Jamie is stretching toward the Terrible Twos and I’m edgy. More coffee, please.
It starts with the advent of more teeth. In Jamie’s case, he put off growing his canines and molars until last month, so now we’re well into painful teeth pushing and I know from experience that it will last until those two-year-molars come in.
I had a total flashback, déjà-vu experience this morning as Jamie threw himself onto the floor shrieking in one of those awesome, flailing tantrums that most kids save for the grocery store. He had been cranky all morning, clinging to me and not wanting food but then wanting the food I had just put back in the fridge, then throwing the food he thought he wanted onto the floor. He was up early, and by the time I was trying to bundle the kids up to go to preschool, I was a bit cranky myself. I hadn’t had a free hand to eat breakfast, let alone drink more than half a cup of coffee, and Jamie flat out REFUSED his jacket. As I slumped on the bottom step of the stairs, head in hands, trying to figure out how I would get to work on time (I wouldn’t; I had to put gas in the car because Tony’s morning basketball trips took the gauge right down to empty and I am one of those people who doesn’t notice the gas gauge until the little orange reminder light pops on), I was vividly reminded of the day I spent an hour-and-a-half trying to coerce Charles into his clothes and shoes to go to school when he was about 26 months old. At the time, I couldn’t understand where the epic tantrum had come from – he just laid on the floor and wailed. Everything was bad, nothing was good.
That night, probably about two years ago, I brushed Charles’s teeth and found some new molars.
So this is how you learn and grow as a parent: you screw up with the first child and try not to repeat your mistakes. Had I known that Charles was in immense pain at that point, I would have treated the pain. Obviously, he didn’t have the means to tell me that he was in pain, so he just screamed all morning. I felt terrible that evening, after I had discovered those teeth. This morning, I held Jamie down while I squirted acetaminophen into his mouth and then forcefully buckled him into his car seat. By the time we got to school, he felt better and willingly went to his teacher to begin his happy day playing with trucks and trying to feed bits of spaghetti to the imaginary dog under his high chair.
The Terrible Twos aren’t terrible because the child is angry and willfully trying to wreck his or her parents’ lives. They’re terrible because children have no way of communicating what they need and they get frustrated. Jamie’s just 19 months old, but he’s already getting exceptionally frustrated with not getting what he wants, when he wants it. All he wanted this morning, after our failed attempts at breakfast (no highchair! Wait, highchair! No yogurt! Yes yogurt! Aaahh, yogurt mess on his doggy pajamas! Wail!) was for me to read him stories over and over again. As you can probably understand, me sitting on the floor reading for an hour wasn’t going to get anyone to school or work. But to Jamie, I was just thwarting his happiness and comfort (because he hurt, and sitting with mom for the bajillionth retelling of Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La La La! is apparently super comforting, no matter how mindless it makes me feel) for no good reason.
There are people who have favorite kid stages. I think I have so far loved all the stages of my boys’ childhoods, but I’m finding this one to be the toughest for me – the stage wherein one child cannot keep up with the other and requires much more supervision. Charles is old enough for swim lessons and playing at indoor play places and children’s museums. He’ll finally sit through story time at the library. Jamie is not old enough for any of those things. But Jamie WANTS to do all of the things his brother gets to do. Jamie is frustrated with this every time we leave the house, it seems.
As we bury ourselves in tax season and life without Tony for awhile, I’m beginning to see the drawbacks of having Jamie this age at this point in the year. When Charles was 19 months old, it was early summer, and we spent as much time as we could outside, on walks, at the park. By the time we reached rainy tax season with long Saturdays just the two of us, he was over two years old and big enough to enjoy playing at McDonald’s or wherever. Sure, it wasn’t any fun having a three-month-old or even a 15-month-old during tax season, but with just the two of us, we managed well, and a 15-month-old was easier that a 19-month-old. Now, I look wistfully out the window at the rain, hoping for inspiration about playtime that will keep us all entertained instead of trying to kill each other.