One of the things you hear about a lot in the parenting world is "beware the terrible twos." It sounds like that's when the shit hits the proverbial fan, where cute and cuddly toddlers become wrecking balls hell bent on making life difficult for everyone around them. I envision the little ones running around knocking things over, throwing tantrums, drinking, smoking and joining tricycle gangs. Yet something you don't hear too much about is what goes on during the months leading up to that second year of life. Around here we affectionately refer to this period of time as "practice."
As of late, Olivia has been throwing tantrums multiple times a day both at home and at daycare. One of the caregivers referred to a notable instance as "nuclear," but failed to elaborate about whether she also turned green and smashed lots of things. From what we've seen, the tantrums involve what you'd normally expect: lots of tears, cries and throwing anything within reach. What we didn't expect, however, was her banging her head on the floor and biting.
We do our best to try to stop both of these tactics as quickly as possible. As for the head banging, she's fortunately done most of it on our shag rug which offers a bit of a cushion. We calmly ask her to stop hurting herself, but she bangs away until she feels the point has been made or a headache is about to come on. After this she moves into the biting phase of the tantrum, which usually involves both of the following:
1) Since she's already on our rug, she'll lean down, grab a mouthful of shag and pull. If anything, I can be thankful she's learning to floss at a young age.
2) She slinks over to one of us, acts like she wants to be held, and then sinks her teeth into whatever she can (your shirt, pants, exposed skin). Her technique is very unassuming, and I bet she would make a great vampire extra in an episode of True Blood.
My initial reaction to the biting was to get upset, raise my voice a bit and tell her not to bite. After looking into the phenomenon more, I realize that I could be doing things a lot better. First of all, I now understand that a big part of these tantrums stem from frustration with both not being able to communicate with us and her mind wanting to do things that her body isn't quite capable of yet. She still only speaks in gibberish, but seems to understand a decent amount of what we say to her. So she may point for something, but not be able to ask for whatever it is, and we get to play the guessing game with her. Most of the time we get her what she wants, but there are times when either we shouldn't give it to her or we won't because we need her to do something else. As you can imagine, this can't be an easy thing to deal with. On top of that she wants to do things like eat with adult silverware, drink from our glasses and drive a car. She's a little capable of using a fork her size, but ours she tends to wave around and nearly take out one of her eyes. She's great with her sippy cups, but she wants to use our glasses to drench the front of her clothes and the floor. As for the car, she's still not tall enough to reach the steering wheel or the peddles, no matter how many wooden blocks we tie to her shoes.
So in dealing with the biting we're trying the route of remaining calm, not raising our voices and and giving her a consequence for the unwanted behavior. When she tries to nip we calmly say "We do not bite" and remove her from the situation for a brief time out in the small jail cell we built in her closet (don't worry, it has cable TV). We're still in the testing phase with this punishment, but we're hoping it will work. Thankfully she's only banging her head and biting at home and not at daycare (yet, anyway). I'm not looking forward to the day we have to apologize to some parents about our child's teeth marks on their child's arm.
We're starting to have to deal with some of the psychological things that go along with raising a child. It's a little scary, especially because I know we're going to fail here and there until we get it right. I want to do right by my child, but I also don't want to worry myself to death about being a perfect parent. I'm thankful to have my wife along side me in this journey, helping me out, keeping me in check and assuring me that we are both, indeed, crazy. And to think in another month this could be a distant memory. She'll probably be walking, perhaps even talking and, of course, moving into another phase of her training for those terrible twos. Will it be mixed martial arts? Advanced firearms? ? Or maybe fencing? Regardless of what it is, we'll do our best to keep up with her.