For months, I’ve referred to Eli as an “easy going” kid. We had our share of struggles the first two years (transitioning out of the Rock n Play and not sleeping through the night top the list in my mind), but for the most part, he has always been pretty mellow. We never once had a sleepless night, when he didn’t get his way he would say “sorry” and cry quietly and all these things made me very hopeful that maybe, just maybe, he was one of those anomalies who wouldn’t go through the “Terrible Twos.”
And for the first few weeks of two, it appeared that way. As you can imagine, that didn’t really last.
Eli was increasingly toddlerish for a few weeks prior to when his dad went out of town mid-June, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be managed pretty easily. He was incredibly picky about meals, wanted to walk and touch and do anything we told him not to, but he was still redirect-able and we were managing well. Then his dad was gone for 10 days to two difference conferences across the country. I expected the worst, but those 10 days, aside from a 5 day fever and my grandfather dying, were pretty decent for Eli.
And then my husband came home and everything went to hell in a giant screaming hand basket. The first day my husband was back in town, there were at least 5 full blown tantrums. One involved near vomiting in the car, which was a real treat. He ate no lunch or dinner that day because both meals were completely overtaken by hysteria, despite both meals being things regularly atop his favorites list. I cried twice. He would recover from tantrums and I would sit there feeling like I’d run a marathon and wonder how on earth he was okay because the world felt vaguely like it was ending. This crap is intense.
And since then, it has continued. Maybe not everyday, but virtually everyday, there is at least one occasion for a tantrum. It is sometimes because we won’t let him watch endless Elmo, it is sometimes because we dare change his diaper or because we won’t let him run on the pool deck. There is nothing that feels quite as frustrating to me as planning a fun outing specifically for Eli and having it marred by a tantrum.
And there are other times where I have absolutely no idea why my child is screaming and thrashing. Like tonight at dinner. We told him dinner was approaching, so it wasn’t out of the blue. It was leftovers of a meal he loved yesterday. Nothing had changed from the 2 other meals of the day, nothing was irregular, but he lost it. Screamed to get down for at least 5 minutes (we have a rule that everyone sits at the table until we’re all finished eating, regardless of what you eat), ripped his booster straps off at least 1o times and was just crazy. And then it stopped as quickly as it started and he decided to eat like nothing had just happened.
Two is just…it’s hard. I had no idea how hard. I have babysat and nannied and been around children my whole life, and yet, it’s completely different with your own child. Because not only do I feel an obligation to handle the situation correctly- not to give in, not to let him “win” the important battles, not to let him get hurt, etc, all the things I should do to raise a good kid. But at the same time, he’s my baby and he is struggling with something. I can’t fix it, I can’t just hug him and give him what he thinks he needs and the cognitive and emotional dissonance is indescribably difficult. It’s not just the being firm, it’s being firm when all you want to do is give in.
Eli is far from a particularly difficult two year old, he’s totally normal in this way and I know it. But as normal as it is for two, it’s entirely abnormal for my parenting experience and it is difficult. I’m terrified for what will happen when we introduce a baby into the mix because I’m pretty sure that Eli having less attention isn’t going to be the answer. I love my son to the ends of the earth and truly cannot imagine my life without him, but man. Two. I was not prepared.
Please don’t comment to tell me three is worse. Denial and ice cream are pretty much my only coping mechanisms.