Here's another lesson learned. The terrible twos are no easier the second time around. I can think of two reasons why. Reason #1 is because we are dealing with a completely different child. Reason #2, and probably the most important reason, is that we never mastered it the first time. We just got through it because as with any stage we realized if you wait long enough "this too shall pass".
You probably wonder what are these terrible twos that we are just now speaking of seeing as how Coben has been two for 10 months now. It's all coming back to us now. It wasn't the twos that were so bad for us, it was the threes. We have all kinds of names for the threes but this is a family blog so we won't go there. So, Coben is now approaching those %$&! threes and he has been in rare form. Dinner time has become the battle of the wills. Nothing is right. Everything that was okay before is suddenly not okay. And he isn't afraid to speak, I mean whiiiiiiiine, his mind about it. We have a rule, if you don't eat then you don't get anything else. So, we eventually throw in the towel and resign to the fact that he is not going to eat and we hold firm on the no dessert rule but nevertheless we not only get to endure the dinner time meltdown but the post dinner time I demand to have something else meltdown. Our mantra is "hold firm, consistency pays off" but what is really running through our heads is, "Come ON! For the love of sanity, KNOCK. IT. OFF!" But we do hold firm so this too shall pass, right?
We have been very lucky to have inherited hand-me-downs from a friend. Not only do we get hand-me-downs but hand-me-downs times twos since they have twins. Coben has a drawer-full of blue jeans. Maybe 15 pairs. He won't wear blue jeans. He will only wear sweat pants these days of which he has only a couple pairs. It's very hard to even think about buying more when there are FIFTEEN pairs of jeans sitting in the second drawer of his dresser growing cobwebs. So, he has to have his sweatpants and typically only his "O-dabba-dabba" (Yo Gabba Gabba) unders and lately this Christmas shirt that he started wearing frequently before Thanksgiving (two days in a row at one point, unwashed, GASP!).
One day he refused to wear any shirt at all. When a toddler gets into a certain mindset there's a series of events that follow. Let me break it down. It usually starts with a very routine thing like in this situation putting on a shirt to go to school. But for some reason (usually when you are running late) the toddler is vehemently against this part of the routine on this particular day for no apparent reason. Barring sleep deprivation or hunger, there is almost always some underlying reason for the toddler meltdown that you are not privvy to and that he is in no shape to share. You only know something is wrong because you start to put on the shirt and he backarches, turns to jello, refuses to stand-up and starts screaming and flailing. And this all happens in the course of one half of a second. So you are standing there completely dumbfounded holding the shirt and wondering WTF (Why the Face, right?) happened! So now you lodge into your parenting pattern that usually starts out strong and quickly weakens. So first it's the empathetic approach which includes validating those little feelings and playing guessing games "ohhhh, something is wrong. You don't like the shirt?" "You want a different shirt?" "Does the shirt bother you?" Almost always this is met by zero response and louder wails. At this point even if you DO guess right they won't give you the satisfaction because they are already too far gone to come back. Then come the negotations, "If you put the shirt on you can have a sticker for getting dressed" or "If you put your shirt on you won't have to have breakfast in the car" which are basically meaningless as there is still too much wailing, whining and body throwing going on so it evolves into empty threats, "If you don't put your shirt on you'll have to stay home by yourself because mom and dad have to go to work", or "if you don't put your shirt on you're going to freeze and catch a cold (I know, you don't catch a cold from the weather but you get desperate) and then if all else fails the wrestling match. And the wrestling match gets you NOWHERE because if you can manage to get the shirt around the neck and the arms in the sleeves they will pull it off immediately after you wrestle in on. So on this particular morning I'm walking out the door fifteen minutes late for work because of all the tag-teaming with Rob to try to get Coben dressed. Coben is standing at the door shirtless and crying and I tell Rob. "Just send him to school without a shirt!" And I meant it. I didn't care that it was cold and I didn't care if the school thought we sucked as parents. At that moment Rob and I were defeated. But finally there came a moment a little while after I left where the switch flipped, calm was restored and Coben was able to finally discuss the shirt issue (which turned out to be that he didn't like the shirt that Rob picked out and wanted the Christmas shirt).
And these patterns continue through bedtime. He wants footie jams. I try to talk him out of footie jams but there is no talking him out of footie jams. So we put on footie jams and I tuck him into bed. Then I go to sit down and try to relax and I'll hear "Moooooom!" the moment my butt hits the cushion. I already know. I know that I am being called back in to take off the footie jams because they are too hot. But we will do this every.single.night. There is no reasoning with Coben. "Coben, you always get too hot in the footie jams why don't we try one of these other pairs." "Noooooo. I want the dino footie jams!!" And I know. I know that I could stand firm and refuse to let him wear the footie jams but I also know deep down that if it's not the footie jams it WILL be something else. So in my head I think of the footie jams as the potential lesser of all evils.
So right now the little guy is in bed. He is laying on the bare plastic mattress because his sheets are being washed and I didn't get them in the dryer before bed because of laundry back-up. No other sheets would do. I pulled 3 different sheets out of the closet and each suggestion just seemed to provoke a bigger emotinal response. So I offered to put the "snuggie blanket"down on the mattress and fold it over him. OUT OF THE QUESTION. So there he lays. On a cold plastic mattress. Once his sheets are dry I will sneak in after he is asleep and make some adjustments. And I'll look at him and wonder how that sweet little boy could possibly rage so big. And I'll decide that it's just not possible. No matter how rough the day has been, watching a sleeping child is a lot like childbirth. You forget as soon as it is over.