It’s that time again. Red is approaching her second birthday. The ‘terrible twos’ are upon us. We didn’t know many parents back when Blondie turned two, but they tried to warn us. The warnings were veiled, as if too horrible to actually discuss. It was like asking a Vietnam veteran to explain what they went through. You could see the trauma in their eyes and didn’t want to press further in case tears formed.
Blondie was pretty verbally dextrous, but suddenly all the language she had learned was replaced with one word: NO. Life often ground to a standstill as we were forced to learn that, unfortunately, the ball was often in Blondie’s court. If we wanted to be somewhere in a hurry, for example, it was tough shit as Blondie would refuse to leave the house, even if it was to do something she loved like visiting grandparents, or demanding one of those overpriced kids magazines on the bottom row in shops. Yes, you can drag a child kicking and screaming, and eventually have to sometimes, but bundling them into a car and buckling them in can be a nightmare.
One of the worst examples was getting her to leave a park one day. We got her back to the car but it was impossible to fasten her in. I had to leave Mummy Cool to it twice to avoid losing my mind or a limb. I felt like Father Merrin at the end of The Exorcist, clutching his bible and searching for his medication after wrestling with a demon.
Red has up until now been the mellow one, albeit with flashes of a temper every now and then (much as I’d like to blame her hair colour, this is probably my fault). I’ve been foolish when I’ve occasionally hoped she was going to be ‘the good one’. It doesn’t work like that. The ‘terrible twos’ may be painful, but it should be considered a positive step in your child’s development. After all, don’t we all want our children to learn to think for themselves?
Of course we do, it’s just difficult because they can’t express these developing feelings of inner strength in any other way than to be annoying, violent and obstinate. Red’s going to find the ‘always saying no’ part of it easy enough, she can’t be arsed to say much else anyway. Luckily, she does this in a very cute way, shaking her head and saying it over and over like a posh Violet Beauregarde.
The hardest part of it for me is, the bad behaviour seems to be mostly directed at yours truly. The most soul-destroying element I endured last time around was walking into Blondie’s bedroom or greeting her downstairs, only to be scowled at in return, often with charming phrases like “I don’t want you daddy, I want mummy”, or worst of all “I don’t like you daddy”. This happened nearly every day, for a long, long time. I’ve since learnt from other dads that thankfully I’m not the only one to have suffered such treatment. It could be, as Blondie once claimed, because I was the one leaving her to go to work every day, and after all, that’s often the case with dads. Or it could be that she learned to cope with my many flaws over time, just like her mum did…
I thought I was more prepared for it this time around, but for a few weeks now Red has greeted me most mornings with a grumble and a shake of the head. Ironically, Blondie is complaining she’s getting the same treatment. I’d like to say I’ve been mature and not pointed out the irony to her, but… Getting Red dressed is also a nightmare. It’s like pulling a fish from a river and attempting to put a dress on it. Slippery, awkward and highly irritating. So I’m steeling myself for worse behaviour. In the meantime, I’ll just have to try and remember the advice I’d give any other parent about to go through it. Be patient, be calm, maybe even laugh at the ridiculous situations you find yourselves in, and remember it doesn’t last forever. And it could be worse, you could be dealing with a ‘threenager’…