The twos are upon us.
We had an absolutely delightful stretch there, for awhile. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–Henry’s first year was incredibly hard. Most of this had to do with sleep. He never slept through the night, he rarely slept for more than a few hours together, most of the time. He didn’t nap, other than in the car or while nursing. It took over an hour of rocking and nursing to get him to bed at night. But even when he was awake, he was intense. I know all children are intense, believe me. But Henry was, as his pediatrician liked to put it, “extra intense.”
Then around a year or a little after, things just go better. Easier. And we got to know each other better, and I thought “this! this is what it’s all about.” Much of that has to do with me. I prefer people to infants. And when Henry started talking and becoming, more recognizably, a person, things got much, much easier.
Things are still delightful, nearly every minute. But we have, this past week or two, seriously landed in the more frustrating and frustrated zone of toddlerhood. We’ve previously had few real tantrums. I credit this to chance, of course, but I suppose I should acknowledge that there may be some correlation between less top-blowing and how verbal he is–it’s usually quite easy to figure out what he wants, needs, or is trying to communicate, and this cuts down on mutual frustration. That we’re still nursing helps, too, though I’m of course not claiming that breastfeeding is again the magic bullet for all things child (I’m annoyed by this rhetoric, believe me). It helps Henry and me because nursing is still his #1 favorite thing in the world, and it can be used to soothe and reward and distract and bring him back from the edge. It’s like if you offer your kid M&Ms, it’s likely that he’ll put his toys away. Nursing is a great motivator. We don’t employ too much “if…then” or bribery, necessarily, but we do make liberal use of “We’ll nurse AFTER [such and such thing we're trying to accomplish].”
But no amount of boob or being able to talk about some things keeps them from being battles. In fact, his ability to make known his attitude usually fuels the fire. I’m trying to put a shirt on him? “NO! It’s too HARD. It’s too TIGHT. I can’t do it! I don’t want it! Take this shirt AWAY! Put it back! By other shirts! With other shirts!” I want to take him to school (which he loves, once we’re there)? “Mama, I run. I run away. Mama no come with. You drive Paco [the name of our car, another story]. I run.”
We employ “the corner.” When there is hitting or biting or otherwise aggressive behavior (throwing toys) after warnings, there is ten seconds–counted out slowly, often together–in the corner. Then there is a new activity Henry is invited to join, if the corner was employed as a “separation from the situation” type deal, or, if there was violence, he’s invited to say “sorry” to and hug the recipient of said violence. The corner really works for us, for now. H gets a little separation from us/the toys/whatever it is that was playing a part in the mayhem, but everyone can still see each other, talk to each other, and while he’s chilling out for a moment we try to model calm behavior.
There was one day where Hank spent two sessions in the corner in one afternoon. But then things were going pretty well. At one point I decided to try to dust while he quietly fried bananas and crafted watermelon sandwiches in his play kitchen. In order to dust on top of the bookshelves, I stood on a chair.
“NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! NO CLIMBING!” Henry wailed. I cursed my own hypocrisy and started to step down. Before I could do so, though, my incredibly fast (and stealthy!) toddler was standing next to the chair in the space I would otherwise need to occupy, essentially “chairing” me. He was reaching for me, and also trying to scramble up on the chair with me: “UP! UP! UP! I do it! I climb!”
In order to make a point, I told him, gently, “No, no climbing,” and then began to explain that Mamas shouldn’t climb either and I was sorry. When this didn’t seem to convince him, I sat down in the corner. The corner. “I’m sitting in the corner for ten seconds, because we are not allowed to climb on chairs,” I said, with humility and–dare I say it–grace.
Henry’s response? “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! MY CORNER!“