With all due respect to Jim Carrey, I’ve got a better one.
Eitan is turning two in June and he looks every bit the part. Far gone are the days of the goofy little smiles, rattle distractions and innocent cries that beg for food or comfort. They have been replaced by full belly laughs, Sesame Street videos and
demands requests that are getting clearer by the day.
“Big Bird!” “Bubbles!” “Bat!” “Ball!” “Boob!”1
Most of the time it’s no big deal. It doesn’t take much to persuade Trudy or me to play with Eitan. We take him outside to blow bubbles or play baseball or whatever it is he wants to do. Or, we give him a different toy or start a game of hide and seek or something and he forgets about his original idea for a while. Sure, let’s set up your train tracks in the living room. It’s fine if you want to walk around with the laundry basket on your head. You want to spin around in a circle and make yourself dizzy? No problem. Go ahead, take all the Tupperware containers out of the cabinet. Yes, I’ll even clean them up for you.
But once in a while, you just have to say no.
“No, you can’t hold the laptop.”
“No, you can’t ride your scooter without your helmet.”
“No, I’m not going to hold you on the window sill. Stand on the couch and you can look for buses that way.”
“No, you can’t put Daddy’s credit cards in the heater.”2
That little word, “No,” is when it starts. His eyes shut tight, his hands clench into fists and his feet start dancing. His lips tremble and part and he unleashes the most terrible sound ever created. It’s a mix of cry, whine and Tyrannosaurus Rex roar. I can almost hear Liam Neeson’s voice in my head: “Unleash the tantrum!” It’s not just the volume; loud noises are annoying but I can deal with them. It’s the meaning behind the cry. It’s the cry that says, “I want what I want and I don’t care how irrational or unsafe it is. All I know is that you’re not giving it to me.” I was a philosophy major in college; logic and reasoning are my bread and butter. But there’s no negotiating with “Waaaaaaaaaaa!”
The truth is, I think toddlers get a bad rap most of the time. People ask how old Eitan is and, when I say he’ll be two in June, the inevitable response is, “Uh oh, the terrible twos!” It’s as though people have this image of toddler-hood that it’s essentially one year-long temper tantrum. It’s not at all. Eitan is loads of fun and has an amazing personality. He knows that there are limits and most of the time he abides by them.3 On the rare occasions that he does get angry, he usually lets out one quick cry and that’s it. He very rarely has a total meltdown and, even if he does, it’s more because he’s overtired than anything else. All toddlers are like that. They’re just figuring out their way in the world and trying to understand why things are the way they are. They just get upset when things don’t go their way and they don’t know how else to express their frustration.4 The rational side of me gets all that.
The emotional side, however, is searching for earplugs.
1. Today’s blog post is brought to you by the letter B.↩
2. Quick story about this. When my youngest brother was three or so, my father’s drivers license went missing one day. About a week later, my dad found it in the baseboard heater, which is where my brother had left it. Then, during the hottest week of the summer, our newly installed air conditioner didn’t seem to be working. We checked the filter, tried turning it on at different times of day, different speeds, everything. At the end of the week, my dad dropped something and practically burned his hand when he picked it up from under – you guessed it – the baseboard heater. It turned out my brother had turned the thermostat to the highest setting, which is why the AC wasn’t working right. In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing my father allowed my brother to make it to his twenties. In related news, maybe Eitan’s obsession with the heater has something to do with our gene pool.↩
3. If Eitan sees a knife, even the plastic toy knife from his kitchen set, his eyes to wide and he points and says, “No no!”↩
4. For the record, I know some adults who do this too.↩