Hindsight Parenting: Terrible Twos the Second Time Around
“No.” That one word starts it ALL doesn’t it? “No.” Such a simple word. Just two letters, but packs a punch especially when it comes from the mouth of an angelic toddler who, up to that point, had been sailing through her “two’s” with an ease that made this mom a tad complacent. Silly me…I thought we were home free. After all, my little girl will turn three in September. Terrible two’s? What terrible two’s?
Then again…there came that word… NO! A forceful blurt out of such a pretty mouth just seemed so out of place. Of course it brought the memories flooding back…those days when my sons began to assert their independence. Too bad I didn’t see it that way. Back then, I saw their refusals of my requests, their fits and tantrums, flailing on the floor of a grocery store when candy wasn’t purchased, stomps and stamps down the hall when it was bedtime…all of it…I saw as defiance. Yes, defiance, not a normal, natural growth spurt of independence. Nope! “No” was a defiance of ME the “authority”. How dare they??
I know. Go ahead roll your eyes. I am rolling mine too. I cringe sometimes when I visit those cobwebby memories. So young. Too young to be a mom in a lot of ways. So much to learn. Mothering in my early twenties came with a common point of view that comes along with this age group; a sort of self- centeredness that permeated everything. It was all about me, me, me—what I wanted to do. And well…those “no’s” uttered from my sons’ mouths got in the way of that, threatened an EASY existence. So quite often I reacted in that manner—not thinking about them—but instead how their behaviors were making MY life difficult. I was under the ridiculous idea that those sons of mine would do what I said to do because I was their mother, and worse, that a refusal of a request or an utterance of independence was to be squashed like a bug. Needless to say, these battles of wills continued over and over and they never panned out the way I was trying to get them to pan out… “You do what I say, when I say it, the way I say it and HOW I say it.” So says the despot dictator of the little brown house on Reservoir Dr.
Thankfully however I have been in Hindsight mode and therefore constantly on the lookout for these specific mistakes of motherhood that I can do differently. Handling “NO” and toddler tantrums I definitely wanted to do differently. But how?
I heeded something that I have said in this column repeatedly. I started asking myself “what is it that my toddler needs right at this moment?” It was essential that I do this sort of thinking, reminding myself that this tantrum wasn’t about me, nor was it uttered out of a malevolent mouth. By focusing on Ila it ensured that I didn’t feel resentful, reminds me that I am not a despot, but instead a guide for my daughter.
By focusing on my daughter in this manner I have learned that there are so many reasons for the powerful bursts of angry energy that come from such a tiny body. Sometimes the frustration comes from the fact that my daughter is having trouble communicating a want or need. When she is misunderstood and can’t find the words to help us understand, a meltdown will usually occur. Sometimes the tantrum happens because she is over tired or not feeling well. Sometimes the tantrum comes from a need for transition time; i.e . . . . wanting Ila to get in the bath when she’s in the middle of a Sesame Street episode (PS…don’t try this at home!). Other times the tantrum is for the good old fashioned reason that a toddler wants what he or she wants right then and right there.
Surprisingly for all the different reasons that may give my daughter a NO notion, I have learned that for the most part, the same solution will work for many scenarios. If I stay calm and rational, if I don’t take it personally, if I act like grown up and allow for the TODDLER to be egocentric, (since that is age appropriate) the tantrum stops much quicker, and my daughter sees me as an ally instead of an adversary and therefore will be open to what I have to offer—a guiding phrase, an ear, and best of all a hug.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.