If you believe all the memes and old sayings about parenting then you might have once thought that the toddler stage or ‘terrible twos’ are hell. Let’s be real, it takes a world of patience to get through them but one mom is reminding the world to consider the perspective of a toddler for a second. And man, oh, man, it has parents everywhere feeling some big-time hearty feels.
On November 11th, Mary Katherine Backstrom, a Fort Myers mom of Holland age 3 and Ben age 6, reposted a powerful and viral 2017 post from Dejah Roman along with a now-viral image of her own daughter, Holland, now 3. In it, Roman’s words give some honest assessment about why little kids flip out, and after reading it, it’s really changing the way many parents think and respond to their toddlers.
“I am 2. I am not terrible…I am frustrated. I am nervous, stressed out, overwhelmed, and confused. I need a hug,” Roman wrote. Her words go through a day of a two-year-old and show exactly how limiting it can feel to be told what to do, where to be, and to be constantly picked up and physically moved. Little kids have big feelings just like adults do, Roman explains, but they lack understanding on how to articulate those feelings, which is where parenting comes in. But when we take the meltdowns as signs of poor behavior and punish an upset child instead of leaning in to help calm and soothe, what are we teaching our kids?
That’s the big lesson in this powerful post.
“Holland was two at the time and was losing her mind over every little thing that happened that day,” Backstrom tells Momtastic. “First, I told her she had to take her shoes off in the indoor playground. She didn’t like the way the air felt on her feet. Then, she saw what she thought was a chocolate chip but it was a bug and I wouldn’t let her eat it because I’m a mean, horrible mom.”
Backstrom says that the day only got worse for her daughter and by the time she was melting down, people were watching.
“Parents were staring and Holland was screaming and I decided it was worth capturing that moment because it was such a classic two-year-old snapshot,” Backstrom says.
Later that week, her friend, Deejah Roman sent her that original post from 2017 as a gentle and loving reminder. “Along with the post itself, the mother who sent it to me said, ‘Just remember, kids aren’t giving you a hard time. They are having a hard time.’’ she shares with Momtastic.
Her friends’ words resonated and helped Backstrom to reframe her experience with her daughter’s very public freak out.
“It wasn’t personal that my child was acting that way she wasn’t trying to embarrass me or be obstinate,” Backstrom explains. “She just has big feelings and an inability to express them mildly, it’s part of human development. Some adults don’t even handle disappointment as well as two-year olds. So, I honestly just keep in mind that my kids aren’t acting out to be naughty. They are just experiencing feelings they don’t know how to direct them and that gives me a little more patience to manage the situation. By taking away the ‘this is personal’ element, I’m able to remain more calm and loving.”
When asked if Backstrom has any advice for other parents struggling through th toddler stage, she said, “We have ALL been through this. As parents and as people.
They aren’t alone, and they don’t need to feel like this challenging phase means they need to stay home or do less. Their kids are learning to navigate the world as humans, and they are going to have big feelings when disappointments and challenges arise. It’s their job to calmly redirect. And frankly…just survive the storm.”
With the holidays upon us and thoughts of gratitude and thanks in our hearts, this seems like a truly wonderful lesson to be thinking about.