Living with a twenty month old is a lot like having a temperamental diva in the house. Not modern pop star, more classic Madame Butterfly—who just got panned in the New York Times.
Newspapers flying, glasses breaking, tears, screams and histrionics. And, that’s before the first diaper change.
One major difference between my pint-sized Prima Donna and one of a larger scale, besides her more limited repertoire of Puccini, is that my daughter’s period of solipsistic moodiness is supposed to be temporary.
Once her vocabulary catches up with her new-found sense of independence, her career in melodrama needs to end.
When might this happen? I read up a bit on the terrible twos on About.Com, and they offered a nifty little calculator to determine the timing of this curtain call.
You have 413 days - 10 hours - 9 minutes - and 9 seconds until your child is out of the terrible twos phase.
This was designed to make me feel better.
I really hate to complain about my children’s behavior because, 1) Nobody else cares, 2) They are creatures of my own making, and 3)They do bring more joy than frustration to my life.
How do you negotiate with a performer who will not listen to reason and is only satisfied when she gets her own way?
Toddler wants to pet the dog......in its eyes
Toddler wants to eat a goldfish cracker...off the pavement at the zoo.
Toddler wants to read Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.....at 4:30 am.
Toddler wants to scream “Dadda”.....at the animatronic version of Ronald Reagan at Disney’s Hall of Presidents and shake hands with William H. Taft.
Besides the lack of judgment my little one displays (Taft?), her reaction to being denied is something to fear.
William Sears, the Southern California pediatrician writes in The Baby Book:
“Two basic feelings prompt most temper tantrums. A child has an intense curiosity and a desire to perform an act, but very often the desire is greater than the capability. This leads to intense frustration, which is released in a healthy tantrum. Second, newly found power and desire for “bigness” propel him toward a certain act, when suddenly someone from above, especially someone he loves, descends upon him with a “no.” .....Because he cannot yet handle emotions with reason, he chooses to cope with his inner emotions by a display of outward emotions, which we call a tantrum."
Outside of Southern Californing it's also called a "meltdown", or "reason why I'm losing my mind."
I wanted to explain this to the older women staring at me at J. C. Penney’s while I sat and waited for my daughter to cool off .
Why is your child clutching the mannequin leg?
She’s mad at me.
What did you do?
I took away her apple?
She’d dropped it and it rolled all over this disgusting carpet and I’d rather she not eat it now.
How long are you going to let her cling to that mannequin?
It’s only ten, right?
I didn’t have to pick up my oldest daughter from school until noon, but thankfully, our standoff did not last that long.
And, so it goes...I was definitely the villian in that production.
The next scene happened in our house, with no audience in attendance. My daughter, Ava, entered upstage, through a door that we can pretend leads off to our deck (because it acutally does).
Ava enters with sand in her hands. Runs into den and scatters sand over wood floor. Finds big sister’s juice box, takes straw out, squeezes six ounces of apple juice over sand.
Calm, loving, generous, and elegantly dressed mother enters from same door, discovers mess and rushes to Ava, quickly removes juice box from toddler’s hands and sings "shhhh" in a melodious soprano.
Ava screams, charges baby gate, escapes to kitchen, finds dog’s water bowl and dumps water all over kitchen floor, stomping and squeaking in delight.
Mother stands, supresses a shriek—and witnesses that her stomach has just turned to Jell-O.
Music, fade to black, or night-light, whatever works.
There are other times of course, when my little one hugs me and demands kiss after kiss. When she sits patiently, mesmerized by a soap bubble. When she smiles and bounces with pure joy because she recognizes the first few notes of a song. When her ability to live in the moment, for the moment, is her most precious trait of all.
It's a parent's dilemma to want her children to grow up, knowing that as they gain the ability to reason and compromise, they'll lose a bit of their imaginations and passion.
But, only revolutionaries and artists can live by those alone.
And, we all know how temperamental they can be.
Post Script: Thank you so much for clicking (and commenting) on the story in Mamapedia last week. Your support means a great deal to me. And, if you had a chance to read last week's post, The Other Vaccine Debate, (about Gardasil), I have added something to the end of the original post --a few comments I received from health professionals, which add even more context.