Saturday, July 19, 2008

Terrible Twos, Tempestuous Threes

If I were to kick this blog off again, I'd definitely pick a different name, as the 'Parenthood' content has proved to be extremely thin.

One problem I've come to recognise is that having only one child, and only limited experience of dealing with other people's children, meant it's been very difficult to know what is and isn't comment worthy.

In business terms, there was no benchmark for E, against whom I could make comparisons. Clearly that situation is starting to change, so perhaps more observations on V will be forthcoming.

For now, there's one area of child behaviour which is so commonly recognised, no benchmark is required. Namely, The Terrible Twos - a time of tantrums, tears, and what I've seen described as 'oppositional behaviour'.

It seemed to me that we were getting off quite lightly in this respect with E. For most of her twos she proved to be fairly easy to deal with.

She does seem to have almost endless reserves of energy, but for the most part she channelled them in entertaining or creative ways.

She loves to go to the park, she loves to go to various toddler/nursery groups, she loves things like painting, drawing, play dough, etc.

One activity I was quite happy to embrace revolved around my return from work.

K observed that regardless of her state at the time of my return, E would always spring to life and be ready to play as soon as I crossed the threshold.

Not only that, but she seemed to implicitly recognise that playing with daddy allows a wider spectrum of acceptable behaviour than playing with other kids, or mummy, or grandparents.

Specifically, there's a bit more rough-and-tumble allowed.

This would occasionally irritate K, particularly if I were a bit late home and E was getting sleepy and she looked set for a relatively swift transition from daytime to bedtime.

Sleepy toddler would spontaneously transform to whirling dervish toddler, and a period of tumbling, rolling, climbing, backflips and other games, would ensue. Not ideal preparation for bedtime.

For me, it was a joyous time. It's always nice to be welcomed enthusiastically after not seeing the family - often since the previous evening - and after spending most of my day stuck in front of a PC, a bit of physical exertion was no bad thing.

However, in the months approaching her third birthday, we noticed a definite change in E's behaviour.

The welcome home behaviour got a bit more manic, the games more frenzied, and a staring-eyed, teeth-clenching attitude became more prevalent on E's part.

Which all seemed terribly incongruous coming from this skinny, curly blonde haired, vision of innocence.

In retrospect I perhaps didn't take it as seriously as I should have. Laughing off the occasional slap or scratch as over exuberance. Even one of two headbutts seemed to be merely accidental - and may well have been.

E being our first child, I'd never realised how strong a skinny two year old could actually be. The punches are hardly knockout material but they do have an impact, and if she sets her mind to, for example, not allowing herself to be harnessed in the car seat, it's a tough job to get her secured.

One thing that started to toughen my attitude was her continual attempts to target my glasses. Which eventually led to them being so wrecked they barely clung to my nose and ears.

Replacement cost - £300. I was not happy, albeit my prescription had changed, so a new pair would have been required in the near future anyway.

K and I were now making a conscious effort to clamp down on the naughtiness - maintaining a united front against any misdemeanours - whilst still ensuring we were doing all the stuff the text books say should be done. Lots of activities to harness and focus toddler energy productively, making sure she didn't feel marginalised by the impending new baby, etc.

Still the teeth gritting and aggression continued, though at containable levels.

Until, that is, a bath time last midweek when, as I was lifting her from the bath, she caught me unawares and sunk her teeth hard into my neck with a vigour that would have made Dracula proud.

The pain was equal to anything I've had inflicted on me by an adult, and made worse by the complete surprise. Roars of pain, shouting, finger pointing, tantrum tears, and an early bedtime followed (for her, in case you're wondering).

It's difficult to strike a balance in these circumstances.

One the one hand I'm perfectly aware the Terrible Twos exists, and equally aware they were never going to disappear from the date of her recent third birthday. E is only a toddler, and mishaps and misbehaviour are bound to happen.

On the other hand, I was genuinely shocked by the calculated nature of the biting incident, and I do wonder if we've been a bit too soft on her so far.

She does seem to be a clever kid, and it does seem to us that she has a good understanding of right-and-wrong, but just doesn't feel compelled to comply with it sometimes. Time for some 'tough love', I feel.

Still it could be worse. All I've got to show for my suffering is a rapidly fading set of teeth marks on my neck.

A friend wasn't so lucky, when an incident involving his twenty month old son, himself, and a Thomas The Tank Engine toy, resulted in a broken nose for daddy!

He reckons it was an accident, but with the benefit of experience, I'm not so sure!

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