The honeymoon of the newborn years are over.
A baby’s first year to year and half is pretty much maintenance and magnificence of each new skill and achievement. The baby’s weight is a cause for celebration. The appearance of the first two teeth is definitely newsworthy. Sitting up takes forever. Babbling is a sign of an emerging genius. It’s all so great. And then the real job of parenting begins.
When daughter number 2 hit the terrible twos, it was with a vengeance! My first real test of parenting.
And remember, this was my second child. She was, literally, the fit thrower of all fit throwers! Just ask my friends; they all witnessed it. It could happen anytime over anything. Looking back, I think most of it stemmed from the fact that she could not communicate her wants and wishes. We didn’t understand why she was so frantic. And some times, it was probably just plain old orneriness.
Whatever, we had some miserable scenes, both public and privately. Her socks were an issue; she didn’t want to feel the seams of her socks in her shoes. The tags in the back of her clothes were an issue; they bothered her. These appeared sensory and were not too hard to accommodate. Turn the socks inside out before putting on. Cut the tags out of clothes. And then there were the fits that came out of nowhere at the worst possible time at the worst possible location - restaurants, church, receptions, at friends houses. All the parenting books said, “be consistent,” “give her choices, not open ended options,” “don’t give in.” Malarkey. This was a child that changed the game constantly, such that consistency had no meaning.
This was a child who would rather you kill her than give in and do what you wanted her to do.
No amount of reasoning or brute force would work. When I would look at her screaming and throwing these fits at two, what I saw was a 16-year old throwing a tantrum. I truly thought I had a juvenile delinquent on my hands. We were in trouble and we needed help.
Daughter number 1 was attending Montessori School preschool at the time and the director, I felt, was a child whisperer. He did have a degree in child psychology, so my husband and I turned to him for help. He agreed to meet with us weekly to see what was going on. At the first meeting, I told him, “Wait till you see. I just want you to fix her!” To which he kindly replied, “you don’t even need to bring her.” That was not good news to my ears. What? Could it be me? We started to go over at each meeting, actual situations from the previous week and what happened.
None of this overall, works for everyone, stuff.
I remember one of the first things him saying was to describe a situation in the past week where we were having a good time when Caroline was calm, happy, enjoying what we were doing. Where were we? At home, playing on the floor, singing in the car? And then, he had me remember MY frame of mind, my way of being at that time. Was I rested, calm, engaged with her alone, excited or into what we were doing? He wanted me to notice a pattern between the way I was being and the way she was reacting. It was insightful. Because she could not verbally communicate well at that point, it helped me to pick up on her non verbal communication. When she got frustrated, it was usually when I was frustrated or felt tense or the pressure of a situation.
I had to step back, relax, and try to emulate more often my behavior of the good times.
I repeated those times more often, sitting on the floor playing with her, giving her mostly undivided attention (I’m not perfect). Staying with her in those times of upset, soothing her, being quiet, just her and I. I won’t say it happened overnight. In fact, it took almost a year before she turned the corner.
Yes, we did get into the nitty gritty of certain situations and we will go into those in our next blog, but the point here is that we saw that we needed help. We got the help. We followed the advice we got. We all worked together. For her. For the sanity of our household. Most importantly, to get back to joy and fun of having children, having a family. It took work on our part. It took a lot of work on Caroline’s part.
But, we made it through. On to the the nitty gritty.