How many times, as a mother, have you heard these words?
Probably, just like me the answer is countless! At the age of 9 months, my youngest child went through an extremely clingy stage that lasted for months. I couldn’t even leave the room to go to the toilet without her screaming blue murder. She would become hysterical whenever she was left with another person even my husband or mother-in-law. We had to actually leave the childminder because she spent the whole time screaming for me to come back and the staff couldn’t work out what to do with her. “It’s just a phase,” said practically everyone as I almost drowned in my own tears of tiredness.
Yes, I knew, deep down, that it was probably “Just a phase” and that she would grow out of it (3 years on and you can’t believe that this is the same child), but it’s hard to think rationally during those days when you can’t brush your teeth, go to the toilet, put some washing on or make a cup of tea without the baby wailing because she can’t see you for 2 minutes and the neighbours phoning the police to report child abuse. It’s just felt completely consuming and WEARING.
Having children turns practically everything into a series of phases. Waking up during the night for feeds? Teething? Struggling to wean? Getting rid of the dummy? Raging Tantrums? Not eating anything other than pasta? Hating pre-school? Loving pre-school? Not wanting to play with other children? Don’t worry, it’s all “JUST A PHASE!”
And whilst I recognise that most of the time I heard these words, it was offered as a consolation or encouragement that this crappy little bit of parenting will be over soon enough, I sometimes just felt the overwhelming urge to throw something at the person who was saying it. Because when you’re living and breathing that phase and probably not sleeping because of that phase and tired and emotional because of that phase, you can’t at that precise moment ever see an end to that sodding phase!
Every Moment is A Phase
I started wondering if phases ever really end? There are still phases that our kids go through even when they are no longer toddlers like when they start school. I’m guessing there will probably still be phases when they become teenagers and even older because each moment is a phase. Babies change and grow quickly so we see rapidly see phases come and go, but actually there’s still a lot of phases going on right now.
My eldest daughter, Alice is currently going through a funny phase. She is, according to her teacher, an absolute angel at school. She is quiet, conscientious and hard working. But as soon as she steps out of the school gate she is like a devil child. She stomps about, demanding to know what I’ve brought her for a snack, shouting at me that she doesn’t want to talk about school. At home she has frequent mood swings, stamping upstairs and slamming her bedroom door. It is shocking for me because I expected this phase at 15 but not at 5. Her teacher cannot believe it and thinks the reason for such behaviour is because she put so much pressure on herself to be “good” during the day and that it’s almost a release for her to let go of all that effort by the time 3.15pm comes around. This is delightful for the teacher – she gets to see her at her very best. Not so much for me. I keep telling myself that “this too will pass. This is just a phase.” I know we will get through it, just as 3 years ago we got through the clinginess of Eva, but it doesn’t make the days of this current phase any easier to live with right now.
My neighbour is going through a similar thing. She wailed to me the other week about her 4 year old boy, “I thought I had it sussed! I had just worked out the best way to deal with his tantrums, but it’s all changed again!”
The fact that children at 4 and 5 are still changing relatively quickly means we, as parents all need to adapt and change with them. We can read books and articles for advice on behaviour until it’s coming out of our ears, but the fact is, there will soon enough be another phase, another aspect of parenting to deal with. Another challenge and series of bamboozling behaviour to deal with. There is no magic formula that will fix things. At least not for long, because no sooner do we rest easy in sorting out one particular issue, we are hurtling full throttle towards the next.
Living and dealing with certain phases can be worrying or stressful but the truth is they don’t last for long. So the next time you hear the words “It’s just a phase.” Grit your teeth, smile and do whatever you have to do to get through it (I find my vices for buckets of tea in the day and wine at night help). Because in three weeks or three months time, there will be something else to deal with. We will all be on to the next phase!
How do you handle phases? I’d love to hear from you especially if you have older children as I’d love to know what phases are coming for me next!