“This could be a total disaster.”
That’s true of many things in life, but never more so than when you’re parenting a toddler.
We take our toddlers out for happy hour or dinner or to a neighborhood party, and then leave in a flushed hurry as we cram fruit snacks in their mouths and try to tone down our hissing mom voices. At that point, we chastise ourselves for forgetting that this ended exactly the same way last week, only it was veggie straws instead of fruit snacks and there was additional collateral damage thanks to that lost fire truck toy. But, then you get home and a sweet pajama-clad little one waddles over to curl up in your lap and all is forgotten. We make plans for the following weekend a few days later and happily let a wave of parenting amnesia wash over us. We’ll never stop trying, right?
We’ll keep living out that scenario over and over because one day we will receive the bill without asking desperately for it while our toddler throws chopsticks at a neighboring table. One day, we will be genuinely surprised that it’s already time to leave because we’ll have had such a relaxing happy hour experience. You’ll look at your spouse in shock because at no point during dinner did your son squeeze out of his booster chair and run into the kitchen yelling “NO FOLLOW MAMA.” There were no crayons smashed on the plates or phones pulled out in desperation to google “marching dinosaur song.”
In that moment, we’ll realize that we’ve made it to that sweet spot that everyone talks about, where we can both parent and enjoy our kids for the tiny humans they are; when we’re past the baby phase exhaustion but not yet into the hormonal year battles. I know that eventually it will all go in reverse and instead of feeling overwhelmed by how much everyone needs me, I’ll feel needy toward my kids and their independence. Instead of begging my toddler to please sit down for JUST ONE MINUTE and take a bite of food, I’ll be begging him to skip another birthday party to hang out with us for the night.
One day, maybe I’ll think back to those nights of flying chopsticks with stars in my eyes. I’ll gloss over the sweaty anxiety I felt chasing him around and minimizing damage and maybe I’ll even begin to forget how tired I felt all the time. I’ll be the other mom smiling in understanding and remembrance from the peaceful corner table. Of course, they say that this is the physical part of parenthood, and the mentally draining aspect intensifies later. Will I wish for these flailing-on-the-floor tantrums to come back once our son is peppering us with life’s hardest questions?
For now, I’ll keep reminding myself that it won’t always be this way. As hard as it can be to live in the moment with a toddler who’s simultaneously hitting me and whining to be held, I’ll always keep trying. Because these – the days filled with utter exhaustion and total love, yelling and pleas for forgiveness, time outs and the sweetest kisses – are the days and emotions that no amount of parenting amnesia can erase.