Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Terrible Twos

In less than one month, my little baby girl will be TWO years old. Trey and I still call her the baby, even though we know the more accurate term for a child her age is toddler. The past (almost) two years have proved to be both an emotional and educational experience in parenting. Now that we are past the point of just providing for her basic needs, this parenting stuff is really starting to get interesting.

In my opinion, Sophia is a sweet, easygoing, independent little girl about 90% of the time. She freely gives us hugs, greets strangers in the store, and blows kisses goodbye to everyone she meets. She loves to play with her dolls, pretends to talk on the phone, blows bubbles, colors, and plays in her kitchen (she makes the best pretend breakfast). Each morning when she wakes up, she lays her head on my shoulder for a few moments and gently pats my back before she starts asking me to read her a book. She kisses me and tells me “Bye-Bye, Mommy” each morning, then runs to my arms for a hug in the afternoons. I just soak in these sugary sweet little girl moments every chance I get, because I know that she is growing up so fast and they will be gone too soon.

Sometimes, those sweet little girl moments can turn sour very quickly. And when Sophia is mad, that 10% of bad behavior is backed by 100% effort. From my vast parenting experience (all two years of it), I have determined that most of her meltdowns occur for three main reasons: 1) I need to change her clothes or diaper and she does not want me to interrupt her playtime, 2) she is teething and doesn’t want any of the food or drinks I offer or 3) the “last resort” reason – she is entering the terrible twos.

Her strong, assertive independence will be a great asset to her personality in the future, but now it makes it enormously difficult to get her to cooperate on simple things like changing her clothes, combing her hair, or brushing her teeth. Just this morning I was trying to get her pajamas off and her clothes for daycare on. “No, Mommy! My body”, she shouted. Hey, at least the girl has boundaries. Let’s hope she keeps this attitude for the next 40 years.

PARENTING TIP: Make changing clothes a game or better yet, ask to see her belly button. Play beauty shop as a way to get hair brushed.

I understand that some of the reasons that she has meltdowns are due to the fact that she has difficulty communicating with us with her limited two year old vocabulary. She gets frustrated that she knows what she wants, but we don’t understand her and cannot respond to her request. I did teach her several baby signs, which have proven to be a HUGE help in some areas. However, other times I just can’t decipher her requests – “Mommy, juuuiccc malk!” really throws me. Does she want juice or does she want milk? I grab a cup and start to pour milk but as she watches me, her face scrunches up and an ear piercing scream vibrates from her body. “No MALK!” she yells. I quickly put the milk back, get a new cup and start to pour juice. With tears now streaming down her face, she shakes her head no and stomps her feet. “Mommy, NO JUUICCE”! I just finish pouring the juice, put the lid on the cup and place it on the ground a safe distance away from her. I have learned from experience that you do NOT offer a screaming toddler a cup to drink because will promptly be hurled back at you or thrown directly at the floor.

PARENTING TIP: Never leave the house without a full sippie cup of juice/milk. And a backup sippie cup. And snacks. And extra wipes to clean up the spilled juice and snacks.

She has proved to be a quick learner too, when it comes to responding to my methods of discipline. One of her favorite reactions is what I refer to as “going spaghetti” on me. This often happens when I need to change her clothes, change her diaper, or take her to the potty. I will try to pick her up and her entire body goes limp as a noodle. The only good part of this reaction is that it is usually a silent protest. Screams and howls are not needed to get her point across. How does she know that “going spaghetti” makes her impossible to pick up, especially now that she is around 25 pounds? The lack of cooperation is frustrating so I usually leave my pile of spaghetti on the floor and come back later to pick it up. Or I look for tickle bugs under her arms and we both end up in a pile of laughter on the floor.

PARENTING TIP: Hugs can work wonders. When hugs don't work, resort to tickling.

Trey has always been the more lenient parent, but lately he is starting to understand that he also needs to enforce some discipline. Our least favorite thing is to give “Time Outs” for behavior that is less than desirable. The problem is her reaction to the Time Out is even worse than the behavior that puts her there. Screaming, kicking, hitting – all of this anger pouring out of a little girl who was our little angel just 30 seconds earlier. We try to ignore it and only reward her with attention once the tantrum is over. My heart aches as it takes her several minutes to calm down. We haven’t got the hang of them yet, but we are trying to be consistent. Ugh, this is my least favorite part of parenting.

PARENTING TIP: Let the other parent know you are giving a time out so they don't run out of the room to be rescued by mommy.

Last month we flew to Charlotte for a birthday party/family reunion. Sophia is still under two years old, so we decided to take advantage of the last time we could fly without buying her a seat. Two words - BIG MISTAKE. The flight home was crowded, Sophia had missed her afternoon nap, and the 2 1/2 hour flight was prolonged as we circled Dallas for 45 minutes before we landed. The three of us were tired, cranky and frustrated after passing her back and forth between our laps and by the end of the flight Sophia was so tired of being held that she pushed away all attempts to console her. She finally cried herself to sleep on Trey's shoulder about 20 minutes before we got off the plane. As Trey sat there patting her back, I watched as every ounce of distress and frustration fell away from his face and was replaced with the gentle glow of unconditional love. "It's not her fault", he whispered to me. Our greatest adventure these past two years has been that roller coaster of emotions that you experience as a parent. Love can be turned to frustration, then back to gratitude in a matter of moments.
PARENTING TIP: Stickers and suckers are MUST HAVES on a plane trip.

Our next big adventure in parenting is potty training. I doubt this will be one of my favorite rides but it is much better than the alternative of changing her diapers forever. We have been taking her to the potty for several months now and she is showing all the signs that she is more than ready for this beg step. Last week we decided to get serious, pull-ups, big girl panties, stickers, and flushable wipes, we are stocked up and ready to go! Wish us luck!

PARENTING TIP: When you hear the words "Pooh Pooh, potty" from your toddler, start running and find a bathroom!

1 comment:

Trisha said...

wow! It sounds like you too are handling a heavy load now. But Trey is right, it's not her fault. She's just a "toddler" and does not know any better (yet). But I know you and Trey are wonderful parents and are raising Sophia to be an amazing, intellegent, and loving young lady. I really hope we get the chance to visit sometime soon! LOVE YA'LL!