The toddler years and the inevitable tantrums came barreling in like an avalanche in our house and we were NOT prepared.
Our daughter has always been a relatively calm and easy-going kid. Throughout her infant stages she was patient and attentive, introspective and interested. Okay, yes, I realize that I am using big words with big meanings to describe a relatively useless tiny human being. But compared to now, it seems like our little Ghandi has turned into our resident dictator.
Every day starts the same these days. “I do it myself!” Just this morning our daughter screamed bloody murder because Papa had opened her bedroom door to say good morning. Her reason? “I wanna open the door myself!”
Then it’s down the stairs to the breakfast table. I’m scrambling eggs and making toast with cream cheese, just the thing she demands every single day. But not today. Another tantrum ensues. “I make eggs by myself!”
Off to get dressed before heading out to daycare. “I dress myself!”
“I lock the front door myself!”
“I drive by myself!”
I think you get the picture.
When all of this started, we–the Mr. and I–felt completely bowled over. We were like deer in the headlights. Most of the time we could do little more than just stand there in shock and terror for fear that if we moved a muscle, the tantrum bomb would go off. As every day passed we gained a little more courage to make a move. More importantly, however, we gained a little more compassion, a little more patience, a little more flexibility in order to try and welcome this new family member into our household that we frankly had not invited. But she was here, and there was no stopping it. The best we could do was try and live with it.
As the days and weeks have progressed we’ve gained a lot of knowledge about our blossoming toddler. She is picky–she likes things to be in an order that makes sense to her. She is judgmental–she does not sit idly by while the world passes before her. She is obsessive–when you see her in a crowd, she is relatively silent at first, utilizing all of her senses in order to take in the world around her. Then, later, she will erupt into a monologue, a lecture, a sermon about all the things she has seen, smelled, touched, heard, felt that day and throughout her entire life up until that very moment.
It’s during these moments, the times when we realize that nothing is lost on her and that every single little thing matters, that the tables start to turn and the light starts to shine.
She is not picky, but passionate; not judgmental, but engaged; not obsessive, but observant. She is smart and strong and more in tune with her emotions than many full grown adults I have encountered (including myself sometimes). Most of the time if we take a minute to sit down and make eye contact with her when we notice she is just about to lose it, we can remind her that we are her biggest fans and we want to watch her achieve whatever it is she is struggling to mount at any given moment.
And there’s a tiny second, in the midst of what feels like trying to reason with a terrorist, where we can see that look in her eye that tells us that she trusts us. That she knows we are on her side. And that she will let us be a part of her world.
This is the silver lining. When we realize that there is no dictator there at all. Instead there is a leader. Full of vigor and strength and love. Someone who is excited to unleash her potential and do everything “all by herself.” She does not back down in the face of adversity; instead she pushes for what she wants and fights for what she thinks is best for her. She does not stay sweet; she lets her feelings fly and stays true to them.
And at the end of the day, she does not go quietly; she goes to bed every night with the same conviction in which she arose, as a little girl who is growing into a powerful woman.
“I do it by myself!” This is the theme of this season of our lives. Most times, you’ll find us staring blankly into the sky, just trying to keep a hold onto sanity as the tantrums unfold around us. Other times, if we’re lucky, you’ll find us staring deeply into our daughter’s eyes, reminding her that our purpose in that moment is only to hold her hand through the unbelievably treacherous journey of growing up; and then one day, as she decides to change the world.