I read somewhere that they call it Terrible Twos because ‘Fucking Awful’ doesn’t start with T. A month ago I realised this is pretty accurate.
My Camila days have been tough, filled with screaming demands, irrational disagreements and incessant Mami-Mami calling. My already thin patience has not had the chance to recharge itself. My mood has shown 50 shades of black. It has been quite difficult being me.
I speak in the past because having decided to enroll Camila for three days a week in the local kindergarten for her to get a much needed socialising opportunity as well as familiarise with Spanish language, helped me claiming back some room to myself.
I breathe. I am less neurotic. And ironically, can’t wait to have her back.
My Camila days start between 5.30 and 6.10. Camila incessantly screams a long string of “pappa-pappa-pappa” (=food) from the get go and by the crescendo I know it will soon escalate to an hysterical cry if I don’t act fast. So, going against my natural slow motion awakening style, I must quickly wake up, frantically try to find my glasses on the bedside table in the dark bedroom dawn, somehow manage to engage my deceased abdominal muscles and get up, pick moaning Camila from her bedroom and take her to the kitchen as she is energetically pointing with her bossy forefinger.
Breakfast palaver begins: Miss bossy decides she wants granola with milk. Then the demands for a particular bowl and/or spoon begin with no wording nor pointing in particular but just continuous squeals until I pick the right item. Then she points at the table where she wants to be spoon fed at.
Three spoonfuls after, she has decided that was enough and the whining for playing begins. She hands me over a metal tin and says “api”, her word for ‘open’. I do so and then she cries because I did, so I close it and she cries even more because I closed it. So I try and calm her down and try to find out what she wants me to do with it. I gave her options so that she can give me yes or no answers but it doesn’t work. So here comes the distraction technique: “hey! shall we go and feed the chickens?” It worked! She happily says yes. I ask her to go and find her shoes while I take her socks. Oh dear. She refuses both with a full on tantrum.
And let me quickly explain to you what I mean by these toddler outbursts terms as I am experiencing them daily.
By cry I mean the inconsolable sobbing and wailing punctuated by breathless pauses sometimes with Marylin Manson’s type growls in between.
By tantrum I mean that same crying coupled with a series of Italian footballer style floor convulsions, back flips and mystical upper limbs dramatic movements.
All, individually or combined, are able to give a migraine to a Neurofen tablet. Particularly before 7a.m.
So after finally agreeing on wearing socks and shoes we’re out in the garden. We throw a bucket of food scraps in Sir Gustavo’s pen. I hold her and make her lean over the fence to look at all the chickens scattering around trying to grab onion peels and banana skins. Then Camila squeals as she wants to enter the corral. She sounds like a weird animal, a hybrid between a dying pig and a seagull.
Sadly our chickens have lately been infested by some sort of lice so entering and holding them is out of question. And, of course, out of question is the possibility that Camila might understand that. So here comes the next tantrum. I manage to distract her again by suggesting she took Lovely Jubbly, the pull along wooden dog, out in the garden while I pick up the dry washing from the line.
She potters around following me while I take the clothes off the line. She starts playing with the pegs. She wants me to hand her all the pegs I collect so that she can put them in her basket. When there are no more pegs, she looks at me and utters a categorical “more”. I show her that there are no more pegs, “you have them all in your basket” I say in a Mary Poppins voice. She cries again, and looks at me with a teary orphan look, repeating ‘more’ times and times again in a desperate tone, until she ends up scattering all the ones she has with anger.
Here comes the Mighty Power Struggle that could go on for quite some time: who’s going to pick them all up and put them away? Severe patience-hemorrhage later, I usually win and have to then engage in congratulatory thanks and over the top well done/good girl/thanks for helping mama! (with secret eye rollings for my own well-being…)
The morning progresses with playing, trying to fit in some house-chores in between, pretend to drink the coffee Camila prepares in her Made in China plastic -irritatingly out of proportion-tea set, we water our gardens, I pull weeds, she pulls flowers.
The moment I keep my eyes off her for a little too long she inevitably has wondered in the most dangerous spots of our land, or, as it has happened once, I have Fintan bring her over to me, all wet and barefoot, saying “I found her in the concrete mix”. All of this time, of course, is peppered with irrational conflicts which explode in unnecessary outbursts of crying or excessive whining until she gets what she wants.
Sometimes it feels like hours of playing outdoors have gone by. Then I look at the watch to discover it’s barely been 15 minutes. And it’s not even midday yet. The call “Mami, Mamii, Mamiiiii” must have reached the hundreds already or so it feels. Whether she wants something picking up that she dropped in an obscure place, or because she has something to show or wants the tap turning on or she peed on herself or pooped in her own boots. (Teething and potty training are two extra elements which are not helping the cause at the moment).
This is the breaking point in the day when I notice I have now officially become irritable and the FFS mode switches on, which makes me voice an indistinguishable but yet robust “For Fuck’s Sake” between my teeth every time she calls me, before replying “Yes darling” in a fake angelic voice.
Then the cooking with Camila on kitchen counter begins, the not-fun of having her pulling all the spices and cutlery out of their places, ignoring my suggestions to assure her safety, falsely demanding pop corn and bananas and insisting on eating raw rice. All followed by a cocktail of more cries and tantrums during her lunch time as she spends more calories running around avoiding to eat that the calories she actually ingests by the end of the meal.
Midday is nap time. Halle-bloody-luja.
That is the time when I just want to enjoy the silence (and chocolate if handy). And recharge my batteries as I know I’ll have a whole afternoon/evening ahead of me of more outbursts and cries and resistance for wearing a nappy, changing clothes, demanding to be carried instead of walking, refusing to eat, going in the bath and getting out of the bath, brushing her teeth in her special unorthodox way, putting pijamas on and finally going to sleep (after a thousand windings of the music box!) at 9pm all going well.
It’s not just dealing with the tantrums, perpetual wanting for something, and fierce affirmation of independence that takes its toll on mothers, it’s the constant mind engagement of thinking of strategies to overcome those moments in a constructive way, offering options, distractions, continuous focus on what trigger those moments to avoid them from occurring in the first place, abstain from snapping and swearing. Generally, trying to constantly be in a two year old’s shoes kind of gets exhausting and claustrophobic.
Is when she sleeps, after a colossal sigh of relief, that I think of how hard is to deal with a toddler. But how hard is to be a toddler? If I am so stressed, how does Camila feel? Well, it turns out, being a two years old is not easy for her either.
Two years old can’t yet communicate, haven’t yet developed the part of their brain which supports logic or reasoning skills, they have an uncontrollable need to affirm their independence in everything they do and they want to do everything that pleases them, and, most importantly, they have real trouble controlling and understanding their emotions.
So all these noisy mood swings, annoying pushing of boundaries at every given opportunity, moaning and tantrum throwing are actually signs of frustration, not the expressions of an asshole of a child!
Understanding that Camila reacts illogically, in the form of feelings, and is purely driven by emotions and acknowledging her limited development, kind of softens the blow of those intense moments and opens the whole scene to forgiveness and sympathy instead of anger and annoyance.
Empathy really helps a great deal, it doesn’t take away the aches and pains of those continuous noisy and annoying acts, but it put things into prospective.
Almost like, with a partner who can never find things, it helps to think he is slightly demented. You snap a lot less at him, try it 😉