Toddlers are notoriously strange and complex creatures. They throw tantrums without notice, say inappropriate things at the worst times, and have the magical ability to flip from demon spawn to an majestic angel at the drop of a hat. De-coding all of that is taxing and may require strategic planning on your part, so you can stay one step ahead of their mind-trick mastery. If you've run out of ideas on how to get on their level, this one analogy could help you understand your toddler's tantrums a little bit better.
Let me backtrack. When I was new to parenting, caring for and understanding my daughter was like trying to solve a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle in two minutes. How did she work exactly? And what could I do to help her flourish? I had no clue. And once I thought I was nailing the whole mom thing, she entered toddlerhood and things took a dramatic, downward turn. All of the sudden, I was back at square one. Unsure of who this little girl was, or how to connect on her level, I fought the whole process and I think it hindered the natural progression of our relationship. If you're experiencing similar growing pains, stop and think of this analogy before you react:
Sounds easy enough, right? I know it's more complicated than that, but even still, whenever my daughter and I came to a stand-off, I thought of her as my garden. Did I want to nourish her roots so she'd grow, or did I need to be "right" and steadfast in my parenting?
After the birth of my youngest, I took a different approach to parenting that completely centered around him being that garden. The less I fought against the natural route of his stems, the better off he was. So with that in mind, here are some of the ways the garden analogy helped me better understand both my toddlers, and myself as their guardian, while maintaining some level of composure and sanity.
I Practiced Patience
I've never been the most patient person, and once I had kids my patience was tested in ways I couldn't imagine. When I'm the most frustrated with my toddlers, I focused hard on the garden analogy because it's a great reminder of how long it takes to nourish all that's been planted. It takes time and thoughtfulness to grow produce or flowers.
The toddler phase only lasts a season, and once they've bloomed, there's no going back to re-plant pieces of my children's foundation. Patience is not only necessary for your garden's survival, it's important for yours.
I Learned To Listen Instead Of Speak
Along with patience, listening is vital. A good gardener plants and tends to their seedlings, but a great gardener knows what they need before they need it. If your toddler feels heard early on, it'll lessen the chances of you having to endure those world-ending tantrums. I promise.
It Gave Me Some Breathing Room
Tending a garden is a lot of work, but the end result is always worth it if you've done everything correctly. The way I was doing things meant I was constantly strained, exhausted, and still not getting anywhere. When I allowed room for growth (letting my toddler have opinions or giving them room to make their own decisions without me hovering), we were all less disappointed. Gardens need room to grow, and so do our children.
It Reminded Me That My Children Will Grow
As much as I think I want my seedlings to blossom quickly — so that I can reap the benefits of my hard work — there will come a time when I'll wish time had slowed down or stopped altogether, despite how many tantrums my toddler has in a day.
Still, remembering my children are like gardens forces me to be OK with the fact that, yes, they will grow. They will become fully functioning adult humans and they won't need me the way they need me now, and that's OK. In fact, that's how it's supposed to be.
It Helped Me See The Bigger Picture
While some toddler tantrums feel never-ending, this analogy and likening parenthood to tending a garden, makes complete sense. It isn't about the seeds, or how much I've watered my plants on any particular day. It's all of it put together that create my bounty. My babies will grow up and, someday, live on their own. I want to make sure they leaVe my care fully bloomed.
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