17 April 2014

Toddlers, Tantrums, and True Detective

Here we go. Again.

Welcome back to the Terrible Twos. I hate it when these things come true. When your kids sink to that level. When they are predictable, giving credence to the tired clichés and worn-out tropes of parenting. So disappointing, so pedestrian. Come on, you’re better than that.

Aren’t you?

This is not an original theory, but I say that the Terrible Twos are a misnomer. They start before age 2. And they can definitely last past age 2. The only consistency is that they suck. Hard. Regardless of when they occur. Of course, that makes this no different really than any other stage of being a parent.

But this time, it’s different. This time, there is an additional element in the mix: the Doozer. When he was 2, he only had us to emulate and pattern his behavior after. And we’re pretty mellow. I mean, we’re adults. We don’t throw temper tantrums or yell for no reason or smear food all over our face and hair at every meal. We are civilized. Children—toddlers, specifically—are bloody savages.

And the weirdest part is that the Doozer is pretty mellow himself. He’s cautious, he’s a rule follower. Sure, he’s 5, so he can be rambunctious. He has more energy than my feeble brain can even comprehend. But mostly, he is very well-behaved, thoughtful, considerate. Relaxed.

Here’s the thing, though. A 2-year-old emulating a 5-year-old is very different. Little Brother’s interpretation of the Doozer’s behavior is like the death metal speed freak version of being a 5-year-old. Seriously, the Doozer jumps around a little bit and when this behavior is modeled, Little Brother turns into Alien from Spring Breakers, crazy-eyed and waving guns around, flashing his gold grill with his middle fingers in the air, all like, “F you, guys! Spring break for-eva!”

I will never forgive you for this.

It reminds me of that old Bill Cosby routine where he threatens his children over their unruly behavior. “I brought you in this world, I can take you out!” This sounds great on paper, but would never work in real life, Mr. Cosby. Kids are immune to threats. Have you ever met one? You had a whole show about all the darned things that they say.

Maybe our kids are just built that way. But you cannot reason with a kid in the throes of the Terrible Twos. Little Brother’s favorite word is “No!” And his second favorite word is “No!” His favorite phrase is “I do not want that!” Okay, we get it. You’ve gone all Ed Harris in the The Rock on us and you’re not going to back down. Fine. But could you at least try to dial the volume down? A little?

You’re killing me. Stop wailing like some distraught socialite watching her husband be taken to jail for securities fraud in a TV movie. Enough with the histrionics. And the sudden, random crying jags. And really, stop with the whole thing where the crying just stops and you turn on a dime into the world’s sweetest, most smiliest kid who looks at us like, What? Like nothing happened. Like we’re the crazy ones.

We’re on to you. We see how you strategically deploy your arsenal of cuteness and sweetness to keep us off our game. Very crafty. But really, we are on to you, sir.

And for the love of god, just go to sleep already. When we put you in your crib and turn out the lights, that is not a signal for you to start spewing out some nonsense monologue like you’re the lead in some Ionesco play. Keep it down and go to sleep so that your mother and I can continue binge-watching True Detective. (So that when you do get quiet, we get spooked about your whereabouts and worry that the Yellow King has snatched you up. Man, was that a vicious cycle.)

If I can offer you anything, it is this: Listen to your brother. You know, that Kindergartner who lives in our house that you are completely obsessed with? Like he’s the Beatles? Right, that guy.

When your 5-year-old brother wants you to quiet down and give it a rest, there is something wrong. It is time for a long, hard look in the mirror. It is time to think about your behavior and maybe start to analyze how well it’s working for you. Take a personal inventory, kid.

And an actual nap wouldn’t hurt either.

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