Parental Pariah: My 2 year-old, the pre-teenWritten by Leah Lederman | | email@example.com
The first time I heard “Someone’s starting the ‘Terrible Twos’ a bit early!” directed towards my bambino, he was hardly a year old. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard it since. According to an outside observer, any child aged 1 to 3 who’s having a tantrum must be suffering from the “Terrible Twos.” (If they’re under a year old, it must be colic.)
The terms “Eighteen-Month Angst” or “Throwing-a-Tantrum Threes” just don’t flow off of the tongue as easily. “Terrible Twos” makes for great alliteration, I’ll give it that, but people have overused the clever title so it refers to any behavior in a toddler that can be ruled distasteful.
Don’t be fooled.
The ‘Terrible Twos’ is the ultimate misnomer. Let’s face it. Babies begin the magnum opus of their personalities the moment they are born. The first thing they’re able to express — and they do so quite loudly — is their unhappiness with the world that they’ve been thrust into.
Babies fuss. It’s their specialty. Sometimes babies fuss and we just don’t know why. Any stimulation of the senses is equal stimulation for the tear ducts, apparently.
Usually the origins of fussiness are simple — or at least obvious (I don’t know if I would call some of those diapers “simple.” I’m still traumatized by the second week of July, 2009, when I had three ‘poop-up-to-the-armpits’ fiascoes in one day).
Generally, babies cry when they’re hungry, tired, overtired, over-awake, or (somehow) all of the above. The bottom line is that tantrums begin early. Really early.
I can easily recall a few instances of unbridled rage spewing forth from the lungs of Bambino at 4 months-old, 6 months old and throughout the months until he began to look and act (read: toddle) the part of someone suffering from the ‘Terrible Twos’.
However, the Fuss Department is trickier now that Bambino is a Little Dude — you know, a toddler. His needs are essentially the same as when he was a baby, only now if they’re not met his reaction is a bit more … theatrical (he’s had more time to practice). His fits range from shrieking to feet-stomping to head-butting (yes, head-butting), usually leading to the signature finish: collapsing to the floor, an immovable, screaming puddle.
Let the judgment of strangers begin.
The most helpful thing an onlooker can do is offer a sympathetic smile or hold the door open (so we can leave everyone in peace). It’s not that I resent your advice; it’s just that I can’t ingest even the greatest wisdom when my kid’s screams are setting off car alarms.
And, if you have nothing nice to say, look the other way. Or look at it this way: the situation is not nearly as hard on you as it is on me. (Thankfully, the kid won’t remember any of it.)
Based on my observations, I’ve concluded that Little Dude’s potbellied, toddler body is overwhelmed with emotions and hormones, and there’s no way he can funnel any of them properly. Think of it this way: if his intellect is a computer, skyrocketing at the rate of Moore’s law (which, paraphrased loosely, predicts that computing power doubles every 18 months), then his ability to communicate is still in the floppy disc era.
It has to be frustrating to realize that a.) Most people don’t understand them and b.) Most people can do things that they can’t (like get onto the couch unassisted). As a result, toddlers perfect the art of the tantrum (some sooner than others) — but can we really blame them?
The ‘Terrible Twos’ has become a catch-all term to encompass the rage and angst of little children as they attempt to understand their world. Perhaps it’s just a placeholder until they’re old enough for the label “pre-teen.”
Ah yes, pre-teens and teenagers, the sister phase to the ‘Terrible Twos’. The issues surrounding these two developmental stages are nearly identical in their foundations — members of both age groups are filled with hormones and the absolute inability to express themselves. No one seems to understand them, even when they do communicate, certainly aggravates the situation.
At least in 10 years we can blame their friends, or society, or the music they listen to (That’s what I’m planning to do, anyway). Here, in the throes of the toddler fiasco, however, it’s all on the parents.
A toddler’s entire life has only been about 1,000 days, so it’s only fair that their perspective on things might be a little different. Each day brings new discoveries, personal broadening … and battles. A toddler, experimenting with the world around him, learns to express himself and gauge the reaction of others:
“What will my parents do if I give myself a magic marker moustache?”
“Why does Mom get so mad when I help her unload the laundry basket?”
Some days the real miracle in parenting is that we all make it through the day. On good days, we can be there right along with them, discovering the world and broadening ourselves.
Leah Lederman lives in Toledo with her husband, their 2-year-old son and a boxer dog. She has 11 nieces and nephews. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.