Is It Possible to Get Through the Terrible Twos Without Killing Them?

Afghan commandos are positioned in Pandola village near the site of the U.S. MOAB bombing in the Achin district of Afghanistan on April 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

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The phrase “terrible twos” always bothered me. Terrible? My two-year-olds were always fantastic, adorable, and the very opposite of terrible. Both of my girls were absolute sweethearts at two. I could repeat those years with no issues whatsoever. Three was actually rougher than two…and now I realize how lucky I was. I fully understand why the moniker exists as my youngest, my prince, hits two. His terrible stage is upon us even before the sainted day arrives. As I type this he is screaming in his bed because I would not allow him to play with a milk jug he found in the garbage can that is covered with last night’s dinner. It was a punishment too great to bear that I took the slime-covered object away, so he threw himself down on the floor and screamed until he was purple. Choosing not to have that piercing scream too near my eardrums, I picked him up and placed him in his crib and shut the door. I’m still waiting for him to calm down. So far, no dice.

There’s little that makes me feel like a failure more than not being able to comfort my child. He’s a sweet boy but his little brain just can’t handle disappointment yet and he also has trouble communicating and is frustrated most of the time. The only thing I know how to do is hunker down and wait for it to end. This is new for me. I find myself avoiding errands so as to avoid a scene in the store. We hire a babysitter to go out to eat with the girls. He even missed his sister’s birthday party because I knew I couldn’t handle him and host a party at the same time (there was a pool nearby…hello drowning!). This feels like war. Every day is a fight for survival. I survive until nap time and then I survive until bed time. In between there is more screaming than in Abu Ghraib. I am not alone, however, as an entire comedy meme exists about why my toddler is crying. It’s hilarious.

All the things he should enjoy, like boating, eating, festivals, etc., he does not enjoy—and he let’s everyone know it. And God forbid I cut his toast in half. What I need is some kind of special forces training, but I feel like I have desk skills instead. Do you know what it’s like to try to wrangle a toddler who has one volume (LOUD) at a funeral? Graveside at Great Grandma’s funeral last week I had to take him back to the car so people could hear the sermon. I would have left him with a sitter, but inexplicably, relatives from far away wanted to see him. (They clearly didn’t know what they were asking for.) And worse, his cousins of the same age sat quietly playing in the grass. It’s one embarrassing event after the next. It’s not easy to explain to people who are enduring your child’s screaming that he may have a speech delay and we are dealing with new territory as the first two were motor mouths who were speaking in complete sentences by two. My son struggles to tell me simple words. Instead they come out screech-like and tear filled.

Most experts say that tantrums are a result of frustration and a lack of communication. They suggest sign language training (which I have done but not in depth). For the next few weeks I’m using all the resources at my local library to give him some more vocabulary through sign language and see if that improves our situation. If it doesn’t, look for me curled up in a ball with a pillow over my head until this phase is over.