There he goes again, toddling over to the kitchen chairs. From my viewpoint in the living room, I gauge to see how many more shirts I can fold from the massive pile of laundry on the couch before I have to dash into the kitchen and rescue him from the top of a chair. Because Quade is my fourth son, I know the drill well by now. I remember being so perplexed by the climbing with my firstborn. Perplexed and frustrated. And exhausted! I got nothing done other than keeping him safe. I really just wanted him to stop making things difficult for me. Little did I know that the gift of raising my boy was found in this very process of discovery.
Three children later, not much has changed in these toddler years, but I now know that this climbing stage is developmentally normal. These little ones are discovering the world around them, learning about independence, and using much needed hand/eye coordination to get into all kinds of good trouble. That also means that life as we know it, changes drastically. The problem is that so many of us expect life to look like it did before our babies started walking and talking. They are surging ahead and we are reaching behind.
I recently shared on Facebook that these toddler years are, personally, the most challenging for me. An unintentional debate flooded my comment feed. I know that the teen years and even the empty nest chapters of parenting have their own challenges emotionally--but I remain stalwart in my belief that these toddler years are the hardest for so many moms and dads by sheer virtue of the fact that we have almost no time to ourselves. It’s incredibly physically demanding. I can handle a teenage drama session if I at least have time to pee in peace and quiet and drink my coffee before it gets cold. The toddler years don’t allow for much self-care and that makes them uniquely tough. I'm reminded that God doesn't leave us alone in our parenting. These days, I'm leaning on Jesus to help me see the good in these challenging days and to see my boys as the gift God gave me. But I also want to be a gift to them.
The good news is that I no longer get frustrated by my son’s need to mimic a rock climber. The climbing stage that Quade is currently in has me running ragged but it also has me delighted. I choose to take joy in his milestones. Every day, I know that the housework will be neglected more than I prefer and that my blog posts won’t come hot off the press very often these days, but I wouldn’t trade it for a month of spa days. The look of pride and joy on Quade’s 17-month-old face when he accomplishes the feat of climbing to the second level of the cat tower is all it takes to turn my frustration into fandom. Everything else, I’m learning to let go.
Maybe you are a mom with a busy toddler yourself, wondering how you are going to make it through these long days. I understand. My eleven-year-old, Oliver, is in fourth grade and nearly reaches my chin. The ten year age gap between oldest and youngest gives me some much needed perspective. It’s true, these toddler days don’t last forever, even though it can seem like it. Nowadays, I know that it gets easier. I know that cherishing the minutes I stand beside Quade while he opens every spice in my cupboard to sniff the contents and then offer me a whiff is a golden moment, soon to be in the past as a happy memory.
Sure, we can put the chairs down on their sides or set them outside. We can put our little guys and gals in a child backpack to keep them safe while we try to attempt dinner. But perhaps the best mom move of all will be joyfully expecting that today will be spent allowing our toddlers to do great things, like assisting them as they scale a two-foot stool, and cheering them on.
YOUR TURN! What are the struggles you are facing in parenting during your current chapter? What are some of your favorite toddler activities?
And don't forget, you can learn more about a more gentle and biblical approach to parenting by joining my private Facebook group for moms. Just click here and request to join: Gentle Parenting With Amber And Wendy!