Life Parenting

She’s not terrible, she’s a toddler

April 24, 2016
toddler terrible two babywearing old fashioned modern living

If you can’t tell, this is all 28lbs of Little Miss on my back for a recent walk.

My daughter is pretty awesome. She’s about a week past the 21 month mark, and she’s bright, sweet, friendly, funny and compassionate. Armed with only a handful of signs and a few handfuls of words, she communicates more effectively than some adults I know. She notices every detail and is an alarmingly fast learner.

She’s remarkably well behaved the vast majority of the time. She’s energetic but not wild. She likes to walk around and explore, and sometimes I don’t want her to. She’s stubborn. I’m stubborn. We butt heads sometimes (stop snickering). But isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Ever since my daughter hit roughly 18 months, I’ve been hearing about “the terrible twos”. Any time she isn’t 100% cooperative, I’m warned that the terrible twos are coming, or maybe they’ve even arrived early!

She’s not terrible. She’s a toddler.

She’s exploring her world and starting to understand how things work. She’s not a little machine, programmed to follow orders and never slip a toe over the expectation line. She’s exploring her world and starting to understand how things work. And she’s largely very well behaved. So do me a favor, if she doesn’t want to finish a puzzle with you or give you a hug, or if you see her whining to get out of the wagon and walk around Target and I’m refusing, don’t tell me I’ve got some terrible twos on my hands. Because I don’t. I have a toddler on my hands.

Is this just one of those “things people say”? Is it an excuse? I’m not saying that I get terribly offended by this or anything, I just don’t get it. I feel like it expresses an unrealistic expectation. 6 months could change my mind, but I doubt it.

One of the major things I remember from preparing for my daughter’s birth is a passage from one of my books that warned that we, as humans, are more likely to experience what we expect. So if we expect something to be painful, scary, etc, we are more likely to experience it as such. In the same way, does defining a period in our child’s lives as “terrible” set us up for it to be? Our words may not change the behavior, but are we likely to be less patient when we’re expecting rowdy behavior?

Aside from everything else, toddlerhood is uncomfortable! Adults get a toothache and are useless until it’s fixed. Toddlers have all sorts of teething and growing pains going on and we think nothing of it. Just because a tooth isn’t actively cutting doesn’t mean it’s not uncomfortable in any way. They do need to move from where they start to where they cut (and then continue coming out), and it isn’t a quick process. Add in the struggles of trying to communicate with limited verbal skills. I don’t know well adult moods would fare, if we all had these same considerations on a regular basis.

Now, I like being a mom. I really enjoy spending time with my little sidekick. Do I get tired and worn out? Yes. Do I sometimes feel like I’m going to lose it? You bet. Do I occasionally wish I had just a few minutes to myself? Absolutely (though only a few, I start missing her nearly immediately).

I’m pretty even kilter, most of the time. I feel like my whole life is a balancing act. I work from home part time, which I like to say is both the best and worst of both worlds. It gets frustrating sometimes! Trying to do everything isn’t easy. Some days we don’t leave the house, even to walk around the yard. Then other days we run errands, I get work done, we do all sorts of fun things together and I make fresh pasta.

When I spend 80% of my day catering to a tiny dictator, and the 20% that I’m trying to get things done is interrupted every 5 minutes, I’m not going to lie, it’s freaking annoying. But it’s part of the job. I’m the adult here, not her. I want her to explore and experience. I want her to try things and learn things; admittedly, climbing onto chairs and unlocking the front door aren’t my favorites, but they’re to be expected!

For the record, I’m not terribly permissive. I expect her to behave decently. I expect her to greet people in some matter. I expect her to sit at the table to eat with the family. I don’t feel like I need to allow any and everything to let her get the full experience. I’m still in charge here, not her. But I like to think we do it as a team. There’s a lot she can do, but also a whole lot she can’t do. As adults, I feel like it’s up to us to model the behavior we want to see in our kids. You can’t be rude and condescending and expect a child not to pick that up. So, we’re a team. Yes, I say “please” and “thank you” to my toddler. No, I don’t allow her to ignore me.

I don’t enjoy when my daughter gets upset. Who does? But it allows her to learn what is and isn’t okay, and how to cope with it. She doesn’t always want to follow instructions? Fine. It’s a balance. She doesn’t have to finish a game as long as she helps clean it up; she does have to hold my hand in the front yard or walking around in public. She can climb on our couch; she can’t play on steps or near the road. Safety and manners rule around here. You will be safe, and you will not behave like a little jerk. You want to baby-babble argue with me sometimes? Fine kid, you’re entitled to that.

I feel like I see a lot floating around on social media that makes it seem like its “in” to hate on being a parent. It’s tough sometimes! I’m not going to lie. That being said, I don’t feel the need to read posts and blogs about how categorically awful our kids are. I also don’t need to be told my child is made of stardust and moonbeams, who inhales the air around her and exhales perfection. Let’s just each embrace our own experiences, shall we?

My daughter can be clingy at times. I’m typing with one hand because she wants to sit with me right now. She’s hilarious. She’s adorable. She’s headstrong! And you know what, I’m okay with that. She’s a toddler.

People tell me she’s got a mind of her own with that tone in their voice that says, “oh, you’re in trouble.” They tell me I’ll have a handful.

Good. Let her be headstrong. Let her be independent. Let her make me crazy sometimes, and let me use my position as her parent to teach her to use these traits for good rather than for mischief.

So sure, she doesn’t always follow instructions and she’ll sometimes put up a fight when I tell her she can’t do something. But no, she’s not terrible.  And she’s going to grow up to be a strong, sweet, kick ass little lady.

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