Home > books, City mama, motherhood > Upon becoming the mother of a two year old

Upon becoming the mother of a two year old

So, The Child has turned two, temporally.

Emotionally, she turned two about two months ago. At least that’s when I noticed her doing things I hadn’t see before. Walking up to a smaller child, saying “No pushing!” and then pushing him to his butt. Having screaming howling temper tantrums because I turned left instead of right at some intersection. “Not this way! That way!” (Little backseat driver!) Melting down completely because I went to the bookstore and then Starbucks instead of the bookstore, the grocery store, and then Starbucks.

Some of this I can deal with. Some of this I understand — she’s trying to assert her independence, whatever — and am struggling to deal with. And some of this I’m just baffled by. Why, for the love of little green apples, does she care if I take a left instead of a right when driving through downtown Hartford? I know she’s never been there before, it’s not like she knows if I take a right it means we’re going to the cracker store or something.

So I’ve started asking people I know, love, respect, for suggestions. And I keep getting answers that make me want to beat my head against the wall.

“Tantrums,” says her grand godmother, a woman I normally respect very much, “are a way of expressing frustration that she doesn’t have words for.”

Oh yeah?! Then what about today’s tantrum at lunch time when I said we were going to have scrambled eggs and carrots and she began howling, screaming, chanting, throwing herself on the ground and yelling, “NO! I want cheesy rice! Cheesy rice! I want cheesy rice!” (Cheesy rice is toddler-speak for risotto.  Even simple risotto is not a casual Monday lunch food.) She clearly knew what she wanted and had the words for and the tantrum was purely because she was being thwarted.

Another friend said, “You just give her one of two choices.”

“Yeah. But she wants the other option,” says I.

“Well, if she won’t take one of your two choices, then she doesn’t get a choice.”

That sounds good on paper, I’m sure. But The Child is smart and she knows that there’s another option besides walking and holding Mommy’s hand or going in the stroller. She knows there’s getting carried in Mommy’s arms. And she’s canny enough to walk for a little while and then decide to collapse and lie on the ground while we’re in the middle of a crosswalk on a very busy road. Then Mommy has  to carry her. Okay, she hasn’t quite figured out that that results in me dumping her in the stroller once we’re across the road, or maybe she has and she doesn’t care because a small victory is better than no victory at all.

And I’m at a total loss about what to do with the pushing situation. She seems to have tapered off now, but for a while she was getting great glee out of making Mommy react to her pushing her playmates. Since she’s a big kid (80th percentile) and a little older than some of the kids she hangs out with — a month or eight, usually — it’s just not safe to let her do that. She could hurt them. So while I try to keep my reactions low key, positive, redirecting her energy and attention, and all that b.s., I can’t do that with the pushing thing. “NO! No pushing!”

But then, like I said, she started saying it right before she pushed someone flat on his face.

My pediatrician recommended Dr. Sear. I’ve got “The Discipline Book” already but I’ve been strangely reluctant to pick it up. I don’t know why. Probably because I predict that he’s going to say “If you’ve followed attachment parenting properly, your child will want to make you happy and so if she’s acting out, it’s because you’re a miserable failure as a mother and a human being.”

Wow. Until I articulated that, I didn’t realize how worried I was that this is because I’m a terrible mom. I know I’m not a terrible mom. I don’t know if I’m the best mom, but I’m a good mom, at least. And, intellectually, I understand that this is just part of being two. I’m just not sure that I’ve fully understood why and how it’s just part of being two, so I’m not sure I believe it.

I need a book on this. Or twelve.

Categories: books, City mama, motherhood
  1. January 15, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Whew! “Next time” or “After we go/do/eat such and such (that parent decided), we’ll go/do/eat such and such (that child wants)….” They usually forget the first thing they asked for…hopefully…in any case–it buys you some time…pushing may require time-out, or continue re-directing…it’ll pass…

  2. dandelionmom
    January 15, 2008 at 12:38 am

    OK–I have to comment! I know the exact reason 2 year olds act insane-no doubt about it–ready?—THEY ARE INSANE–those synapses are still laying down. This is the hardest time because if they lay down in the “I scream I win” pattern-you raise a Britney Spears-everyone sacrifices for MY benefit every time. There are tons of strategies but each mom has to find what works to pull each child out of their self and focus them on others -teaching empathy is the biggest battle with an insane egomaniac! It is a battle you must win!!
    You are right about it becoming easier if you can keep it from being about how you look as a mom and just about her behaviour–that takes a Hercules tho!
    Luckily God also made them so cute you still like to live with them through this time!! Dontcha love it??

  3. matt and karen
    January 15, 2008 at 2:10 am

    we feel your pain.. we found your site when googling “toddler temper tantrum”, as our two year old is losing it quite a bit lately. please let us know if you find the magic answer and we’ll let you know if we find it. good luck!

  4. karriew
    January 15, 2008 at 3:37 am


    You nailed it when you observed that your child is too smart for the two choices that both work for mommy option. I still try that approach in desperation sometimes, but usually M makes a total ass out of me and sees through it in less than 10 seconds. It always ends up sounding as though we’re seeking his permission to do something completely rational, and well, I;m not down with that.

    What does *sometimes* work for us–because hey, you know us and nothing always works–is to give M a job. I got so sick of hearing which way I should turn, or being told that I needed to run a red light on this trip that I put M in charge of looking for neon Arby’s hats, license plates from Utah and people walking toy dogs.

  5. karriew
    January 15, 2008 at 3:42 am

    And if all else fails? “Child, let me see you do a downward dog!”sometimes works. I have no idea why.

    I do know that any time I tell M what we’re having or where we are going, he disagrees with me. It is as if he cannot help himself, and even if I said “For lunch you can have chocolate milk, french fries and birthday cake.” he would feel compelled to let me know how much he hates all of those things, an cry because I never give him carrots.

    Can’t win. Might as well laugh at them. 🙂

  6. Wendy
    January 15, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    I know I don’t fall in line with your parenting, but I will offer anyway. I let them have their tantrum and eventually, not right away, they figure out that it doesn’t work. You can work into my home on any given day to see a little boy flailing around on the floor while I watch TV. However, when he comes back to me in a nice way, I am more receptive. And yes, I have been in very public places when my children have decided to throw an Excorist type tantrum. You see that woman pushing a cart with a screaming, spitting kid, that would be me.

    As for the choices thing, tried it with my daughter and until she started making her own choices. Then I put in my motto, “This ain’t no democracy”. I pick my battles, but when it comes to food, I am not a short order cook and what I make is what you eat. Then people ask me about them starving. Oh, they won’t starve, because I shuffle around food. Besides, little kids eat like 6-20 times a day, I don’t think they will starve.

    As for the pushing, that would mean an immediate removal from the situation. All I have to do is mention that we will leave to my daughter and she straightens right up. My husband had a hard time with this, because he wanted to be out. I knew that evenuatlly it would pay off and it has, daughter is 5 yrs old and doesn’t challenge us too much when out in public.

    Yes, you do need to find YOUR way. You know your child and you know what she will respond to. Just be prepared for all the hateful things that start spewing out of her mouth. She is looking for a reaction and playing on your need for her to love you. My daugther told me the other day that she wanted her friend’s mom as her mother. That’s nice dear, shall I pack your bag. And she often cries for Daddy when I puinsh her or tell she can’t do something. What she doesn’t know is that I am crying, on the inside, for Daddy, too.

    It is not mean, it is parenting. It ain’t pretty.

  7. January 15, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    There is no understanding tantrums. They just are. And the killer is that while the child is amid all that swirling emotion, there is no reasoning with them.

    Try a few of the suggestions. See what works best in what situations. I usually do some version of time out because my daughter can’t be talked down or negotiated with. If I engage her, it just escalates. So it’s either leave and go home or go to her room till she can pull herself together.

    Ultimately you just have to buckle in and ride the next year or so out. It will be a doozy.

  8. January 16, 2008 at 12:11 am

    Oh, yeah. The “choices” thing doesn’t work so well at our house, either. We have a theory that it only works on stupid and/or malleable children. (We don’t mean that, really – it’s just kind of aggravating when something that sounds so simple and reasonable, falls totally flat!) A book I like is Becoming The Parent You Want To Be – have you read that one? I haven’t consulted the tantrum chapter lately but I remember it helped me have some empathy for the kid’s point of view, which helps a little, sometimes…

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