With two small children under 4 years of age, we are used to a certain dose of chaos. In fact, it is fast becoming what defines us. Normally, our method of dealing with trying to get stuff done at the weekend is to devide & conquer. For example, Sunday is often swimming day for The Boy, which usually falls to me while The Husband and The Girl often do a run to the shops or get some washing on or do some DIY. The Girl, now approaching 4, is much more manageable these days. She still gets upset over things but can be reasoned with more now and has a much better grasp of her own emotions. She can tell you if she’s hungry or tired, and while she still does get herself worked up from time to time, it’s far less often.
Meanwhile, The Boy is just now approaching two, and is starting to show his age in his behaviour. That irrational, unpredictable, frustrating and inconsolable creature that is a two year old in mid meltdown.
Sunday’s swimming lesson was a prime example. At the start of the lesson he had been very happy, jumping in as he has just learnt to do, splashing and kicking when asked, going after the ball...but as the session wore on and nap time grew closer he got clingy and soppy. At the end of the lesson I put him through the shower and dressed him like normal, but he wanted to dress himself (which he can’t really do yet) and I’m aware we’re on a clock here, before tired crankiness overtakes the I-want-to-do-everything whinge. Cue huge meltdown, whingie, screams, foot stamping, head-in-hands drama that only a (almost) two year old can create. The tantrum, if that’s what we’re calling it, lasts the whole way from getting out of the pool, through putting on shoes and walking to the car. At one point I had to carry a stiff-as-a-board, hollering, red-faced toddler round the pool while the poor teacher attempted to teach her next lesson. He actually sat full on the floor and sobbed as we left the venue, and, once strapped into the car-seat, screamed blue murder because I didn’t have a snack for him.
By this point I wanted to scream myself, The Husband and I have often discussed how difficult driving it when there is a screaming baby in the back of the car, and a toddler is no better. But, as if to prove conclusively what the real problem was, he went from scream to fast asleep in about 4 mins flat.
I could feel the tension leaving my body. I hadn’t realised how stressed the noise had made me until I felt my body relax once the noise had stopped.
These moments are getting more and more common. Although not quite two yet, we are flying head long into toddler territory. The Boy constantly wants to do everything himself, despite, in many cases, not actually being able to yet, and when he dosen’t get his way, he just screams at the top of his voice. A high-pitched whingie-scream that goes right through you. It’s not just reserved for us either. His sister gets it too if she upsets him, and resorts to screaching back because she doesn’t know how to manage it. I know how she feels, at times I just want to scream right back.
He has also taken to preferring one parent over the other. It’s not consistent though, we are never quite sure which parent he will want (usually the one who is not available) but if said parent doesn’t appear there are very few faces to match the bottom-lip extension of a toddler who hasn’t got his way, he has perfected I’m-not-happy in face form exceptionally well!
I know it’s not his fault. I know he’s frustrated because he can’t do things and can’t communicate his feelings or his wants easily, I know that he will grow out of it, that this will pass, that he is also capable of being very loving and sweet and funny. I know that he’s not really being ‘bad,’ he’s just being ‘toddler.’ I know we just have to ride this out, that over time and with some patience these tantrums will get less and he learns to express himself more. As parents we need to help him through this-let him be upset if he feels upset, let him learn to manage these big feelings, frustration, disappointment and fear etc himself, supporting him when he needs it and pointing him in the right direction where we can. It’s difficult, even as a grown up with tools to manage these feelings, to stay calm in the face of the amount of anger these tiny people can demonstrate, but really, there is nothing ‘terrible’ about him, and there won’t be even when he gets to two, but boy does he do a good impression of ‘terrible’ sometimes!