I’ll be the first to admit that I regularly lose my shit when it comes to Erin. I would say that I have a bit of a meltdown on at least a monthly basis, if not more often. If we hadn’t decided to put Erin into nursery as soon as she turned 2 last January I think you would find me rocking in a corner somewhere crying my eyes out every single day. Being a parent has never come easily or naturally to me but I have found the last 6 months to a year incredibly hard.
A lot of the time I struggle because I find Erin hard to deal with. Having just turned 3 she doesn’t listen most of the time, doesn’t do what we ask her to do and sometimes it takes us well over an hour to get out of the door because of a million things Erin doesn’t want to do. I might be the adult but that doesn’t mean that Erin understands that… or cares.
Over Christmas, following a conversation John and I had, it made me think about just how much we expect of Erin we asked ourselves ‘Do we expect too much from our toddlers?’
I think the conversation came about because John had been home more than normal because of Christmas and found himself getting frustrated and snappy with Erin because of really little things. John usually gets to come home from work, have her be super excited to play with him and that’s it mostly until bedtime. Of course, they get time together on the weekend too but sometimes that’s only a Sunday and not a long run of days in a row.
One evening while we were having dinner Erin must have gotten down from the table a good few times and ended up running around the table. John was getting frustrated that she couldn’t just sit and eat dinner nicely. I’ve been there too, trust me! On this particular occasion, Erin was stopping each time around the table and eating another mouthful. Erin has been a fussy eater for the longest time and if we’d forced her to stay at the table I can guarantee that it would have ended in tears and her refusing to eat anything. Okay, running around the table really isn’t ideal and it’s not good table manners but… Erin was actually eating! I’ll take her being crazy but actually trying new food and eating nearly a whole meal over her the alternative any day.
Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget just how old our children are. At the time Erin was 2 and all too often we expected her to behave all of the time, listen to us and do whatever we asked of her. We expected her to sit at the dining table at dinner time and eat her dinner without messing about, being playful all while eating all of her food as well. We expected Erin to get her shoes and coat on when we asked her to because we needed to go out, we expected her to not run around and be absolutely insane for 20 minutes straight and we expected her to not squeal and scream when she was excited.
Of course, expecting all of this of her wasn’t realistic at all and while we might not have expected it all at the same time, we did at one point or another.
I’ve really been trying to remind myself that Erin is only 3 and can’t possibly do all of these things that we would want her to. She’s still very much figuring out boundaries, emotions and what she should or shouldn’t do. Every day Erin is learning and takes in new things. She is learning to control her impulses, learning what patience is and learning why some things are dangerous to do and some thing aren’t.
Don’t get me wrong, realising that a toddler can’t possibly do everything we expect of them doesn’t mean I won’t still lose it on a regular basis. Now though, at least I can remind myself that it isn’t because I’m a crap parent, that I’m doing something wrong or Erin is being badly behaved. She’s just a toddler and finding her place in the world!