In the April 2011 General Conference, Lynn G. Robins gave a talk entitled "What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?" This talk stood out to me, particularly this part:
A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the premortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging child a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself. With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?
Apparently he had met my oldest son and decided to give me advice on him in a worldwide broadcast! Maybe not really, but that's what it felt like. I hadn't regarded this talk in several months, only fully remembering the parenting 505 part, and the other day I really started pondering myself and my relationship with my oldest son. He is incredibly smart and creative and funny and sometimes very sweet, but he's also the one who has shown me my boundaries time and time again. So after a particularly frustrating day I looked up that talk and I had totally forgotten the part about a difficult child being a blessing. It's hard to remember that in the midst of crying and tantrums.
I have been pondering on when he was born. The first few days home from the hospital the whole atmosphere of our apartment was different. It seemed so much more peaceful, and I could just tell that this baby was so special and I was so thankful to have him in our family. Even during the insanely late nights I had with him I would look him in the eyes and tell him I loved him and I was so happy he was my baby. It really made me question myself. Do I still tell him how happy I am that he's in out family? I tell him I love him every day and give kisses and hugs and all, but I also get frustrated and have raised my voice to him during the super mega biblical meltdowns. So I say I love him, then yell, what message am I really sending? Last week I made a resolve to not raise my voice or react based solely on my emotional response. It's been and major uphill battle, but I'm starting to feel a difference in myself. The other night, I noticed a difference in him. Even when he was tired, he didn't have a major meltdown or throw a fit when he needed some help, he just asked for help. I helped him and told him he did a good job asking so nicely. Whenever I tell him he did a good job he says "You're Welcome!" I don't correct him because it's cute.
Before I had kids, when people told me parenting was hard, I thought they meant the sleep deprivation and a fussy little baby. I didn't fret too much because between the military, early morning seminary, and late night college study sessions, I figured I could handle anything that involved lost sleep. I knew toddlers threw fits, but I had never witnessed the tyrannosaurus of tantrums, nor been so emotionally involved in such a spirited child. I didn't know I'd feel so confident with one and then feel like I had no idea what I was doing with my second.
A few nights ago, after my oldest fell asleep, I could hear my three year old tapping on his bed frame, one of the things he does when he can't fall asleep (hey, he's just like me!) so I went in and told him that I was sorry for all the times I yelled or made him think I was mad or hurt his feelings. I then told him that I was trying really hard to be nicer. He just nodded. I asked him if he could try a little bit more to listen to mom and dad and he said all right and gave me a big hug and kiss. I really love that kid.
Things are far from perfect, but I for one have felt frustration come on a little slower and have remembered to keep my head and remind myself to not let his actions, no matter how irritating, get me angry. I'm still not letting him get away with bad behavior, but taking things a little less personally. I used to think that was just common sense, but it's a lot less common when you have a very strong willed child and have other stresses in your life.
Anyway, so that's the story of my efforts to be a better mother to the blessing of a more strong willed than normal toddler (I teach nursery at church so I know what strong willed kids are like!).
It's wonderful to take the time to really enjoy your children! That's what I've been trying to increase doing!