I always knew this day would come (though I naively thought it would come once they hit 2 years old, rather than before): the Terrible 2s (or should that be 4s in my case?!). But I never really knew what it meant, other than that they may become possessed by the Devil and that it would be permanently horrendous.
I was wrong.
Before I read into it (via Google of course), here’s my take on what I think is going on here:
My little girls’ personalities have been gradually developing and shining through since birth. Even at mere days old, I could see differences between them, evidence that twins are completely individual rather than just two halves of a whole. T1 needed more attention and had less patience but slept more. T2 was generally more content and less interested in my attention or approval. These tendencies swung in roundabouts at times, but grew and strengthened over time.
As their little selves became more prominent, so too did their emotions. Unfortunately, they lack the intelligence to grasp what all of their emotions mean right now, and become utterly overwhelmed with them. This can sometimes manifest itself as reenactments of that girl from The Exorcist (x 2), but it can equally mean hilarious laughing fits! The point is that they go with the flow, living in the moment in a way us cynical adults never can anymore, giving in entirely to whatever they’re feeling at the time, regardless of logic or societal standards. Sometimes, this is freeing. Sometimes, it means throwing themselves on the floor in a rage, with no amount of consoling from me making a difference other than to make it worse.
And to make matters worse, they lack the communication skills to tell me what’s wrong, or even to ask me why they’re feeling the way they do. At best, they can repeatedly screech, “Mommmmeeeeee!!!!!!” At worst, they scream unintelligible, guttural sounds, tears streaming down their puffy red faces, and I’ve learned that the only way to handle this is to ignore them. To let them scream it out. If it’s just one of them, it means turning to her sister and praising her, playing with her, and giving her positive attention until the screaming one calms down and comes to join in with whatever we’re doing. Sometimes it works, and the three of us have a lovely time post-tantrum. Sometimes, however, it results in the grumpy one getting jealous and instead of joining the fun, she comes over and shoves her sister out of the way to get to me. This can result in a meltdown from her sister, who was otherwise ok, and me losing my patience. I wish I could say that I always remain calm and patient, but I am a human being and am therefore innately flawed!
I see my role as the person who needs to show my girls what normal behaviour is. It makes me think of the importance of these formative years. It helps to explain why some children unfortunately grow up to be anti-social non-members of society. When we read about an act of violence, for example, I wonder what the offender’s childhood was like. I don’t think it explains everything but if a child isn’t raised to understand what is and is not deemed acceptable in society, how can they ever become well-adjusted, functioning adults?
I went off on a bit of a tangent there…
So, what does Google have to say about the Terrible 2s?
This was the first quote that came up:
“According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, the terrible twos are a normal stage in a toddler’s development characterized by mood changes, temper tantrums and use of the word “no.” The terrible twos typically occur when toddlers begin to struggle between their reliance on adults and their desire for independence.”
Sounds pretty spot-on (how could I forget about “no”?!).
I also came across this helpful article which highlights the potential positive aspects of every tantrum.
Something important to note: toddlers are AWESOME. I have so much fun with my girls! They are so entertaining, singing along to their favourite songs, playing Hide and Seek, dancing, running, spinning around, getting into mischief and giving me the most amazing cuddles! And being witness -and direct influence on – their speech development is a really exciting time. I know there’ll come a day when I’ll wish they’d shut up but at the moment, it’s so much fun.
In conclusion? There are ELEMENTS of the Terrible 2s which suck. There are times I could quite happily just walk out my front door and keep walking. But there are so many amazing things about toddlers at this age that putting up with their inability to understand and control their own emotions is a small price to pay… Most of the time anyway!