It was bound to happen eventually.
January 19, 2012

In the morning, Charlotte demanded milk and she bit me. Last week she lost her balance near me while I was bent over and she grabbed my nipple to steady herself.  For a brief painful eternity, my nipple was literally dangling thirty pounds of toddler.

My nipple is still tender.  I was not pleased about her biting me.  And that set the tone for the rest of the day.

Yesterday, Charlotte:
    -  ran outside into the backyard after I had just told her no, it’s naptime, you can go outside later
    -  found a green sharpie after her nap and colored her hands, her feet, her belly, her nose, the footboard of the bed my husband and father crafted, and every sheet and blanket on our bed
    -  peed on a book not thirty seconds after she told me she did not need to use the toilet
    -  grabbed a cat by its tail and dragged it in a full circle around the house while it yowled and I ran after her imploring her to drop the poor creature
    -  threw four full-blown fits with kicking and screaming and tears (one even included throwing wood building blocks at the wall)
    -  intentionally ripped an unopened envelope in half, presumably to see how I would react
    -  said NO more than any other word
    -  intentionally upset an entire bowl of loose peas on the kitchen floor because she wanted noodles (they weren’t finished cooking)

In the afternoon, I set Charlotte down on the bed and I told her that we needed a break from each other.  I gave her a toy with which to entertain herself, something she hadn’t seen in awhile.  I explained that the bedroom door was open so if she needed something she could come get me, but otherwise I would be back in five minutes.

I came THIS close to calling Donald in frustrated tears during our so-called break.  But I kept imagining how it must feel to be two-years-old and have an off-day and hear your parent, your whole world, complain about you on the phone.  So instead I sat on the couch and felt like a shitty parent and wondered what I was doing wrong and how I could fix it.

In theory, I know that everybody has these days.  I remember reading a blog one time where the writer joked that you aren’t truly a parent until you’ve sat on the couch while your kids tear apart your house and really, honestly not given a flying fuck – and suddenly that makes a lot of sense.  I know that children have bad days and that every parent has moments when they look at their kid and think dude, I love you, but you’re driving me out of my ever-loving mind.

I know this.

But somehow, when it’s me and my kid, it just doesn’t feel okay.

My mother-in-law has this great story from Donald’s childhood.  (Correct me if I get the details wrong, Carolee!)  He was three or four years old and everything imaginable that could possibly go wrong went wrong.  He couldn’t do anything right all day long and Donald and his mother were at wit’s end.

Then something happened and she looked back to scold him and she noticed how dejected and upset he looked about what had just occurred.  And she thought about how little he was and how upset he was and instead of scolding him, she just took a deep breath and asked him if he wanted a hug.

I think about that story constantly.

Yesterday, I thought about it all.day.long.

I also thought about today.  And how today would be a new day.  And how we could start all over again, Charlotte and me, like yesterday never happened.

Today we’re going walking with the trees.  I may never know what went wrong yesterday or what the right solution to it was, but at the very least I know there sure as hell aren’t any green sharpies in the wilderness.


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  1. By momiss on January 19, 2012

    The terrible two’s have hit.  It’s all part of the process, but I know how you feel.  When my first son was about her age we had a day like that too.  I ended up going on a big long rant about how I NEEDED him to do what he KNEW he was supposed to do and how we had been over this before and how him doing what he had done put us behind for the whole day….......
    Which was really stupid, don’t try that.  At the end of my long speech he was in sitting on the floor and he looked at the ground and he said, so sadly, “I’m just a boy”.  And I immediately started crying and I picked him up and rocked him and apologized for being such a terrible mommy and took full blame for whatever it was that now I cannot remember.  I have never forgotten it.  “I’m just a boy” said everything that needed to be said.
    Today is a new day, and the trees sound GREAT!

  2. By on January 19, 2012

    We had a day like that yesterday too. Tears all round. So far today has been much better. The complicated business of growing up and the complicated business of parenting - exhausting sometimes. Sounds like you did a good job of keeping a cap on it. So easy to blame and question ourselves when it’s all just a natural, albeit testing, part of the process of growing up and learning limits.

  3. By tara pollard pakosta on January 19, 2012

    awww I hate days like that!
    but it makes you truly appreciate the good stuff!

    My 12 year old really responds to me hugging her and holding her and cuddling in a dark quiet room when she is having an off day. and that’s a 12 year old, I bet a 2 year old would love it even more. it’s so hard being a parent. you never know what to expect and just when you THINK you have it figured out, there is a loop thrown in there somewhere.

    I HOPE today is awesome for YOU!
    tara

  4. By carolina on January 19, 2012

    Sarah, I really appreciate your patience and how you treat Charlotte. I grew up being spanked (as households in Latin America tend to function that way), and as I read this, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated for you and envisioned myself reacting to my imaginary child in a way similar to how i was raised, which is not something i want, when i raise my kids.

  5. By on January 19, 2012

    Ay yi yi. I’m only an Auntie so I can’t fully comprehend what a day you had, but you do have my sympathies. I babysat two of my nieces one weekend when they were wee ones, and I ended up in tears after a nearly sleepless night (I think my mothering instinct kicked in and I had one eye open and supersonic ears listening for every single little sigh, rustle or cough) and an early morning consisting of a babe who wouldn’t stop crying.

    If you haven’t seen this yet, I think the Blogess sums up what both you and Charlotte were feeling and thinking yesterday: http://youtu.be/NSnIDWVOnzQ

  6. By on January 19, 2012

    Days like that are horrible. And I have done the same thing with my daughter that she did with Donald. It made us both feel better. But those types of days are inevitable so just know we are there with you and it makes us all feel horrible. Children and adults.

  7. By Amber on January 19, 2012

    So, just for the record? My husband and I are 42 and 29 years old, respectively, and WE STILL HAVE DAYS WHERE WE ARE ALMOST BEHAVING THIS BADLY.

    Don’t worry. You are an amazing mother! :P

  8. By Amber on January 19, 2012

    Eesh, my grammar behaved badly in that first comment ... sorry

  9. By on January 19, 2012

    Even knowing that those days happen to everyone, it still feels crappy when it happens to you. She’s testing her boundaries.

    You probably could have used a hug.

    And down with green sharpies!

  10. By carolee on January 19, 2012

    Yes, Sarah, you got most of the story correct.  Donnie was older, though, about 5 or 6.  I’ve never forgotten that day.  I remember how in the store he flipped the grocery cart over on top of him.  Sounds impossible but he managed it.  At the checkout he put one hand on each of my avocados and squished them into the seat of the cart.  That was just at the end of our day. LOL I don’t know how many, “Oh, Donnie’s” I did that day.  Then, one last thing happened and I did look at him realizing that none of the things actually happened to me, but to him.  I’ve never forgotten how he fell into my arms and just sobbed when I asked him if he needed a hug.  ‘sigh’ Donnie never did anything deliberately malicious.  That poor kid just rotten luck!
    BTW, Donnie and his brother were so close in age that I felt as if I had two in the terrible twos.  They were fun, though.  More than anything they were just curious and that was enough.

  11. By Sheila on January 19, 2012

    We had a day JUST like that yesterday.  It started because I wouldn’t let my 21-month-old kick me in the (pregnant) belly.  I know, what a tyrant I am, right?  So first there was an hour an a half of absolutely inconsolable screaming, and then there was the wanton destruction of property (mostly books), and my 90% potty trained kid deliberately AIMING his pee all over the room, and the refusal to eat anything but yogurt, and even in the happy moments, lots of jumping on me, climbing on me, pulling my hair, and making a mess.  When my husband got home I said “I’m so glad you’re home” and instantly burst into tears.  THAT kind of day.

    And yet, today has been lovely.  We spent quite a while just now practicing kissy faces so that he can kiss me without slobbering on my face.  (A work in progress.)  I have no idea what yesterday was about ... but luckily, it is a new day!

  12. By Ely's Momma on January 19, 2012

    My daughter was born in July 24, 2009. If I am not mistaken, that is very close to C’s bday. Anyway, we TOTALLY had a day like that yesterday- and the day before.  Looks like they are right on schedule!  It’s all part of a beautiful ride, I guess, but it certainly makes it easy to call my own parenting into question… and that is tough on the ego ;).

    I too went to bed last night determined to make today different. Her extra long nap is helping. :)

  13. By on January 19, 2012

    I always tell myself and my husband, everybody has bad days. Even two years olds.

    On Sunday my son AND my husband had a bad day. I imagine, that’s what hell would feel like. :)

  14. By Sarah@Crazy Love Gamble-Style on January 19, 2012

    Hang in there girl!  It was bound to happen.  Today will be better.  This is why there is wine in the world, there are days when I feel like I deserve that glass of wine, well maybe that is most days : )

    I am really sad you didn’t put a photo up with the green sharpie, please at least tell me you took one! : )

  15. By Sarah S on January 19, 2012

    yep. Days like that happen. All you can do it try to get through it and move on. With my oldest, I clearly remember a day when she was 3 and all sorts of things were going wrong and misbehavior was happening and i lost it and started lecturing her. As i was talking unkindly to her, a voice in the back of my head piped up with “listen to how unkind you are being to your child. You’re LECTURING a three year old! Stop being crazy.“ and that was that. My inner concious was right, they are only very little people learning to master their world, actions and emotions. Many adults can’t do that. (Not that I never lost it again with them, but it became an easy reminder to try not to.)

    I would recommend investing in washable markers and putting the Sharpies away though. That has saved me a bunch of grief.

    Each day is new.

  16. By Sarah Christensen on January 19, 2012

    Sarah - I didn’t take a photo, but it’s still on our sheets and bedspread and although Donald was able to get most of it out of the footboard you can still see some of it.

    It might sound a little odd, but I feel really uncomfortable taking pictures of Charlotte when she’s breaking/broken a rule or when she’s crying or angry, etc. - and even more uncomfortable posting the ones I do have of those moments.  I don’t have a problem with people knowing it happens, but I worry about what Charlotte thinks about it.  I like to address those situations immediately and I don’t want her to think that we value poor behavior or that we think her angst is funny or worth remembering.  We do have a few pictures of her in these sorts of situations, but it’s usually by surprise (i.e. one second she’s smiling, the next she’s screaming, and my finger just happened to be on the shutter).  One time she took a piece of chalk and drew all over our dressers in the bedroom.  I addressed it with her immediately and then took a picture as soon as she was out of the room.  In this case, though, I wanted Charlotte to be involved in the clean-up and that didn’t really allow much time for pictures =(

  17. By Sarah Christensen on January 19, 2012

    Also, seriously, this hiking thing is never going to happen at this rate.  Charlotte was so wiped out after yesterday that she slept until 10AM, something completely unheard of, and now she’s down for a nap.  I know she’s going through a growth spurt, but combine that with an exhausting yesterday and suddenly Momma’s got free time lol.

  18. By Meg @ Moments Like This on January 19, 2012

    I think this is a great post.

    I have a friend who doesn’t deal well with her child. Actually, two friends. They get angry and their children for being just that, children (they are 8months and 6 months) and I can’t understand that.

    For instance, if I leave a glass of water on the table where Bean can reach it and she does and spills it all over the floor, who is at fault? The child with the two year old mind who is curious about the world or myself? The adult who should have known better. Of course I am to blame for things like that. So I don’t get mad at her I take a deep breath, take a mental note, and say something like “Next time, just ask Mommy and I will help you.”

  19. By Alicia S. on January 20, 2012

    When I scrolled down to the picture at the end of the whole description of your day, I genuinely almost cried. Matthew has grown into himself by leaps and bounds over the course of the past year, but two, going into three was a HARD year behaviorally. I have a notoriously difficult child. I read more literature on behavior management than I read maternity books when I was pregnant! (And everyone laughs at how many pregnancy books I’ve read, lol) Now that life is so much easier with him, it’s hard to remember how difficult it used to be.

    But our hard days are still very hard, even if they’re fewer and farther between.

    That picture at the end, though? That totally says it all. My mom always teases that my son could grow up to single-handedly bring about the end of civilization as we know it, and I would still think the sun shines out of his rear-end. I think that’s probably the very thing that’s saved me from losing my sanity on him during our more difficult days ;-P Can’t help but love that kid.

    (I’m personally really thankful to see you write a little about this part of parenting. I was beginning to think C was the only child in the world who just never lost her cool!)

  20. By Beluga Caviar on January 20, 2012

    This story, especially the list of naughty things she did sounded terrible to me as a future parent. I am in the stage of planning to have a baby soon, and so I’m reading mommie blogs to get into the spirit, but actually it is only scaring me. I think I’ll give up this project. The reading, not the having babies one. :) I still can’t decide if it’s better to discipline them with love but consistency from an early age, or to do what you did, and think it was just a bad day. I can make my mind up. I guess when I’ll be in the particular situation I will realize what to do. I will have more experience than I have now, which is about zero right now. Thanks for writing so openly about this so wannabe mommies can learn from your experience. Lots of hugs to both of you, Flora

  21. By Tabitha (From Single to Married) on January 20, 2012

    So glad to know I’m not the only one with days like that!  And thanks for the reminder to not talk about Henry on the phone (at least where he can hear me).  since he’s not really talking yet I forget that he probably understands most of what I’m saying and I’m sure he doesn’t like me talking about him.  Who would?

  22. By on January 20, 2012

    Oh don’t feel like a shitty parent!

    A shitty parent wouldn’t recognize that their buttons were being pushed, and instead of taking a much needed, healthy breather, would have let it continue to escalate until it devolved into snippy words, a harsh tone or worse.

    Good for you for taking a break before it got to that point.

    And by the way, if your worst screw up is that your toddler overhears you saying to your husband that she’s being a tad trying, in my books you are superwoman my friend.

    Sooner or later, she will learn the real world consequences of being unpleasant to be around, which is that people will go away and come back when you’re being nicer. It how we learn not to be jerks :)

  23. By on January 20, 2012

    Ah that was yesterday for us, too. My 2y5mo son was just off the walls all day. Running away from me, throwing himself on the ground and insisting on rolling down the hallway at the obstetricians office, telling me no to EVERYTHING, and I’m 35 weeks pregnant and he weighs 38 lbs, so if he refuses to walk, guess what? We are stuck wherever until he decides to act human again. I felt like all I’d done was correct him and even yell at him in frustration a few times, just at the end of my rope. Finally, I just realized we are both about to go through a huge change except he can’t comprehend or express what is going on yet. We don’t co-sleep anymore, but I brought my boy into my bed and we snuggled and cuddled and talked, and he slept with me last night. It re-set us both, I think, and we aren’t staring at each other with frustration today. :)

  24. By on January 21, 2012

    Whoa. This sounds scary. I always think that if I have moments like these with my future children I will self destruct. how do you cope with this? I don’t know if I will stand it. I’m not having kids till I know I can handle it.

  25. By on January 22, 2012

    This post reminds me of the childrens book, Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox. You should read it.


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