“It’s just a phase” …

Recently my one year old went through a difficult phase that lasted a few weeks. It involved a lot of tears, frustration, and even a few meltdowns; including one epic meltdown where I woke up my husband in the middle of the night crying about how hard the day had been. Yep, the meltdowns were mostly mine.

Now you are either wondering what in the world could a one-year-old do to provoke me to wake up my husband in the middle of the night crying OR you are nodding your head in a “been there, done that” kind of way. My guess is many of you fall into the latter category because this mothering gig is a tough one for sure!

Now looking back on those weeks or even trying to describe them, things don’t sound all that difficult. But when we were in the thick of it, I felt completely drained, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Then I would start to feel guilty for feeling frustrated at my son. Add lack of sleep into the mix and it’s a perfect recipe for a midnight meltdown.

I tried communicating with friends or family members about what was happening and the common reply was “Oh, it’s just a phase”.  That phrase is frequently and non-chalantly tossed out to moms when we share challenges we are facing with our children. While it’s usually well-intentioned, it truthfully doesn’t provide us with any comfort. At all.

The thing about it is we know it’s just a phase. We know it won’t last forever. We know it will eventually end. That’s the beauty of human development…it changes over time. We are acutely aware of this fact. So in most cases no matter how many times we hear it from others (or tell ourselves) “it’s just a phase” just doesn’t help us feel any better. Why?

Because we want to know when the phase will end. We want to know how much longer we have to face this particular challenge. We want to know if there is something we can do expedite it. Or how to better cope with it.

One of the most creative and effective suggestions from a friend regarding the recent challenge I had with my one year old was to play a lot of peek-a-boo games with him. Now that was something I could grasp onto and find a bit of comfort in. It was something tangible that I could do that would maybe help move this phase along. Although I will admit during my midnight meltdown I did say to hubby “peek-a-boo will not <insert explicit word here> fix this!” (which was my first time ever using peak-a-boo and an explicit in the same sentence).  Believe it or not, peek-a-boo and hide-n-seek DID help us through the phase. Maybe it helped my son develop the necessary cognitive skills to move onto the next milestone or maybe it just gave us something fun to do together? Either way, that particular phase is thankfully over! 🙂

One valuable lesson I was granted in all this, is the importance of providing comfort to mothers when they most desperately need it. It is so easy when another mother complains of something that you now regard as somewhat trivial (because you are past that particular phase in parenting) to write if off as simply being “just a phase”. My friend however didn’t do that in this situation. Instead she genuinely listened to what I was struggling with (even though it was typical mom-of-a-one-year-old-who-wants-to-be-held-and-nurse-all-the-time kind of stuff) and provided a highly practical strategy as a gentle suggestion. Friends and mentors like that are so important in motherhood. I hope each of you have such a friend in your life!

What unique and creative suggestion were you given to a common parenting challenge that most people wrote off as being “just a phase”?


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2 Responses to ““It’s just a phase” …”

  1. Adrianne says:

    Thank you!! My just turned 1 yr old is apparently in a “phase”. When he wakes up, he flails himself screaming if I put him down…even to change his dipe. He doesn’t do this with dad (who does a lot of duty too, so it’s not as if I’m the only one on baby duty). He’s not sick. He is sort of teething again, but I can just tell its not that. Nursing doesn’t even work. Guess I’ll be in the floor playing more peekaboo! 🙂

  2. Laura E. says:

    I don’t recall any helpful hints, but the one I hate the most is “One day your kids are going to be grown and you’ll miss this.” – I get it from several different people. I’m sorry, I realize there will come a time when my kids are grown and I’ll miss the days when they were younger, and I may even say “I’ll take them screaming and crying if I can just hold their tiny bodies one more time.” But I will never say that I specifically miss the crying, the whining, the temper tantrums, ect.