People warn you that everything will change when you have children but I don’t think it’s possible to prepare yourself for how drastic those changes will be. When you hold your newborn in your arms for the first time you feel a surge of emotion wash over you, a great depth of love you never imagined possible. You have high hopes for the future, and expectations of how your little bundle of joy will grow. Babies are born every day, people have more than one child, so it can’t be that hard… can it? You soon discover the answer to that question is yes, it is unbelievably hard. There are fantastic highs but also incredible lows in those wee small hours of the night when your baby is inconsolable and you feel a level of exhaustion you are convinced you won’t survive. But somehow you do, and as your baby grows they slowly begin to sleep better at night, begin to crawl, take their first steps and you allow yourself to breathe. Those long nights with a fragile and hysterical new-born when you had no idea what you were doing are distant memory and you think yes, I’ve got this. Then BAM your precious little angel turns two and things go south. You have entered the twilight zone, or as I like to call it, the threenage years
Now everyone has heard of the terrible twos, so I was prepared for tantrums. However I was not prepared for the sheer number of tantrums and the ridiculousness of the tantrum subjects. For example, a few days ago my eldest, Ruby, had a tantrum because she was trying to blow bubbles but it was a windy day so the bubbles were appearing before she could blow the wand. She burst into tears and demanded that I stop the wind right now. No amount of explaining that this wasn’t possible was good enough and she completely lost her mind. Later on she had a meltdown because her banana broke in half, and she wanted me to stick it back together. In the same day, my youngest, Aria threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her shut Ruby in the Wendy house, followed by a tantrum from Ruby, because she had been shut in the Wendy house. These constant crazy tantrums really do make you feel like you are going insane, acting like a referee separating squabbling siblings trying to pull each other’s pigtails.
I naively thought that by the time they turn three, it would miraculously end. No, in fact when Ruby turned three she cranked things up a notch. And at almost four, her diva strops are worse than ever. Tantrums are even harder to deal with when you throw a sibling into the mix as they are not just rebelling against you, they are fighting with each other. Ruby turned two a couple of weeks after Aria was born and that’s when things went next level. My sweet and shy little one year old suddenly would throw fits over the smallest thing, crying and screaming, throwing herself on the floor in public. She was dealing with the usual need for independence and mood swings that a toddler feels but also jealousy over the sudden arrival of her baby sister, who obviously needed more of my attention at times. In between breast feeding my newborn and potty training Ruby, the epic tantrums were the icing on a terrifying cake that led me to spending much of my time alone while my husband was at work. The thought of venturing out with them both was so overwhelming and I did feel very isolated. When I found myself feeling quite down, guilt would also weigh heavily when I looked at my beautiful girls. I was aware how lucky I was, how blessed I was to have healthy children who were thriving but there were times when I could have walked straight out the door and kept walking.
This feeling doesn’t go away, as now they are older there are new challenges. Aria has always been a lot more laid back than Ruby, happy to play by herself and get on with things. Now at almost 2, she is beginning to have meltdowns, and the fighting and bickering with her sister is constant. The driving force of these tantrums are the need for independence, in a world they are not yet ready to handle. As language is developing they may become frustrated because they can’t express their feelings or wants or needs effectively; or they physically aren’t able to do something by themselves. Unable to control their emotions, if they feel something, such as anger or frustration, they feel it tenfold. Once that feeling takes hold they struggle to let it go, becoming consumed with anger they lash out, cry and scream. Understanding why they have tantrums doesn’t really make them any easier to deal with, as in that moment when your toddler is looking like they need an exorcist on the supermarket floor you just want the ground to swallow you up. When you are in the safety of your own home you can deal with a tantrum by ignoring it, but when you are in public that is not always possible. When you find yourself dragging your child outside kicking and screaming and feel everyone staring in your direction you feel so inadequate, like you are unable to control your child.
Although Ruby’s language has developed so she is now able to express her thoughts and feelings her tantrums continue. She has always been highly strung and wants constant entertainment, throwing a strop if she doesn’t get her own way. The threenager is a master manipulator. As their language develops they are able to use their new found words as weapons. One minute they are cuddling you, saying how much they love you, mere minutes later they are screaming and kicking, telling you to go away if they don’t get what they want. These little people have the ability to mess with your emotions, knowing exactly what buttons to press. Before I had children I had never felt as deeply as I do now. I have never felt happiness and love to such a degree, but then on the flip side I had never felt anger, sadness and loneliness in such a quantity either. It is like a rollercoaster of constantly changing moods that you can’t get off to pause for breath, even in the middle of the night, when you hear a little voice shouting ‘Mummy I’m lonely’. They know exactly what to say to pull at the heart strings.
As both my children have now entered the threenage years and things have intensified I feel like I have become more adapt at dealing with tantrums. There are still days when I feel like my head will explode but I’ve found for me, a mixture of ignorance and bribery is the way forward. When I feel a tantrum brewing I will try to nip it in the bud by giving the offender a warning. If the incessant whining continues they find themselves in the naughty corner. (A travel cot in the living room). This is usually when the full blown tantrum rears its ugly head as they realise they are not getting what they want. Once they calm down they are allowed to join in again on the condition they apologise. They also get a ‘bad’ token placed in the jar (a bottle cap). When they are being good they receive good tokens, 10 of these will get them a reward such as a magazine or toy. 10 bad tokens means no chocolate or sweets…the ultimate punishment for my girls as they live for their little treat after dinner! I have become quite well adjusted at ignoring a meltdown, my husband and I can now hold a full on conversation while blood curdling screams are going on in the background. Being out and about is another matter though, and I will happily have my food shopping delivered to avoid supermarket freak outs or treat ourselves to a take away rather than a meal out. Sometimes it can feel like you are being held prisoner by your tiny dictators but often it’s not worth the battle. When on holiday or on days out and avoiding tantrum triggers is not an option, I find I’m a lot more hard-skinned the second time around. With Ruby I wouldn’t enjoy myself because I would be on edge waiting for the inevitable, and when it happened I would be mortified and conscious of everybody’s judgement around me. Now, a public tantrum is still stressful, but I find I care less about the people around me, and just ignore the screaming. When I feel them getting restless I will bribe with snacks, but when this doesn’t work ignoring them is the best policy until we can get back to the car.
The way I see it is that most of those people staring will be parents themselves, and people often quickly forget how hard toddlers can be to manage. I believe the root of Ruby’s attitude is that she is very clever, and finds herself bored easily. She is so ready for school, and I am hoping that when she starts in September it will really help. In turn I think Aria’s grumpiness will improve, as when Ruby’s at school she won’t be fighting for my attention. No matter how hard some days are, I know deep down I will miss the threenage years, as despite the tantrums it’s a time when they truly believe in magic, and that anything is possible. It’s a time when they are torn between still wanting to be your little baby and wanting to be a big girl full of sass that doesn’t need her mummy’s help. Tummy’s rumble and little legs get tired, the big wide world can be overwhelming and mood swings are hard to deal with. They are just discovering the world, and who they are as a person. They won’t always be this grumpy, they won’t always constantly want my attention. In between the tantrums are beautiful moments, when little sisters cuddle and hold hands, and big sister helps little sister to climb the stairs. I won’t always be sleep deprived and hear the pitter patter of tiny feet as they come to cuddle mummy in the middle of the night because they are scared of monsters. I may be driven to the very edge of sanity but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Quotes – Credit Pinterest