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We've heard of the terrible twos, that commonplace phrase designed to mask the horror of toddler defiance and tantrums. Apparently it doesn't end there; next comes the struggle of having a "threenager." I don't know if a term exists for 4-year-olds, but I don't imagine things are entirely sunshine and roses by then. But who knows, I'm in the midst of age 1 and learning as I go.
I assumed the tantrums and general terribleness began at age 2. Wishful thinking on my part. My 1-year-old son and all of his friends have either started early, or everything I've been told is wrong. We have officially entered a stage I call the not-so-wonderful-ones.
I understand why he gets upset. The behavior was once perfectly described to me by a fellow mom as being the result of having "big emotions and little words." Sure, I understand the reasons behind it. Yes, it’s a developmental phase, an important one at that. I’m just saying I wish I had more time. Why is this happening now? I thought I had at least seven more months until the foot stomping began.
The first time it happened we were at school, playing happily outside with some balls. When the teacher called us all in for snacks I explained to my son what was happening. He wasn't having it. He screamed and stomped his little foot in frustration. Kneeling down to his level, I tried again.
"I understand you were having fun playing and don't want it to end," I said to him. "But it's time to go inside and eat." I used every bit of sage advice I'd been given by other moms on how to handle the situation. It didn't work. More stomping ensued.
I didn’t know what to do. I looked around and saw the same thing happening with two other kids and their moms. When we all regrouped it was confirmed: 1-year-olds have wild tantrums, too. Lots of them, it seems.
Why did no one warn me? I worried I was doing something wrong, of course. Why was my son starting this phase early? Turns out he wasn’t. I just hadn't heard much about the not-so-wonderful, 1-year-old stage.
I finally confessed my dilemma on social media and was flooded with supportive, me-too mom confessions of similar-aged tantrums. The reasons ranged from "not letting her throw the iPad on the floor" to "I wouldn’t let him wipe the bathroom floor with his washcloth." If you need to feel some solidarity you can read them all here.
The other day my son had five tantrums. Five. His reasons for losing his ever-loving mind included:
1. The Dustbuster ran out of power
2. I wouldn't let him hit the window with a drum stick
3. He couldn't outsmart the child lock and open the oven
4. I stopped him from putting his laundry in the diaper pail
5. I wouldn't let him drink my coffee
Moms, if your 1-year-old has entered the tantrum stage, please know you're not alone. You're doing a great job and this won't last forever. (Or at least we'll at least get a break until middle and high school. But let's not worry about the teenage years just yet.)
And to new, expecting, and future moms, here's a newsflash. The terrible twos and threenagers are indeed a real thing. Unfortunately so are the not-so-wonderful-ones. However, as with all things parenting, it's worth it. Most of the time, at least. For the hard days there's always ice cream and Netflix.
For more mom moments, follow me on Instagram at Witty Otter.
Images by Becky Vieira
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.