Toddlers and where they take us

Once, when my twins were toddlers, the toilet in our guest bathroom stopped working. That’s not entirely true. It worked, just not very well. It was quite capable of handling the um, lesser liquid challenges of it’s existence, but anything more, shall we say, substantial, and it just couldn’t hack it. We suspected a clog of some sort, but with only one fully potty trained child, it was easy to redirect him to the other fully functioning lavatory and ignore the other, sulking in it’s liquid only capacity.

But then, guests were coming, and we knew it was necessary for the guest toilet to once again fulfill the measure of it’s creation. We certainly couldn’t have guests wandering through the master bedroom at 2 AM looking for a toilet that could fully accommodate their uh, needs. So Josh set to unearthing the mystery of our broken toilet. It isn’t a wonder the poor thing was on the outs. I wouldn’t work too well either if I had a pump head of a soap dispenser, a small hairbrush, and three toothbrushes stuck in my innards.

Heh. Funny toddlers.

Did you know I currently drive with my valet key? I lost my entire key chain, including the original key to my van years ago. Or someone else lost it. Someone small. And less than 4 years old. I knew the keys were lost in the house, because I’d driven home. They had to be there somewhere. After several weeks of totally obnoxious, obsessive searching, I gave up. They would turn up eventually. Or so I thought. When we moved, I still hadn’t found those stupid keys. More than a year later, Sam came up to me and said, “Mommy? Do you remember when I hid your keys inside the wall? That was funny.”

Um, what? Inside the wall? How does a four year old get a set of keys INSIDE a wall? I was totally confused. Still am.

Funny, funny toddlers.

Countless other toddler incidents include entire bags of rice poured on the floor, entire bottles of shampoo poured into the bathtub, permanent markers, freshly painted walls, new carpet, and ruined tubes of my favorite color of lipstick that is discontinued and no longer available in stores.

I bet you have a list just as daunting and overwhelming as mine.

And yet, we still manage to kiss their little heads and love them so desperately, it hurts. It’s a power one can only understand, I think, when you’ve experienced it; that love unconditional that stretches our hearts and binds their little souls irretrievably to our own, regardless of spills, breaks, and total disasters.

Heavy is the burden to turn these challenging little toddlers into capable, responsible adults. At times, it hardly seems possible to overcome the countless challenges, the frustrations that come with tantrums and meltdowns, both theirs, and ours.

But we make it. Toddlers grow up, they start school. They learn to wipe their own noses and bums, to tie their own shoes, and put themselves back in bed after they get up for a drink of water.

And we learn too. We learn what works and what doesn’t. We practice, we stretch, we grow. And it gets easier. Toddler number 4 is a cakewalk when compared with toddler number 1. Maybe a part of that is personality. Henry is, after all, a pretty easy going kid. But his mother is also weathered, conditioned to the storms that toddlerdom brings, experienced in navigation and crisis management.

I remember thinking, when I had three small children age 4 and under, that there had to be light at the end of the tunnel, that it had to get easier, less demanding, more rewarding. I yearned for it, hoped that I could catch even a tiny glimmer of that light, to give me the strength and courage to keep pushing onward. It was so hard sometimes… to have so many, so little.

And now, those three children are all in school. The chaos, the exhaustion, the burden of the constant care and maintenance that comes with multiple little children is so much lighter. Though I fear to say it out loud so as not to jinx myself, I think perhaps I may be close to that light at the end of the tunnel, maybe even standing in the faint traces of illumination on the very outer edge.

Don’t get me wrong. I can’t even begin to imply that I’ve mastered all parenting challenges, and that all difficult roads are behind me. Ha! I don’t think that happens even when children are all grown and have left the house. And I would be a fool if I thought I had any clue what it’s going to be like to chart my course through prepubescence and the teenage years.

But you know that feeling – that exhaustion that comes from so many little ones, all under foot at once, wanting so many different things, all at the same time so that your very person feels like it will completely shatter under the emotional and mental stress of your constant caretaking?

That gets easier.

When I see mothers, weary and worn, desperate for adult conversation and the opportunity to pee alone, I want to hug them. To tell them they can’t give up, it will get easier, and they will make it. I will never forget the women that were there for me, a few steps ahead on their parenting journey who said it to me. They lifted, they helped, they encouraged.

And I still look to them – for strength, for guidance, for courage. It’s part of why I love this blogging thing so much. A lot of you have one baby, or four babies, or a houseful of fully grown babies. The roads we each walk are different in so many ways, but essentially, we’re all trying to get to the same place. We want our kids to be smart, healthy, faithful, kind. And we can help each other get there. We can lift, we can strengthen, we can relate. And we can laugh.

And that makes it easier. I’m sure of it.

22 thoughts on “Toddlers and where they take us

  1. sarah says:

    Oh, how I needed to hear this today! I have a 4 year old, 2 year old twins, and a 3 week old. Today has been a rough day, with everyone needing a high dose of mommy attention. In the midst of my newborn's inconsolable crying, my preschooler's tantrum, and my toddlers' refusal to nap (all at the same time) I was trying to remind myself that it won't always be like this – it won't always be so hard. Thank you for the encouraging words. It helps to hear it from someone a little farther down the road than me.

  2. Emily (Good Frau) says:

    I LOVE this post! I can't say I totally relate yet, because I only have one 2-year-old. But what I can relate to is the indescribable love, even when they're being sassy. Mine is pretty sassy lately. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really enjoyed reading this.

  3. Charlotte says:

    My toilet held 13 legos. The time it held the rubber duck and bar of soap, nothing was getting down, but the legos allowed the liquid (slowly through). My car keys are somewhere in my house in NC. The one we moved away from 2 years ago. I didn't have the energy to check all the heater vents with a magnet and that is the only place I hadn't looked.I know where you're coming from. I sent my 5th off to school this year. Two more years and they will all be there. The older kids don't need constant physical attention. It is nice.

  4. Klin says:

    Each stage of having children has it ups and downs. I find myself thinking fondly of those days of underfoot toddlers and also being relieved that they are over. Teens do their own thing. It's not always good, but if I remain calm then it can usually have an outcome that benefits their learning curve of life.You have touched on these things so well. I loved reading this and found my self nodding, smiling, and agreeing with you. You rock!

  5. Rachel Sue says:

    I am one of those moms who is desperate need of adult conversation, who collapses at the end of the day when all the kids are finally in bed. So thank you. It's wonderful to know.

  6. Stacy says:

    I love this post. After a 6 year break, I once again have a budding toddler. I laughed out loud at your toilet post before putting my hand over my mouth and realizing that I'm headed down that road as soon as my 10 month old realizes that toilets hold water and flush. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Happy Mom says:

    I love your posts!!! Especially the ones about mothering. So often it feels like you peeked into my heart and spilled what you found there out on the paper, er screen.And for a moment, as I read, it feels like magic.

  8. Kaylie says:

    Thanks. It's nice to know other people have made it through. And for some reason, they always talk about it in hindsight as a happy time they wish they could have back.

  9. Jillybean says:

    Our third child did most of the things you described. For a moment I thought you were talking about him. (except instead of hiding the keys in a wall, he went out to the garage, climbed in the car, opened the garage door and was about to start the car when we caught him)

  10. Jan says:

    Great post. I've found some of that elusive "light" I dreamed off when mine where little. I love their growing independence, but I've founds goods & bads at every stage of their lives. Once you see that time really is moving rapidly (despite those diaper days when you had days that felt like weeks!), you learn to savor to good that each age brings. Thanks for putting your experiences & feelings into such beautiful words.

  11. Melissa says:

    I needed that today. Well, let's face it, I need that every day. People say, 'it will get better,' and I think, 'if we can all live through the here and now without killing each other.' They all need something, they all need it NOW, and it doesn't matter if mommy needs to pee. I'm sure I will miss their cute tiny hands and feet, and sweet little voices, but for now I'm jealous of where you are. 🙂

  12. Terresa says:

    Beautiful post! This should be in a magazine someplace, or maybe just tattooed on my inner arm. Great reminders. I, too, am at that stage where my 3 older kids are in school all day long and I just have our 2 yr old here. And we're good. So good. And blessed.

  13. Momza says:

    When I see a post that has so many comments, I think "well it's all been said, so I don't need to add my two cents to the list"–but I'm going to anyway today.The perspective you have is spot on! Being a mother of young children is a marathon, not a sprint. And boy! does it stretch us! I finally learned what "sacrifice" means once I became a mother.That span of time between babydom to person-dom feels like a long long time, but in reality, it is over before we know it. And oh how I wish I could go back and do it all over–don't we all?Sweating the small stuff is such a waste of time…there's more joy at that time than we realize until it's over and a new phase is upon us.Just like everything else, it's over before we know it!

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