I guess I gathered that at some stage around the age of two years toddlers could get a bit difficult, given the existence of the ‘Terrible Twos’ phrase, but on the scant occasions I contemplated that there might be worse to come, I thought, “how much more difficult could it really be than the first 18 months?” Well. JAAAAYSUS Christ. Terrible was a diplomatic choice of adjective. My son is nudging two and, BAM, no sooner were we beginning to contemplate the impending loss of his free flying status than he goes from being a fairly frequent pain in the arse to being a constantly screaming, tantrum-throwing, shouty, crying bi-polar maniac.
Maybe what we’re experiencing is not The Terrible Twos but some ‘acting out’ (are we still using that phrase?) in response to the arrival of his new sister. It doesn’t really matter, it all falls nicely into the category of Terrible.
The symptoms: crying, screaming, shouting and roaring at every turn, coupled with a complete incapacity to communicate what he wants. There is also often uncertainty in respect to what he actually does want. Everything. Nothing. He doesn’t want to go to day care, doesn’t want to leave day care. Doesn’t want the truck, does want the truck (usually when another kid starts to take an interest in it). Doesn’t want to have his nappy changed, his bath, to go to bed, to eat or any other essential daily life task. In moments of uncertainty and confusion regarding why he started crying in the first place, one minute he’s violently rejecting desperate parents’ guess at his latest desire and the next he’s demanding the same thing be given to him.
The drive home from child care is the same every afternoon, looming ahead of me all day like a dental appointment. Getting him the approximately 10 metres from the door of child care to the car is fraught with distractions. There are only so many words of encouragement and other distractions I can try to manufacture to get him to move on from such irresistible must-sees and apparently as yet sufficiently explored attractions as the dog over the fence, the play equipment in the front, the bicycle against the wall. Inevitably I will finally give up coaxing him and pick him up kicking and screaming to then forcefully strap him in to his seat in the car.
Then we begin with the car routine.
“COOKIEEEEE”. I am prepared for this. I have three different types of cookies at hand (plus the water that is requested immediately prior or after this).
Offer cookie. “NOOOOO.”
Offer other type of cookie. “NOOOOOOOOO. “
Offer third type of cookie. “NOOOOOO.” CRYYYYYYYYYYYYY.
Try futilely to explain there are no more alternatives. CRYYYYYYYYY.
Offer first cookie again. This one now apparently completely different to the first time it was offered. Accepts it. Cookie drama temporarily over.
Quiet for 2 seconds.
“WATER!” At volumes that would be considered dangerous for driving safety.
I pass the water backwards. It’s essential I wait until he has finished drinking and then recoup the bottle so the endlessly entertaining game of ‘tip entire contents of water bottle on to lap’ does not ensue.
The downside of this parental bottle control is that I have to fulfil several more demands for water on the way home. Delayed gratification is about as acceptable as a tooth drill to the two year old. I pull over at least two times before the 3km drive home is over (as well as passing bottle back without stopping which frequently results in near accidents).
There are days I have forgotten to take the water or cookies with me for his nourishment on the long five minute journey home. I don’t want to talk about those days.
Once home it’s really only just the beginning. The pattern of screaming, crying and tantrum throwing continues for the entire afternoon. His manner of letting anyone know he wants something is now by screaming as if in the throes of death, something that could easily, and in fact was previously, communicated by far less aggressive means such as reaching out of arms or pointing. Wanting to have a hand to step up on the play equipment appears to have the same gravity as being jabbed with vaccinations or sent to live with nuns. Which is starting to look like a reasonable parenting option.
Of course I am exaggerating. There are some moments where the little Prince is actually delightful and lovely. And you know, I assume that it’s a phase that will shortly pass. After all, it’s the Terrible Twos. Not the, well, I can’t actually think of anything ominous that would rhyme with ‘Threes’ but surely someone would think of something if this were a particularly trying age. And fours – lots of things rhyme with ‘Fours’. So it’s just the one year then. Just the 12 months. The 365 days. No problem. Over before I know it. For sure.