Teen-y toddlers

By Alison Folwell

I'd consider myself pretty lucky so far. My two-and-a-half year old is usually relatively well behaved. Recently though, he has been getting more and more stroppy when asked to do something that he doesn't want to do. Perfectly normal for his age, I know. But nine weeks ago his little sister (L) was born - and three weeks after that, he started pre-school. 

So now I have no idea what is just his age, standard frustration for a bright toddler struggling to work out the world around him, and how much might be jealousy or insecurities to do with the new addition to our family.

Yesterday, L was having a little kick around in her play gym, and J was happily drawing with his beloved crayons. With no warning, and an enormous smile, he ran over and sat down on her. I was sitting between them, yet still couldn't get there fast enough. She howled; he apologised (under duress). 

Later that afternoon though, he tried to do it again. Later still, he was giving me a big cuddle, then suddenly straightened up and scratched me quite badly across the chest. This is not abnormal for him - he has never done it to anyone else, but mummy, it seems, is fair game. Perhaps it is a strange way of expressing love, or just over-exuberance he can't communicate. He is so eloquent I sometimes forget he is still only two, and can't really be expected to understand the consequences of his actions, and that when he can’t express himself, his frustration is just too much to bear, leading to meltdown. 

And yet I fear that my reactions are shaping the person he is going to be - and what if I am getting it wrong? The basic role of any and every parent, perhaps. But that doesn't stop that responsibility being the biggest anyone has to bear.

I worry that I am being blind to his behaviour, a biased parent ignoring blatant issues. Yet I truly believe he is better behaved most of the time than many of the children I know. But in the same way we can never know how other people really see colours, we are equally incapable of seeing our own children with complete objectivity. Which is probably for the best.

Of course, I try to be patient, calm, rational. To explain to him why what he's doing is not acceptable. I distract him, tempt, cajole and placate. I am assured by everyone I know and all the parenting websites and magazines that perseverance and consistency are key. Some days it's harder than others to stay calm – no one is perfect, after all. 

We are all just muddling through, making it all up as we go along and wondering when we're really going to feel like proper grown-ups, the ones we were surrounded by when we were growing up. 

And so I just keep repeating that mantra that has comforted me since he was born, and that I lean heavily upon once more with his tiny sister. Everything is a phase, and this too will pass. And in the meantime - well, there's always chocolate.

Tagged in: Toddlers
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