As Truman nears the big 2 he is going through a ton of changes and obviously having a lot of really big and frustrating emotions. I know it is normal toddler behavior and I know I’m not alone in being so annoyed and on edge and just exhausted by the constant battlefield that my home has become, but knowing doesn’t make life easier. While he points and makes the same persistent “Ahhh! Ahhh!” sounds over and over again, he grows more and more frantic and angry that I do not seem to be catching on to what he wants. He’s right. I have NO idea what he wants. I grow frustrated and angry over listening to that horrible, whining, “Ahhh! Ahhhh!” sound over and over as I try to ask questions, and encourage him to tell me what he wants. (For the love of God, JUST TELL ME!) He gives up and throws a fit and I get angry and threaten him with a time out. Then I try to get him to look at me and listen, to rationalize with him, but I invade his space and he smacks me. I tell him, “We don’t hit!” and he cries harder, then grabs me around the neck and squeezes me so tight, still crying like he’s heart broken, and I try to talk myself out of tears because he’s so very sweet. After all, who hits then immediately hugs someone? He calms down and I calm down and we still don’t understand each other, but we’re over that hill and moving on.
Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes it takes fifteen minutes but inevitably we will be right back in the same position again. Sometimes it is over him not listening when I ask him to stop smashing a toy against the window, or asking him to hand me something he isn’t supposed to have while he runs the other way. There was a huge incident with a plastic clothes hanger the other day that resulted in him sitting in the corner and me yelling like a maniac. (Not a proud moment, I assure you.) I struggle with knowing how much to ignore and how much to discipline. I can’t put him in the corner for every little fit, because the majority of his fits are due to a language barrier. He knows what he wants but can’t say it and I don’t know what he wants, and just want him to tell me. I am an adult with established coping mechanisms to be able to handle my frustration, and he is not. So, if I feel like I’m ready to tear my hair out, how must he feel? Is that reason to punish him?
I started putting objects in time out when he doesn’t use them correctly, and that seems to be working. Example, he was brushing his hair with his hairbrush and carrying it around which was fine. Then he started hitting things with it. I asked him to please stop hitting things and he hit my leg with it. I took the brush away and told him the brush was in time out for awhile. He cried and acted like I ripped off his arm for about thirty seconds, got over it and played with something else. A little while later when he asked for the brush back, I explained that he can’t hit things with the brush and he played with it nicely until he lost interest. Perfect! That was a success. However, when I tried the same thing with the plastic hanger later on, instead of waiting for the hanger to come out of time out, he lunged his body toward the hanger over and over, grabbing for it and kicking and slapping me while trying to get to it. It was at that point that I yelled (a lot) and put him in the corner, threw the hanger in the garbage and ended up angry with him and myself even after he calmed down.
It is just so damn inconsistent! I feel like I’m living with a 25 pound ticking time bomb one minute, and the sweetest snuggle bug imaginable the next. At points I wonder if there is something wrong with him, at other points I wonder if there is something wrong with me. Mostly, I worry that I’m doing it wrong and he’ll either end up being the biggest brat imaginable or horribly wounded by my inability to calmly and gently discipline him. I guess we just keep doing the best we can and hope we get through it soon. Though I hear threes are even worse than twos and with another baby coming…let’s be honest, I won’t be out of this stage for years. Pray for me…or send me wine…or cheesecake…or all three.