by Christy Gualtieri
My two-and-a-half year old is at a point where he’s becoming acquainted with the idea of frustration. Lately he’s been into stacking impossibly high towers of blocks, and then – how should I put this – FREAK OUT when they fall down. My husband and I have offered to build with him, tried to explain to him how to make the tower stronger, and even suggested that he play with another toy and give the blocks a break, but he refuses. Up go the blocks, teeter goes the tower, and out come the cries and the screams of frustration. He then dismantles what’s left of the base of the tower and throws the pieces everywhere, screaming the entire time.
It’s because he doesn’t know any better, I think to myself. He’s still learning about object permanence (and un-permanence) at this point, and he has yet to learn about things like physics and gravity. I have a feeling, though, that if his two-and-a-half year old brain could process those things, he’d probably just ignore them and tenaciously would forge ahead to achieve his goal.
And it’s driving me crazy.
Mostly because it’s frustrating to see him trying to learn something and knowing I can’t learn it for him, and it’s also difficult to hear the incessant whining that accompanies his failed efforts, but…if I can be honest, it’s because he’s revealing to me that yes, this is how I act as well. Most of the time, if not all of the time. And unlike my son, I’m old enough to know better.
I know this because it’s thirty minutes later. He’s refused his nap today, and he’s playing at the sink while I cook dinner. I’ve built my own tower of impossibility by letting him do this, because his time at the sink ends up with him (and my kitchen floor) completely soaked, with me yelling at him. Even though it’s gone sour every other time, it doesn’t stop me from thinking that it’s going to work this time. He’ll be fine. I’ll get this dinner made, he’ll be quiet at the sink, I can just –
And then I see it. He’s got an empty half-gallon milk container filled to the brim with sink water, and he’s turning it upside down…
And water. Splashes. Everywhere.
I take the deepest breath I can physically muster, and am barely able to squelch the urge to throw anything near me into the other room.
It’s just water, I think. It’s just water. It’s okay.
I take him down from the chair he’s standing on, throw dish towels on the floor to cover the growing puddles, and put him in his high chair to distract him with some cereal. In a minute he’s talking away, cereal in hand, jabbering on about this thing or that. There are no tears, from either of us. We’re okay.
Like son, like mother. Like mother, like son.
It’s a hard thing, dealing with frustration. It’s difficult if you’re a parent of young children. It’s difficult if you’re in the workforce and your day doesn’t go as planned, or you’re stuck in traffic.. It’s difficult if you’re the caretaker of your own parent. Frustration is not easy.
But how we deal with it matters. 99% of the time that I’m frustrated, I end up either yelling or crying. I didn’t, today, and I like to think that it helped in some way. When you’re frustrated, how do you react? How can we take that one time out of a hundred to make things better, instead of worse?
Until next time, be well!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at openthoseojos.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117.
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