By Brooke Blanchard
You never forget the moment your child is born. No matter how it comes about, you’re suddenly handed this beautiful tiny human with dazed blinking eyes and the softest skin you have ever touched in your entire life. Watching this new person as they drift off into a deep sleep or grab your finger and gently scratch you with inexplicably long fingernails, it is impossible to imagine them ever not being this innocent and perfect for all of time…
Then they turn three.
While they continue to enchant us and bring us immeasurable joy, toddlers are frequently straddling the line between feral and dictatorial. As their conscripted guardians, we parents find ourselves wearing numerous hats throughout the day to maintain order: a healer hat, a mind-reader hat, a personal injury attorney hat, a janitorial hat, and a chauffeur hat… to name just a few. More often than not, we find a way to wear two or more hats at the same time. It’s a dizzying juggling act that can leave us mentally and physically exhausted by the time our toddlers fall asleep and once again return to that state of peaceful innocence and quiet stillness.
Despite the daily reminders that our lovely toddlers are fallible humans, it can come as an unwanted surprise when another parent points out unpleasant behavior to us. On my two-year-old daughter’s first day at CCNS last year, a seasoned CCNS mom came up to me to tell me that my daughter “had a great day, but has trouble sharing.” My initial reaction was to feel defensive and hurt by what felt like a criticism of my precious first-born child. But what was I so upset about? I knew better than anyone that she hadn’t learned to share yet. I live with her for Pete’s sake! Was my feeling one of embarrassment? Was it shame? Why was I so sensitive to hearing about my child’s completely expected behavior? This same thoughtful and kind-hearted CCNS mom later explained things in a way that enlightened me to one of the joys of parenting. Her comment that day was not a judgment about my daughter. It was an observation about where she was in her development on that day.
Co-oping provides the opportunity for observation every day; either you or another parent is in the classroom or on the playground observing your child’s growth and exploration. Co-op parents can tell you in September that your two-year-old isn’t sharing, but they can also be the one to tell you in January that your child happily handed over the coveted Elsa costume to another kid when asked. Moreover, when you enter the classroom yourself, you experience a spectacular sense of relief and near nirvana-level calm when you realize that every single other kid struggles and has bad days like yours. When parents (and teachers!) come together to traverse toddlerhood together, it removes the feelings of doubt and embarrassment and replaces them with judgment-free camaraderie.
There is a common saying. “Me before kids: I am going to run such a tight ship! Me after kids: Annnnnnnd the ship is on fire.” A lot of our time is spent trying to put out these frequent blazes, usually by counting to three, bribery, or the old pick em’ up and go move. However, sometimes it might be OK to take a moment to stop throwing buckets of water on the burning ship and just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the light with your fellow shipmates.