Lately Theo has had some extreme ups and downs. You know how everyone always says their kid is hitting the terrible 2s early? I made a comment to that effect to a friend, V, who has a teenage daughter, B.
Me: He acts so crazy. I don't know what to do with him. I guess he's hitting the terrible 2s early.
V: Winces. That's what I said about B. Then she turned 2.
Me: Are you serious!? It got a lot worse?
V: Yeah. She hit me, she bit me, she wouldn't do anything I said. It was so frustrating.
Me: Winces. Yikes. R's mom says that he was a really bad toddler. He would yell at her and she thought she'd go nuts. She was a stay at home mom and she had to start a bunch of hobbies, just to get her mind off of it. At least he was good when he got older. That gives me hope.
V: Winces. Not B. She got worse. She turned 10 and I thought "well, she's just hitting puberty early"...then she hit puberty. She turned 13 and I thought "the worst is over." Then she turned 14.
Me: V! You're not making me feel any better about this!
I told B's dad about this conversation a couple days later via text message. His response:
R: Yeah. I think she is literally trying to give me a heart attack sometimes.
Soooo...question. What are you supposed to do? I don't think R&V did anything wrong. In fact, I think B is a lovely girl, but I'm not her mother. Or her father. BUT. I am Theo's mother (wince) and I don't want to raise a hellion. How much craziness is normal? How much insanity should I expect? I might not be the most patient person in the world, but I try to keep in mind that this testing-the-limits phase we're in is normal. He doesn't understand how to value his belongings yet or that throwing them might mean breaking them, which might mean they are gone forever. He doesn't understand how badly his brother can be hurt if he shoves a hard plastic toy in his face or the corner of a book into his thigh. He doesn't understand that throwing every bit of food on his plate to the ground and screaming at the table and trying to climb out of the high chair is very distracting and annoying to everyone else in the restaurant.
But, without a doubt, he understands "no." So how much of the bad behavior should I tolerate? We have started sitting him in timeout when he blatantly and repeatedly ignores "no" or breaks a rule. He cries initially, but then he just hops right up in an attempt to go finish whatever naughty job he started. He looks at us and laughs as if to say "ha ha ha ha ha ha SUCKAS! Whatchoo gonna do about it now?" And we are rendered useless. Half the time we will break down laughing (not effective) and the rest of the time we just give up because we've been fighting getting him to sit there for over 10 minutes when time out is only supposed to last for 1 minute (also not effective...uh, what was he in time out for again??).
I don't want to get into these power struggles day after day but I don't want to create a monster either. I only get to see him for 2 1/2 - 3 hours per day when I work. What fun is it for us to be together if the whole time is spent trying to get him to sit back down in time out long enough for me to be the one to tell him he can get up?
Some days I am determined to be super consistent with time outs so that he learns to obey and eventually everyone will say "oh, those sweet little boys...they always mind their manners so well." Maybe that's not in the cards. Maybe it's going to be more like "here come those damn boys, get your gun." Is there such a thing as a well-behaved toddler? Other days, I look at his tiny little body sitting there on the tile foyer and into his big, sad, full-of-tears eyes and my heart breaks. I wonder if he really understands what is going on. Is he too young for this? I don't want to be the person always making him sad.
If the "terrible 2s" are much worse than the "troublesome 1s," what am I going to do when Theo and Dexter are in cahoots a year from now and they are working together for evil against me? Sure am glad they will be out of toddlerhood long before they can read this. Who knows what they would do with the knowledge that I am feeling weak, inadequate, and helpless. Never let them see me crack, right?
Has anyone mastered the mighty toddler successfully? Or do I just suck at this...