Are The Two’s Really So ‘Terrible’? (Yes, But Not What I Expected)

The “terrible twos” have descended upon us.

Now, if I were a person who was reading this instead of writing it, instead of someone actually going through it, I would have my doubts. My judgments. My feelings about the term “terrible twos” that I’ve harbored for years that it is a needlessly judgmental, harsh, and unfair title bestowed to the individual two-year-olds of the world.

I have been an ignorant fool.

My kid is a delight so much of the time. He’s whip-smart, kind, silly, loving and genuinely well-mannered. He’s so adaptable, I’ve been able to travel well with him fairly frequently in his two short years, without major incident.

Over the course of the past two weeks, I dragged him all over Southern California visiting family and friends, as my sister welcomes a new baby into hers.  My kiddo has been such a champ through all the change to his routine, being away from his dad and being around so many new adults and kids.  Everyone is fun and loving, but they were still new and unfamiliar in a lot of ways because he doesn’t see them every day. I’ve been so proud of him and his capacity for flexibility.

The dark side to this expanding maturity and change is that he has been clingier than ever. The tantrums have gotten longer, louder, more maddening for both of us. It makes sense when he is thrown from his schedule, away from his dad, feeling totally off-kilter no matter how much fun he’s having. These big tantrums are evidence of that and also his way of communicating he needs to blow off some steam. I cognitively understand this and they still suck so hard.

I’ve felt bewildered by the sudden storm that will swirl around us as he makes hard eye contact and screams at the top of his lungs. I yelled out in frustration and surprise when he threw his full cup of milk all over the floor in his own frustration and anger. I’ve been totally and completely sideswiped by the emergence of what can only be described as the Terrible Twos.

He’s certainly had his fair share of tantrums and meltdowns, of course, these past two years, but these are an entirely new animal.

I went on this trip with my mom who, as a mother, aunt and grandmother, has seen it all, and she hasn’t been phased in the slightest. “Totally normal. Developmental phase, he’ll grow out of it. He’s really doing everything just as he should.”

This gives me such solace and yet, I can’t help but feel betrayed at times. My sweet-natured and quiet boy, who used to wake up with sweaty curls and sweet smiles now, more often than not, wakes from his nap cranky, agitated and often just yelling and flailing (evidence he didn’t sleep long enough but I can’t make the child stay asleep — if only we could!) until I can find the one thing he needs/wants/will flip the switch back from crazy town and back into normal ville.

In crazy town, darkness falls over us. We both yell. We both cry. These tantrums are next level. They’re tempestuous beasts that swell from the depths of an otherwise placid sea. We’ll be going about our day and in an instant, what was smooth sailing is now crashing, heaving waves of emotion and upset. I can’t anticipate them. I can’t fix them easily. I can only ride them and wait out the storm.

It’s pretty terrible.

I get it now. Terrible twos isn’t a moniker in judgement, it’s a descriptor of experience. Terrible is not an intrinsic trait in two-year-olds, but it is certainly a characteristic of having a two-year-old. These big feelings, these huge frustrations, these downright harrowing turns of emotion can be just terrible. For all of us.

My son is genuinely miserable in these moments. He’s not bad, just mad. MAD and FRUSTRATED and wants me to FIX it, which I can’t do because I rarely ever understand what the actual problem is (if there even is one besides just BEING UPSET), which makes him even more mad and frustrated. He’s fairly advanced in his vocabulary and speaking, but in these moments he loses all words. He just cries and no amount of discussing it helps. He’s not a devil trying to manipulate me. He’s just as much a victim to these mood swings as I am.

I am learning that they make me feel more out of control than anything else. That they have the ability to totally unhinge me. What I need to learn is how to pull myself back in and keep myself calm. For his sake and my own. Sometimes I’m able to breathe through them, remain calm and focused just as fairy godmother Janet Lansbury wants for us all. Other times, I forget to even breathe I’m so mad.

I call this artwork Mothering The Storm: Creative Solutions in Desperate Times (Dry Erase Marker On Placemat). After 15 minutes of straight screaming for not being allowed to watch a movie, I realized he just wanted to see the characters. So I offered instead to draw some of it. He was very happy with my mediocre rendering of Finding Dory and I have found another tool for the mothering tantrum toolbox. I am not always this successful, but I’m damn proud of this one (wonky beluga aside).

These tantrums can be terrible. The fact that they are increasing in frequency is terrible. The fact that I can’t fix them or make it better or stop him from screaming sometimes is terrible. The fact that he feels so out of control is terrible. The fact that I feel so out of control around it is terrible.

But he is wonderful. There is so much about two that I absolutely adore, even more than the baby stage. His words, his personality, his jokes, his curiosity, his big hugs.

And sometimes, like the times a tantrum has passed and I find myself sitting on the floor wild-eyed and frayed while he happily plays with the cars he moments before screamed about not wanting, it is all just a little bit terrible.

Are you currently going through the terrible twos? Or have you survived them already and have tips for me? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Credit: Pexels

3 thoughts on “Are The Two’s Really So ‘Terrible’? (Yes, But Not What I Expected)

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  1. Oh yes! We are going through the terrible twos too! I completely empathize. V wakes up the same way after naps, sometimes just wailing for 10-20 minutes… And the tantrums… extremely challenging for me not to lose it! Hugs from my house to yours!

    Liked by 1 person

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