A Mother's Answer
As I write this, my toddler is screaming bloody murder in her high chair while I nurse her little brother behind a closed door in my bedroom. This might seem like bad parenting, (and maybe, in fact, it is bad parenting. I'll let you know in twenty years when my daughter inevitably starts writing a memoir about her childhood) but it's what I have to do right now. My daughter is eating dinner (well, she isn't eating this second because of the screaming). She is not in pain. She is not sick. She may be tired, but not exhausted. She is just angry. So angry. She wanted more frozen mango, but I couldn't get it for her the second she wanted it because of the fifteen pounds of infant that is in my arms trying desperately to fall asleep for the night.
(Husband arrived home. Toddler is now acting like an angel. Seriously, why is that always what happens?)
My daughter is normally a highly communicative, good listener. She is patient for her age. She does well when she has to wait for me to finish anything with her little brother. She loves him very much, and has never demonstrated the signs of jealousy we expected when the baby arrived.
When these lightning-strike-type tantrums happen, they still catch me off-guard even though they have been happening more frequently lately. Hysterically angry toddlers are difficult to deal with when it's just a mom and a single child. When the second baby is there it makes it even harder to set appropriate boundaries while giving the toddler a healthy way she can manage her frustration. I've tried multiple strategies to handle this new emergence of toddler tantrums. Distraction. Verbalization of feelings. Empathy. Cuddle-time. Ignoring certain attention-seeking behaviors. Creative outlets. But, you know, sometimes the baby needs to nurse and the mommy needs a damn break. This post is not about all of the ways you can quell a toddler tantrum. It's about what a desperate mommy does when nothing is working.
It is very difficult in our world of instant answers to know when you should stop researching and do what comes naturally in the moment. A 0.3 second Google search can present you with thousands of potential answers to any parenting problem. [Note: These answers can be particularly unhelpful at 4am in the deep beautiful abyss that is the neonatal period or at 6pm during an exhaustion-fueled episode of two-year-old toddler rage.]
I need to remind myself in tough, self-doubting moments that I'm the mom. I am in charge right now. Even if I cannot fix everything. Even if I cannot fix anything.
This beautiful weeping creature in front of me who is covered with messy golden curls, tears, and free-flowing boogers is my daughter. I love her more than life, and nothing can change that. I hope she knows that. I make mistakes and fail and lose patience and doubt my own instincts, but at the end of the day, It is my answers--not Google's--that will impact my daughter's life. This singular realization is both freeing and terrifying. It is my answers that may someday inform how she raises her own children. My answers that will build a foundation for her life. My answers in any given situation won't always be the ones applauded by the internet's mommy-advice vortex or Dr. Sears or Dr. Spock or even Dr. Seuss. But, sometimes a mother's answer is as simple as whatever works in that moment.
Today, my answer was nursing my sleepy son in a (mostly) silent room while still hearing the muffled sobs of an angry toddler down the hall in the kitchen. I'm really doing my best.