This piece I wrote for Early Years Magazine some months ago. At nearly three, Ted is ramping up the crazy, just like his sister did. Dickens may have been talking about pre-revolutionary Paris when he wrote 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'; but the phrase applies just as well, in my battle-scarred opinion, to the period of time in which your child turns two. Ted is so full of personality, so warm and affectionate, I could burst with joy thinking about him. But two-year-olds, as a population group, are incontinent, unpredictable lunatics. And T-Bone is true to his homies.
At BiLo this week, I reached new lows of public humiliation, and with a daughter who’s not afraid to shout ‘Wow, Mum! Getting pretty fat!’ while lifting my top in the butchers, I have developed a thick skin for public shaming. No, this shopping trip, it was T-Bone’s turn, and he took naughty to a new level. Funny how quick you can forget what living with a two-year-old is like. (I do accept that having a third child might indicate that I perhaps have a more selective memory than most.)
All the way around the interminable aisles, T-Bone put on a crazy toddler show. He shouted ‘Give me it! Give me it!’ every time a shiny bauble caught his eye, and he cried loudly every time he was refused, and shouted his worst insult: ‘You are bum!’ I wheeled around frantically, throwing objects into the trolley and hissing pathetically ‘Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!’ Other shoppers refused to catch my eye. I could feel the disapproval wafting off them in waves, and when I tried to throw one or two a sort of gaily apologetic, what-can-you-do look, I could feel it contorting my face in a grimace that, rather than garnering sympathy, just indicated that on top of raising little horrors, I had failed to take my anti-psychotic medication that morning.
Four-year-old Peanut didn’t help by swinging at dangerous angles of the side of the trolley, giddy with the freedom offered her by T-Bone’s worse behaviour.
This week, T-Bone has launched himself into his Two’s with dramatic force. He swings between between hanging lovingly off my neck and begging ‘Cuddle! Cuddle!’ and throwing noisy tantrums that have kept him in constant motion between Time Out and harmonious family life. Relations between him and Peanut have spiralled downhill. She doesn’t like being told ‘you are bum’ either. Battles between them are sudden and fierce. One minute they are playing Lego happily while I wash up, and seconds later they are shrieking at an ear-splitting pitch and I am between them shouting ‘What happened? Stop shouting! Stop shouting! STOP SHOUTING!’
Even at night, as I lie in bed pondering the terrible parental irony of shouting STOP SHOUTING at the children, T-Bone’s unreasonable demands continue. Last night at midnight he began to call out in distress. ‘What is it?’ I asked blearily at his bedside. ‘I want my dinner,’ he wailed. ‘It’s the night-time, I said firmly. ‘It’s time for sleep. Not dinner.’ He was having none of it. ‘Peanut eating my dinner!’ he insisted. ‘She is asleep, T-Bone. Everybody is asleep! ‘It was hopeless. ‘No! ‘ he shouted at his highest pitch. ‘They are eating my DINNER!’
Keith and I take it in turns, miserably, to try all our tricks. We calmly pat and sing. We fetch milk. We sternly address the yelling and we place toys on the naughty shelf. Nothing particularly works. At some point T-Bone gets tired of the midnight show and decides to go back to sleep. And in the morning, while Keith and I are shattered and haggard, T-Bone wakes bright and early, chirpily jumping up and down on his bed and shouting in rhythm: ‘Change! My! Poo! Bum!’
I know this phase ends. I know it will end, and my agreeable, sweet little boy will return. I’m repeating this to myself as a soothing mantra, even as I develop an anxious facial tic and eat an unreasonable amount of restorative chocolate. But I might have to change supermarkets for the duration.