My son’s officially hit the dreaded Terrible Twos. He’s the sweetest boy in the world one minute, and as soon as one thing doesn’t go his way, he…THROWS. IT. DOWN. I’m talkin’ dramatic fall onto the ground, inconsolable tears, and so much rage displayed on his adorable little face. Lips curls, cheeks red, forehead scrunched up – if it wasn’t for the eardrum busting volume, I’d be tempted to just watch him work through this hard feeling with endearment.
But instead, his tantrums trigger in me a panic and anxiety reminiscent of those early baby days, the ones where any sound that came from the monitor meant another sleepless night.
What I’m realizing about the Terrible Twos is that they are terrible because they are bringing out in me all of my insecurities as a mother. Just when I thought I was nailing this whole parenthood thing down, kissing all the boo-boos, knowing all the funny noises to make him laugh, reading his cues to make sure he’s not hungry or overtired, I’m suddenly at a loss for how to handle these tantrums.
He tends to save his best tantrums till the end of the day. Right before daddy gets home, but just in time for when I need to step away from him, prepare dinner so that our evening isn’t a scramble, and I’m already exhausted from the day. His patience is thin. My patience is thin.
Too often I cave.
I give him the snack, the toy, the permission to play in the skin full of dirty dishes. I feel like shit for not standing my ground, setting a firm boundary and seeing it through.
I’m tired. I’m tired from the constant decision making that took place that day, the constant negotiations with a two year old (“We’ll go on your bike, AFTER we come back from the playground because mommy set up a playdate for you and some much needed grown up interaction time for herself”), and the constant mini-meltdowns that have already ensued.
I get mad. Why is he getting so upset that I won’t give him a snack when dinner will be ready in less than 15 mins? Um… Well, probably because he’s two and has no concept of time, but that logical thinking is long gone when I’m in my panic mode. Some days I raise my voice at him and instantly feel regret. He can’t control his emotions. His brain isn’t developed to do that yet. But mine is, so why can’t I keep my cool? Some days I can’t help but start to cry with him, being heavily pregnant with his little sister may have something to do with this sudden emotional swing.
These Terrible Twos bring out the terrible in me. Being in this phase of parenting has felt like looking into the most honest mirror with the most horrible lighting in the world. I see all of my imperfections, so raw and real and in the moment. I’ve always had a short fuse, but I never imagined myself as a mom that would yell, or cry, or just give up when her toddler was driving her crazy. I saw myself as a mom that would calmly respond to defiant behaviour and help guide her little one to learning about his feelings by helping to name them and giving him the space to experience them. But instead, I find myself in this place of wondering, “dear God, how badly am I messing him up right now? Am I smothering? Will I be raising an entitled little brat? Or a bully who’s used to getting his way?” It’s frustrating. I hear the way I respond and I don’t like it, yet I can’t stop the reaction from happening. Taking a breath or two has helped, but too often I forget to and just let the reaction happen.
I apologize to him when I’ve lost my cool. I know he’s only two, but I can’t help but say I’m sorry when I have raised my voice and it startled him, or I’m clearly super annoyed by his behaviour. I show him that I’m aware of my imperfections. And I try harder with the following outburst. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that mom that can handle any challenging behaviour with grace and calm, but I know I will try harder every single time. And I guess for now, that is all I can do.