I poured myself a glass of iced tea and left the pitcher on the counter. I turned around to talk to my son and throw something away in the trash can and when I turned around, my three-year-old daughter had the pitcher in her hands. She faltered under the weight of it and both my son and I ran for it, saying, "Stop!" and "Oh no!" She had it steady but when she saw us coming to take it from her, she dumped it, on purpose. The contents of an entire two-gallon pitcher, almost filled to the top with iced tea, fell to the floor, in one huge puddle. She then dropped the pitcher and stomped in the puddle.
I yelled, "Get in time out!" She melted into tears and took her place in the chair as I set to clean up the mess. Accidents are accidents, but this wasn't one, and so I said things to her like, "Why would you do this?" and, "That's just not nice!"
She sat and cried and I cleaned up the mess and then went and talked to her about it. When I asked her again why she did it, her words stopped me in my tracks. She sobbed, huge tears coming from her blue eyes and rolling down her flushed cheeks, and said, "I thought I was a big girl. I thought I could do it. But I'm not a big girl. I'm still a little girl!" And with that assertion, she wailed even more. It was one of the saddest things I've seen as a parent. All she wants is to be a big girl. I quickly gathered her into my arms.
She still is a little girl and she's my little girl. And little girls want to try. And little girls make messes (little boys, too!). As I held her and wiped her tears, I remembered that she wants to be a big girl. Every day, all day long, she tries to do things on her own. She wants to water the plants and feed the animals. She wants to pour her own milk and wash her own hair. She likes the big swings at the park and drinking from real cups. She's fiercely independent and I love that about her.
Can you imagine how frustrating it is to try things and fail, over and over, all day long? Toddlers do that all day. All day long, they try to do things and they make messes and then throw fits because all they want to do is try. And they try and try and eventually get it. That's what growing up is. So many tries. So many failures.
I didn't handle this well today, but I'll do better tomorrow.
Thanks for Mothering the Divide with me as we remember that our little ones are little. But they dream of being big like us and we'll need a lot of patience as they try and try and try. In the end, we're lucky to witness it all.
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*Kara writes about mothering children, her spirit, and the sacred on her blog, Mothering the Divide. Her debut, co-authored book, A Letter for Every Mother, published from Hachette/FaithWords, will be in everywhere books are sold in April 2018.