The Terrible/Terrific Twos
Ok, I admit it. I was getting cocky. Up until now my babies have both been easy. Maybe it’s the combination of natural maternal instincts and babies with an easy temperament, but I thought I had this mothering thing pretty well under control. I wasn’t too worried about the toddler years either. After all, I watched my sister’s three boys during their toddler years. I babysat neighborhood kids all the time. I worked in the 2 1/2 to 3 year old classroom in the church nursery for years!
And then my son turned two.
I swear- someone must have sat him down on his birthday and laid it all out for him. ”Ok JT, now that you’re two things are going to have to change around here. This sweet disposition isn’t going to cut it anymore. Here’s what I want you to do. Ask your mom for something and then as soon as she gives it to you start crying and whining that you don’t want it. When you’re frustrated don’t use your words, just throw yourself down and start screeching and screaming. When your mom is busy with something else you need to push your cousin and steal his toy or get into the dog food or empty the whole kitchen pantry or beg to be picked up. Insist on drinking from a big cup and proceed to dump water down your shirt, then cry until someone changes your clothes. Run away from your mom when she calls you. Ask to sit on the big boy potty and then refuse to get off. Wake up at 5:30 in the morning and kick the door until someone comes to get you.” And then I can just imagine this person giving him one more piece of encouragement, “I’m sure you can come up with things even more horrible than these. I have faith in you!”
Is it just my imagination or did someone steal my darling little boy and replace him with another model? But more importantly, why does it frustrate me so? Rarely is any one act that bad. Really, even when I look back over a day, there are very few that I would say had more than 30-60 minutes of bad behavior (although there have been several days in which I’m sure the misbehavior started before dawn and didn’t end until the sun went down). And yet there are moments when I can not handle it! I just can not take one more moment of his attitude or whining or screeching. (Oooooh, and it’s the screeching that really gets me the most- good golly you’d think he was driving a needle into my ear!)
I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past few weeks. And praying. And talking with friends.
I wonder if part of it is that I can’t control him anymore. He’s no longer my little baby to dress up and parade around and show off for the amusement of others. He has free will and lots of it! He’s developing his own preferences and ideas and routines. His plans don’t necessarily have anything to do with my plans. I’m in a hurry to get to church? Well he’s in the mood to pick out his own clothes and sit on the potty and lollygag over breakfast! I need a moment of peace to feed Kate? Well he needs me to help him build a tower using every block we own- right that minute! My hands are full and I can’t carry him up the stairs? Well JT doesn’t want to walk, he wants to be carried too!
I think there is also an element of fear. I have to let him grow up. I have to let JT go out into our big scary world and learn things for himself. Now is the time when he’s going to start picking up bad habits at school and trying them out at home. Now is the time when he’s realizing that he is completely independent of me. He is not just an extension of me, he’s his own being. He’s a big boy! Just because I say that dinner is yummy doesn’t mean he thinks so anymore. He has to decide for himself what he wants and likes and will do.
Then there’s the fact that things are awfully busy around here. Last year we were over scheduled. I’ve had to make some adjustments this year for everyone’s sanity. We all needed a few mornings a week to play in our pajamas for an hour before breakfast. We needed the flexibility to schedule a last minute play date with our friends. The freedom to take a 3 hour nap in the afternoon. Even with our downsized schedule he goes to gymnastics and preschool and church and auntie’s house every week. He spends 3 days a week with his 3 year old and 1 year old cousins and every day with his 7 month old sister. It’s hard for him to capture my full attention and keep it for more than a few minutes.
I know that by definition toddlers are curious and impulsive and easily frustrated and lack good reasoning skills. I know this. But man it’s frustrating to spend 20 minutes cleaning up the dog food and water that my toddler dumped out on the kitchen floor only to have him dump out his Cheerios 2 minutes later. Two days in a row. It makes me crazy when I’m trying to get us all out the door and my son won’t lie still for a last minute diaper change. It infuriates me when my son grabs a toy from my nephew and then pushes him and knocks him over- only minutes after receiving a time out for the very same infraction! Or when he grabs my water cup and then runs away with it when I tell him to hand it back to me and then dumps water all over himself and then whines and cries until I put dry clothes on him. These things make me crazy! They really do.
I never really understood it when other moms would complain about these things. They just don’t sound like a big deal, really. And it’s not a big deal really. But it’s so very frustrating!
I wonder if the bottom line is my relationship with God. Would I have more patience if I spent the first 30 minutes of my day in communion with MY Father? Would I be able to extend more grace if I meditated more often on the grace that Christ extends to me? Would I see beyond the behavior to the source of his frustration if I were listening for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit? I think the answer is yes. I suspect that if I would realign my priorities with those of God I wouldn’t be in such a hurry for nap time to come around. If I would be intentional in my time with my son I would connect with him on a deeper level.
Maybe it’s time for an experiment. Perhaps I can set my alarm for 10 minutes earlier and go back to having a daily quiet time. Maybe I can set aside 30 minutes a day to play one on one with my son and really pay attention to him. Maybe I can stop and put myself in his shoes when he is acting out. Try to understand what it feels like to be 2 and have someone else be the boss of me. Maybe I can laugh instead of yell. Join in instead of checking my email. Slow down instead of hurrying on to the next thing.
I think I’m going to give it a try this week.
Maybe you can join me.
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