I have a preschooler now. It really blows my mind to say that, but it’s true. Gwen is 3-years old and is definitely full of “big kid” spunk, fieriness, and emotion; however, she is still learning how to control those rollercoaster emotions of hers and learning the frustrations of not having complete control over her life and world. I find myself having to give myself more and more “time outs” to breathe and regroup so as to not lose my cool. I also find myself needing some new tools in my arsenal.
I think some days, like yesterday, have the odds stacked against us. She’s been using her inhaler for a week now because of a bad cough/cold (we start stepping it down today, thank goodness); it was rainy and miserable outside, so we were stuck inside; we had a random interruption in the middle of the day and never refound our groove. By dinner we were all prickly – Cue the meltdown.
Once upon a time, I could talk Gwen down from most disruptive behavior, but the days of her being comforted merely by the sound of my voice are over. She feels things so big, this child of mine, and while I try to talk quietly and gently to her, she can’t even hear my desire to help her over the loud sound of her own emotions. There are some ways that people are all the same, and one of these ways is in our desire to be heard and understood. I find my quiet voice rising, far beyond where I wish it would rise to, as I struggle to just have her hear me; her voice rises because she just doesn’t understand why we just can’t make it all right, and if only she could express her wants/needs to us enough, then we would of course fix it all.
In these moments, I wish I could scoop her up in my arms and help her to understand both the depth of my love for her and my motivation for not giving into an ungrantable request. At the same time, the last thing she desires is for me to hold her, and I have to fight to keep my words as simple as possible, because her brain is consumed with anger, sadness, confusion, and a new found need for control that leaves no room to process long explanations.
As an adult, I’ve long-since mastered the impulse to scream my frustrations or let the tears flow at any grievance, regardless of location or company; but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have and understand such impulses. My longing to help her learn more productive ways of expressing emotion are balanced with my desire to never make her feel that her emotions are wrong, or should not be expressed.
So what is a frustrated Mama to do?
Well, last night at bedtime, Trav and I weathered the storm of anger (without backing down), and when allowed, doled out the hugs needed to sooth her sadness. After Trav said his good nights, Gwen and I lay next to each other on the couch in her room, and told each other how much we love each other no matter what. Then I gave hugs and kisses, rubbed her back, and said our sweet dreams like we do every night. I went down stairs and relaxed, before heading to my own bedtime, where I took a deep breath, climbed into bed, and told myself, “I try again tomorrow.”
This article has been edited from a previous version published at The Connected Mom.