peace and quiet to regroup – unfortunately at that time, feeling that way just made me feel guilty.
So anyone with me? Are you currently in this most difficult season of life with one or more young ones that have you questioning that you ever thought having children was a good idea??
Okay, now for the hope and my “Tigger” becoming “Pooh.” Right from the top, I want you to know that my “Pooh” is now my soul-child and one of my very best friends. Here’s what I figured out over the years, and especially looking back on those days, and really wishing I had understood them when we were going through this those early years.
First, I believe the bottom line to his unhappiness as a child was he was frustrated with his limitations. As I mentioned, he is a gifted and bright young man, and I believe even as a baby, in his mind, he thought he could do more physically than his body allowed him to do. I’ve observed this pattern all throughout his life—he always wanted to be one or 5 or 10 years beyond where he currently was in life. To do what others are doing that are older than him, to have achieved what others have, and to be there today! Viewing life this way caused many of his personal frustrations. In the last few years, he has really started to understand that it takes time to grow and mature, and that it is a positive and not a negative.
Next, he has a melancholy personality and was a perfectionist. That meant that he had a hard time accepting anything he did if it wasn’t perfect. And while he did take out his frustrations on others, he was most upset and frustrated with himself. I worked hard during his elementary school years to find him teachers that would be encouraging and warm because if they were harsh or demanding, he shut down and the year was over. This took a lot of years of maturing for him to begin to understand and accept himself, to learn about grace, and to recognize the great gifts God had given him.
The wild child that he was through his pre-teen years gradually tamed into a quiet, slow moving, gentle and sensitive young man – more like Pooh—just sauntering along always on the lookout for that next snack. Oh yes, he’s always had a one track mind about food like Pooh with his honey. Over his teen years and into early adulthood, he and I have established a close connection. He needs to process his feelings and the things going on in his life verbally and it has brought us so close. He feels deeply, communicates well, and is responsible and so well-liked by all who meet him. In fact, since his mid-teen years, those meeting him regularly assume he is several years older than he is by the way he carries himself and communicates. I doubt anything makes him happier than when he hears that! He has become an enterprising entrepreneur, putting together all the gifts God has given him and is creating a wonderful life for himself and his future.
“Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God can see.”
So what have I learned through all this? First off, if I could have known (and how could I?) that he was going to turn into this amazing person, it would have been much easier to go through each of those stages. If I understood the reasons behind his behaviors I shared earlier, I would have understood better his reactions to himself and his outside world and would have been able to help him cope and reason. But most of the time, we cannot see these things until we have come through the fire.
Ultimately, two things saved me … committing each of my children to the Lord and knowing that while I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, God did. And He loved my “Tigger” more than I ever could. He created him and knew that these traits he has would come full circle into making him a wonderful and successful young man. Second, is that you can’t do it alone. Thankfully, I had my husband, mom and sisters to walk alongside me but I know many don’t have that luxury. But we all need someone to pour out our hearts, frustrations, and fears to who will not judge or condemn you. And if that person is someone who has already walked the path you’re on, even better. They will help you know if you’re over-reacting or if it’s time to seek outside help. Feeling alone in the parenting struggle is one of the hardest things—we all need community. If you don’t have that, I encourage you to seek it out. There are many wonderful programs through local churches that have childcare included. One nationwide group I can recommend is Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). You can find more at www.mops.org.
If you are currently walking through this time, I just want to encourage you to stay the course. Each day feels like a struggle right now, but some day you will look back on it and see many of the things that were so hard and drove you so crazy are the very same ones God is using in the life of your grown child in a positive way for their future. Give yourself grace! Surround yourself with a community of like-minded people. And know, this too shall pass. And finally, really lean in to and enjoy all the good moments because there are too many to recount. Unfortunately, we are all susceptible to mostly remembering the painful events in our lives; so really celebrate the great days, hours or moments, so you will have those to hang on to.
I would love to hear your own stories of challenging children who grew into amazing adults to encouraging our moms who are in the trenches right now.