Let's set the scene.
I have the new baby in the ergo (Vivian, 6 months, the sweetest little thing I started nannying, don't worry I didn't have a baby and not tell you about it), and in the other hand I have a flopping, long haired, peanut butter schmered alligator in human form dangling from him arm, doing what his father has deemed "the death rattle", screaming "TRAINS! NO! NO! TRAINS! I WANT THE TRAINS!" in the middle of the Chicago Children's Museum gift shop (which is conveniently located so that you can not EXIT the museum with out passing through)
He fights me hard and I loose my grip. Julian flumps dramatically onto the floor, rolling around just screaming, nothing intelligible, just screaming in a pitch so high I am waiting for the glass to shatter. I imagine Will Farrell in his place, and laugh just to keep myself from falling apart or hiding behind the wall of over priced natural color change mood rings and bpa free recycled plastic slinkies. Vivian is passed out, dead weight in the carrier, with her rubber pacifier dangerously teetering on the edge of her tiny mouth, if she drops it will I could potentially collapse out of sheer frustration.
Elderly woman in a muumuu (seriously) walks by and says, "Mmm Momma, you cant let that chil' do that, you gotsa take him home." and shuffles away, tisk - tisking at me.
I'm not mad at her. She is right, I gotsa take this chil' home. Thats exactly what I'm attempting to do, but he is so strong from eating so much kale, buckwheat pancakes and local organic grassfed meatballs that he can outrun me and knock me out if he gets a good one in, 38 pounds of terrifying toddler furry. I promise I am not mad at her. I even told my husband I wasn't mad at her, and that I didn't say something witty in return like I did that time the guy on the Amtrak train said "Some one is a little cranky!". ( I promise you that if you run into that guy and your baby is crying he will not say anything to you, and probably offer you chocolate, or hide from you. You are welcome. )
They tell you all about horror labor stories, 12th (!) degree vaginal tears, cracking nipples, sleepless nights, colic and teething. They have the term "Terrible Twos" but no one really tells you what that really means, they don't want to relive it. When Julian turned two we thought maybe we got by unscathed! He wasn't acting terrible at all! He was in that cute transition between baby and toddler, loving, sweet, super cuddly and tolerably inquisitive, impressively cooperative.
Last month we visited my parents in Michigan and my Dad bought him this massive rainbow lollypop. You know, the ones they have in old cartoons that were really just exaggerations of logically sized lollypops but then they started actually making them that big kind of lollypops. The rest of the trip went terrible (like they say the two's are.) I swore it was the damn lollypop.
I know it's not really the lollypop, or the fact that I let him watch a few episodes of little Einstein's, or that sometimes he gets to bed a little late. He is a handful because he is two years old, a blossoming tiny person with limited communication, a short temper and a hell of a lot of passion. My husband would say "That sounds a lot like you!". I can surly empathize with my tiny man. I can't imagine having the determination to want to tie my shoes and not have the dexterity, that must be infuriating. It has got to be maddening to be told you can not touch things that seem so interesting or soft, or lick the subway window or the street, bite the cat's tail, or say, jump off of really tall things and go up the slide instead of down when other kids are doing it too. (Note to other parents standing around the slide chit chatting: let's please teach our children to go DOWN the slide one after the other instead of knocking over the smaller children like bowling pins.) It's a hard knock life for a toddler, everyone is bossing you around, treating you like a baby but expecting you to contain yourself like an adult, and pee on demand.
I guess I could say I have high expectations for him when it comes to behavior, and that is perhaps why I get so flustered when things become difficult for us to work out together. I understand that it is difficult for him to endure all these changes, to face the world that is now a little less about him and a lot scarier, but I know he has it in him to learn and understand what is expected of him. I feel like taking the "avoidance route" isn't best for him in the long run, he will have to learn at some point. I've come to the conclusion that the only thing, and the best thing, I can do for him in those moments of uncontrollable toddler defiance and anger is to TRY my hardest to understand him, but stand my ground as his parent and TEACH him the right thing to do. This is a lot harder to do than it is to say you are going to do. I think a lot of times when we have to deal with these situations in public we tend to worry about what other people will think. I don't really care what they think, but I want him to understand that we should have respect and consideration for the people around us, even when we are upset or frustrated. I don't mind if he makes a fuss and learns a lesson from it.
Back to the museum gift shop.
I almost literally have to drag him outside of the store, still screaming, in front of everyone ( I smile at them). I have to get down on his level, look him in the eye and get him to focus in on me (with a little wrangling and shoulder shaking). I tell him, "You want those trains! I know! You love them! But they don't belong to us. Are you angry?" Tears of embarrassment well up in his eyes, I can tell, and he sadly nods his little peanut butter shmeared face. I give him a big hug (the best I can with sleeping beauty sitting in the ergo between us) and actually feel so sad for him. He really does not understand just yet that he can not have anything he wants, he just doesn't get it. I can't fault him for that, for not understanding yet. We walk back to the car and of course In my mind I start to blame my child's tantrum on manipulative marketing techniques and the consumerist culture we thrust upon children....
Thanks for reading,