It’s 9am and we’ve already had a meltdown, spilled water all over the kitchen, wiped a runny nose (3x), stolen big sister’s barbies, tried to escape out the front door, painted ten little toenails a sparkly dark pink, and said family prayer with each big kid on their way out the door (3x). Sound familiar?
Yesterday I texted my younger sister and asked how she was doing. She wrote back, “I’m doing alright. Just trying to survive the terrible two’s. Will it ever get better?” My reply was, “Yes. Absolutely yes. You’re doing a great job.”
We have a funny thing going, where our mommy journeys are on a parallel path. Her two year old is a few months younger than Amber. The key difference is that my expectations are lower because I’ve done this before. Hopefully my insights will offer a little help or at least a little humor.
Remember in junior high when you learned this cool equation? y = mx + b. I don’t do a lot of graphing, but sometimes formulas are helpful in life. Here’s my formula for disappointment. Disappointment = pie-in-the-sky expectations + imperfect people. Part of being human is being flawed. I’m imperfect, and I’m surrounded by messy people. I can’t change them, but I can change my expectations. I used to be discouraged a lot. But when I lowered my expectations, I wasn’t disappointed all the time.
Example #1. If I expect my toddler to mind every time I tell her to do something, I will be frustrated more often than not. Amber is a good little girl, but she’s two. I don’t expect 100% obedience out of her.
Example #2. I spend a lot of time teaching her how to talk. Now that she’s learned the power of words, she’s testing them out. When the big kids tell her, “No, you can’t do that,” she’ll reply, “Mom said yes,” even when I did NOT say yes. This could be a power struggle, or I can teach the big kids some parenting skills so they don’t get bullied by the baby.
Example #3 I need a support group. We call this a playdate. I invite other moms with littles to come to my house, and we talk. It doesn’t matter what we talk about, just as long as there’s another adult in my house so that I’m not starved for conversation. My husband appreciates this too. He talks to people all day long, and by dinnertime he’s heard all the words he can handle. So if I get a chance to speak, and listen to my friends, we’re all happier.
The formula for happiness is simple too. Happiness = optimism + understanding that life is messy. Great peace comes from accepting that life isn’t perfect. “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”― Jenkin Lloyd Jones
Now here’s one last secret. When I rewind the years in my brain and look back on the phase when I had a two year old boy and a tiny baby, my heart stops for half a second. That was absolutely the most difficult phase of motherhood. I love having a teenager, and I love having kids in elementary school. But when I had two kids in diapers, oh my goodness. You deserve a medal for keeping the kids fed and reasonably safe.
A few weeks ago, in the checkout line at the grocery store, Amber was sitting on top of the shopping cart (where it’s clearly labeled, “Don’t put kids here…”) and then she slid off the front and landed on her face on the hard tile, and all the grocery people tried to help and bless their hearts for not giving me dirty looks…Yeah. I only have one toddler and I’ve been a mom for 15 years and I still did a dumb thing like let my two year old sit somewhere stupid.
So to my sweet little sister, don’t give up. Your babies will only be small for a minute or two, and then you blink and they’ll be huge and eating you out of house and home. It’s okay if you’re tired or exhausted. You have an infant and a toddler. That’s part of the deal. Your love is enough. Cut yourself some slack, and lower your expectations for yourself. You are enough, just the way you are.