It has been a long time since I had a two year old in my care. A little over two decades in fact. In that time the world has changed quite dramatically. But two year olds have not changed much. While you may be familiar with the term, ‘terrible twos’ you may not know the term has been around since a researcher in the 1930’s observing a small group of toddlers, only 7 in fact, coined it. It stuck, I guess because it’s a difficult passage.
It is unbelievable the amount of sacrifice a mother makes to raise her offspring and at the threshold of two it may seem all in vain. The cuddly sweet baby is now a tyrant capable of making a grown woman question everything.
Why is this happening? It may be tempting to view this stage as the ultimate test of your authority. To pit yourself against the child in a power struggle. Or you may be of a milder nature and go the path of least resistance hoping if you ignore it they’ll outgrow it. Sometimes despite your best efforts the child brings the struggle to you.
Another shift. A dramatic step of growth is occurring. The child is becoming aware of his or her own self. ‘No’ is a favorite word and tantrums may be a common tactic. It can be embarrassing to be in public with a toddler.
I remember one nightmarish shopping trip involving a large circular clothing rack full of floor-length clothes and a recalcitrant toddler hiding inside, unreachable and shrieking. Such things are enough to make you want to quit. But. You don’t.
Because you know deep inside that a toddler must not be released into the world. The independence they are screaming for with every ‘no’ is precious but it must be tended with wisdom, love and humility. Despite your feelings of inadequacy you are the chosen one for this child. To yield to the task is not easy. The sacrifices you make are deposits in the future. The child’s future.
Focus on the safety of the child and others around you, and not on your reputation. Allowing the child enough leeway to gain some independence while keeping her from terrorizing others is another delicate balance. Those who see the child out of control are of two camps. Those who understand, (mostly those who have had toddlers themselves) and those who will not.
You may be seen in public with a child who dressed himself in red stripes, yellow checkered shorts and sister’s pink cowboy boots. But you will not tolerate when this boy pulls his sister’s hair.
You may find a fine mess of dried play dough “food” on the kitchen floor, but you will not allow a tantrum to keep the child from going to a needed doctor appointment.
And how you do all this is the eighth wonder of the world. But you will. And know that mothers everywhere are with you.
This too shall pass. The child is not even half grown.