As my youngest approached his second birthday, I hit a parenting wall.
I had thoughts like “Can postpartum depression be delayed two years? Are my hormones out of whack? Maybe I’m not cut out for the toddler years.”
Then I started reading “Happiest Toddler on the Block” by Dr. Karp, and a light bulb went off! In part one, he writes “Toddlers are tricky even for experienced parents,” and “Your tot’s words or deeds may open up feelings of hurt and humiliation from deep in your past.”
My life as a mom was subconsciously reminding me of issues in my own childhood. It might sound a little kooky, but bare with me. Now that I had two boys who can (and still do) talk all of the time, my brain remembered communication issues I experienced growing up. These were issues such as friends not taking me seriously in conversations or being laughed at or belittled by relatives.
Now, years later and a mom of two toddlers, my brain was reminded of those hurts, daily.
… By no fault of my own boys, though! They’re toddlers, they’re still brand new on this Earth. They haven’t hurt me in any way that warrants my anger. But here I was, reacting the same way I would have twelve to twenty years ago, with my own version of temper tantrums (i.e. yelling, and locking myself in my room … yikes!).
Once I started to process through why and how my own children could bring up past hurts, I realized it was the way we were communicating!
When I ask my boys to stay in their bed for nap time, and they ask a million times to get up or they just get out of bed, I feel like I’m not being taken seriously. Why am I even the mom if they’re not going to listen? This began to spill over into my own marriage, too. Whenever my husband tried to lighten the mood with jokes, I would feel pushed over the edge. I’d start to think things like “All my life people have laughed at me.” These were big, sweeping lies that I’d allow myself to think; lies that I hadn’t believed in years!
This is a testament to how difficult being a parent is, and how vital our mental health is as moms!
Incidentally, before I started reading Happiest Toddler on the Block, I began seeing a counselor again. It had been five years since I was in counseling. Honestly, I did pretty well for those five years, even through two newborn stages. This toddler life is something else though! I realized how important it is to be as mentally healthy as possible, if not for myself then for my boys. I don’t want this cycle to continue, where their children’s behaviors bring up past hurts from their own mother.
There is no shame in seeking help.
Whenever I feel a little embarrassed that I’m in counseling, I remind myself that “I don’t have all the tools for this, and I don’t have time to research all of the tools, so I’m seeking them through counseling (or a professional, or an older mom, etc). In just two sessions my counselor helped me see entire situations in a different light. She helped lift the guilt I was feeling and gave me tools to be the mom I want to become. Even though I’m being reminded of past hurts, I’m excited to work through this and become a healthier mom for my two incredible boys.