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Terrible Two's

"The 'terrible two's' are a terrible misnomer. 
They imply a finite time frame for behavior that doesn't necessarily have one."

I don't know how scientific this is, but I really think it is confusing being a two-year old. I don't think they understand why they can't have their cake and eat it too. Yesterday I had a multiples playdate at my house. There were a lot of two-year olds running around and many of them were overwhelmed, including one of mine. He wanted to get down and play, but was intimidated by the noise and the amount of children suddenly appearing in "his" playroom. As I was chatting with another mom, he grabbed my legs and said, "Up! Up!" I picked him up to which he said, "Down! Down!" He wanted to play with the toys on the ground and be held by Momma. After picking him up and putting him down a few times, I told him he had to choose up or down. The poor child looked at the toy, only a few steps out of reach, and looked at his Momma; he couldn't figure out a way to do both.

The things my toddlers are interested in now are so different than the things they were interested in even weeks ago. Their vocabulary is jumping by leaps and bounds. Their dexterity is growing. They are imitating absolutely everything their older brother does (much to his dismay). They imitate everything I do. I catch them feeding the dog-- many times a day-- just because they saw me do it. They want to help with everything and they don't want me to help them do it.

It has to be hard to take so much in. It has to be confusing to suddenly become more aware of the world around you. My last blog post mentioned how I feel about parenting this time around compared to how I felt the first time around (read, "First time mom"). I knew my oldest was hitting age appropriate behaviors, but I felt that he knew better. With C and O, I much more feel they need to be guided towards the appropriate behavior instead of strictly expecting the appropriate behavior. For instance, at two-years old, I would tell my oldest, "You need to sit." He would stand or crouch at the correct spot, say, a park bench, yet I said "sit" so I expected him to sit on his bottom where I told him to. With C and O, not only would it be tiring to enforce that level of obedience as a mother of three children, but they are two! How can I expect a two-year old to sit on the park bench while the other kids are running around with balls, trucks, bubbles, and the like? I expect them to stay near me, standing or sitting. I try to give commands that I know are in the realm of things they can follow.

In many ways, it reminds me of our puppy training classes we took with our dog Louis. The trainer told us to keep him in the "wait" position just past what we knew he could do. If he could sit and wait for 5 whole seconds, keep him in wait for 6 seconds and keep building on it. Our four-year old is capable of sitting on the park bench and waiting until he can go play, but our two-year olds will struggle with it (though our four-year old will struggle with sitting on the park bench if he sees both his brothers are allowed to stand in front of it). I feel like now I try to put them in situations that I know they can do, build on the skills they have.

Their personalities are all so different. Our oldest is a stubborn child, much like his father and mother. One of our toddlers reminds me a lot of him, though D is much more interested in having our approval and attention. C is much more about doing what makes him happy, regardless of how we feel about it. On one hand, that is a good thing (we don't end up in near so many Battle of the Wills) and on the other it is not (if he wants to do something, he won't be happy until he's done it). O is much more happy-go-lucky and mellow. I call him my bohemian baby because he just wants to kick his shoes off and play with his toys. While C is following D around and trying to play with him, O is crawling into my lap with a book. The "Terrible Two's," as they are called, have played out differently with all of them. While D was a breathholder from 6 weeks to 3-years old, we've only had two breathholding episodes from C and none from O.

I think they get called the Terrible Two's for a number of reasons. They come out of nowhere. One week you are loving how excited your toddler is about life and learning new things and the next week you are staring at a writhing, red-faced toddler on the floor of Target wondering where this new behavior has come from. The Terrible Two's also come with a surge of independence. Things that never were a problem before suddenly become knock down drag-out, all-in battles. Transitioning from activity to activity becomes challenging. He wants to be out of his room, but he doesn't want you to lift him over the gate or open the gate or help him in any way. He doesn't want you to brush his teeth or take off his shirt. You want to allow some independence, yet it is hard when they won't allow you to help at all, whatsoever, don't even look at them with a helpful look on your face.

I gave the toddlers ice cream cones the other day. It started melting down their hands, which was very upsetting. Neither toddler could eat another bite until their hands were properly cleaned. They wouldn't let me wipe their hands. They wouldn't hand me their cones so they could wipe their own hands. They wouldn't use their free hand to wipe the dirty hand. We were stuck. It ended up being that I wiped their hands quickly while they flailed in anger, making more of an ice cream mess, upsetting them more, because now instead of some ice cream melting onto their hands, they had ice cream drips on their pants and shirts. By the end of it, I wanted to just throw the ice cream cones away and forget about the whole thing. It was exhausting.

Today we went to the movies. One of the toddlers did pretty well, as I thought he would. The other did horrible. He wanted to grab the seat in front of him. He wanted to drag his blanket in the bucket of popcorn and rip the lids off cups. He didn't want to sit in his seat, or my lap, or stand quietly in the row. He stood and whined and moaned. I tried ignoring him, hoping he would stop, but no. He moaned, like Harry did in When Harry Met Sally. I didn't want to leave my husband with one toddler and our preschooler, in case the toddler cried that I left the theater or acted out later, causing our preschooler to miss the movie. So I took both toddlers out of the theater. The toddler who was behaving well in the theater thought it was fun walking down the stairs with Mommy and fun walking into the lobby with Mommy. The other toddler didn't really know what was going on until we started walking outside toward the car and he lost it. He threw himself on the ground screaming, "Movie! Movie!" He wouldn't use his legs. He kicked and screamed. I tried picking him up and he flailed so hard I thought I would drop him. I'm standing on the curb of the movie theater with one toddler holding on to the Hold-On Handle and the other toddler face down on the concrete, my purse stuffed full of diapers and wipes and a tote bag full of their lovies, wondering how on earth I was going to make it to the car.

It's a phase. I know it is a phase. In a recent blog post about toddler twins ("Keep calm and carry on"), I mentioned a woman who was a bit of a Debbie Downer to me about whether it gets easier or harder. I made the point that I don't think it gets easier; it just gets better. My oldest had temper tantrums like this until he was three-years old and then they morphed into a whole new beast: The Three-Year Old. I don't know, maybe three-years old will be easier with these guys. They have different personalities; they have someone to play with whereas my oldest had to entertain himself a lot more. We are hitting another phase with our four-year old as we are dealing with the Terrible Two's. School has let out for the summer and I think it has sunk in that he won't be seeing his preschool teachers again or going back to school with his classmates. It breaks my heart thinking of how much he loved that school and misses being there.

I've decided Motherhood moves in waves. Some waves you can ride to shore, some throw you under, and some you have to dive through. We're trying to dive through this wave right now. We know it is a big wave, a hard wave that will beat us into the seabed if we let it carry us. We know this isn't the only wave and that there will be more waves someday in the future, bigger waves that are even harder to handle than this one. Just like when you are at the beach, we are taking one wave at a time-- focusing on making it through this one. Some people just want to survive each wave. We want to survive the wave with style. My oldest loves watching surfing. I was thinking last night about this and how when these waves start hitting us, I need to channel my inner surfer, like a surf competition. I Googled "vintage surfing images" and came across this one at Surf for Sanity's blog:

Image courtesy of Surf for Sanity at "Vintage Surfing Book Review-- Jim Heimann"
That picture is so corny; I love it. I want to take all this busyness and turn it into something positive. I want to ride the waves with style. What to Expect: The Toddler Years by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Hathaway, B.S.N., and Sharon Mazel says on page 45 in the revised and updated 2nd edition regarding "Toddler Negativism:"
Your toddler's negative behavior is not a reflection on you (as a parent) or your child (as a person). All children, usually beginning early in the second year (and occasionally even earlier), go through a negative phase. In some children, it's short-lived and half-hearted; in others, petulance is more persistent. Either way, a toddler can't control his compulsion to resist authority any more than he can control teething or growing. His testing of your authority is healthy and normal, a vital form of self-expression, an essential part of ego building, an important step on the road of personhood.
The next paragraph on the subject in What to Expect: The Toddler Years begins with this cheery sentiment, "Knowing that a toddler's negative behavior is healthy and normal, however, doesn't necessarily make it easier to live with." No kidding! Here is a picture of Goofy eating it on a wave; I don't want this to be me (though this is what I've felt like all week!):

Image courtesy of Pin Pics, pin 9019
I've also found a lot of comfort talking to other moms who have "been there" or are going through it as well. It is nice to hear about things that help ease the toddlers' frustration (consistency and routine) and ways to ease your frustration (baby-sitter and Sam Adams Summer Ale). I've really started participating a lot more in my local twin mom group just to hear what other moms are doing with their toddlers to get through this phase.

Double Trouble? I posted a blog post recently called "Comments" about things people say to me when I go out with twins. I really do believe in the "give peace a chance" and "live and let live" vibe I put out in that blog post. I posted a blog awhile ago called "We are moms" with the intention of bringing twin moms and singleton moms a little closer together. We all say the wrong thing sometimes. We are all going through this. I love talking about my kids and we are trying to raise polite, well-mannered boys.

Ready for the however? Since we've been going out with our "Terrible Two's Double Trouble," as I've heard so often lately, I've been getting a lot of the wrong kind of attention. This afternoon when we were leaving the movie theater, I was struggling to get my two toddlers to the car as one of them was throwing an epic meltdown. While the other was staying close, I still had to keep an eye on him to make sure he held on to the Hold-On Handle as we slowly made our way through the bustling parking lot. Four adults stood within arms length of me and started asking me questions about my twins as we did this. "Oh, twins? How old are they? My sister's son has twins..." I was literally dragging one of my two-year olds along by the back of his sweatshirt. I really, really,really wanted to tell them that if they had any twin questions for me, I would be happy to answer them as they helped carry my bags to the mini van three spots up.

And that outing I mentioned in "Keep calm and carry on?" There was a restaurant full of people at Chick-Fil-A watching this happen and no one held the door for us as we left. No one offered to carry anything to car for me. And several people said, "Oh, twins? I don't know how you do it! My goodness!"

I found the patience when it was two babies that I could control, even if crying in a stroller, but when I'm struggling to control my twin toddlers who are having meltdowns, that is not the time to tell me about how you once thought you were going to have twins because your cousin's brother's wife did.

I think moms of singletons also hear a lot of comments when going out with their little ones. I heard a lot of random, bizarre, and poorly timed comments going out when I just had D. As I said, he was a breathholder. When he would throw a tantrum in public, people would either avoid me, look at me in a way that read "That will never be my child," or give me unsolicited and sometimes rude advice, "Back in my day..."

Here is a made up conversation that I've never had while out with one two-year old throwing a temper tantrum:

Stranger: "Single trouble?"

Me: "Yeah... Bud, you have to walk. Right now. One... two..."

Stranger: "My niece's husband's sister has a little boy."

Me: "Oh, really? That's wonderful. Bud, I mean it, you have to walk."

Stranger: "Yeah. How old is he?"

Me: "Um, he's two. Bud. Use. Your. Legs."

Stranger: "Wow. Two-years old. You have your hands full."

Me: "Yes. Bud, if you don't listen, we will have to leave."

Stranger: "I can't imagine having one. I mean, seriously. How do you keep up with him?"

Me: "Allright, we have to go bye-bye. We do not throw ourselves on the ground and scream."

Stranger: "Wow! How do you keep up with him?"

Me: "It's busy. But I have to go. I think it's time for nap. Come on, bud."

Stranger: "[Hollering to spouse] Honey, you have to come look at this! She has a two-year old boy with her."

Me: "Bud, I gave you a warning. Stop throwing. One... two..."

Stranger's spouse: "Omigoodness!  A two-year old! Did my wife tell you that my niece's husband's cousin has a little boy?"

Stranger: "I thought it was your niece's husband's sister?"

Stranger's spouse: "No, I'm certain it's his cousin."

Me: "I'm sorry, but I have to go. You have a nice day! Bud, we don't throw."

Stranger: "Can we take a picture of your two-year old?"

Me: [Looking at my red-faced, screaming two-year old kicking his legs while throwing french fries out of the stroller seat I just stuffed him into] "Umm, I would prefer not. Come on, bud. We are going."

Stranger: "Okay, just one. Real quick. Honey, where is the camera?"

Me: "I'm sorry. I'm leaving. Have a good day." [walk away]

Stranger: [to spouse] "Can you imagine having a two-year old boy?"

[Both strangers watch as I struggle to open door while pushing a stroller and shake their heads in disbelief that I have a two-year old.]


Here's to channeling your inner surfer! :)

Image courtesy of Celadon in "Happy Birthday USA"

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