Two-year-olds are meant to be terrible – hence Terrible Twos. Three-year-olds are meant to be like mini-teenagers – hence Threenagers. Four-year-olds are meant to extremely lively – hence Fournados. Our little one has acquired a fascinating combination of all of these three ages. 90% of the time he is a little bundle of joy – extremely polite, quite chatty and very helpful. The other 10% is so unexpected, therefore, that when it happens it seems like someone else has inhabited the body of our dear, sweet boy – some kind of three-headed demon. At times if you just catch him out the corner of your eye you could be forgiven for thinking his head was rotating 360 degrees and 666 had appeared in his scalp, such is the extent of the apparent demonic possession!
However, even though we have a creepy old priest on speed dial just in case a full exorcism is required, by the time he arrives at the front door with bible and crucifix in hand, our little one has forgotten he was ever kicking off and is back to being a little angel, leaving us looking at him with a mixture of relief, confusion and mild terror.
There are few obvious triggers that we have started to notice, which we know will generally result in meltdown. Anything that prevents him from digging holes in the garden is a big one.
‘Daddy, dig dig.’
‘Sorry son, it’s time for lunch’
‘Dig dig. DIG DIG!!!!!!’
Five minutes later, despite a wide range of attempted bribes, including biscuits, Peppa Pig and nanny, the situation has reached breaking point and carrying him back into the house like a particularly pissed off python is the only option remaining, whilst desperately trying to avoid being bashed in the bollocks by a flying limb. Carrying him inside is, of course, heavily dependent on being able to pick him up in the first place though – no mean feat giving that he has now mastered a variety of ‘carrying avoidance techniques’. These techniques generally involve him making himself as streamlined as possible and then wriggling like a randy octopus. The most successful of these is where he raises both arms above his head and performs a mid-air planking manoeuvre. Even if you do manage to grab hold of a flailing body part he will then attempt to dive head-first out of the side of your arms repeatedly until you are left carrying him by one ankle.
It’s a special time.
Once you’ve dragged him inside he will then be inconsolable for a few minutes, bashing at the back door like a drunk person who has been refused entry into a nightclub. There are no winners in this game of toddler tantrum and the most you can hope for is that he will soon realise that the game is up and that there is probably something more interesting he could be doing. After he calms down a bit, a nice hug will help smooth things over and he will pretty quickly return to his former self. The biscuit / toy / bottle / TV that he threw across the room a couple of minutes previously will now be gleefully hunted down and he will give you a cheeky look and smile as if to say ‘We must do that again sometime, Daddy.’
It’s not so bad when at home, as aside from 10 minutes of feeling pretty stressed, there is no one else there to see / judge / make indiscreet tutting noises. Out in public however is a whole new level of stress and generally seems to occur when I am carrying something. The queue for the till in Sainsbury’s Café, for example – tray in hand, with delicately balanced soft drinks on board – was not a fun experience! Little one was desperate to run off into the café, and hasn’t quite yet got to grips with the necessary evil of queuing up and paying for food before you can eat it. Attempting to restrain a toddler who is intent on getting somewhere, whilst carrying liquids, with a Thomas rucksack over one shoulder, whilst in a queue of tutting pensioners is not an experience I would endeavour to repeat, although of course I styled it out by making conversation about the weather whilst doing so. Fortunately, Sarah timed her return from the car with perfection and distracted him with the potential of putting a 2p coin in the twirly charity collection machine.
So, is there any way of ‘fixing’ a full-on tantrum situation? If there is, I’d love to know! Some things that seem to limit the damage, however, are as follows:
Remain calm – easier said than done I know, but pretty essential. The last thing you want is for your toddler to have to drag you up off the floor and offer you a tea to calm you down once he has finished screaming.
Employ proactive tantrum-avoidance strategies – If you know it’s coming, pre-empt it by highlighting potential alternative option, e.g. if you come inside you can see nanny, or if you stop swinging from the chandelier I’ll take you to the park.
Use snacks – always the best solution to virtually every situation. Always carry snacks on you wherever you go. Big bags of them. Stuff your trouser pockets full of toddler snacks to the extent that you look like MC Hammer if you need to. Just get it done!
Perfect your ‘are you shitting me’ / ‘don’t even think about it’ look – this should be used liberally when strangers try to involve themselves in your misery. The last thing you want is for some old dear who had children in the 1920s, and kept them in a cage, to start dishing out parenting advice to you.
‘Have you tried giving him a dummy?’
‘Maybe he is tired?’,
‘Smack his bum’,
‘Does he want a sweet’
‘Is he your first?’
‘Don’t you think you should do something?’
Just stare at them and carry on with what you think is best, because surprisingly you might know a little bit more about your child after 2 years than a complete stranger does.
Don’t Leave The House – not an ideal solution perhaps, but worth considering!!
Get ‘It’s Just A Phase’ tattooed across your forearm – so you can look at it and give yourself hope that it will pass – eventually.
Completely abdicate parental responsibility – a last resort, but if you just sit on the sofa watching TV, drinking vodka and checking Facebook you will probably quite successfully manage to avoid doing the things that irritate your little bundle of joy. Admittedly, your little one might break himself quite quickly, so do use this option with caution, especially when his two-year assessment is the next day!!
Although our little one is going through a bit of an emotional stage, he’s still bloody awesome and I wouldn’t change him for the world!