Toddler

There's Nothing Harder Than Being an Impatient Person With a Toddler

by Serge Bielanko

Photograph by Serge Bielanko Private

"Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny." - Bruce Springsteen

I thought we were out of the pee-pee woods, but no. After three solid months of using the potty like a champ, our 3-year-old, Charlie, has wandered back into the darkness. He's been having accidents galore and it's a trying time, to say the least.

It isn't lost on me that these things happen. Kids are kids for a reason.They pick up certain things quickly, but then seem to take their good old time with other stuff. You can't blame them, really. We're the ones always telling them to stay young as long as they can. It's simply a natural extension of our kindest words.

"You want me to stay young, Dad? No problem!" Cue an unexpected landslide in his big-boy pants ... in the supermarket.

My impatience has always been a blessing and a curse. I've wielded it at times as a weapon of vision, refusing to sit around and wait for my personal dreams to come knocking on my door. I got things done.

But kids require a different mindset from the people who love them. You can be the most epic go-getter in the world, but it will only come back to haunt you when your first baby is born. I've struggled with that along the way.

This latest setback, this potty regression, has forced me into a challenging corner. You're supposed to be kind and gently persuasive with toddlers who fall off the potty wagon and I know it. We all do. But that's far easier said than done—at least for me.

In fact, there are entire books written about it. The other day in the library, I started flipping through a few of them and let me tell you, it was disheartening from the get-go though. Every single book, every single PAGE of every single book, they all sort of said the same exact thing:

You have to be firm but cool.

You can't holler at a little person who has moonwalked back into crapping-their-pants mode.

You need to be persistent in not bugging them too much about it.

You must be excited and vocal about their successes.

And then there, on page 103 of "The Idiot's Guide to Re-Potty Training the Kid Who Already Got Potty-Trained," the heartbreaking kicker:

You mustn't be a foul-mouthed raging self-righteous assh*le when your lovely 3-year-old boy has an accident, Dad!

I know that my impatient nature is just setting myself up for a continued pattern of endless opportunity to lose my marbles.

It all comes crashing down on you when you're wrong and you know it. Such is the last eight years of my life. Ever since my oldest was born, I've known that I don't always handle these kid things well. I'm good but not great sometimes and a lot of times my impatient hothead nature gets the best of me.

I know enough to know that I am definitely not zen when it comes to exercising the kind of patience that parenting requires. I might lose my mind if putting on a winter coat takes them longer than it takes me. I might bite my lip until it burst open like a blood ballon popping all over the kitchen when two of them are in a brawl on the living room floor and I can't figure out how to solve it.

I set a cup of chocolate milk in front of them and ask them to be careful not to spill it. Ten seconds later, it's spilt, all over the TV remotes, all over school clothes that were just put on. I don't handle that with a firm/calm tone. Maybe you do. Good for you. But screw you, too.

Because part of all this parenting thing is that we're supposed to become a better human as we move through its taxing shadows. "Become" being the operative word. We can't be expected to already BE the wonderful parent we dream of being. Just like my toddler is still learning, so am I.

That said, I have to try. I feel as if I'm getting there, ever so slowly as it may be. Charlie has owned my heart since the moment he was born, but that hasn't always been enough for me to not freak out when he fails to meet my ridiculous, unfair visions for him. I want a toddler that never spills milk and cleans up his toys after he's done with them.

I know that my impatient nature is just setting myself up for a continued pattern of endless opportunity to lose my marbles. But at the end of the day, I know who I am. I'm the guy who loves his son more than any other guy in this world.

And I'm the one who's going to help him get back up there on that throne feeling like a king, like he's OK for having peed his pants so much, because look at him now. And the only way I can do that is to take a step back and reconsider my options each and every time this fella of mine tosses a match into my tempestuous guts.

I've exploded before. But as I get old, that gets old too. I want better. For him. For them. For me. We all do. So we make it happen. I make it happen. One moment at a time, setbacks here and there. None of us is perfect, but we're giving it hell trying. And that says it all right there.

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