Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this parenting thing, I got blindsided by the Terrible Twos. Actually more like blindsided, run over, backed-over again, then hit in the head with the car door as I raised up from the pavement. Wow.
It seems as if my sweet little one is quite the independent thinker. If she’s not likin’ the status quo, she just gets up and does her own thing. And leads others down the path with her.
Naturally, I see this capacity for questioning authority as a good thing — in about twenty years. I also know, possibly, how she came by the trait. Somewhere in heaven, my father is laughing at me. Hard.
Down here, paybacks are hell. There are two approaches to handling the Terrible Twos. There is the illusive "right way." And there is the tempting but misguided path. Oh, so tempting. Oh, so misguided.
Tempting, But Very Misguided:
1. Drink. Heavily.
2. Throw your own tantrum. See if it works for you.
3. Earplugs, those really expensive noise-reduction ones. Ahhhh.
4. The velcro toddler suit and matching fuzzy time-out chair. Patent pending. Earplugs sold separately, see above.
5. A pocket recorder that repeats automatically. The first time you answer a “Why?” you can just play the recording for the next twelve times it’s asked again.
6. A t-shirt to wear on errands, just in case, that says, “No, this is NOT my child.” No one has to know the truth.
7. Pound your head against the wall until the whining stops, or you get knocked out. Either way, you get a little peace and quiet.
8. Give in to get five minutes of rest. And pay for it the rest of your natural born life.
Hmmm. Nope, not such good ideas. I guess I am just going to have to suck it up and burn the bad karma from my own Terrible days.
Here is what I am currently thinking is my “Right Way.” Subject to change. Daily. Hourly. Note, I did not say "the" or "our." I have enough on my hands, I don't have time to give advice like I know what I am doing. Clearly, I'm the student here. Teach me.
My "Right Way:"
- I have to stop repeating myself. After the first, “No, thank you, put that down!” the other five repeats just made the game more fun. I was driving myself nuts. The Kiddo was helping.
These days, if I don’t get a response on the first try, I help. As in, “Please put that glass down, or Mommy can help you.” Or, asking, while extending a gentle hand over hers to help her put the wine glass back on the counter and to stop her from trying to drink the backwash left in it. Hey, it's my backwash, I should get to drink it.
What I’ve learned is that my independent Kiddo would rather comply than miss out on doing something for herself. Man, is it nice not to have to listen to myself, too. So freakin’ nice.
- I need to keep it shorter. I think I was getting beaten up with the “Why” so long that I did too much explaining up front. You really can't cover your ass with a two-year-old.
I finally realized this comes out like the Far Side cartoon, you know the one: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, Ginger, blah, blah, blah …” These days, I try to write the script for the Short Attention Span Theater. And keep the instructions crystal clear. I find this also works at the office. My career is going to skyrocket.
- The polite “Okay?” at the end of the requests was killing the whole authority voice thing. I had to make the offer into something that could not be refused.
- I am not a yeller by nature, so I’ve done pretty well at the whole modeling calm thing. Sometimes my “calm” comes out more like “exhaustion and a quiet slip over the brink of sanity,” but it’s calm.
- After a rough day, this one is hard, but really important. I have to remember to make things fun, or at least pleasant. It all just works so much better. However, using the Cookie Monster voice is making me sound like I have a three-pack-a-day habit.
- Focus. Hmmm. How many times have I said that word to my child?! This time it’s for me. I need to do a better job of listening to her when I am busy. Everyone likes being heard, not just Mommy. I admit, I can't always understand her, but she knows I am trying.
So, I am going to practice. And practice. If I am lucky, I might get it down by the time the Kiddo reaches puberty and all the rules change on me again.