I watch my son. This isn’t one of those moments where he’s giggling and showing me his truck or balloon or whatever toy he has decided is his favorite for the moment. He isn’t dozing on the couch, clutching his stuffed Mickey. He isn’t proudly pointing at his potty seat, where he has gone without being told to sit on the potty.
No, he is in the midst of a tantrum. He has dropped to his bottom and from there, fallen to his back and is screaming with every once of strength he has. His hands are curled into fists and he kicks out his feet.
No, this is not one of those happy moments.
And when it comes to dramatics, my son has cornered the market.
And he isn’t pitching this tantrum for no reason. It could be that I said, “No more TV, time to read.” Or maybe I took away the pen that he found on his father’s computer desk. Maybe he was told that he couldn’t play under the sink, one of his favorite hiding places. I might have said, “No, you can’t have a cookie.”
And to me, these are all reasonable. I am trying to be a good parent, to limit his TV time, keep him safe, teach him healthy snacking habits.
But at eighteen months, he doesn’t see it this way. All he knows is that Mommy said that he couldn’t do what he wanted.
And it frustrates him.
And it frustrates me.
I want him to be that happy, smiling child, the one that laughs and giggles and gives me hugs and jumps into my lap. I love that child.
And while I also love this screaming, kicking child who believes that the world is ending, sometimes it is hard to hold my ground. I know that I just have to turn on Netflix or hand over the cookie, and the screaming child goes away.
But if I do that, how am I being a good parent?
Even at this stage, I have to remind myself that I am not here to be his favorite or his friend. I am here to be a parent, a guide, to show him how to live a productive life, to teach him good habits, to be a decent human being. Not all of this is going to come soon– he isn’t even two– but if I cave now, does that make it easier to cave later?
And in these moments, when it is hardest to be a good parent, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that denying him doesn’t make me a bad mommy, no matter how hard he cries. And I have to get down on my knees and pick him up, even with the kicking legs and flailing arms and hold him close and tell him that I love him and that I only want what is best for him. While he might not understand, I want him to hear my voice.
“I love you, I love you, I love you.”