Friday, February 25, 2011

The Age of No Reason

This column was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, September, 2010. Apologies for the confusion, I'm out of sync here. Ted has progressed from this brand of craziness, deep into the toddler-zone. This week he will only answer to the name Trixie and answers no to everything. 'More toast, Teddy?' 'No! But I'm Trixie! But no!' He cries if Ivy won't call me Robbie Rotten. Our easygoing, agreeable little fella is breaking bad...

My dear readers, I’m worried about T-Bone. It’s very early to drop such a heavy label on him, but I think he might be an addict. His relationship with condiments has reached unhealthy proportions. He begs for tomato sauce and mayonnaise and he weeps when he can’t get them. ‘Naynays. Soss. Naynays. Soss,’ he moans in a sorrowful, endless chant, and left near an unattended bowl, within seconds he looks like he’s been at the scene of some sort of chainsaw massacre.

If he’s not truly an addict, then it can only mean one thing: he’s reached what I call the Age of No Reason. I’ve been through this before with his big sister Peanut, and it lasted from about eighteen months of age until about three. During this developmental stage, there are no half-measures. Passions are intense, desires must be met immediately, logic has no place at your table and life can be tough for those trying to parent you.

Skills are being learnt at an incredible rate as neural pathways fire at top speed, forming complex and interlocking pathways. There are so many things to learn. So many rules to follow. Cups in the sink, T-Bone, not the toilet. Down from the table! Get off your sister, please. No, T-Bone, knife. Spider! Hot, T-Bone. Don’t touch. Sharp! Sharp! Poo is not for drawing, T-Bone. NOT FOR DRAWING, T-Bone. No! No! No!

At the same time, there is incredible magic too. It’s like watching a personality unfurl like a rosebud. First sentences appear, and early obsessions, and those light bulb mama-moments when you realise ‘Ah! He understands!’ At two, children have one foot in the cuddly, Wondersuited baby camp of gorgeousness, and one foot in the child’s world of imagination and exploration. It’s a beautiful metamorphosis to witness. But it’s also often like living with an incontinent lunatic.

Trying to manage a toddler’s behaviour during the Age of No Reason is nigh on impossible. We tried hard with Peanut, introducing Naughty Corners and Naughty Shelves and Time Outs, but the punishment zones all quickly turned into fun games.

‘Corner?’ Peanut would ask excitedly, knowing she was in for that hilarious gag where Mum and Dad carried her back to the funny spot, over and over again.

Ignoring the tantrum is the only real option, but toddlers don’t make this easy either. Peanut liked to bang her head on the floor in rage when she was going through the Age of No Reason. At one stage I was forced to put her into a fluffy sort of special-needs hat, in an attempt to get her through her toddlerhood with something left of her frontal lobe. If ignored, she would come right up to me and shout indignantly ‘Head! Bang! Head!’

T-Bone takes a more physical approach. If I try and ignore a tantrum, he simply moves the tantrum closer. Yesterday I tried valiantly to continue reading to Peanut while he wailed for tomato sauce. ‘Sauce is finished, T-Bone,’ I insisted, and continued on with Hairy Maclary. T-Bone wasn’t having it. ‘Ignore him, Peanut,’ I gasped, as he wrapped one arm around my neck, locked his legs across my middle and shrieked into my ear.

Just a year-and-a-half to go then, of managing this patience-sapping, brain-melting phase before T-Bone becomes reasonable and allows me to do my best parenting, which involves the judicious application and withdrawal of Milk Arrowroot biscuits and Wiggles videos. Until then, I’ll just keep us well-stocked in tomato sauce and earplugs.

5 comments:

  1. Ooooh boy, I'm in the middle of the age of no reason and this made me laugh. We had a particularly tough day today, with Amy tired from school this week and Isaac just plain naughty and I think they took turns clinging to my face and screeching at me.

    It gets better. It gets better. It gets better. I have to keep repeating this to myself.

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  2. love this and can so relate altho sadly still in this zone and looks like will be for some time (my 4yo recently diagnosed with High Functioning Autism/Aspergers), was trying to explain to someone just today that in some ways (partic the language/emotional/social/communication/frustration/toilet training areas) that is is like being stuck (held hostage) in the toddler stage. You have said it so much better here. One of the biggest struggles I have with the dx is letting go of the fantasy I had that the "hard years" were behind us and we could look fwd to the relative bliss of the 4yo to teen years and relax a bit with more mature reasonable kids and off to kindy and school. Aaaaaah no! try again! Thankfully he is such a gorgeous thing that we are hanging in there and just coming up with a 'new normal'...different path than we had imagined for our family.

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  3. Well I'm glad to know that tomato sauce is in demand in your house as much as it is in mine. I still haven't found any other toddlers with such a passion for lemon juice as my toddler displays though.

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  4. Your t-bone and my ham-sandwich (2.5 yrs) should team up: BYO condiments.
    Lucky they are gorgeous and charming.
    (LOVE this post. You are awesome, Mama Mogantosh). :)

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Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.