As the tides of toddlerhood roll in, I find myself breathing deeply as I stand back and watch my toddler stretch and arch and turn red with fury. Welcome to what is affectionately known as “the terrible twos”.
Common conversation with random lady in a shop:
“How old is your child?”
“Ah…[nod head knowingly]…the terrible twos“.
I hate that phrase. In fact, while I am on the topic, I strongly dislike any phrase that negatively labels my child. It is true that tantrums escalate at two, and emotion is strong, but they are hardly terrible. Elka emerges after an afternoon nap and declares: “I had a very good sleep…thank you very much.” Or thanks her daddy for brushing her teeth. Or passes her favourite toy to a friend. Or cocks her head to one side, and says: “Mummy, you sad? Oh, poor Mumma.” Or apologises when she accidentally bumps into you. Two is an age when language begins to flourish and our children grow from grublets who wriggle across the carpet and poo in their nappies to independent miniature people, eager to be part of the big world, and do poos and wees on their own, but still want to snuggle into their mummies’ laps for comfort. Far from terrible twos. I think calling this period the “delightful twos” gives our two year olds more of a chance to fare well in the world.
The language we use towards our children is so important, I believe. So is treating them as another person, just a smaller version of one. Of course, there are boundaries and rules, but is a two year old really going to understand why it’s not ok to grab a grape from the vege section in the supermarket, or why we have to eat pasta with a fork and not our grubby little fingers? Yes, Elka has tantrums, and yes tantrums press all my buttons, but there is one very important little ingredient we have with our breakfast cereal, and that is empathy. In case you didn’t know it, empathy makes the world go round. When Elka is throwing herself across the floor and turning purple, I try to think how she must be feeling. I remember my own teenage tantrums…far more violent and calculated, and am taken back to that dark place where the mind has become swallowed by tiny demons and the good version of myself can’t escape. Moments later, like a toddler, I couldn’t remember where the demons came from and what they represented. Throwing a tantrum feels like hell, and that’s why, although I am frustrated with Elka, I also feel bad for my little baby, and wish for her pain to pass. Inevitably, it does. Within seconds.
Often her tantrums are caused by me being a slightly vague and forgetful mother. Like, when I forget to give her food, and realise that she is probably starving. Or when I accidentally mention Playschool but change my mind because it is actually time for dinner, rather than Playschool. So I think, is she rolling around the floor because I f*cked up? Sometimes, the answer is yes, definitely.
And sometimes she is just copying me. I yell at Greg out of frustration or slam down a pan. It’s no wonder Elka feels the heat.
I try and hug Elka when she is in her red-faced state, but often I’m pushed away. So I just let her know I am in the kitchen and when she’s ready, she can come to me. And quite often, she comes in on her own accord for a hug, because she realises that this is what she needs.
Granted, she is only just two so we haven’t had any major supermarket incidents, or tantrums that last until bedtime. But as we go along our way, and Elka’s emotions and vocal chords become stronger, I think we will be ok.