Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Temper, temper

You know, I always sort of rolled my eyes at the whole concept of the Terrible Twos. I mean, after surviving my child's early infancy, when one of us was always a red-faced squalling mess, how hard could my son's toddler years really be?

Well, for the most part, not too bad. I love having a child who can actually speak real words! and ask! for things and tell me! what he wants or doesn't want. It's much easier than guessing if he wants a sippy cup or a binkie or a blankey or geez, whatever it is that little tiny babies want when you're already holding them but they're still crying. William says, "Snacks! I need snacks," and I say "Do you want craisins or Goldfish?"

Except sometimes I have to say, "Sorry, kid, but it's almost dinnertime. We've got to hold off on the snacks for now."

Which elicits, yes, you guessed it: the huge screaming Terrible Two Tantrum. Ah yes. So that's why they call it the Terrible Twos.

When William was a tiny baby, his tantrums consisted of him windmilling his arms in jerky circles and high-pitched screaming at the top of his lungs. His little round head would flush bright red, and his chest and arms would rapidly turn crimson, too. David and I jokingly, yet lovingly, referred to him as Super Mister Tomato Head at such times. However, as mad as he got, William couldn't go anywhere. He was stationary. The tantrum was confined to the changing table or the blanket on the floor or wherever he happened to be at the moment that I disappointed him.

William at one week, mad as a wet hen:

A couple of weeks later:

At age two years and almost three months, William still knows how to scream so loudly that you cringe, waiting for the light bulbs in the chandelier to explode all over the foyer. But now he's mobile. He's big and strong, and the boy can dance like Donald Duck when he's angry.

Starting up the dance at the zoo last week:

I'd had the nerve to ask him if he wanted to ride in the stroller. I know! The nerve of me!

Here's his best pouty face from back in May:

Now, I will be fair. Most of the time, William really is still the smiley little guy that he's always been. But when he does get mad, look out. Mostly, he throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way, which you would expect for someone his age. Pretty normal. Most two-year-olds are learning about boundaries and testing their (and our) limits.

But he also sometimes throws a category five fit when you do something that he really really doesn't want you to do. For example, let's say you're singing songs with him. And you choose what you thought was a fairly innocuous song, one that you know, in fact, that he likes. You choose the ABC song. He loooooves the ABC song.

Well. Because you are not a mind-reader, how could you have known that the song you should have chosen was "Baa Baa Black Sheep"? I mean, William's got pretty high standards, if you ask me. So when you innocently launch into the ABC song, what you hear from my son is an increasingly frantic "No, no, no! No! NO! NO! NO! Aaaaaaaaaaggggghhh! No! No! NO!" At increasingly louder volume, of course.

And then the arm-waving starts. And the foot-stamping. And the dancing and turning in circles. Really, all he needs is a costume to make it quite the show. Luckily, all it takes to diffuse most tantrums is to either seamlessly launch into the designated "right" song (i.e. "Baa Baa Black Sheep") or to competely disengage and ignore the tantrum until it stops.

Sometimes all it really does take is a segueing sweetly into "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and acting like nothing happened. And other times, I have to really let him have his fit and leave him completely alone. Sometimes that requires a formal Time Out, but sometimes I can just pretend like I don't notice anything and don't give him any attention at all.

The trick is knowing when to do which. And to quote another famous William, ay, there's the rub.*

*(William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act III, scene I)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aw, he is such a good natured little guy - always laughing and smiling (or usually). I have distracted him out of a few impending tantrums, but never had to deal with the full blown meltdowns. His Dad, on the other hand, had the Donald Duck Dance perfected at about that age! But look at him now - so calm and easy-going!

With love, Diane