Saturday, August 24, 2013

The terrible two's

Today's post is more "mommy" and less "Zumba" as you may have guessed from the title, but the past few posts have been about my family and their visit so I thought this might be the right time to discuss my experiences (to date) with the two's. I mentioned in my post about Meijer Gardens that my older son had some difficulty as we were leaving but that we all made it to the van without a tantrum. I also talked about how my family and I weren't so lucky the previous year when leaving the mall. He was four at the time, so tantrums aren't just for two's; they just aren't as common in the older years.

If you're not in a place where this topic applies to you because you don't have kids yet, who knows, maybe this will be of some kind of help down the road. If this doesn't apply to you because your kids are already older than mine, then you can just reminisce and laugh at me as you read along. If you don't have kids at all or aren't planning for any, then you can go on and raise your eyebrows and shake your head, and maybe laugh along with the other group. When our boy turned two, I had been doing Zumba for roughly six months. Terrible two's don't necessarily start the day after the birthday party. It can take some time - so I learned. Our older son's birthday is in early July so when the month ended, and then August came and went, and there were no problems or issues I breathed a sigh of relief. That was perhaps a bit premature... The day after Labor Day of 2010 my older son was 26 months old and that seemed to mark the start of an aptly named terrible phase. As if overnight, my sweet little boy had been replaced by an angry, uncooperative pod child.

If he asked for something, and I gave it to him, he'd scream at me that it wasn't the right thing and he wanted something else. So I'd get him the other thing and he'd change his mind and want the first thing all over again. The entire month of September was like this, and it was awful! And then overnight, as if by magic, that terrible pod child was gone and my sweet boy was back. October 1st, and everything was back to normal like it never even happened. As I sit here and type it, I still don't know how it started or how it went away. I also want to smack that past me and say, "Don't let him run roughshod over you like that!" or how about, "-You- are the parent and -he- is the child." I've learned from that mistake, that's for sure, but all through that September, I was really down. Battling a two year old can really wear on you if it goes on long enough. If you haven't dealt with a young child (in some capacity - parent, teacher, nanny, etc.) on a regular basis, you might be scoffing, but just go with me on this. I felt worn out and tired all the time from the constant struggle. I think that's really the point at which I began looking at Zumba as a stress reliever. No, more like -the- stress reliever.

From the beginning of October to the beginning of February, the terrible two's were actually the terrific two's and then, around 30.5 months, he tried the same kind of behavior again. That little stinker...but I was prepared this time. When he started changing his mind over and over, I'd tell him that I would be happy to help him once he'd made up his mind. But other than saying that, I wouldn't engage with him. I'd just go on about my day and wait him out because if he really wanted something, he'd tell me. That second two's phase lasted for a much much shorter time because Mommy took all the fun out of it! Hah!

Some time back in those first six months of Zumba, I overheard Rae talking to someone about this very thing. She's a mom too, and was explaining how the two's in her house weren't terrible but that no one had warned her about the three's. You know that sound effect in movies, of the record on the turn table screeching to a halt? That's what was going on in my head. Say what now? There's a three's thing? Why isn't that more widely known? I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time or I never would have seen it coming. See what happens when you go to Zumba? You learn more than how to do a ball-change. There actually -is- a three's phase! Turns out, it's called the troublesome three's. We went through that in our house too. I tried to be prepared, but unfortunately, it happened to be while I was pregnant with our second son. If you'll recall, I was really sick for about ten weeks. This was the time when our older son decided to get a wee bit cheeky. He was smart enough to figure out that while his mommy could -say- "Don't do that.", she couldn't physically get up off the couch to actually intervene. And, since his daddy was working, he was otherwise occupied. Smart children are a double edged sword at times, are they not? To a three year old, this set of circumstances was like a blank check and he took at advantage at every opportunity. No Zumba for Mommy to blow off the stress either... It was a sad state of affairs all around.

During this time, we sold our first house, bought a new one and moved. Hrmm? You say that sounds like a lot for a sick pregnant gal? Oh yeah... it was. I spent two days living off an apple pie and some coconut milk vanilla ice cream while I watched the movers pack our house for us; I made sure they didn't pack my spoon. Pregnant women eh? Some cliches are true... But it all worked out, and a big "Thanks!" to the wonderful family members who came to help us unpack and organize. At our new house, we tried out a new strategy with our boy. Instead of putting the three year old in time out, we'd put one of his toys in time out. Onto a shelf where he could see it, but not reach it. That, combined with the fact that Mommy started feeling much better, put the kibosh on his little free-for-all. Were there still struggles and behaviors that needed correcting? Sure. It wasn't an overnight change like with his two's phase (if only I knew how that happened...) but a slow and gradual one. He learned that bad behavior caused his toys to be put in time out, and that good behavior earned his toys back. Eventually, the shelf was completely clear. Now that he's five, the "great loss" is not so much toys but his TV viewing privileges (which I reminded him of in the parking lot of Meijer Gardens...). How times change, and so quickly too.

Our younger son is only 16 months but his time is coming, I can already feel it. At least I've learned a lot from dealing with our older son. I've actually started bracing myself now because the little guy started getting defiant at about 10 months. Now what did I ever do to deserve that... For a baby, he's really opinionated and stubborn. Kind of reminds me of... Well, me actually.

Best advice: Spread the word about the troublesome three's! It's a real thing and so many don't know. In my opinion, it should be on the TV news...

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