It comes on overnight. You put him to bed, kiss him goodnight. You pause to marvel at the angel asleep, peaceful, deep in dreams.
Then, morning comes. The day is new; and the little angel you walked away from mere hours before has turned into a risk taker, a boundary pusher, a curious little guy that is inhibited by nothing. He will test your patience with every little step he takes. (Disclaimer: I say “he” because I have boys. I am sure in this case, gender matters not.) The transformation will surprise you over and over again.
His brother’s “terrible 2s” were not like this. A friend would ask, “Is he throwing things yet?” I didn’t know what they were talking about. Not that his older brother’s tantrums weren’t challenging, just not in a duck-the-tractor-is-headed-straight-for-your-head sort of way.
In one unforgettable “Bobby Knight moment,” this little guy picked up a kid’s card table chair and chucked it down the hall.
For those of you who haven’t purchased all-over body armor yet, let me give you a heads up. Some key warning signs you’re headed into “the terribles”:
1. He senses something in your voice when you tell him, “No.” Soon, he’ll recognize this as the outset of a game of wills.
2. When he is about to throw a fit, he makes sure you’re watching. Every. Single. Time. He needs to make sure you recognize he’s upset and that he’s not going to stand for this nonsense.
3. You begin to wonder if his goal is to find every dangerous object in his path. You did buy him toys, lots of toys. They all seem useless at this point. His interest is in objects which are far from safe and educational – or red and furry, for that matter.
Ultimately, his quest is to learn, and learn he will. So will Mom and Dad — maybe even more than that sweet little boy we watched fall into a deep slumber less than 24 hours before.
From past experiences, I realize we’re now in the middle (he’s just turned 3) stage of this phase. The “terrible 2s” should more accurately be called the “terrible 2-to-nearly-4s.” Knowing this, I’m still amazed by how quickly my sweet, smiley (I say smiley because everyone says that boy’s smile melts their hearts.) child can turn into a tornado with a path of destruction a whole house wide.
When that tornado is your normally adorable son, survival becomes more about thinking on your feet than running for cover. The first step in that thought process is realizing that he’s doing what kids his age do, and until he learns — from you or any other responsible adult — what is and is not acceptable behavior, this will be the norm. Unfortunately, it takes time. Lots and lots of time. But, despite what Mom or Dad might feel while living it, this phase will pass.
I’ve learned not to fight it, just to get through it. I do this by not making him older than he is or expecting more from him than he can mentally digest. I struggle with myself to find the patience he needs in my words, expressions and actions. (This is extremely difficult and I fail ALL THE TIME.) But I’ve got to remind myself, I have been given the privilege — who else would you want in your place? — to teach my little guy about the world around him. It’s frustrating — that world — for Mom and for him. But we’ll get through it, and we’ll both learn some important life lessons in perseverance, humility and self control as we do.
In the meantime, does anyone know where I can get a helmet and a shield?