Yesterday, while at a lunch playdate with some friends, my two and half year old came up to me after being away playing for awhile. He tugged on my arm and said, “Mommy, that boy push me”. I said, “Oh no, I’m so sorry! Tell him, ‘Please don’t push me, that’s not nice'”. And he ran off as happy as could be. Later, I couldn’t find him in the playplace for awhile, until I found him in a corner of a tunnel protectively holding his cars he had brought while another little boy was trying to grab them. He was just sitting there saying, “Stop, don’t do that!”. Just sitting there.
I didn’t think much of it until later, when all of a sudden I realized the significance of that moment in time and I almost started to cry. Eighteen months ago, this day seemed far away. When he was about sixteen months old, he started to go through a hitting and pushing phase. It was random and didn’t seem to be a reaction to anything, just something he started doing. It’s a common phase that toddlers go through, but that doesn’t mean it is not a hard phase.
This affected me as a mother in a significant way. No matter how much I snuggled him, hugged him, spoke kindly to him or reacted after each instance, nothing changed. It made socializing with other moms and kids so hard. I sometimes avoided going to playdates because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be too far away from him. I struggled with how to respond. I struggled with feeling judged by those around me. Honestly, I probably had a harder time with this phase than my little boy did.
Finally, I had to make a decision. I knew that he was not an aggressive little boy. I knew that he was simply trying to communicate and interact with others, and he just wasn’t able to in the way he wanted. But others didn’t know that. I eventually had to choose to walk with him through his struggle. I had to stop paying attention to those around me that gave judgmental and sometimes hurtful comments or stares to me or to my child. The thing is, I understood where they were coming from too. It’s a mama bear thing. But my little boy was also not even two. It would be different if he was eight or even four or five.
Instead, I had to choose to focus on him and walk with him through this phase of his life. It didn’t mean I didn’t tell him no, or put him in timeout, or respond when he hit or pushed someone. But it was loving and always followed with me telling him I loved him and that he was a good boy. I gave him love. I played with him at the park. Every time I put him down to sleep I whispered in his ear that he was a good, sweet boy.
This went on for several months. I started to see slow declines in his hitting and pushing and it was so encouraging. He was a bit slow to talk and the more he was able to communicate, the instances decreased more and more. Now they are almost nonexistent (except for the occasional target- his little sister who doesn’t know how to wrestle yet) –almost eighteen months later. It took eighteen months. But he and I, we worked together, I walked with him and loved him through it and we made it!
So back to my experience yesterday. While he has been doing great for several months now, this was the first time I heard him communicate so clearly with me and I could see and hear that he got it. So fulfilling as a mom.
It also got me thinking about all I have ahead of me. This little trial was probably very small compared to some of the struggles and trials my kids will go through as they grow up. I’m so grateful for this experience because it gave me a chance to see what it means to walk with my child through a struggle, to love them through it, not shame them and both of us come out better on the other side.
So if you find yourself in the middle of a struggle with your child, walk with them through it, love them, build them up ad you will find yourself, and probably them, better on the other side.