So I was talking with a good friend at the library today after music time. Our kiddos were playing with puzzles and stuffed animals while we got a few moments to chat, vent, connect, and be there for one another.
Her son is 20 months and going through the well known phase of toddlerhood that’s just plain hard!! Boba went through this too from about 15 months till about 2 we dealt with lots of boundary pushing, tantrums, asserting her independence, emotional sensitivity, teething (like big ol’ molar teething), huge leaps and bounds in her development almost on a daily basis, changes in sleep, etc! It’s was a hectic and crazy time for us as a pair.
I remember calling my mom a few times in tears worrying that someone kidnapped my beautiful, sweet, affectionate baby and replaced her with a mean, moody tyrant! I stewed that I was doing something wrong and that maybe I had drastically changed my parenting somehow without realizing it and it was messing her up for life and sending her on a life path towards crime and prison time! My mom assured me that she was right on target for some of the most natural developmental shifts that occur at this time. *Deep sigh*
So my friends’ dear son has been going through the same thing and my friend has been questioning her sanity!! Been there sister! She was talking about the times she gives him exactly what he asks for before he throws an epic tantrum and throws whatever she just gave him at her face with an animalistic growl. Ugh??! Really child? This can be so tough, especially when it’s just happened for the 8th time in one day!! She was asking me why he does this. I told her about a YouTube video I saw that basically sums it up to me.
It’s called, It’s Not About the Nail and it’s hilarious and accurate!
So you can see that it seems obvious that her problem must be the nail in her head but as most of us have felt more often than not, it’s not always the content that’s important but the underlying need to be validated. Yes we may actually have a nail in our head (or we may be a toddler that makes requests over and over and then throws the items at the givers head)! But what the underlying need is might be different and more important than the obvious solution.
In my friends situation, her son is a toddler that is very aware and observant. He sees the other children and adults in his world doing all sorts of things he can’t do yet. He’s literally in pain because of his molars. He’s experiencing such massive jumps in physical and cognitive development that sometimes he can’t quite keep up and can’t find the words he wants or process what he even wants because it’s all a big jumble in his overworked mind. These tiny humans are changing a million times a day and growing so quickly and having to process all that and make sense of so much at the speed of light- sometimes they get way overloaded and lose their shit!
And when they do- it looks like crying fits, a total change of mind and heart, massive confusion, tantrums, aggression, irritability, risky behavior, lashing out, major frustration, throwing items they just asked for, etc. You get the idea!
What do we all need when we’re not feeling our best? When we’re feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed?
Most of us need a combination of things- sometimes we need connection and closeness. We need a safe person that we trust to just be present with us while we feel all our conflicting, complicated emotions. We need that person to offer an ear, a shoulder, a hug, some cuddles, etc.
Sometimes we need space, time, compassion and understanding from our safe people to hold a container for us to release all that pent up energy in a safe way. We need deep breaths, a pillow to scream into, a safe cushioned corner to thrash, a room to go to and yell, a place that unsafe items are removed and we can just tantrum and vent out all those feelings. Then that safe person is a listener and protector until we’re calm, they can then provide hugs and nurturing while we come back to ourselves.
It’s not always about the nail, or the juice box, or the crayons, or the chair, etc. Most times it’s not about any of that. Just like it’s not about the money, the house, the dishes, etc. between adults. It’s usually about needing a safe person to be vulnerable with and to help us process through our feelings. Someone we can connect with. Someone who can validate how we feel.