I recently saw this piece of artwork by Jenna Rose (@agentletouchofart) that has gone viral due to it’s powerful meaning, and it comes at a time where I too have been analyzing myself as a mother and wondering what I can change. I am the mother of a 2 year old little girl (who in moments seems to be the poster child for “terrible 2’s”) which is both frustrating, yet rewarding in all honesty; but I find myself feeling as though the frustration aspect could be much less.
There have been many nights spent in bed watching my daughter as she sleeps so peacefully and innocently, and I wonder what I could have done differently throughout the day. How I could have handled certain situations, and what I would like to do the next time. I do not wish to waste away the days with frustration, and negativity. Although my anxiety triggers much of this I knew that there needed to be a change. Not just for me, but for my daughter. Yes, children go through their “defiant” stages, pushing boundaries and testing all the limits, but we truly need to choose our words wisely as it sticks with them forever. Their minds are so fragile and absorb EVERYTHING that they see, hear, and feel.
I understand that discipline is important, but our approach is just as important. They watch and analyze everything that we do and in turn take an inventory of their own that they will walk through the rest of their lives with, and use to handle the situations they come across. I have seen my daughter mimic the frustration that she has witnessed from me, and it truly never struck me as hard as it did when I saw this image. Once I started to take my own inventory in counseling and analyze my life, I realized that much of what seemed like an endless cycle was caused by me. It wasn’t just my daughter acting out due to “terrible 2’s. She was providing me with a mirror, that gave me insight into what I had been instilling in her. Although we do not lay a hand on our daughter, we can still bruise her internally and create patterns for her that we are trying to now rid ourselves of, only creating more headache for her in the future.
I understand that anger, frustration, and sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed is normal as a parent, but I also understand that our children do not need to feel the stress of anything else going on around us. They understand emotions, but they do not understand the context and extent of situations, and we should not expect them to. Ultimately that is where the lashing and saying what we feel may be harmless discipline comes from, but in reality it is only a perpetuation of combined stresses. Our children are an outlet for happiness, not an emotional punching bag to intentionally or unintentionally take the anger out on.
It isn’t only the words we may be choosing, but our interactions as well. You can see the eagerness in their eyes, wanting to please us with anything and everything. They too are so proud of their own accomplishments, and our reactions to that is just as important. Our mental presence is just as imperative as our physical, and the feelings of disappointment that occur when a parent is “too busy” to indulge in activities should never be felt.
I had to learn that my daughter may be 2, but she can comprehend more than I realize, including feelings. It is a necessity to teach her that it is appropriate to feel, and if I may be dealing with something at the moment that too is ok, but must be explained gently. There are times that we cannot fulfill what they desire, and the moment I began explaining more to her the more I felt the connection between us grow. She’s felt my sadness, my worry, my anxiety, my anger, my frustration, and she understands when to nuture as well.
I also do not wish to teach her to withhold any of her emotions thus creating the frustration and impatience, which spills out into other aspects of life and onto innocent people. I want her to be ok with feeling any and all emotions, and see the glass as half full not half empty. I don’t want frustration and self-pity to be her first instinct, and I do not want to waste time with negativity from my mind as she grows and surpasses each milestone. Sometimes in life we may feel slightly overwhelmed, but we don’t want spend every night looking back and wondering what we could have done differently rather than initially creating our lives and each moment consciously.