And then I realize how immature my maturity is.
I think sometimes it's easy for us to lose track of how young our children are, especially when they're astounding us by the leaps and bounds they're taking in their development. I wrote before that I was glad Mikko was a "late" talker,1 because it allowed me the clarity to see him as very young and very immature in a way it might have proven impossible as he gained vocabulary:
But I think it gets even worse once babies can talk. Because, now, hoo boy, they must be all growed up and understand everything.
And so you get parents who interpret tantrums not as understandable frustration with not being able to make the world work the way these burgeoning young things want it to, but as intentional and adversarial misbehavior, of crossing a line that (I believe) they didn't know was there to be crossed.
So I'm glad Mikko's not that verbally adept yet. It keeps me humbly considering him still to be a baby and not a malicious mastermind. He must not know that taking all my makeup out of the drawer might be not just an exploration of color and texture but an inconvenience for me, or that pouring his drink on the sofa might not be just a fun experiment in liquids and gravity but an unholy mess for me to clean.
Here's hoping I'll keep that perspective once he can verbalize his intentions and motivations, even if they're at odds with mine.
It turns out I was right (about myself). Now that Mikko can talk so well, I forget sometimes that 3 years old is still, for all intents and purposes, very, very young. He's trying to express himself, but sometimes he gets it wrong. He's trying to understand everything we say, but sometimes he doesn't, even when we think he does.
Just tonight, for instance, our cat sauntered up to us. "Oh, look, Mikko," I said, "Mrs. Pim is saying hello to us."
"No, Mama," says he, patiently. "Mrs. Pim not say 'hello.' She say 'meow'."
In an older child, this would be a joke or sarcasm; in a 3-year-old, it's just a presentation of fact.
I can see this when I'm unemotional and really listening and using my senses to perceive whether he's understanding me or not. When I'm in the middle of anger or frustration is when I lose sight of his sweet baby face — those rounded cheeks and snub nose and wide eyes that should, at all times, remind me he is not an adult and can't be expected to behave like one.
But, you know, I also forgive myself. Because I've had the experience, and maybe you have too, of remembering some sin I committed years ago. For years, there was something I'd done as a 4-year-old that haunted and embarrassed me. One day a few years back, I was watching a 4-year-old play, and it hit me: That 4-year-old me was worthy of forgiveness; she didn't know what she was doing. I might have thought I did, but I was still learning then, still feeling my way. If a 4-year-old now behaved as I did then, I would forgive her without a second thought, realizing that 4 years old is too young for lifelong accountability. Finally, I was able to afford myself that same peace.
I've been watching Joy Nash's videos (reintroduced to me by Arwyn at Raising My Boychick), and "Fat Rant 3: Staircase Wit" has this lovely section at the end where she asks us to look at pictures of ourselves ten years ago and see how dang cute we were — and then remember how harshly we were judging ourselves at the time.
She intends it physically, but it applies in other aspects, too. It's easy in the moment to think about how horrible you are, and how every time you try to act a certain way, you invariably end up acting exactly the opposite — but Future You will be more forgiving, more aware of the fact that you were in transition then, that you were still evolving and changing and becoming and finding your feet.
This is how, ideally, we see our children. And when we stumble, it is ideally how we see ourselves. In ten years, you'll look back on your children as they are now and wonder why on earth you got so bent out of shape over the little things, how you could ever have imagined evil intentions coming from those pursed lips and tiny fingers. And in ten years, you'll look back on yourself as a parent now and see all the ways you were growing and changing and working things through, and you'll — hopefully — have compassion.
So have that compassion now — both on your child, and on yourself.