Recently I’ve been struggling with Darcie’s behaviour, so has Dan, and I’m sure that Darcie herself is struggling with it more than the rest of us put together. The only person who remains completely un-phased by it all is little Ernie snoozing away in his Moses Basket. He can sleep through the loudest shouts of ‘no’ and high pitched screeching known to man kind, he’s a modern day miracle really. Anyway that’s beside the point. The point is that things have been really difficult. Not all the time but just generally things are harder than they have been before. Don’t get me wrong we still have really good days and we have other days which are mostly good with just a smattering of toddler terror. And then we have the days which make me question literally everything I have ever done whilst raising her, trying to figure out at what point exactly I went wrong.
The biggest question I ask myself is this; is this all my fault for deciding to have another baby? Should we have left a bigger age gap so that she was past this age that is renowned for being tough? As much as I can never fully shake the mum guilt, I have come to the conclusion that no, this isn’t solely a reaction to gaining a baby brother. I’m sure that has been a factor to some changes in her behaviour but as my Gran wisely pointed out the other day – it would be odd if she wasn’t affected by that. It is a HUGE life change and while she adores her baby brother more than I can explain, she was also used to having me at her beck at call twenty four seven. Of course she wasn’t going to be too thrilled when that changed.
But through all of the doubts, the wondering and the guilt the words of my lovely health visitor have stuck in my mind. ‘All two year olds go through difficult phases, chances are she would be going through it whether or not you had had a baby’. These words have kept me sane and stopped the mum guilt from becoming all consuming and so I have shared them here to hopefully help anyone else in the same boat as myself.
As you may or may not know, I often turn to Instagram when things get tough. My followers on Instagram really are the loveliest bunch and lots of them (you) have children the same age as Darcie. Whenever I mention her behaviour on Instagram Stories, whether that be nap refusal, a love of the word ‘no’ or weeing all over the floor from the great heights of her highchair (don’t ask!), I always receive messages from people saying that their child is doing the same things. I can’t explain how much better that makes me feel and it’s just one of the reasons why I think social media can be such a positive thing.
When I spoke on Instagram about how insanely challenging Darcie had been recently, the amount of messages from women with children exactly the same age as Darcie was even more than usual. So I turned to Google, suspecting some sort of growth spurt or developmental leap around this age, and immediately found so many articles confirming my suspicions. One article even said that difficult behaviour in toddlerhood often peaks at 27 months old. I’m not naive enough to actually believe that to be true, if there is one thing that Motherhood has taught me it is that things can always get worse. I’m kidding! I really don’t take that much of a negative view, but my point is that I know things will get harder in different ways as she grows up, there will always be new challenges. (I have to say that otherwise the ‘oh just you wait’ comments will begin, and ain’t nobody got time for those. Pipe down.).
When Darcie was younger I used to use the Wonder Weeks App to see her ‘leaps’ in development. Whenever that little cloud appeared I knew we were in for a rough few days that would probably involve more milk and less sleep, and then we would come out the other side and Darcie would have learnt a new skill or developed in some way. And this is no different, it’s just a louder, screechier leap, that involves a LOT of whining and crying for her dummy. She is developing at a rate of knots at the moment. Her speech is coming on in leaps and bounds, just within the last week she has gone from occasionally stringing four words together, to being able to communicate with us in full sentences. She is so aware of emotions and can act them all out on demand and her sense of humour is second to none. Her understanding of everything is on a level that surprises me every day and she’s even suddenly able to do things like drawing a rainbow that is actually in the shape of a rainbow. For some reason that one blew my mind more than anything else.
She is becoming the most amazing, wonderful little person and it really is a case of having to take the good with the bad at the moment. The health visitor was thrilled with her at her two year review and explained to me that Darcie is actually functioning more like a three year old in terms of her motor skills, problem solving and emotional intelligence. I was SO proud to hear her say such wonderful things about my beautiful girl and as her tough moments have worn me down over the last few days, I have been reminding myself of how amazingly well she is developing. She has got so much going on in her brain at this moment in time that it’s no wonder that she often feels overwhelmed and frustrated.
I know for a fact that there will be other mums reading this desperate to know exactly what her behaviour has been like to use as a yardstick for their own little terror and so here are some of the things we’ve been dealing with. Remember that all children are different though and that the most difficult thing about all of this for me has been just how out of character this all is for Darcie.
- She’s been saying ‘no’ to e v e r y t h i n g. She’s defying us simply for the sake of it. Even things that she definitely would like to do, like going to the park, are met with a stubborn ‘no!’. Then there will be lots of crying and writhing around on the floor as I battle to get her dressed to take her out to have a fun day. She’ll generally enjoy herself once we are out but the process of getting out the door is torture.
- She’s been picking and choosing who she wants. Generally it is me that she requests for things like bath time and bed, but it is often Dan too these days. If she doesn’t get the person that she wants, she simply will not co operate for the other one of us. She’ll scream and cry and beg for the person that she wants.
- She’s testing physical boundaries by hitting and kicking out. This one I think we have managed to nip in the bud but she has given it a good go to try and get what she wants. It doesn’t work and hopefully that’ll be the end of it.
- She is refusing more food than usual. She is stubborn but so am I, and if she doesn’t eat her dinner, she doesn’t get offered anything else. Unless it’s beige, she’s not interested. And you can forget water unless it’s got squash diluted into it. This one I do compromise on because, you know, dehydration would not be ideal.
- She’s doesn’t want to share. Playdates have become a nightmare and we’ve had two occasions now where her crying and whining has got to a point where friends have said ‘would it be easier if we left?’ and we all know the answer is yes. That is the most painful thing for me because she used to love playing and sharing but right now she doesn’t want to know. This one I do kind of attribute to becoming a big sister, she has struggled with having less of my attention than usual and when we have other friends and children around too, she gets even less which is hard for her. I could be wrong but that’s my theory.
I could list many more examples but I don’t want to bore anyone, and the purpose of this post isn’t to moan about the specific struggles we’ve had.
I just needed to get this all of my chest. I like to keep things positive on the internet but I also love that my blog and social media channels have become a platform for me to connect with other mums and let them (you) know they (you) are not alone. I like to keep it real so that you can relate and as I’ve said many time before, I do also use this blog a bit like a therapist. Writing this post has been so therapeutic and putting it all into words really helps me to make sense of it all.
Finally, I just want to write down what my plan is going forward to combat this phase and to help her through it as easily as possible. So these are some of the ways I’m trying to manage it all.
- I’m trying to keep calm when she is frustrated and angry. I need to show her how to react in situations without resorting to yelling and crying (that’s her territory).
- I’m giving her as much of my attention as I can. When Ernie is asleep or content without me, playing with her is a priority over the housework. I’m a strong believer in the importance of independent play but also I can recognise a child that is craving attention and if she is keen to spend time with me and let me into her imaginary world then I don’t want to be the mum that doesn’t have time to do so.
- I’m including her in everything and showing her new skills. I think a large part of this behaviour can be attributed to frustration so hopefully by continuing to encourage her to learn and master new skills, we can combat the frustration.
- I’m maintaining our routine as best as possible and sticking to the rules we have always had. When we’re having a tough day, it’s only too easy to fall into bad habits or lose our routine just to have an easy life. There are certain things that have always been consistent in Darcie’s life and by maintaining them now, hopefully I can help her feel more secure and confident – and happier as a result.
- I’m rewarding good behaviour and celebrating her wins. I firmly believe in a positive approach to parenting and by rewarding the positives that puts her focus there rather than on the negative behaviours she has been trying out.
I’m not a parenting expert, I’m just doing the best I can so you might be reading this and thinking that I’m dealing with it wrong but just remember that we all do things differently. Any constructive advice and tips would always be appreciated though.
Did you notice a big leap in development around this age? Are you battling with it now? If you are, just remember – we got this! Toddlers are tiny and although they can be terrifying, we are ultimately bigger than them and can put them in the bin if necessary.