Home » faith in real life » tantrums in the arms of a loving God

tantrums in the arms of a loving God

My son is currently going through what I’ve dubbed a “contrarian” stage. Our conversations often consist of nothing but clashing over basic facts.

[Editor's note: the child is also stuck in a fascinating yet aggravating stage of linguistic development in which he reverses "you" and "I," thus speaking in rhetorical statements all day long.]

Upon greeting him when waking…

Me: “Good morning, sweet love! Mama’s here to see you!”

S: “Do you NOT want Mama to be with you?”

Mathematical inquiries over breakfast…

S: “What is 5 plus 8?”

Me: “13.”

S: “Do you NOT want 5 plus 8 to be 13?”

Spelling agonies over snack…

S: “How do you spell ‘Mama’”?

Me: “M-A-M-A.”

S: “Do you NOT want it to be spelled M-A-M-A?”

His refutations of my every statement are often accompanied by whining, whimpering or wailing. As if all the NOs weren’t already enough to grate like fingernails on a chalkboard.

These are the BASIC FACTS OF THE UNIVERSE, I want to laugh (or yell). 55 will always follow 54. Sacramento will always be the capital of California. Wednesday will always come after Tuesday. Why are we wasting our time arguing about unchangable truths?

After losing my temper over one too many similar exchanges, I found myself fuming as I washed my hands. God, help me to be patient with him, I prayed, my always prayer.

Then I added, Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have someone say “no” to your every “yes”?

At which point I caught my own eye in the mirror. And heard God give a simple reply: Yes.

My toddler’s constant naysaying is all-too-familiar, if I’m honest. Because it’s exactly what I often say to God, wrestling away from a loving embrace with all the stubborness that free will and even wilder nature bestow.

I say no to moments to love, chances to grow, opportunities to serve. In choosing my own selfish pride, I’m arguing against a basic fact of the universe: the existence of a loving Creator, in whose constant “yes” rattle all my little “nos.” Maybe being contrarian isn’t just a stage of toddlerhood; it’s a condition of being human.

I get his frustration, sympathize with his desire for control. The world can be an exasperating place to figure out. Maybe I need not just more patience, but more empathy. After all, I still refuse to accept basic facts about existence. Like the inevitable mortality of those I love. Or my own limitations. To name but a few.

Karl Rahner called it the supernatural existential – that we exist everywhere and always within God’s free offer of grace. All our yeses and nos echo within God’s one emphatic YES.

This mama calls it theologizing the terrible twos.

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13 thoughts on “tantrums in the arms of a loving God

  1. Your son is only two, and he’s already asking about spelling and adding/subtracting?! Other than that, I can’t believe how much he has in common with my now four-year old! My son went through a long stage where he mixed up “I” and “you” (calling himself “you”). He also tends to ask questions in the negative, “Mommy, is it not naptime?”. He was actually more contrary at age 3 than age 2, but luckily it was a brief stage.

    • Oh he actually just has this crazy memory so he likes to ask about things like how words are spelled and what numbers are on the clock, but he doesn’t really get what any of the concepts mean. Which frankly makes things even more frustrating, because if he were older, I don’t think he’d be so maddened by it all!
      And I’ve heard 3 is even more *fun* than 2, so I’m sure the next few months will prove interesting… ;)

    • Well said, Fran. I have a quote from a book on Benedictine spirituality that I stuck above my desk – “Take a moment to acknowledge that this day belongs to God, and know that you will be blessed within every moment of it.” Even in the crazy moments, I try to remind myself that I’m still living within the bigger blessedness of God.

  2. I remember distinctly reading an article online when my oldest was just 2 in which the writer’s daughter had a full-on tantrum for hours because she could not remove her thumb from her hand. My husband and I laugh over that all the time (still) because it’s exactly how life with a 2 or 3 year old is. My second daughter (now 3) recently cried for two hours over a variety of things including (not least) that she is nearly bald in her baby pictures that hang on our walls. I never made the connection with how we as adults fume against the world and reality, but it’s illuminating.

  3. What a great perspective! My son is only 4.5 months but his lack of naps and bedtime sleeping are already trying enough :). We need to remind ourselves on a daily basis of what God is providing for us and he has a plan. I love how you are able to focus on the deeper meaning of what God wants/gives us on a daily basis. I feel it keeps us all in check :)

  4. Pingback: A Prayer for the Eyes of God « jodiebethinhercrystalroom

    • There is hope!!! We nicknamed our first the “ultimate contrarian”. He started the “terrible twos” at about 15 months and it seemed to get worse with each month. Our every word was contradicted for almost a year and a half, and I was about to go crazy with the negativity!!! Very slowly around age three this sweet little boy emerged! Wow! I never would have thunk!:). Funny that it all started to get better when we stopped having him take naps regularly. (I am sure it is unrelated, but a strange coicidence!) So far age three is off to a great start! Big sigh of relief!!! I hope the same will be true for you! Now we are holding our breath as number two gets closer to that stage. We are in a very pleasant, but I am sure delicate stage right now. Thanks for the reflection! Maybe this will help me to have a better perspective when we have to go through it again!:)

  5. There is hope!!! We nicknamed our first the “ultimate contrarian”. His “terrible twos” started at 15 months, and got worse with each month. Our every word was contradicted for almost a year and a half, and I was about to go crazy with the negativity!!! Very slowly around age three this sweet little boy emerged! Wow! I never would have thunk!:). So far age three is off to a great start! Big sigh of relief!!! I hope the same will be true for you! Now we are holding our breath as number two gets closer to that stage. We are in a delicate, but very pleasant stage right now! :) Thanks for the reflection! Maybe this will help me to have a better perspective when we have to go through it again!:)

  6. I could not agree more with this post! We are in the mix of the terrible twos, and every day I feel like I am a two-year-old by the day’s end. I want to rant and rave about all the unfairness of all that is undone when I put my head down at night. However, I also feel a great sense of comfort to think about the way that God responds to me in a loving manner, and especially as a model for the way I wants response my fun. Excellent post!

  7. Pingback: an (un)surprising end to an (un)surprising year « mothering spirit

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