I firmly believe that the “terrible two” phenomenon begins at 18 months.
So for the past few months, my nearly two-year-old has been a handful. She gets frustrated at the drop of a hat, probably because she can think faster than she can speak. I can see her little face contort in frustration when she wants to say something but doesn’t know how. And within 5 seconds, we have a spectacular melt down on our hands.
This happens several times per day. And each time, I try to parent her through it without mirroring back to her the frustration that I feel. (I fail often. Because it’s exhausting to have a toddler who screams all the time.)
When she gets frustrated, I try to remember how difficult it is to learn a new language. I try to remember how infuriating it is to use that language, only to have the people around you not understand what you are saying. Or worse, to have those people get frustrated with you for not saying it right.
This ain’t high school French I’m talking about. I imagine it’s more like going to Nepal with 20 Nepali words under your belt. Now imagine using ONLY those 20 words to get yourself fed, sheltered, transported, protected, and entertained. Not so easy.
You’d have melt downs too, right?
But all of this lovely perspective is so easy to forget when your toddler is screaming and kicking in the middle of a grocery aisle. A comment on my Lava Cake post earlier this week reminded me that this stage is tough for all moms and kids in the throes of the terrible twos.
When she is kicking and screaming in frustration, I want to insist that Pumpkin use her words. I want to repeat a word over and over, thinking she’ll say it if I just repeat it enough. (Ha!) I want to throw my hands up in frustration. After all, when Pumpkin’s older sister (Peanut) was 20 months old, she turned to me one day and said, “Mommy, I’m angry and I need my space.” So why is Pumpkin REFUSING to speak??
I was reminded yesterday by our pediatrician that there’s nothing wrong with Pumpkin’s speech. Or her frustration about her speech. In fact, it was Peanut who was abnormal in her speaking abilities at this age. The doctor, in effect, told me to give Pumpkin a break. To stop worrying. Because she’s doing fine.
It occurred to me later that perhaps it’s MY frustration that needs work. Perhaps Pumpkin needs time and space to be frustrated. And I need to give it to her.
After all – when I was in Nepal, no one put me in time out when I got frustrated trying to speak the language. No one tapped their foot in impatience as I tried to form the words “thank you” in Nepalese. You know what the locals did? They gave me time to get my thoughts and words together. They smiled at me. And waited.
I love the Nepalese.
And I love this kid…