November 29, 2014 by multiracialsky
I have four children of my own. Back-to-back. Stair-stepped. Whatever you want to call it: four kids born within four years. By the time number four was approaching two, I had been surrounded by toddlers for what felt like approximately f.o.r.e.v.e.r. The NOs, the time-outs on the stairs, wiping heinies, potty-training, lots of mess-making and minimal ‘help’ cleaning up. My children were hysterical, magical, and growing every minute, don’t mistake my whining about toddlers as whining about my children. I just don’t love the toddler years. Nope. I get through them, with about as much grace as anyone with a screaming child (or two) in the grocery store check out lane can muster.
Right now, though, I am in a new kind of Toddler Season. This is the endless toddler season, the one in which there is not a looking forward to the precious preschoolers they will one day become, the day they will put on their own shoes, wipe their own hands (and heinies!!), buckle their own set belts, and stop trying to take off down the driveway. That is not my lot right now. For many months now, and probably for many months/years more, I have become a temporary parent. A foster parent. And I have been gifted with toddlers.
The part about this, for me, that has been the hardest is this: there is no light at the end of the tunnel. For these kiddos? Sure. For me? Nope. Presumably they will eventually grow out of these behaviors, but I will not be there to see it. I get to parent through encopresis and five poopy diapers a day, through screaming temper tantrums (8 in one day) and screeching as the only way to communicate, through food scavenging and over-eating, through zero words, surgery and recovery, and swearing; through punching, pinching, spitting, and kicking. There is no light at the end of all this because I will not get to reap the benefits of the parenting I’m doing. I will likely not see these toddlers grow into children who don’t yank things off grocery store shelves, pull hair, or spit in people’s faces. This child will not become potty-trained on my watch. The season I get to experience in their life is the Toddler Season. For kids in state custody with trauma and other histories, the toddler season can be long and hard.
If you are a lucky foster parent, you get to share some of these duties with a fabulous team of teachers in a therapeutic child care center. If you are not so lucky, you and your foster child wait, because those centers are all full and most traditional child care centers or home day cares are not equipped to deal with the toddler behaviors you and your older children are becoming experts on.
It is worth it, this perpetual parenting of challenging toddlers. Otherwise I wouldn’t be spending my time doing it. Some long days, it is simply overwhelming, the thought that you are doing this for the good of this child, for the good of their parents—or of whomever ends up parenting them in the long run. What carries me through is the knowledge that someone–most importantly, this beautiful child–will reap the benefits of this long, long day. But for me? Sometimes I’m just tired.