Wednesday, July 30, 2014

toddler tyranny

Shep seems to have entered into a stage of full-blown two-ness. As cute as he is, I'm actually struggling to be patient with this phase. It's like doing some backcountry snow sport when there's risk of avalanche. It's kind of fun until the avalanche happens and then you're fighting for your life. Except, I derive no thrill from the possibility of tantrums, as I imagine some people derive from the risk of danger. I don't know; bad analogy. The point is, it's really fun to see his personality and language and interests develop. But it's also invariably exhausting, and often infuriating. Tantrums, which up until a few weeks ago seemed to be an occasional anomaly, now seem inevitable if the scenario he's imagined doesn't pan out exactly as he hopes. I'm trying to walk the line between accommodating the terms he sets (as far as I can understand him--limited vocabulary only takes you so far, though) and thereby avoiding anger and frustration, and alternately trying to set limits and help him deal with his big feelings.

Sometimes his feelings are disturbingly big. The other day he had a serious breakdown that seemed to come out of nowhere. After waking from his nap (his nap was quite late that day and his schedule was totally offm so maybe that's why), he started crying and spiraled quickly into a demon-possessed two-year-old. He was so full of rage and anger, screaming and crying, flailing and hitting, refusing to be held, completely unresponsive, and going on for more than a half-hour. I had no idea what to do and I had no idea what was wrong with him.

Luckily most episodes are not this extreme and his anger a bit more short-lived and thus easier to ignore, but I still find myself quite annoyed and exhausted by his wildness. Taking him shopping is such an adventure. Any stair rails are for him monkey bars to hang and swing on. Any time we hold hands is a time for him to jump and hang. Any time he is set down on the ground, it's a time for him to run wherever his whims take him. For him, maybe shopping is a really grand adventure. But for me, not so much. Instead of holding his hand while we walk together in the store, I have to either follow him as he escapes around every corner or try to hold a squirmy thirty-something-pound child, which for my out-of-shape body, is no easy task. Suddenly, the whole purpose for my trip becomes something I  don't care much about getting and can wait until later for.

Yesterday, we were at a store where I found a cute $2 t-shirt for him to wear. When I showed him and asked, "Do you like this shirt?" he got pretty excited about it. The excitement extended to him trying to take off the shirt he was wearing already and put on the one that belonged to the store, demanding I help him accomplish his task. I didn't want to do it, but I put it on. Then he wanted me to take off the tag, and I did that against my will, too. Later at the register, I apologetically gave the tag to the cashier saying "He liked it so much he wanted to wear it immediately!" In the same store, we got strawberries, which he was set on eating immediately as well. He would take one or two bites out of one strawberry, but if he got anywhere near the stem, he handed it to me. And I couldn't just set it back in the container. No, I had to eat it.

In retrospect, these things are mostly amusing, but in the moment I often feel like I'm nearly out of mind trying to figure out how to handle my wild child.


  1. Well reading that brought back a flood of memories :) Honestly I had to put up with a fair amount of screaming and learn to breath through it. To remind myself that setting limits (which often resulted in tantrums) was an important part of my boys development and that screaming/flailing/embarrassing the hell out of me was just part of the territory. I did limit how much we went out (especially when I was on my own with my boys) just going out on short trips or when I knew I could handle dragging 2 screaming kids out of a store (some days I just couldn't). One of my boys was so bad that we actually had him evaluated for Occupational therapy which he barely qualified for on a really bad day. It is sort of helpful and the OT gave us some things we could try and do with him to help him calm easier. When he was having a really bad tantrum and didn't want to be comforted I would sometimes just hold him in my lap with his arms by his sides (so he couldn't flail) to try and help him calm his body and that seemed to help his mind calm as well. The good news in our experience is that he did outgrow it. For a while I was worried he had some sensory issues, but he did just eventually stop (in retrospect I think as his language improved so did his tantrums though the connection wasn't so clear at the time). Well he still has tantrums, but they are what I would consider very normative for his age. Things that I think help my boys are routines (they still complain loudly about having "quiet time" everyday, but it is really good for them and me to have this) and trying to prep them for things (one more minute then its time to go or today we are going the grocery store and then to the park). And as much as I hate to say it I think it is often one of those things that you just have to sludge through as a parent. I think limits set with warmth are really important and you will have to repeat yourself a lot ("use your legs" got said a lot when we were out. Well sometimes it got said patiently and sometimes it got said through clenched teeth with death rays coming out of my eyes). I tried to find the humor in the moment when I could and just did my best to breath deeply through the rest and then sometimes it was just plain hard and crappy. I still have seared in my mind this one time when they both completely melted down at the children's garden and I had to drag them out (literally because they were too heavy to carry both of them and they kept just going limp as I tried to get them to walk) of course everyone was looking at us because they were making so much noise. They screamed the entire way home and I cried part of the way. It was just hard. Now they are sassy and at times mouthy three year you have that to look forward to :) I'm learning that each phase as something intensely hard about it for me and it's just a process for me to figure out the best way to handle it. Good luck!!!!!!!

  2. Toddlers are so fun and crazy at the same time! I feel like Emma is throwing so many tantrums already, I just hope it doesn't get worse when she turns 2