Remember when I talked about how Evy and Nola are finally kind of living up to the “double trouble” hype now that they’re both in full-on threenager mode?
We’ve been doing a little better recently (they’re playing together in the guestroom currently with a minimum of squawking), but there were definitely moments in the last 3 weeks or so that tested my resolve not to run screaming for the hills (or the chocolate). Most of those moments involved a fair bit of screaming of their own–in toddler form. Usually while we were all imprisoned in the same car, and the complaint had something to do with the fact that said toddler(s) had asked for a banana, and I had given her one.
If you don’t have a toddler, you’re probably like…huh? If you do have one, then you’re nodding your head like, “Yup, sounds about right.”
Remember that Christina Aguilera song: “What a girl wants, what a girl needs, whatever makes you happy sets you free?” (I do, but only because my sad post 6-kids brain keeps the junk and boots out the important stuff like Bible verses and the location of my keys). Well, good ol’ Xtina had no idea she was writing about toddlers. But she was.
Except the opposite of that.
Because the joy of toddlers is that giving them what they want does NOT make them happy half the time, and doing everything to make them happy all the time only ends up imprisoning them in a cycle of entitlement and discontentment. (Come to think of it, that’s true of just about every age).
Toddler tyranny is real, y’all. And I have only to watch my 3-year-olds’ sweet, (seemingly) guileless, cherubic little faces melt into a mask of ugly, purple rage at the word, “No,” to be reminded that sin nature is real, yo. (As if I needed a reminder when I have so many mirrors in my house).
So, why the discourse on the seedy underbelly of the toddler temperament?
Because I want you to understand that I get it. I feel your toddler-angst. Sometimes way down deep into my toenails (I miiiiiight have possibly referred to one of my children as an “emotional terrorist” after the 5th consecutive day of 20 minute car tantrums that resulted in ringing ears for everyone in a 2 miles radius).
“Don’t believe a word she says about us. We never do anything wrong. Except maybe put our shoes on backwards.” (Every. single. time)
It’s how I felt one day when I was out and about with only the twins and Theo, and I ran into the dad at Chick-fil-a whose 2-1/2-year-old twins looked angelic enough with their giant blue eyes, glossy auburn curls, and matching Texas-sized red bows.
He saw my girls and said, “Twins?” I nodded, and our eyes locked in a moment of complete understanding. And then he noticed Theo, and said, “But hey! Look at you go! You had another one! Not us. We are so done.”
I smiled and tried to decide whether I should tell him that there were 3 more before this batch. He made the decision for me when he said, “How is it with 3?”
And I said, “Good! But I actually have 3 more already.”
There was a moment of quick math, and then realization dawned all over his face, and he started shaking his head, looking a little panicked. “Six? You have six? Wow. Just wow. Oh man. No.”
I cannot emphasize enough how offended I WASN’T, y’all. Please do not read this as a gripe post because nothing could be farther from the truth.
This poor guy was clearly overwhelmed, and the thought of more than two was enough to make his eyes bug (or maybe it was the thought of 6…either way).
I smiled even wider and said, “You know, though, pretty soon, they’ll be 4, and they can buckle themselves and wipe their own bottoms–because they’re potty-trained, which is awesome. And then they’ll start helping with the dishes and telling you cool stories. And yeah. It’s really fun!” (Yes, I know. It’s not all “fun” at any age, but this guy needed to see some light).
He cocked his head, unconvinced, and said, “Well, that sounds great. I’m just ready for it to not be so hard all the time, you know? My wife stays home with them, and I just don’t know how she does it.”
As much as I appreciated his giving props to his hardworking wife, I wanted him to leave encouraged, so I said, “Yeah, I totally get. (Duuuuude. I get it) But I promise that it gets easier. I have a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old who are so great. They’re really funny and sweet, and they help around the house a ton–dishes, laundry, mopping. They even change diapers sometimes!”
The man chuckled at the thought and then looked a little worried and said: “Well, if mine are ever changing diapers, then we have a problem.”
I’m not going to lie: while I was still completely UNoffended, that last statement made me sad.
Have you ever seen this?
I feel like this is a really good metaphor for children. Not just one time, either. But many times over. (Because doesn’t it feel like no sooner have you hacked your way through all of that rock and found a bit of diamond than the whole tunnel collapses on you, and you’ve got to start all over?)
There are so many times when you think, “Nope. This is too hard. I cannot deal with ___________ for even a second longer, Lord. Surely, you can’t expect me to. It’s too much.”
And you pretty much have two choices: 1) walk away (whatever that looks like: giving down to the toddler, eating the entire bag of chocolate, losing your temper and yelling just to get the emotional release) or 2) keep chipping away. Just keep persevering. Just keep pressing on. Just keep swimming (that Dory, though; quite a philosopher, that one).
I’ve done both. I’ve quit too early. And I’ve kept on plugging along. And I’ve always regretted the former and always been so thankful for the Lord’s mercy in the latter.
Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been absolutely convinced that the discipline is not working, that they’re just not getting it, that they will never EVER choose right on their own, and then–BOOM!–the 7-year-old is crazy-helpful in Walmart and tells you that it’s because he wants to be like Jesus, and your heart just explodes. If that’s not hitting the mother lode, y’all, I don’t know what is.
This post has nothing to do with how many children you have, so I hope you don’t get sidetracked by that. Kids can be tough, whether you have 1 or 20. But I do wish I could have had an honest conversation with that man about why he didn’t want any more children. Because, the best I could tell, his entire reasoning was that: kids equal hardship. And I don’t want that.
Don’t get me wrong, either. This guy seemed like a good egg. He was patient and kind with his daughters and sweet to his wife (at least in the brief snippet of life that I saw portrayed in a public setting). He wasn’t an ogre. He was just human with a human’s naturally shortsighted view of “suffering.”
Me too. When Nola is wailing like some sort of malfunctioning smoke alarm, all I want is for her to quit. I’m not particularly interested in learning some sort of deep spiritual lesson.
My oven broke last night. And I want it fixed. Period. I am a busy mama who does not have time for broken ovens.
But you know what? If the toddler never screamed like a banshee, then I would be infinitely less likely to throw myself on the mercies of Jesus and say, “Help me, Lord! I can’t do this on my own!” (Although it’s no less true when she’s being docile). And if my oven just kept doing its thing, I might never take a moment to be grateful for the magical contraption that usually cooks my food perfectly every time. And to pray for the mamas who don’t have anything like that luxury ever.
I think Romans 5:3-5 says it best:
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Hope does not put us to shame. I love that!
Of course, the truth is that I have no idea what actual suffering looks like. Compared to 95% of the world, my life is a cake walk. But I am so grateful that the Lord takes my piddly little trials and works them for good in my life, patiently chipping away at my selfishness and impatience.
And I am so grateful that the Lord sees fit to keep digging through the tunnels of my heart looking for diamonds. I know they’re there because He created me in His image.
He is so kind to this child of His. May I follow His example with my own children.
P.S. This has nothing to do with this post, but we just made a new print all about COFFEE (hey, tired, overwhelmed mamas need caffeine sometimes to keep mining for those diamonds; maybe it is related to the post).
ANY orders placed by the end of today get entered to win a $15 Starbucks gift card + a Cup of Cheer print + other goodies (see more on the Paint and Prose Instagram).