The terrible twos are real, for most parents. It’s a time when our little ones are trying very hard to establish some independence and assert their personalities for the first time. Dave and I wrote about our experiences with our terriblest two year old (Parker) …

Originally published in the Corning Leader, March 23, 2003

We have five kids, and while this is Dave’s fourth trip through the toddler years, it is only my first. I sometimes wonder in desperation: How many times can a child throw a temper tantrum and beat his head on the floor and not sustain permanent damage? How long DO the terrible twos last, anyway? Parker is almost 3, and he is not really showing signs of being through with being terrible. I envy Dave his previous experience with this age and his ability to just tune it out.

I love my son very much, and having children has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I would not trade this child (or any of the other four) for the world, but there are certainly days when I measure my sanity in choosing to walk away from the relative ease of the corporate world to try and reason with a child like mine.

Dave has managed to forget his previous woes with the terrible twos (mercifully so). There are days when he can ignore the tantrums; yet there are other days when he feels like pulling out those hairs that have yet to recede or turn to gray. We could look at it this way: at least the older kids are no longer beating their heads on the floor.

Maybe we deserve what we’re dealing with. Our moms laugh and show little sympathy when they hear about Parker’s antics. I am told that I deserve everything I get because of the child I was. In fact, my mother’s greatest wish (as is the greatest wish for many mothers) was that someday I have a child just like me.

According to a reliable source (Dave’s mom), Parker acts a lot like Dave did when he was little. From Dave’s point of view, what father would not be proud to have his son follow in his own headstrong footsteps? Seriously though, Dave is sympathetic and he recognizes that leaving for work each day can provide a vacation of sorts; however, father-son pride still suffices as a “silver lining” when Parker is more belligerent than normal.

Because of our varied levels of experience, Dave and I do handle things differently. He didn’t cry when Parker had his first immunization shots, but I did. He knew the pain was short-lived and easily forgotten; I couldn’t get past my new baby boy’s alligator tears. Dave didn’t find it necessary to consult the medical guide with every new stage of development and go “by the book”, and he was often frustrated at my concern when we weren’t following whatever the newly prescribed method of parenting happened to be that month.

As Dave recollects days gone by, I handle issues much as he would when our oldest was the two-year old. Even still, Dave will feel moments of dread when the kids are in pain or saddened. Maybe he has improved his ability to rationalize that their discomfort is for the best. Who knows?

I understand more now why Dave finds it so easy to be relaxed about certain events. We just had Anika five months ago; and from the beginning, I behaved differently—I didn’t feel like I would die every time she cried and I didn’t feel completely incompetent when I couldn’t immediately soothe her. I don’t change her diaper every 15 minutes or read any books about where she is in her stages of development. I just enjoy every moment, knowing that if I have retained any sanity at all, this will be the last baby.

Part of relaxing may come from the understanding that the kids are really okay. Much of the hurt we feel, physically and emotionally, seems to be manufactured in our minds. What helps us is the understanding that the little pains associated with growing are more of an annoyance than a trauma.

It’s challenging, yet fun, to struggle and learn together to find just the right way to handle each situation as it arises. The one thing I have learned from Dave is that no matter how many times you make the trip with kids, it never gets less rewarding and you never stop worrying about them.

I’m grateful to have Dave’s reassuring insight on the toddler side of things. I do know that, eventually, Parker will stop beating his head when he’s mad, he will potty train, and some of those issues that seem overwhelming today will get easier.

Teenagers on the other hand . . .