Just the other day, while I was folding laundry in the kitchen during the kids’ lunch, my wife wanted to do some yard work. She came back in to brag about how she broke a shovel accidentally and the splinters all stabbed her in the leg. No idea how she did it or why she was so calm about it, but I probably would have fainted and asked to go to the ER.
Luckily, she came in at the exact moment Thing 1 and Thing 2 had decided they would go slap-for-slap with their peanut butter-encrusted hands. So as these open palms are flying, they are actually laughing hysterically about it. I seriously could not understand what the hell is going on.
Me? I’m too much of a bitch. Anyone that knows me knows that I wouldn’t last a day on the mean streets of any town. I’m not tough. I’m not street-smart. I make my own frappuccinos every morning and I have the voice of a 12-year-old girl. None of this is embarrassing to me. It’s just the reality of who I am. I only eat off of silver spoons and I will never deny I’ve led a sheltered and privileged life.
Those kids of mine though? Tough as nails compared to me. I’ve seen Thing 1 just chew up aluminum foil and spit it out. I have no doubt she could take Sylvester Stallone in Over the Top. They’re covered in bruises, scrapes, and cuts all the time (don’t call the authorities). Other than the fact that they will whine and cry about EVERYTHING, they very quickly realize they’re fine and yell, “I’m okay, Daddy!!” I don’t even bother to ask anymore. If I landed as hard as they do, I’d be clicking my Life Alert necklace like it’s a morphine drip.
Don’t get me wrong. They can turn on the charm in an instant, but cross one of these kids and remember those two velociraptors tearing apart the kitchen in Jurassic Park? Yeah, it’s kinda like that. Nothing in my life leading up to this point has prepared me for the mood swings and tantrums that my children have bestowed upon us. Violent outbursts and outright defiance are commonplace here.
They know exactly what they are doing. They will stare at you blankly as you scold them to not hit. The hand held high above their head, eyes fixed on you. The next hit will be slow. It won’t hurt her sister. But it is a calculated maneuver, goading you into action. Oddly enough, pixelated sunglasses and cigars can be found on their face with “Thug Life” scrawled across their shirts.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Terrible Twos are absolutely a thing. Don’t ever let someone try to tell you otherwise. Maybe you escaped unscathed, but me? I have the owies and scratchies to show for it. So do my wife and our girls. It has been my least enjoyable part of parenthood so far. The tantrums can be ear-splitting. Flying fists or flying toy watermelons can lead to scratches and bruises. And the ensuing tears are the saddest part of all of it.
Of course I ask myself every day, is it something I’m doing wrong? Do most parents go through this? I don’t throw watermelons at people, so they’re not just learning from their parents at this age. So why do they act out?
I’m no expert on this topic (as I think I’ve clearly shown), but the one thing I can confirm is that while the Terrible Twos are upsetting and aggravating, the Terrific Twos are incredibly rewarding and uplifting. That’s because they absolutely exist too.
You see, while tantrums and fights are occurring regularly, 30 seconds before or after could be sweet moments of sharing and laughter. I may have been hit with an open hand five minutes ago, but now that open hand is giving me a high five, fist bump, and jellyfish. An attempted tackle has turned into a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you, Daddy!” I hope I am still getting those good moments when they enter their teenage years.
No, this doesn’t necessarily erase those difficult moments when a child is acting out, and the difficulty increases ten-fold when out in public. You can’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend like it doesn’t happen: the issue nor the kid. People would see your kid underneath the rug and you’d probably get arrested.
But think back to when they couldn’t talk and they needed to get your attention. You surely remember the incessant crying as infants. My kids sounded like squawking seagulls. Since then, they learned to crawl, and walk, and now talk! They’re watching your every move and listening to your every word. They are soaking it all in, whether you realize it or not, and they are learning more and more about themselves every day.
It may be incredibly frustrating, but you have to keep trying to get through. We have to keep teaching our kids to be good people. Instill in them good values time after time, and hopefully we can point them in the right direction on the moral compass. It’s not just about reacting to the bad, but reinforcing the good, and even just embodying proper behavior.
As parents and adults, I truly believe it starts with us. We need to work on ourselves if we want to raise kids right. We are all guilty to some point. I often see people discussing on Facebook how much of a problem bullying is in our schools; yet I then see the very same people bullying others on Facebook. I judge people too often. I don’t take care of myself mentally or physically. There’s a lot there that I hope my kids never learn to imitate.
We can work on ourselves to try to be better people, to accept others for who they are, to quit judging, to quit bullying, to control our emotions, to show compassion for each other, and to take care of ourselves. In my opinion there are far too few parents that accomplish this (myself very much included). It’s a message I am going to try to remind myself of every day, because they are watching and they are learning, and while these kinds of transformations would make for a great gift to myself, they make for an even greater gift to my family.