An introduction to the terrible twos

Is there a scientific reason behind the terrible twos or is it that in a blink of an eye our darling babies have changed, grown and evolved to little humans and we’re just trying to keep up? In nature, from a cocoon emerges a butterfly or in our story a little busy bee. Our little one changed from a feeding, pooping, sleeping bundle and could charm everyone with simply a smile; to a mobile, talkative, energetic, curious, mischievous little human who keeps everyone on their toes.

I really thought we had it all down pat. The sleep journey and getting into a routine of appropriate wake time and nap time and sleeping through the night. We conquered feeding (or maybe it’s just because he comes from parents who also love their food). I felt like all the loose ends had been tied up from babyhood and it would be a smooth ride to the next stop. Heh. Always an eternal optimist it seems.

Our little guy turned 2; but for some reason we found ourselves back at square one. He started to wake up during the night; every few hours which he hadn’t done for a long time. Except for when he was sick and even then it was only once or twice in the middle of the night. Then he started to reject food. Highly unusual. I had to re-check we had the same son.

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So what do you do when it feels like “you don’t know what you’re doing” deja vu? I started to pick up the parenting books again, just out of habit. Then I stopped myself. I had a light bulb moment. We knew more about our son, his habit of wanting to be read three books before bedtime, his tastes for banana over avocado, his fondness for toy cars and trains.

We knew our son better than any parenting expert so we turned to him and began to read him.

His body language. We pieced together his words and pitchy babble. It was like a game of detective. It took a few weeks and like the good old days, it was a case of eliminating the likely causes.

  • It could have been teething as he was due for his back molars, so we kept that on the whiteboard, figuratively speaking. Just like they do in the detective shows.
  • It could have been a change in routine. He was moved into a new room at child care and all the care givers were new; and there was now more kids per carer. He was now extra clingy to my husband and I.
  • It could have been a sickness..
  • It could have been a wonder week or wonder weeks..
  • It could have been his way of coping with his birthday about to click over. His growing body. His expanding mind.

The list wasn’t endless and we did puzzle over it and wanted to know why he had changed. Then, when two weeks passed and it seemed the change was the result of a bit of everything…

we began to realise it didn’t matter why but rather what mattered was how we responded.

Through the weeks we held onto what remained of his routine so he could at least expect some consistency, and gave him extra time. Extra reading. Extra long hugs. Extra play time. Even his favourite shows (just for the short term).

Appreciating his increasing vocabulary; we explained everything that we were doing with him, when and how. No baby talk. This in particular made a huge difference. He was understanding everything we were asking of him and sharing with him. He would remember what we had said days before, and sometimes I would catch myself in awe. Am I the only parent who does that?

When it came to his dinners we offered food but if he didn’t want it, we came to accept that it shouldn’t become a big deal. With all the changes that had brought on his sleeplessness and fickle appetite, we wanted to respond to him with patience and empathy and my husband led the way.

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Like I said at the beginning, we were entering life’s next chapter with a toddler. I don’t think it’s helpful to say it’s the terrible twos but I do think it’s helpful to acknowledge that it’s a stage where they’re trying to make sense of the world. They’re understanding more than they ever have, that they have their own needs and their own preferences. They want to explore and question and touch and understand. As parents, it’s bewildering and another new change to work through but I have to say, it is a privilege to be the ones who show them the way. I’m still learning.

How do you feel about this stage of your little one’s life? Do you love it or find it frustrating? How do you manage?


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