‘…and then she threw her broccoli at my head’
You often hear of the term ‘terrible twos’, but I hadn’t fully anticipated the sheer magnitude of this stage until it, quite literally, smacked me in the face.
True, Winnie is currently adjusting to having a new sibling, her whole world is evolving, and her parents are having to share their time between her and a small baby; but she had been showing signs of certain behaviours long before her brothers arrival.
We had seen her throw herself to the floor in a supermarket when she wasn’t allowed to touch the frozen fish. We had witnessed her stamping on a toy in anger when it didn’t join in with her rendition of ‘Let it go’. We had watched on as she repeatedly screamed ‘no’ at the mere suggestion of a bath (even though she had asked for one just two minutes before).
We had, in essence, watched a showreel of what was in store.
And boy were we unprepared.
Aside from one episode of Super Nanny about 10 years ago I had never really encountered tantrums, and I remember watching the episode in sheer disbelief at how the parents just ‘gave in’ to their child’s demands, pandering to their every request just to keep the peace.
“Oh what fools!” I sighed “I’ll never let my child control me like that…”
Fast forward to the present day, and I have absolutely let her control me like that.
I tried to be the perfect parent, of course. I tried every tip in the (overpriced) book. I tried to be gentle. I tried to be calm (even when faced with her hysterical rage) I tried to smile compassionately (whilst shielding myself from kicking legs, flailing arms and flying plastic vegetables). I tried to find a happy place. I tried to put myself in her position. But nothing seemed to take effect, and as time passed, it only got worse. I was afraid to leave the house. I was afraid to be around others in fear of what might happen. I was afraid of my own child.
‘Why is it always my child screaming? What have I done wrong? Why doesn’t anyone else have to deal with this? Why didn’t I read all of that parenting book before throwing it away?’
There are many professionals who claim that the ‘terrible two’s’ don’t exist. They claim that these phases are the product of failures (brought on by the parents inability to raise a child ‘properly’). They claim that anger should only be met with compassion, that love will always win the battle; and that by feeling your own emotions and responding as a human being, you are wrong.
As a perfectionist at heart (and for the first time in my life encountering something I really had no control over), I struggled with this notion. A lot. How could I be the mother she needed when my own emotions continuously took over? I’d only been a mum for two years, how could I have possibly messed it up already?
Had the Cornetto she ate for breakfast last Wednesday caused a lifelong trauma? Could me making her keep her shoes on in the sandpit have resulted in deep rooted emotional distress? My child is defiant and has tantrums daily; it’s all my fault!
I believed these professional claims to be gospel, and I continued to beat myself up about it, but the truth of the matter is that deep down I think I knew I hadn’t done anything seriously wrong. I’d always fed her, clothed her, and kissed her good night. She had always drifted off to sleep at peace, and been glad to see me the next morning. Perhaps this was just her way of coping, and she needed to learn things for herself. Perhaps the paperback parenting guide isn’t all its cracked up to be, and the real guides are the children stood before us.
As toddlers they are just getting to grips with the world around them; learning to juggle emotions and finding their own place. Learning that they can’t always have their own way. Learning that some things just aren’t possible (Barbies being able to stand up on their own, for example) and our jobs as mothers isn’t to try and make them the ‘perfect children’, it is to teach them, follow them, and rejoice in the fact that they do have their own minds, and that they are learning to question things around them. Even when it’s us.
It’s not about fitting the perfect parent mold. It’s about finding your own way, it’s about loving with your own heart, and it’s about raising children that are free to feel their own emotions.
You are not alone.
Some days are great; I can keep Winnie happy, fend off over-tiredness and skip merrily onto bedtime.
But some days are a challenge.
I don’t get dressed, I cry in the kitchen at various intervals, and I spend 12 hours using the sofa as a shield whilst throwing Pombears at her from a safe distance.
It’s all about the balance.
But that is the beauty of the bad days, isn’t it? You appreciate the good ones so much more.