Some things don’t change…from child to child, the stages are very similar. Although my daughter is much more verbal than my son was at age two, she still struggles with some of the very same things. I just have to remember…she’s doing the best she can.
I try to keep my son’s routine as predictable as I can. He knows the order of events, day after day, and although we sometimes deviate from the schedule, I feel really strongly that having a schedule helps him feel in control of his life and prevents meltdowns. Generally, he’s an easygoing child. However, during transitional times that are impossible to explain, I can see his world crashing down around him, and I just feel. so. bad.
Take this morning, for instance. We were at a friend’s birthday party, and he was having so much fun splashing in the baby pool, riding the little baby bikes and playing at the water table. When it was time to leave, I gave him his five minute warning like I always do, and then when it was time to go, told him we were going to go home.
He immediately backed his bike away from me. He can’t yet communicate in complete thoughts, and he doesn’t often use the word, “no,” but his demeanor and sad face told me everything. He wanted to stay. But it was time to go. We got him out of his bathing suit and into his clothes, and walked through the house, thanking the hosts. He saw all his friends getting ready to leave. But when it was time to actually walk out the door, it was also time for the tears.
So we carried him outside. When we got outside, he asked to be put down, so I did, and then he darted back into the house, hoping to get in a few more minutes of play. My husband was frustrated and scolded him for running. But I felt horrible for him. I remember that feeling as a kid; wanting desperately to stay somewhere, but having to go with my parents, because they had decided, seemingly randomly, that it was time for the fun to be over.
When kids get a little older, they understand that parties start and then they end. But at age two, this concept is so difficult. I told him we would come back another time, and that seemed to calm him. A few minutes into the drive, he was asleep, exhausted from all the fun. Obviously, it was time to leave.
But this part of toddlerhood has to be incredibly frustrating. They can’t fully communicate their needs and desires, and often times, there are ridiculous rules that just don’t make sense, like “don’t bring your crayons into the living room,” and “when Sesame Street is over the television has to be turned off.” Our kids do the best job they can at “going with the flow,” but sometimes, just like adults, they have to express their displeasure. Unlike adults, however, they don’t have the power of their voice. And, worse than that, often, no one listens to them. They get silly responses like, “We don’t draw on the couch. Crayons stay in the kitchen.” Can you imagine if, as an adult, you disagreed with someone, and instead of listening to you, they just repeated the rule? So frustrating. No wonder kids have tantrums.
Evidently, they call this, the “terrible twos.” I think this label is misleading. It’s not the kids that are terrible. It’s the fact that their world is getting harder to navigate, and they don’t have the tools to understand and communicate their questions. So, my newest quest is to read and learn new ways of helping my little one move through this phase in growing up.