This story is part of our series, "But Really, How Are You?" where we share first-person essays about real motherhood: the highs, lows and everything in between. Today's piece is by Jessica, a self-proclaimed type B mom in Los Angeles. Today: the parenting mantra that's getting her through toddlerhood.
How nuts are toddlers? I know that seems like a one-liner I might drop on you at the park in an attempt to become your mom friend, but genuinely—their existence is absurd. They’re tiny, toddling humans with massive emotions, limited language, lighting speed cognitive development, and faces so cute you inexplicably want to eat them—all the time! Those tiny, squeaky voices; those clammy hands; those fluffy tufts of bedhead; the hands wrapped around your leg; and the blubbering, trusting eyes that need you—only you.
Then they bite you. Scream bloody murder for 45 minutes on an airplane. Smack their cousin across the face. Wake up at obscene hours for no apparent reason. Rummage through your makeup bag and make the walls “pretty.” You get where I’m going—these creatures are salty and sweet. Though this is only my first tango with toddlerhood, I’ve developed a mantra, a soul salve if you will, that helps me center in sanity. It’s stupidly simple:
“She must be goin’ through somethin’.”
It’s more fun if you say it with a country twang. It’s even more fun if you say it to your spouse while you're splayed on the couch, half a drink in. I know you might be laughing at how obvious this statement is but let me explain why it helps when I hit a parenting speed bump.
Identifying that “she” is going through something reminds me that...shocking...it’s not about me.
Or, it’s *usually* not about me. It’s still hard for me to accept that the perfect creature I nurtured inside my womb for nine months, fed from my body, and now care for 24/7 is not a barnacle on my body. She is her own individual human. She is the main character in her story and I'm just a (massively important and luminous) player in the plot.
I know this lesson will sharpen as she gets older and becomes more and more herself. But right now, infanthood is still fresh and I’m just barely coming out of the twilight zone. It’s healthy for me to remember that she is not me, and I am not usually the reason. I’m doing a good job. And you are, too.
The use of “going through” reminds me that it’s temporary.
I know that’s annoying to say to a parent in the throngs of a challenging season. Temporary still feels like forever when you’re being tested to the bounds of sanity. But then, it’s over. And she’s bigger. And doing all these new things! And your heart shatters into a billion pieces as you realize how fast time goes by when you’re not in the fog. Suddenly, you’re nostalgic for that dress that doesn’t fit her and the way she used to say a certain word. Your mortality slaps you in the face with each inch she sprouts.
Using the phrase “somethin’” leaves room for ambiguity around what’s happening.
It means I don’t have to understand it totally. Of course, I can—and often do—lean into the bounds of parenting experts and child psychologists to get a better picture of what’s happening developmentally. But sometimes the data overload is too much. All I need to know is it’s “somethin’” separate from me and most likely very normal.
I imagine this perspective is helpful with a child at any age. I don’t always have to understand what’s happening in her brain, but I do get to be by her side. I don’t have to get it, but I do get to listen. I don’t have to solve it, but I do get to carry the load with her—if she’ll let me. There will always be a new “somethin’," as it’s the condition of being human. I have a new “somethin”’ every hour. Right now, it’s too-much-coffee-induced anxiety and casual existential stress about the concept of war. We all have our things big and small.
Life is not always for me to understand immediately. Sometimes it’s for me to accept and witness. In the stillness of witnessing comes wisdom. I try to remind myself: the thoughts I have and words I speak become the reality I live in. and tweaking perspective and language can make or break it for me in delicate moments.
Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez.
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