On Nov 25, Nadi turned 30 months old. 2.5 years old. From Baby to Boy. Suddenly there is an air of authority in the NO MAMA. Suddenly there are preferences like never before. Suddenly there are moods. ONLY TOMATOES CHAHIYE. Suddenly there is language. KYA HAI MAAA? I am floored, fascinated, amazed and completely out of depth here.
I had been warned and warned again about the terrible twos from the time he turned one. Everyone had a horror story of sorts- of fits thrown in toy stores, tantrums in public, hitting, slapping, shouting. It had seemed to me like my normally sunny boy would suddenly morph into a tiny monster, growling at me if I tried to do anything that didnt meet his approval. Normally I let stories like these serve as more tales to learn by- and not bother me- because one, I feel each kid is different, and two, you never really believe its going to happen to you in the same way till it actually happens to you the same way. Parenting is all so relative. What is fine by me might be horrifying to another mom (like occasional indulging in chocolate and coke) and what is horrifying to me might be a no-issue for another mom (allowing kid to run wild in restaurants). We all have our lines and limits and we hope that our terr-twos will work within them.
Having crossed the half mark into the Year Two, I look back in wonder that I have survived the manic speed of change. Its like he hasd infront of me suddenly eveloped this perfect little personality- a being that questions, that inquires, understands, is curious and simply wont let a thing go if it interests him. I suppose I see why it can be termed terrible. From a baby- who pretty much does as you say and wears what you like- suddenly emerges this creature who wants to second guess everything you do and say. He will want to wear the red shirt as opposed to the green one. He will have milk before food. He will sleep with his toy trucks in his hand and his favourite shoes on his feet. He will not wear a jacket. Everything is now a negotiation- and one that can go on and on with neither side giving in. Everything is also a battleground as he establishes his individuality and I try to maintain some semblance of mine.
“But just tell him what you want him to wear, don’t give him a choice,” says my newly mommed friend N, as I marvelled out loud to her how Nadi wants to just wear his one favourite ratty annoying T-shirt constantly while all this other nice ones just lie there. “The key is in letting him know that you are the parent.” I smile at her, perhaps a little condescendingly. Little does she know who the Real Boss is *Insert hysterical laughter here* The thing is, I explain to her, you have to pick your battles. If I expend half my energy on the clothes issues, then the food issues will have less of my reserve and thats more important. If I lay down too many laws, he will progressively get less interested in trying to break them and perhaps his spirit will suffer a bit, and these negotiations, which keep him alert and happy and attentive and so bright, form, in my opinion atleast, a key part of his personality growth. I am no child psychologist but I can see his eyes sparkle and the wheels in his head start turning furiously everytime he gets ready to launch his pitch. I love this give and take, this energy that zings in his step when he has to work a bit to get what he wants- if you have your milk then you can watch TV before sleeping, if you clean up, we can share a sweet- it helps reiterate an age old lesson of how anything gained through some kind of personal effort (be it even having to have milk when you don’t want to) always feels more fulfilling and exciting.
I had thought I would be woefully unequipped for the Terri-Twos. It would be unfair to call them terrible because they haven’t been so. They have been terrifying in some ways- with the speed of growth and the way time flies and the sudden clarity in vision that I have very little control on anything that happens to him. They have been terrific in others; Nadi suddenly gives voluntary hugs and I love yous. He will note things that blow my mind in their love for detail and observation. His wondrous happiness at the mundane keeps my eyes fresh. And yes, of course, at times they have been terrible too- in the stubbornness, the crying, the sheer will of sticking to his own while I get worn down in saying no and eventually give in. Some days you want to quit and some days you want to cry because you cant quit. Some days he is the total boss of you and there is nothing you can do about it except give in and enjoy.
And now as we head for the three year mark, I cautiously celebrate both his and my survival and growth, happy that we have been able to make it through the most dreaded year (until he hits his teens of course). I rejoice in the fact that I don’t feel like I let go of the Parent title completely despite it being so easy to give in on all accounts to just stop the mad tug of war. I am happy that I did let go of the insane control and let him have his way a lot also. I am also happy that I feel it worked out- that he still looks at me with mad happy eyes when he wants something, secure in the knowledge that I will get it for him, and yet when I don’t he still comes to me for the hug that will make it all better. Yes, I think I survived quite well- so far and for now. Ask me again in six months.