A Few Things I wish I Would Have Known The First Time Around
What Is Happening With My Two Year OLD?
My nine year old and I were talking the other day and he said, “The first kid in the family is like a prototype.” I curiously asked, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, the first time around, parents don’t really know what they are doing. They have all these designs and stuff but they don’t really know how to make things work. Parents make all of their mistakes with the first kid and then, when the other kids come along, they kind of know what they are doing. So, each model gets better every time you make one.”
While I didn't agree with him completely, I knew there was some truth in what he was telling me. I tried to convince him otherwise, by saying that he was the most perfectly wired piece of machinery I had ever met. I told him, "God new what She was doing when she made you." You are just as perfect as your little brother and sister." As he continued to eyeball me with a look of suspicion, I reflected back to another time I heard a story like this one.
Going back to my early Momma days, when I was talking with a friend of mine, I shared how frustrated I was feeling because my little guy simply refused to listen to me. After she listened closely to everything I brought forward, she gave me some great guidance as to how to handle the big feelings that were coming up with my little two year old and me. Then she said, “The first child is your practice child.” Whoa! That line hit me like a ton of bricks. I responded back with giant sobs, gasping in air, “I don’t want him to be my practice child. I want to have everything all figured out. I want to be sure!”
Two more kids and nine and half years later, I can’t say I know it all but what I can say is there are a few things that I know now, about my current two year old, that I wish I would have known with my first.
So, if you have a two year old who is entering into what some people call “The Terrible Twos” there are a few things I want you to know. First of all, it doesn't have to be Terrible.
It can feel terrible when we don't know what to do with all of the "big feelings" that surface as a result of hanging out with a two year old all day long, who is not playing by our rules. There is a common misinterpratation of reality that says, "A Parent Should Control Their Child." Many of the behaviors that people call "terrible" are in fact, a very normal phase of a child's development. A parent should learn to support and guide a child as they are going through what they are going through. This does not mean we ignore them or permit innapropriate behaviors, it simply means we love them as they are going through what they are going through. Knowing that most of the "terrible" behaviors are actually, normal, helps to decrease our own discomfort as caretakers and to model calm and effective leadership.
Some NORMAL TWO YEAR OLD BEHAVIORS:
1. Refuse to HOLD YOUR HAND in the middle of a busy road.
2. Refuse to let you wash their face...and when you try to, it is perfectly normal for a two year old to scream like she is being attacked by wild animals.
3. Run away from you at the grocery store
...And again when you are picking up big brother or sister at school
4. Eat raw flour while making home-made play dough but then refuse a delicious home backed muffin or new fruit
5. Shampoo hair with flour and sometimes with dirt
6. CRY when they don't get what they want, or when they are tired, or when they are hungry or when they do not have the words to say what they want to say
7. Disorganize everything and feel victoriously thrilled about their results
Just about anything that you think is really extraordinarily crazy and terrible about your two year old, is in fact a really normal phase of human development.
So, what is a parent to do?
Learn Brain Facts - A Two Year Old is going through major brain reconstruction - It's not easy being two. They need a lot of love and support during this critical phase of development.
All behaviors are an attempt to meet a need. It's a parent's job to assist a child in learning how to meet their needs and it is a process that happens over time. Redirect with love. Find classes and support groups if you need them. http://www.echoparenting.org
Set limits with love
Take good care of yourself. Take breaks when you need them.
Breathe Deeply and find a personal mantra of peace and grace.
Don't take things too seriously. Have fun when you can.
Get muddy and messy with them - "It's never to late to have a Happy Childhood!" (The University of Santa Monica)
Bring baby wipes and a change of clothes for you and your two year old, with you everywhere where you go.
Embrace Your Inner Two Year old from time to time.
Let go of any ideas that your two year old is acting like this because you are a bad parent. "We are all doing the best we can with the resources available to us at the time." (Ron and Mary Hulnick)
Remember, most everything is a phase...your two year old will grow out of some of their "normal" behaviors. And when they do grow up, you will miss the thousands of sweet little kisses, chubby little arms around your neck hugs and the sound of their contagious, joyous baby giggles. I promise you, they will not eat mud forever and they will probably not run naked through the streets when they are thirty…Although, it could happen in college but let’s not worry about that for now.