A few days ago, my LO and I were bent over his little table, working hard on our coloring books (it’s hard to say who likes coloring more between the two of us!) when, in his excitement and recent appreciation for jumping, my two-year-old accidentally bonked his head on mine—hard. “OW! Be careful,” I yelped, not hiding the irritation from my face and tone of voice. I didn’t even bother applying any parenting tactics like honoring the impulse or realizing he hadn’t intended to cause me any harm. And as a result, he cried.
I realize that, from time to time, I’m thankfully allowed to pout, act immature and say “Ow!” with a scowl on my face like any other kid my toddler would bonk heads with. Still, the incident reminded me that one of the most difficult aspects of parenting is that we’re usually required to be the “bigger person.”
Take, for instance, the tantrum.
You’re facing off against an irrational, hysterical and impossible little person who probably gets 2% of what you’re trying to say. Yet even as he’s thrashing around or trying to yank your hair, you have to stay calm, composed, and even loving, all while ready to lose your mind.
Or, as in instances as I described earlier, where roughhousing leads to some inevitable elbow dig or head bonk, parents have to grimace to themselves and realize that the injury was inflicted accidentally instead of mouthing of a curse word and giving the kid the evil eye.
This even extends to general priorities and having to put our kids first in most circumstances. For instance, when LO and I get home, the first thing I’d love to do is change into comfortable clothes, grab a drink of water and relax for a few minutes. Instead, I need to make sure that he’s comfortable, takes his water and plays comfortably. Even if I’m starving, ready to flop down on the couch or even have to run to the bathroom, I usually make sure he’s settled in first.
Being the bigger person stems from being the adult and therefore having more knowledge and experience (e.g. I need to bite my tongue during tantrums because I can pinpoint exactly which stage he’s in, what emotions he’s likely feeling and that I know it’s perfectly normal, whereas he doesn’t).
Being the bigger person also comes from parental love. I was watching a scene from the Joy Luck Club a few weeks ago when the peasant mom without hesitation kept putting her food into her daughter’s bowl to beef her up, never mind that she was probably hungry. I’ve done the same—from giving him more food, to sitting uncomfortably because he seemed to enjoy sitting on my lap, to picking my battles and biting my tongue when all I want to do is throw a tantrum myself. We just do things for our kids, even to our detriment, because of love.
Eventually my toddler will learn to be the bigger person as well. In many cases, he’ll have to be the “bigger brother” with his siblings, playing by himself while I feed them, even though the only thing he’d rather do is spend more time with me.
As parents, we’re allowed to lose it once in a while. But one of the most challenging aspects of parenting is well, being the parent, and choosing to be the bigger person.
Have you ever found yourself pouting and wanting to throw a tantrum right back at your kids?