We all hear about the terrible twos – the tantrums, the shouting of “No!”, the epic meltdowns. Now the latest thing is the terrible threes, which are supposedly worse than the terrible twos, and even more so because no one tells you about them so you don’t expect them. “Threenagers” are the new teenagers. But here is my question: What about the terrible ones?
My son is 19 months. So technically that does make him closer to two than to one, but I thought I had at least a few more months of carefree play and cute giggles before the strong-willed, I-will-assert-my-independence toddler mentality began. I was wrong.
Last week really tested me as a mom. And I fear I failed. The whining, the constant tantrums when LM doesn’t get his way, the dragging me – literally grabbing my hand (or foot, on occasion) and trying to drag me across the room – all just took its toll, and I was very close to losing my cool. This was compounded by early morning wake-ups (6 am – yes that’s early to me since I’m a night mommy). 7:30 I can handle. 6 am, not so much. So take my already irritable and grumpy self and add a toddler who won’t eat breakfast because he wants to go outside while still in his pajamas and you get a hysterical child and a mom who feels like she’s reaching the edge of sanity.
I think I need to read some parenting books, because I have no idea what to do when LM throws a tantrum. I think I’m supposed to ignore it, but how do you do that when your kid is wailing in your face for half an hour? I can’t hear myself think, and I’m worried the neighbors are going to think I’m torturing him or something.
But on the other hand, I can’t just give in to his demands, because that will teach him that all he has to do is cry and he’ll get his way. His latest obsession is going outside – not a bad thing in springtime, but by “outside” he doesn’t mean play on the deck or in the backyard. He means get pushed in the stroller. Which is fine once, maybe twice a day, but any more than that and you have one tired mommy and a kid who still has a lot of pent-up energy because he just sat in his stroller getting wheeled around like a little prince all afternoon.
And the gym. Oh the gym. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I joined the gym for the first time in my life, in an attempt to do something for myself. Childcare is included in the membership, so I also thought it would be good for LM to get used to being without me for a little while. On the first day, he had no problems at all. On the second day, I was just finishing my yoga class when they came and got me because he was crying and grabbing his jacket (which means he wants to go). Then the next two times, he cried the second we got there and didn’t stop. Yeah, working out is not going to work out unless I can get this kid to be OK without me for an hour. The gym staff told me, “We just can’t have a child crying for more than ten minutes.” The thing is, my child is determined. He is not going to stop until he gets his way, which he does every time he makes me leave the gym and thwarts my plans to actually attempt to get in shape. I’m trying to have patience, but as I walked out of the gym on the verge of tears, it was really hard not to resent him just a little bit.
So after a week of early morning wake-ups, tantrums, missed workouts and constant crying, I was sure swim class was going to be a bust. LM hates swim class, which means I know it will be half an hour of a wriggling, screaming child in the pool followed by 15 minutes of trying to tug off a wet bathing suit and change a diaper and then change myself while he continues to wail in my ear. By the end of the whole thing I’m exhausted. But surprisingly, as we entered the pool, he actually smiled. He swam around as I held him and kicked his feet. We introduced a pool noodle for the first time and he actually took it while some of the other kids cried. He jumped off the edge into my arms. He even floated on his back without too much resistance. And then when it was time to change I gave him a baby cookie to bribe him into silence. He didn’t cry the whole morning. Go figure.
Kids are crazy like that. At least mine is. I can’t figure him out – just when I think he’s happy, he’ll break down. And just when I think he’s lost it, he’ll suddenly pull it together and enjoy himself. This mom thing is a real roller coaster ride.
When did your child start throwing tantrums? Did you experience the terrible ones, too?