“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I'm not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal.”
When Spencer turned two years old, people gave me knowing looks laced with conspiring condolences of the Terrible Twos, but I never really quite understood the fuss. It wasn't until he neared his third birthday did I fully grasp it. He was suddenly a headstrong, strong-willed, whiny, stubborn monster prone to tantrums and meltdowns, where no amount of reasoning, discipline, and (don't judge) bribery could tame him. We simply had to ride out the waves and then swoop in with the lesson-learning, character-building, love-affirming chats that most definitely fell on deaf ears.
Every once and again we were blessed with days, or even weeks, of a much needed reprieve. He'd transform into the kid we remembered from long ago and submerge from the darkness a smarter, more charming, funnier individual. And all was right with the world. For a while, anyway. Until the next storm brewed and we were yet again riding the waves without a life vest.
Just like people warned us of the Terrible Twos, I shouted proclamations of how much, much worse age three was. Just wait until he's four, I comforted myself. Four is the magical age. They are much more agreeable, listen to reason, and understand consequences. I was geared up for this age, holding onto this notion as if it were my saving grace, the very thing getting me through the darkest hours.
Spencer turned four and I celebrated. Yes, we made it! And it really seemed true at first. I was even bragging to my mommy friends with freshly turned three-year-olds. Ha, I made it through the danger zone and it's brighter, happier, easier on this side!
It's true. It was. Until it wasn't. You see, I've come to realize something very important, something we should all come to terms with, embrace, embody, give into:
There is no such thing as a magical age.
Each age comes with its own challenges and obstacles and rewards and milestones. Each stage is filled with good and bad, and all we can do is grab on and ride the waves and hope to make it through to the other side. No sense in wishing time away until the next age or stage because even in the hardest, most trying times, there are those hidden gems that surface. And, man, I would hate to miss those!
I've taken many approaches to parenting during these difficult behavioral stages--some successful, some disastrous--but I don't believe there is a winning formula to apply to each kid or situation. As Ashton enters the Terrible Twos and Spencer navigates through this uncharted territory, I am trying with every ounce of my being to hang onto the things I do know: (a) they aren't behaving this way to goad me; (b) something is bothering them, even if they can't communicate the issue; (c) they need my guidance, not my anger; and (d) this too shall pass. (Oh, and, wine, lots and lots of wine.)
My latest philosophy with Spencer has been to utter this phrase: Tomorrow is another day. I've explained this to him to mean that tomorrow all our actions from yesterday are wiped clean and we start the day anew, giving us the chance to erase the bad from yesterday and choose to be different today. He's been parroting this to me lately, giving me hope that this current four-year-old storm will pass as quickly as it came.
Now to pour myself a glass of wine and brainstorm ways to lasso my ornery two-year-old's behavior, who constantly proclaims, my own--translating to mean his inability to share and the resulting wildfire emotions that follow.
To all you parents out there wading through these wondefully trying times--Cheers! Tomorrow is another day.