I remember a blog post a friend once wrote. It was about her dogs and how one of them, the puppy, was a real tyrant. Naturally, she asked her dad for advice. He told her to do what he did when my friend was a tyrant toddler/kid/teenager:
Simply love the pup harder.
I'm not sure if I was a mother when I initially read this post but it etched itself a permanent mark in my One Day folder. You know those pieces of advice that you hear that don't exactly apply to you at that moment but you know that you'd be an idiot to not save it for a rainy day? Well, this was that. That single piece of advice has been guiding me through the last year or so and I'll be honest, it's very much easier said than done.
When your kid is embarrassing the shit out of you by throwing an epic tantrum or making you question why you thought giving birth to another one of these miniature demon spawns was a good idea, the last thing you want to do is cuddle your flailing, surprisingly strong offspring. You'd rather pretend to not know them and put yourself in a time-out that involves a People magazine and a glass of rosé. (Amiright? No? That's just me, I guess...)
You want to yell back at the tiny human screaming at you even though you're only two feet away. You're tired of saying NO for the sake of saying NO. You're emotionally drained in a way that doesn't seem fair considering you are the one responsible for having given this little terd life. Don't they have any respect? No. Of course they don't-- they're THREE and the concept of respect probably won't make sense to them until they have a little curmudgeon of their own screaming at them in the supermarket because you won't buy the GMO and crack-laced Elmo crackers/puffs/thingys. (This is a hypothetical situation, obviously. My sweet, kind, and polite Mo would NEVER do something like that.)
It took me months to realize this so consider this my gift to you but it turns out that yelling back at them doesn't actually work. They just yell louder and three octaves higher. Neither does bribery or threatening to take away their beloved iPad because they will learn to call your bluff because they know good and well that you can't survive without Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood any more than they can.
You may have to reach somewhere deep inside of that maternal memory box, back to a time when they only needed the rise and fall of your chest to fall asleep instead of thirty-two renditions of The Itsy Bitsy Spider, three different cups of water (the first one didn't have ice, the second wasn't in the right Sophia The First cup, the third was just to fuck with you), and very light back tickles until the snoring begins. You will remember a time when they didn't talk back, when they laughed at everything you did, a time when you weren't "the yuckiest person ever", a time when pinching their little sister wasn't their most cherished hobby.
You just love them harder.
You love them harder on the days it feels hard to do so.
You love them harder when you don't really want to.
You love them harder when you don't like them very much.
You love them harder when you feel like you couldn't possibly love them anymore than you already do.