After we were out of the newborn haze, things got much more predictable and easy for me as a totally inexperienced mom. I knew what made my son happy (playgrounds, being outside all day, not wearing pants) and what made him not so happy (bedtime, diaper changes, putting away toys). I was overjoyed that the worst was past us, yet more experienced parents kept warning me that the "terrible twos" were just around the corner and that that was far more complex and hard than having a newborn.
It was, honestly, quite defeating to hear as a first-time mom. Now that I was enjoying motherhood, everyone kept reminding me that it was all going to go out the window in a matter of no time. I believed them. I wanted my baby to stay little, for life to be as enjoyable as it was, finally.
My son turned two, and then three. And you know what, I actually really enjoyed him being two. And also, no he was not terrible.
So for all of those dreading the terrible twos, these are the lies I believed (which turned out to totally be not true):
1. That it starts at exactly 2 years of age.
The clock hits midnight on their birthday and like Cinderella, your toddler suddenly becomes terrible. Nope, that's not the case. Not all kids develop at the same speed (which is totally normal, we are all different people) and that's evident with baby milestones, so why expect them to all be terrible at exactly two years of age?
2. That it only lasts for a year.
Again, not all kids are the same. Calling it "terrible twos" makes parents believe that their children will be more challenging for just a year. The reality is that children test us all the time. They are learning every single day, and because of that, there will be good times and harder times. But stop thinking of it as a certain age.
3. That they're no longer babies.
They are always going to be our babies, that is the ultimate truth. However, speaking more realistically, at two kids they are still learning a lot about the world. Even though they might be talking up a storm, or even have had ditched the diapers already, they are still young and need all the love and encouragement in the world to figure out and navigate their big feelings.
4. They do it on purpose.
They don't. They are learning, they have big feelings to navigate and that causes emotional outbursts. Remember, you are everything to them and they love you more than anything, they just need to test the boundaries a little bit in the process of growing up.
5. That tantrums last forever.
One of the lies I believed was that from 24 to 36 months of age my son was going to be a constant tantrum from wake up until bedtime. That was far from the truth. Even with twin sisters born three days after his second birthday and in the middle of total lockdown from a pandemic that ripped away all his friends and excursions to the outside world, my son was a pleasure to be around. Most of the time.
6. That you can predict & avoid tantrums.
I was totally convinced that once he could communicate his wants and needs, I could predict and avoid tantrums; the joke was on me. You should not even try to do this. Let them be. What one day makes them happy (like watching Daniel Tiger) the next day might be lava (because they'd rather do something else). Go with the flow and be prepared to respond to tantrums with conversations about feelings and plenty of snuggles.
7. That telling them what not to do is enough.
They need far more than "no" from you, the grown-up who knows and understands the feelings they are feeling for the first time. Telling them "don't climb on the couch" is not enough, because it doesn't explain that they could fall and hurt themselves and that would mean a trip to the doctor. I've found that giving my son the whole picture helps him process everything and be more cooperative.
8. That it's a stage parents should dread.
By calling them terrible it makes every parent in the world cringe as they approach the age. But here's the thing, it's not terrible at all; I found it to be actually super fun. Especially when I let go of the unrealistic expectations of what my child should be doing and instead just enjoyed them. I enjoyed discovering who they really are, what they really like, see their brain and world expand right in front of my eyes. I have this photo of my son mid-pandemic seeing the sunset and in it, I captured his mouth wide open SHOCKED that the sun went down every day. It was followed by a lot of "why" questions, which are always incredibly adorable.
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