I continue to marvel at the lessons I learn as a mother. About a week ago I got the call every parent dreads. D2′s teacher called me at work one day to tell me that he had a bad, bad day. The day started out normally enough in his toddler class at Montessori but as the day wore on he started randomly slugging his little classmates. He pushed over a little girl on the playground and shoved another classmate at the snack table for no apparent reason.
When I picked up my office line and heard D2′s teacher’s voice, my heart sank. D2 had a very bad day today. He was just off, she tells me. Has anything changed at home?
I’m freaking out. I rattle off a litany of potential causes of D2′s meltdown.
Allergies? Making him wear the brown sandals he hates but that look so cute with his stripey sailboat shirt? Going to bed too late? Watching “Despicable Me” for the 35,000th time?
Excuse me while I just go and pick up my Bad Mother of the Year award.
I call Dr. D. at the office. D2′s-teacher-just-called-and-she-said-he-was-hitting- other -kids and-she-probably thinks-we-are-child-abusers! I’m trying not to get hysterical. Dr. D. is unphased.
Of course he’s hitting other kids. They’re probably hitting him too. Not the response I’m expecting. The thing you need to know about Dr. D. is he’s a clinical neuropsychologist with a specialty in Traumatic Brain Injury. Very patiently he explains to me that toddlers have undeveloped frontal lobes which means they have low impulse control.
Have you ever felt like throwing something at someone in a meeting when they say something stupid?
Umm, yes. What about it?
Well, we adults have developed frontal lobes which helps us control our impulses to do mean or destructive things to ourselves and others. Toddlers hit people because their brains are undeveloped. It’s normal and developmentally appropriate even though it’s socially unacceptable. Just relax.
This doesn’t make me feel better.
At home I ask D2 if he hit his friends at school. He smiles at me sweetly and says yes, I hit Cora, and Beck and Anna. At least he comes clean. We talk about gentle touches and how hitting hurts people. You are a sweet boy, I tell him.
He wraps a chubby little arm around my neck and kisses my cheek. No hitting! I do gentle touch. I make friends. My heart melts. I hug him back. Hard.
I resolve to get D2 off to bed earlier and spend more quiet time with him in the evenings. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but it seems to work. The next week his teacher calls to tell me he is back to his lovable, sweet self.
I remind myself that I need to stop worrying so much and enjoy all of the milestones of the Terrible Twos. I remind myself that it’s not about being a perfect parent or having the perfect child but enjoying the process of learning and discovering life together.
Your turn. What has surprised you about your child’s development or your reactions as a parent to their less than desirable behavior?