The title of this posting came from a comment one of my friends made, as I was describing what I am currently going through with my eighteen month old son. Before I get started let me remind anyone reading that while sometimes I do try to reflect in an insightful way, that's not my purpose here. My purpose here is just to reflect, in whatever way possible. Tonight I'm reflecting in a lost way.
I was explaining, when my friend made her comment, the feeling I have when I am disciplining my little boy. I know that he needs structure and consequences. At the age he's at now, having to enforce those things isn't occasional like it once was. It's all day every day as he is feeling his way through the idea of boundary and limitation. And how else can he figure out the limits if he doesn't push them? I get it but I keep feeling like my heart is breaking to see his sweet face so sad. The toddler ages are such a treacherous time where your child is still so sweet and little that you want to cradle and love them, but they're curious and adventurous and not teaching them the right lessons at this formative time can result in a harder time as childhood goes on. This much I know. And this is what I tell myself over and over when I want to cave in and cuddle him tight and plant kisses all over his sad little face. Which is every time he cries.
The sadness I feel when I make my son sad (even when it's necessary) is so strong. And not rational. It makes me feel like I'm a bad and cruel person when I am not a bad and cruel person. I become totally twisted up and achy with guilt. And even though I know a thousand other mothers are feeling the exact same way right then, it's so profound that I feel alone in it regardless. I am trying to learn to be strong in these times, to know that even though he's upset now it's for the greater good. That one day he'll be a man of strong principal and I will have helped that along by having a firm hand with him when he was small. It's hard to imagine any of it being good when he looks at me with those devastated little eyes. I don't know how we will get through this time. Maybe I'm just overly sensitive and soft but it is so very hard for me to deal with. Luckily mantras work very well for me and I'm not giving in. What would I be teaching him if I sent him the message that he could cry and look heartbroken and get his way out of anything? I am just praying that I get used to it, a little desensitized to it, and it hurts less to punish him. And I hope it happens soon.
I look at him in these times of difficulty and I can feel my heart congealing with his even more. It makes me so hyper-aware of my deep love for him and I cannot help but feel like the more challenging our life is with him young, the deeper my love for him will be. When I see my son, no matter what he's doing, it's like seeing an entire galaxy swirling around inside of a tiny glass ball. I find myself just looking in amazement at how something (someone) so tiny could hold inside of him everything important and wonderful to me. How this little being could be so important. It bowls me over to consider that his wellbeing is the complete dictator of mine. If he were not well, I would not be either. When he is happy, it is all that matters. It's so concentrated, this love. So totally intense and overwhelming.
I know it hits me harder than ten years ago when my daughter was the same age. There are two reasons for this. First, I am ten years older and far more in touch with myself as a woman. Far more in touch with how I feel and far more connected to my physical body. I've been more aware of the process of him coming to be from the time he was conceived to the first time I held him, and then to now. The other reason has to do with proximity. I have shared custody of my daughter, she never was with me day in and day out at this age the way my son is. My experiences with her toddler years are more removed. So it feels like the first time I've experienced any of this, even if it's not. Due to my own strengthened awareness and the reality of how much more I am exposed I am to him than I was to her, the magnitude of all these feelings is so strong and it feels so different.
I don't know of any other situation besides parenthood where a person would struggle so much and love so much all at the same time. Everything pales in comparison to all that lies inside the beautiful heart of a mother.