Monday, September 13, 2010

Terrible Twos

When my oldest was passing through two, I really couldn't imagine what the stereotype was about. It was a delightful year, unmarred by tantrums or tempests. Then three hit. Whoa. In all of the parenting boards where I have posted, if a mom is overwhelmed, chances are the child is three. I have since found the deeper, sinister meaning of the equation: six equals three, times two. But six and a half has been extremely pleasant and peaceful.

Alas, Elena seems to be having a terrible time being two. Yesterday was miserable, and was spent mostly in tears (mainly hers). She wasn't sick or running a fever, although I suspect allergies. She had slept pretty well the night before. Her molars are in. But every. little. thing. resulted in prolonged meltdowns, and every place she passed by turned into a disaster area as she climbed or attempted to help and sent objects flying off of whatever surface she approached.

Property rights are confusing--she is still grasping the whole concept of ownership and possession (note: possession in this context does not refer to anything demonic, although I have frequently heard that attributed to two year olds). Anything that someone else has instantly becomes more appealing than what she has, until they offer to trade, and she wants both.

Her speech is improving daily, but to her intense frustration, she is not always understood.

She is so tender and loving, but has little understanding of her own strength with the baby, and with others sometimes her impulses get the better of her and she hits or kicks. I can sometimes see her trying to reign herself in, but when she is tired or overwhelmed she lashes out. She always wants to comfort anyone in distress, even if she is the (at times, unwitting) cause of that distress.

It is a tough age. She wants so much to be independent and do it herself, but things like the getting underwear on with the legs in the correct holes are just complicated. Physically, she is constantly pushing the limits of her capabilities, and isn't always able to do or reach what she wants, or misjudges (like yesterday, when she dumped a large bowl of deep red enchilada sauce all over the place. I was mentally paraphrasing Lady Macbeth, both in "Who would have thought that small bowl had so much sauce in it?" and "Out, damned spot!"). Somehow, the sauce covered *everything* within a five foot radius. But I needed to mop and do laundry, anyway, and the homemade sauce that I had to improvise turned out well.

She can't quite keep up with her siblings, and they are getting to an age where they prefer to do more solitary activities, like reading, and aren't quite as inclined to play with her as before. Having a new baby sister, who at this point is quite clearly here to stay, takes further time and attention away from her. We are also working a lot more.

Yesterday, she was sobbing in the car, and though I sat next to her and tried to comfort her, she was inconsolable. Her eyes showed such a deep sadness. Her emotions are so strong--she is either jumping for joy (literally) or in the depths of despair. It would be easy to dismiss her feelings, but they are obviously very real.

There really isn't much I can do to change things--she will continue to be two, with all its inherent challenges and frustrations; her sister is not going to leave; we aren't going to quit our jobs. She is strong, smart and resilient, and I know she will adapt. I've seen her older siblings go through similar challenges and come out just fine. But like adolescence, the process is painful, both to experience and watch. My little sweetie desperately needs those mercies that are new every morning, and so do I. And I refuse to even *think* about three or six right now!


Ms. Burrows said...

You are scaring me a little. My Ella has by far been my most challenging child so far. And we haven't reached 2 yet!

Pearl said...

You have captured what makes two terrific and terribl so eloquently and sympathetically. I needed to read this today to know that I'm not alone in dealing with my own little newly two girl, and that there is hope that we will emerge on the other side, EVEN IF three and six lurk further beyond.