Dear Weary Mom {of the Strong-willed Toddler at a Birthday Party}

Dear Weary Mom of the Strong-willed Toddler at a Birthday Party:

“That big boy ‘Grant’ just pushed {the birthday boy} out of the bouncy house!”

I had just stepped through the door and into the backyard when I heard an adult’s surprised exclamation.

I knew: zero children at the party were named Grant. I knew: half the adults who meet Graham think he is named Grant. I knew: my child was the one being accused of assaulting the birthday boy.

It turns out Graham was innocent. I think. He was jumping and the smaller child fell out. I heard. Later, the birthday boy came up to me and said he was afraid to get back in because Graham would hurt him again. Apparently birthday bloody noses aren’t desirable…

Graham was a mess at the party. We almost left seven times. I thought about faking labor just to get out of there. My Braxton-Hicks were bad enough, I could’ve pulled it off.

Graham is that 41 inch tall 3 year old who can act like he is 5. And then act like he is 1. {And he was leaning more toward infantdom our entire visit.}

He pointed a scary-looking lightup gun at a baby, fired on her, and yelled in her face. Because she was a pirate. A scared little pirate in a bright pink bow. Being comforted by her pacifier.

We heard Graham screaming from the kitchen. I secretly hoped he had burned himself or fallen onto a knife. But I already knew the truth before Dave made it to the scene of the incident. Graham wanted something that someone else was playing with…so having a meltdown in the kitchen was the logical choice. (By the way, the toy to child ratio was about 12:1. And there were no knives or fires in the kitchen. It was a very safe and fun environment. Just wanted that out there. For the record.)

Graham sprayed a two-year-old girl in the face with a sprinkler until she started crying. He was across the yard from us. But proximity isn’t the determining factor of Graham’s disobedience. He dumped the brand new bubbles when he was 18 inches from me. Happy Birthday, he just threw your bubbles to the ground…

Taking a strong-willed kid to a birthday party is one of the hardest things I do. And this is coming from a woman who spends 8-12 hours a day as the SOLE caregiver to a little girl with disabilities. If I don’t do something for Adelaide, there is no one else…until Daddy gets home from work. Everything rests on my shoulders. Day after day.

Yet, somehow, accompanying Graham to a party is more exhausting than that. It causes me so much stress I just want to curl up in a gigantic ball and cry myself to sleep. Graham hasn’t even been invited to that many parties. But he has managed to be the most poorly behaved child at every.single.one.

Is it my fault? I know people who would argue both sides. {And most people would fall somewhere in the middle.} I think the answer will also be different coming from someone who has actually raised a strong-willed child. (Versus the person who just read a book about it one time.) I know some of the blame does rest on me, but I also believe he makes choices. I think I do my part.

We have role-played. We have gone over the rules before we get out of the van. We have used reward systems. We have done warnings. Time-outs. Spankings in the bathroom. Exits. Embarrassing exits.

Maybe we should have left. I don’t know. But I do know that I hate ‘that look’…the one we mothers of strong-willed kids get when our children do something wrong. There are not enough Pinterest-quality cupcakes in the world to get rid of the gut-sinking feeling one gets after that look.

Later that week, we got that look again. At another birthday party. Yes, two parties in one week. I feel like God was really stretching me. {And I want to point out that I loved birthday parties before attending one with Graham.}

GrahamBoy cried, whined, and threw tantrums. It was a superhero party, but my child was acting more like a villain.

I took him out of the room as he cried and yelled, “I want to blow out his candles. They are MINE!” He is only partially to blame for this, since he has a grandparent who allows him to help with candles at all family parties. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

We were, of course, right up front. Anybody would have a hard time sneaking out with a screaming child, but it was made even better by my 8 month pregnant self. As I actually knocked into a complete stranger with my belly. We went upstairs to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting and spanking, then returned to the party. It was all for naught. He cried and screamed during the Birthday Song, which seems to take 500% longer when you are whisper yelling at your child.

We ended up leaving when a stranger started reprimanding Graham from across the yard. He was actually doing something the others kids were doing, but Graham had proven himself to be the ‘bad boy’ and the ‘instigator’ and was now being disciplined by someone he didn’t even know. After I was confronted, it was time to go. I was a mix of embarrassment and indignation. I handed Adelaide to Dave {she had been fussing from being held for a couple of hours…poor baby was watching the other kids running and yelling and playing}, and I went inside to gather our things. This is when it doesn’t help to always be prepared, because I had a lot to haul out while I stifled tears.

The worst part: Graham normally gets a warning of our departure. I set the timer on my phone, and he knows he can play until the timer goes off. The time varies, but he has that consistency. After what had been said to me by another parent {in front of other parents}, we didn’t give Graham a warning. I just needed to get out of there before I bawled and embarrassed myself further.  So, with no warning of our future plans, Graham lost it when we said it was time to go home. Dave carried him out in a firefighter hold. I waddled to the van carrying my extra 35 pounds, a 22-pound Adelaide and her diaper bag, Graham’s little backpack, the most adorable superhero cape party favors I have ever seen, and more Mom Shame than I thought possible. I unloaded everything into the van…minus the Mom Shame. Strapped Adelaide into her carseat. Crawled into the front seat. And the hot tears came.

I ended up crying off and on for several hours. Until I fell asleep an exhausted mess. Wondering if we would ever get to attend parties or playdates or events without drawing attention away from the person being honored. Would my child always be corrected by strangers? How many looks and words would I receive in my lifetime?

So, this letter is supposed to end with hope. Right?

There are no specific passages in the Bible about taking strong-willed toddlers to birthday parties. {But I am pretty sure all those passages about Jesus casting out demons and evil spirits get pretty close to our party experiences…} The great thing about Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess ebook is that the verses are there. Right at your fingertips. When you can’t stop crying and you feel like you have completely failed as a mom. When the Enemy swoops in to tell you things will never change. Your child will always be this way. Everyone around is watching you and judging you. That it would be easier to give up and stay in your house all the rest of your days.

The Bible may not address birthday parties, but it sure addresses the feelings of a Mommy’s heart. Fear. Despair. Defeat. Hopelessness. Weariness.

“Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Psalm 116:2

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22a

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8

Once I had meditated on those verses, I read and repeated The Weary Mom Manifesto:

“I believe God’s plans for me are good. Therefore, I commit today that I will never give up on my family, and I will never give up on God’s ability to move in their hearts. With his help, I will take the next step of faith even when I feel I can’t, because he is the God of miracles.”

And I added, “I will continue going to birthday parties.”

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Are you the weary mom of a strong-willed toddler? If so, I would love to pray for you. Please let me know in the comments. Oh, and feel free to eat double cupcakes at the next party. That’s what I do!

Today, I am linking up with Hope for the Weary Mom. You can find other letters here.

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5 thoughts on “Dear Weary Mom {of the Strong-willed Toddler at a Birthday Party}

  1. Sherrie Mitchell says:

    Okay, so I may be a little biased because I know and love you….. BUT….. You are the MOST loving and poised mommy I know!! Jonah (now 14) was a “Graham”….. PROMISE!! The only “hope” I can give you is that Jonah is such a GREAT KID NOW! Also, being equipped with such strong wills, Jonah and Graham will move MOUNTAINS one day! NOTHING will get in the way of their dreams! I always tell Jeff that God has HUGE plans for Jonah to reward us for raising him ;) Only you would understand that comment and not judge me. I love you girl!

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  2. Meta says:

    Sigh. and Smile. i don’t know what it’s like to have a child at that age as mine is only 18 months, but I have a feeling she is going the “strong-willed” route. So i read to prepare myself for what may lie ahead, and also, regardles… what you wrote strikes to my very week. it has been a long month ending in a horrendous week which we are transitioning to one nap in which i have no more than 1.5hours out of an entire day to myself in which ends with every day myself falling apart into hot tears and one day even yelling out “i hate my life! i hate being a mom!”. with the very next second afterwards immediately regretting such thoughts and words. because we know we don’t mean it, but we are just at our wits end sometimes. I have been LIVING off of weary mom letters this whole week. and oh fellow weary mom…. we share the same feelings. and everytime that feeling of defeat came this week, i felt satan laughing at my doorstep, relishing the fact that he was tearing down my community, my relationships, my marriage, my love for my child and myself. and we have to fight strong against that, don’t we? Satan picks on those who will do great things for God’s kingdom. YOU are one of those people and he’s trying to tear you down, but we’re not going to let him, right?! praying for you. thanks for sharing. it’s been a rough week for me too.

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  3. Shannon says:

    Love reading what you write. Always. You have such a talent, and I literally LOL every time I read anything from you…you even make the bad, awful, horrible stuff humorous. My favorite part of this one was ‘whisper yelling’. Every mom on the planet knows EXACTLY what you mean, and it makes me giggle to think that we actually think it will work with our kids. But we keep doing it. Oh motherhood, isn’t it grand?!

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  4. […] today. Why? Because we were celebrating three different birthdays at two different parties. {You know how we usually fare at parties…} I think any person still recovering from surgery, nursing more than a dozen times a day, and […]

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