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Challenge: Stretched Too Thin

My Toddler Has Beaten Me

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“That’s it. He’s beaten me. I’ve given up.”

As my 18 month old ran screaming through the house, tearing up everything he could find and leaving a trail of crayons in his wake like some sort of tiny Godzilla wreaking havoc on the town, I put my head in my hands and muttered the words to my husband.

The week prior had been a challenge, to put it lightly - and this day was the grand finale. I had been peed on, pooped on, and bitten, while he peppered the day with whining or crying (or both) for hours at a time and refusing to eat his food or take a nap, but somehow still making time to proudly draw on the walls with crayon.

I did not recognize the banshee running throughout my always-messy-but-now-completely-destroyed home, and thus was not prepared to do battle. My super sweet boy, who freely hugs his parents and his stuffed animals, had transformed into a wild beast overnight. Obviously he’s had his bad days, as all children (and adults) do, but this particular day, on no sleep and accompanied by molar teething pain, he decided to take his frustrations out on me. He showed me no mercy.

I, too, was on no sleep, having been up with him all night. My husband put him to bed while I stared blankly at the wall and tried to recollect what had just happened. Am I in a fever dream? Did this day really happen? I went to bed thinking, “Tomorrow has to be better.”

My son had other plans. He continued his reign of terror, shrieking at me as I disallowed him to put his hand in the toilet. Then I received some shocking news.

I learned that an old friend passed away. The cruel part of parenting is that life goes on, and there are no breaks; you still have to take care of your child, no matter how broken you are inside. Your child is unaware of life challenges, continuing with their schedule as usual, needing you every moment - to watch them, to feed them, to dress them, to show them love, to deal with their bad behavior. I was unprepared to deal with his newfound wildness and a devastating loss. As he opened every drawer in my dresser, I sat on the bed with my head in my hands once again, and sobbed.

My sweet little boy heard me and stopped what he was doing. He hoisted himself onto my bed next to me, snuggled up close, and patted my arm the way I pat his back when he’s upset. He sensed that I had been broken down, that I was stressed much more than usual, that I was sad. He didn’t leave my side until I stopped crying. He didn’t want to beat me up; he wanted me to feel better.

He’s definitely moved into a new phase, getting into more than usual and listening less than ever before, but it’s not been nearly as bad. Looking back on it, I don’t remember feeling upset nearly as much as I remember the love I felt when my son knew how to comfort me just when I needed it the most.

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Until the next time he draws on the walls.

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