The Intensity of the Toddler Years

Here’s a story for you…

A mom decides to schedule her toddler and infant’s doctors appointments at the same time in the middle of winter right before lunch and nap time. How do you suppose this tale ends? In happiness with mother, toddler and infant running through a field catching butterflies? Or, in nightmare-ish form with toddler screaming her brains out, causing so much of a scene that the entire office can hear?


Yep, you guessed it, scenario B. And the mom in the story, yep, totally me a couple of weeks ago. And the whole time our daughter threw a tantrum, the only thing I could do was laugh because I didn’t have the physical strength to carry her and my son in his carrier at the same time to make it out the door. So I just stood there and laughed. Mortified, helpless and astonished that so much emotion could be bottled up in such a little person.


I had never seen anything like it. The best part, I’ve heard three is even worse. How? What? Why?


I’ve asked myself why so many times (more often nowadays because having an immobile, quiet newborn seems to shine a very bright light on all of the ways my toddler is doing wrong).  And after the brutal scene in the pediatrician’s office, I think I finally have an explanation for myself. The toddler years are intense. Not just intense, emotionally intense. Emotions you’ve never experienced intense. Insane-in-the-membrane intense.



Here’s the thing though, there is SO much beauty in that intensity. As much as our toddler’s emotional intensity tests my patience and makes me want to pull out my hair, her intense laughter when her daddy tickles her brings the biggest smile to my face. The way she intensely squeezes her little brother melts my heart. Her intense yearn to learn more about the world and her surroundings makes me proud. The intensity in her eyes as she paints with her watercolors gives me nostalgia and the intensity of her imagination as she runs through the house in her princess dress fighting bears helps me stay grounded.


Yes, when she gets intensely upset or angry it’s exhausting, but believe it or not, these are the moments shaping her into the person she will become. As brutal as they may be, they show me that her mind is moving faster than she can verbalize and her ability to feel emotion is growing.

Trust me, it’s so incredibly difficult to think this way in the moment. Been there, done that. It doesn’t come easy. But these next couple of weeks, I’m hoping and praying that I can step back and allow myself to bask in the good intense and more, and just love her through and through.


Here’s to getting through all of the tantrums, melt downs and screaming we’ll encounter this weekend with our little ones. Hope you all find beauty in the intensity!

Pictures by Rebecca Haley Photography.

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