This past week has been one of the hardest weeks of parenting that I've had in a long time. It seems that both kids hit a period of disequilibrium at the same time. It was right on time for Hayden, since she'll be having a birthday at the end of May. I'm not sure why Tristan seems to be hitting it right now too. Either it's just coming a bit late, since he's already had his birthday, or there's just something magical about reaching that three year old mark. That's a well kept secret of parenting, you know. Before you have kids, all you hear about is the "terrible twos". That's a misnomer. The twos are fun. The threes are SO difficult. The terrible twos are a big lie, not to mention a really negative way to talk about your child. But I digress.
So they've both been in disequilibrium, and it's been difficult. They've both been melting down, seem to have lost all of the maturity they gained over the past year, and have gone back to needing almost constant supervision when they're together. I've definitely been doing a lot of get-off-your-butt parenting, and have been hard to find time to get anything else done. I've particularly been struggling with Hayden. Three, while difficult, I've done before. I know a little of what to expect and that it's totally normal for that age. But I've never done going-on-five before, and so much of the time lately it's seemed like she's morphed into this angry little person that I don't recognize or have the first clue how to handle.
I've been hanging in there though. I'm experienced enough in parenting now to know that these seasons happen, and that they're not a reflection of my ability as a parent or whether or not my kids will grow up to be productive members of society. They just happen. We just have to try to get through them with as much grace and patience as we can.
Just like usually happens, I'm learning so much through this process. I've been trying to do everything right and trying to figure out what I could do to help Hayden get through this difficult patch. I thought maybe she needed more big muscle movement, so we've been spending more time than ever outside and at the park. As wonderful as that is, especially in the springtime, it didn't really help. Weird!
The whole time, I was missing the answer that was staring me in the face. Parenting is all about connection. It always, always, always comes back to connection. If you know me, you know I'm not good with connection. It's a struggle, a stretch for me. I've written before about how Tristan is the one who first taught me how to love, well into my twenties, and while that was an amazing process, it's still a process of growth for me. It's not a switch that can just be turned on, it's a daily process of learning to be vulnerable and make that connection with another human. It's difficult for me, and when I get busy I sometimes forget to focus on practicing it.
This is counter-productive, of course, because connection is one of the most basic needs of my little girl. I discovered that it was what had been missing almost by accident. Two nights ago I was tired after dinner, and decided to relax on the couch for a couple of minutes before tackling the dishes and bedtime. I turned on the tv to one of those silly cooking competition shows. Hayden snuggled in next to me and we cuddled for twenty minutes or so. It was lovely. How could I have forgotten about this?!? For all the effort I'd been putting in all week to make sure that all her needs were being met, and that I was doing everything I could to be a good parent during a difficult time, I had forgotten about actually connecting with her.
Her demeanor totally changed after that snuggle session. She seemed like she was the happy little girl that I was used to having around again. We were enjoying each other's company and she seemed to be enjoying life. Wow! And then, unfortunately, an hour later I screwed it up again. Perhaps it's my behaviour that needs more work than hers does. In a moment of frustration(it was the end of the day, remember) I yelled, and in a second's time her countenance fell again. No! I had messed it up again! At least I knew now what I was doing wrong. I apologized, and hugged her. From that next morning, I've been focusing on connecting with her, and it's making all the difference. We still have difficult moments, of course, but I'm learning to help her through them with more patience and grace now that I'm focused on connecting with her.
Connection, it always comes back to connection. No matter what else is going on with my kids, I'm learning to remember that connection is always the answer.