My kid has been a real punk lately.
When your kids are at their most trying, it can make even the most seasoned parent question themselves. I say don’t. Especially if you’re parenting a toddler.
Toddlers are assholes and there’s not much you can do about it. Don’t let them bring you down.
Everyone you talk to has a different opinion on when kids are at their worst. For some, the hassle and inconvenience of caring for a baby is the pits. For others, the stubbornness of teens is as bad as it gets. And, of course, there’s a reason the term “terrible twos” was coined.
The worst phase tends to be whatever one you’re currently going through.
Every parent, and every kid, has a different experience; what’s easy for some is hellish for others, and vice versa. I certainly can’t advise anyone on how to handle ages I haven’t yet tackled, and I feel silly offering tips on the years I have gone through (not that my ignorance stops me!). As the dad to an almost three-year-old, I am relatively new at this whole parenting thing. I haven’t yet experienced the challenges of the five-year-old or ten-year-old or fifteen-year-old, so I can’t compare my son’s behavior to that of older kids. But so far, for Mom and Buried and me, this whole toddler thing is our Vietnam.
But no matter what stage you’re dealing with, and especially when you’re raising a toddler, you have to allow yourself a little leeway.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nobody knows what they’re doing. Most of all me. The first step to surviving your toddler is understanding that. The second step is to understand your toddler. By which I mean, to understand that there is no understanding the little lunatics. There just isn’t all that much you can do to tame a wild animal.
You can do everything right. Limit the TV she watches, feed him veggies, never yell, breastfeed (or not breastfeed? I can’t keep up with the ever-changing conventional wisdom), circumcize (or not circumcise? I can’t keep up with the ever-changing conventional wisdom), never spank, use time-outs, read to her every night, etc. Guess what? Your toddler will still act out. She’ll still throw tantrums. He’ll still hit you after you’ve told him not to 100 times. She’ll still say “dammit!” after you’ve told her not to 100 times. She’ll still scream and go berserk when you say “No!”, after you’ve told her not to. 100,000 times.
It’s not because of your wife’s genes, or your own terrible parenting skills. It’s because he’s a little kid. Their default mode is asshole, and it’s not even their fault. They don’t understand how to behave. They don’t understand your explanations for why they shouldn’t throw tantrums or hit or say dammit. And they probably won’t for a little while longer. If you don’t let yourself off the hook every now and then, your stress and insecurity will drive you to become the terrible parent you fear you are.
We spend a lot of time feeling guilty about how we react to our kids, about how what we say and do affects them, and rightfully so. We have a great deal of influence. But that influence only goes so far, especially with subhuman two- and three- and four-year-olds. So stop doubting. Nobody is perfect because there is no perfect.
We were adequate human beings before our kids came along, and despite the challenges of parenting, most of us remain adequate. Toddlers are assholes, there’s no way around it. So don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t let them bring you down!
Every once in a while, when your kid is acting out, you have to shrug it off, grab a drink and flip the little punk the finger when he’s not looking.