So I remember writing about my birthday back in March, when I turned 35, but I neglected to write about Rye’s birthday, which was three days after mine, and though not a round number, was more monumental than my 35. He turned 2. As in, “the terrible twos.” I saw him starting to display some spunk about a month before the birthday, but now that we’re a quarter into the year, he’s starting to drive me mad.
I’ve got lots of friends with kids, most of them with at least one older than 2, so I’ve seen some of this before. But now that I’m looking back, I feel like I saw less of these friends when their kids entered two-year-old-hood than we had during the first two years of their child’s life—particularly when they only had one child. (By the second child, they’re so busy with the oldest, no-longer-a-tyrant child, that the second is taken along for the ride, well behaved or not.)
I don’t want to become a hermit until this thing is over, but I hate being seen with a toddler, who once had an angel face, making scrunched up, impish faces, suddenly screaming “apple juice” or “SNACK!” Luckily he hasn’t gotten too bad in grocery stores about seeing things he wants and over-reacting, but I’m sure that’s coming down the road.
So far, our worst incident happened on Friday on a visit to Bullocks, my favorite butcher. I brought in his snack and juice just in case there was a long line, but thankfully I was the second person to be served. I pointed out the two steaks I wanted (Rye loves steak but luckily he and I can still share one), letting Rye wander around. He found a little wire sculpture of an ant holding an American flag and brought it over to me, I acknowledged his find and asked him to put it back and he did. He tried to follow the customer before me out the front door, but luckily I pulled him back in and asked him to wait until I paid. The staff got a chuckle, handed me my change and we went out the door together, holding hands.
Not so bad.
Then I decided to go next door to the restaurant side of the operation and get us some fried chicken to take home for lunch (a definite bonus to going out of your way to visit the butcher). Rye started getting antsy as soon as we got in the door, and I decided to give him a little freedom, just as I had in the butcher side of the shop. Trying to hold him as he squirms the whole time is exhausting, so I wanted to give him a chance to show that he deserves a little freedom.
I was wrong.
He immediately started walking toward the sit-down/cafeteria side of the restaurant, which has a looooong aisle. I placed my order quickly, then went around the corner, hoping to lure him back with goldfish crackers. But he was no longer around the corner. He was dipping under their Western-style swinging doors, thankfully not into the kitchen (which he did at a recent trip to Noodles and Co.) and started running back to the carry-out side of the counter to the end where there was no counter or gate and I thankfully could get him back. He was laughing, hmmm, not in an evil tone, but a rascally one, knowing he had done something he’s NOT allowed to do, and ready to go back to the swinging doors and do it again. I tried to woo him with the crackers, asking him to sit on the bench, but he resisted. Finally he realized he was hungry, and yelled in a questioning tone “BENCH!” and I pointed that it was two steps to his right. He sat down, ate one fish, then jumped back down, again heading for the other side of the restaurant.
Five people in line behind me made an assortment of faces, from chuckling to annoyance. I tried to pick him up, and he laid down on the floor in passive resistance. Meanwhile the cashier is trying to hand me my chicken and telling me how much I owe her. I try to pin him on the floor between my legs as I pay, and the woman hands me one of their Western fries to try to catch his attention/appeal to his hunger. It works, as he takes a bite, stands a few feet away to chew, then comes back for more, like a monkey in a street bazaar. She hands me my change, I apologize profusely, and try to lure him out of there. As we head back toward the door, he starts running around the seating in the restaurant, but a grandmotherly woman blocks his path and says “I’m going to get you!” which makes him pause as I try to reshuffle holding the steaks, the chicken, my purse, his lidless goldfish container, and sneak up and grab him.
I fear I cannot go back to my butcher again for at least a month until this episode is forgotten. And I keep cringing, thinking “I now have one of THOSE kids.”
Look at this giant cookie! And he's still making that face!
I realize this probably felt way worse internally than it was for everyone witnessing it, and it wasn’t actually in front of my butcher, but the fried chicken people, but it really was one of those experiences I can’t shake. I used to be able to take Rye and a snack anywhere and know that as long as we were done in 20 minutes or less, we’d be OK. I feel like I can’t trust him anymore.
And it’s not just in public. At home, he’s a demanding, rude tyrant. He tries to talk over my conversations with Josh, won’t let me talk on the phone, thinks of something else he needs right as I finally get to sit down to eat, runs away every time I tell him he needs a diaper change or needs to put on his shoes, screams randomly (sometimes when you’re trying to brush his teeth and your faces are very close). It’s like every little thing has to be a struggle: wearing a bib, washing his hands, cleaning up toys. Six months ago, these were all routine activities. Now it’s like a grudge match after grudge match, and I feel like I’m losing.
I’ve decided to turn to the experts via books. I’m currently rereading “Bringing Up Bebe,” on French parenting (I know that sounds weird, but it had a lot of really good insights that make you question American cultural assumptions that underline our parenting) and may get out “Toddlerwise,” which I can’t remember if I read before or not, but I really enjoyed and strongly recommend “Babywise” to all new parents.
An immediate change I’ve started is to make Rye wait more, especially at home. He needs to get used to waiting and not being in charge of the pace of activities all the time. Josh thinks I was good at that before, but now every request (or should I say, demand) is being answered with “well right now I’m ____, but as soon as I finish I will get your _____.” If he starts a temper tantrum, so be it. My second tactic is to put on earmuffs, which I tell him mean I can’t hear him until he calms down. Today, during a temper tantrum (about making him come inside when we got home from the grocery store so I could put groceries away BEFORE we went outside to play), he told me through his crying hysteria to put my earmuffs on. I asked if that meant he wasn’t ready to calm down, and he said yes. I put them on, and within the next minute he settled down, agreed that he was hungry and would like to eat lunch before going outside anyway.
This is all very trying. And exhausting. And discouraging…because when I try to commiserate with parents who have made it past the terrible twos, they say don’t expect it to magically end at the next birthday. Or the next one. Or even when they’re six.
But that does boost my resolution to start disciplining him/building his patience now.
I can’t take four more years of this. Nor would I like the kind of adult this would grow up to be. Child, you are not the center of the universe. Or even this family. Deal with it.
And next time, please do not embarrass me in front of my butcher.