Parenting is humbling.
Remember that time not so long ago when you were young and childless and totally rolling your eyes at the parents whose child was having a meltdown in the supermarket aisle. Or your judgmental heartsink when you saw the couple with their two toddlers screaming their way into the front of your airplane cabin.
‘Here we go,’ you sighed with contempt.
And then fast forward to the not-too-distant present and suddenly it is your child yelling down Aisle 4 in Woolworth’s because you won’t get her that Peppa Pig magazine; one day it is you avoiding the death stares of your fellow passengers as you carry your overtired child like an angry surfboard, kicking and screaming onto your airplane seat.
Karma, as they say, is a …puppy. A two-year-old kicking and screaming, hot tears streaming down their righteous face puppy.
Just as you’re starting to pull away from the sleep deprivation and the eternal game of Guess What Baby Wants Charades, just as you think you’ve found your parenting feet, your Parent’s Taxi pulls right up into Terrible Two-land.
You Have To Be This Patient To Survive This Ride.
The tantrums. Oh the tantrums. Or tanties, as we’d like to call it. A cute name for the equivalent of your child pulling your pants down in public so that everyone can see what a Bad Parent you are. One of Lexie’s first words to us was actually in a Singaporean cab. ‘No no no no no,’ she said to us in her cute voice, shaking her little one-year-old head. ‘No no no no no,’ we would mimic her, encouraging her very first expressions. Little did we know Karma was sitting in the front seat, laughing an evil knowing laugh to herself.
When Lexie doesn’t want to do something now she will resort to a few versions of ‘no’s. Let’s just say she has more delaying tactics than an inpatient registrar not wanting to accept an admission.
The sleep. Thumb in mouth. Eyes closed. Sorry Mummy and Daddy. Lexie can’t hear you telling me to go upstairs to bed now because I am legit asleep. On the cold hard floor. Downstairs.
The ‘I don’t like it. Ew.’ Copied from all the online nursery videos she has been watching where the parent is trying to coax the child to do something they don’t want to. Unfortunately the solution offered in said videos do not really work in real life. Accompanied by actual two-year-old shoving displayed in said videos.
The Angry Windmill. Especially when trying to seat your toddler in the child-safe car seat that will prevent their actual death. Anything between full flailing of the arms and feet like someone resisting arrest or jumping to the front of the car, because y’know – ‘Lexie turn to drive.’
The cheeky smile. This is a hard one. They do something borderline naughty and then look up at you with a mischievous disarming smile. ‘Funny, Daddy’ she would say. ‘Not funny,’ you would try and hold your Stern Face together, and turn quickly away to break into a smile or snigger despite yourself.
The Green Mile to Bed. Our little one is starting to learn how to negotiate, and struggles with the concept of a promise. Soon the two books before bedtime become four, or she makes you read the same book again if you won’t reach for a new one. Devious.
The worst of these is the Full Blown Meltdown. The hot angry tears and the angry cries when you deprive her of something or she doesn’t get her way. Occasionally accompanied by The Angry Windmill ™, or even a smack or two in your direction. Get ready also for the Piercing Judgmental Stares of Strangers if you are in public with this one.
All is not lost, however, and there are many strategies out there to negotiate this difficult time in their/your life, including:
The Threat. The arsenal of every parent, this tried and true method of ‘I’m going to count to 3, and you’d better stop, or else…’ Just remember to complete the sentence, and then follow through. Kids remember when you don’t follow through.
The removal of privilege, or just plain bribery. TV time, favourite snacks, favourite toys, or chocolate as a last resort. Useful negotiation tools to get your toddler to comply. Threaten to take away the ice-cream if she doesn’t sit straight, and then watch your toddler’s posture magically be better than the Queen’s.
The fake choice. ‘Do you want to have broccoli or cauliflower, Lexie? You choose.’ Either way, they’re getting a cruciferous vegetable of your choosing.
The negotiation. ‘If you go down for a nap now, we can go out for some frozen yoghurt later,’ gets her down faster than any lullaby or storybook, I can tell you that. Give her something to look forward to after that arduous task of sleeping.
These said strategies are not exhaustive, of course, and may be deployed on their own, combined – or in times of desperation – in total.
Yes, it has been a trying time of parenting, but it still is a beautiful age.
When things are good, when your child is well-slept, well-fed and somewhat compliant, this is a magical age indeed. They surprise you with their stringed-together words expressing their wishes in a clumsy endearing manner. They tickle your ears with with mispronounciations like ‘Gwass’ (for Grass) or Mahto (for Tomatoes), or our favourite one ‘Happycopter’ (for an ecstatic helicopter).
They are beginning to understand instructions, test their boundaries, and enjoy things like juice and French fries. Feel your little heart explode when you see them fake-reading a book, running their hands through the sentences and then making the story completely up on their own. The same with made-up songs. And twirling dances.
This little squiggling larva that was once upon a time dependent on you to help her change nappies and drink milk is now choosing which pair of Unicorn shorts she’ll be wearing today. Her unbridled enthusiasm and energy is a joy (or terror, depending on your own levels of energy) to behold.
It is why you will hear some parents wanting to keep their children forever this age. Toddlers are the tempest and the calm, the rain and the rainbow, the devastation and delight – a wonderful loveable contradiction packaged into this hilariously annoying little version of you.
Everything they’ve ever told me about young parenting has proven true so far. Just as you are finally taking a breath from this mad roller coaster ride that is Terrible Two-land, and patting yourself on your severely bruised back, brace yourself, lucky folks – you are about to enter Threenager-world.