Stephen Gilbert Vogan put the “terrible” in the phrase “terrible” two’s. In 2009, I completely totally 1000% understood why that age earned the adjective “terrible.” At the slightest provocation (ie his granola bar breaking, asking him to clean up 3 cheerios, watery oatmeal) Stephen transformed into a screaming, inconsolable ball of rage. There was nothing you could do at these moments except let the monster scream in his room. Any attempt at comfort only made it worse; my mere presence stoked the flames. I tried every technique to calm him down, but nothing helped. You couldn’t talk to him, you couldn’t hug him. You could just put him in his room and wait it out. I kept the windows shut so the neighbors wouldn’t call the police because of all the screaming. I had to hide in the bathroom when we stayed in a hotel on vacation, because if I was in sight tantrums would never end.
“Oh, just wait until he turns 3,” my
obnoxious helpful friends would say. “Boys have terrible threes! You think it’s bad now, just wait!”
“No,” I said. “This HAS to be it. This is TERRIBLE. He cannot get more terrible. If he does, I will sell him on ebay.”
Thankfully, no black market child exchanges had to happen–when Stephen turned 3, it was like a switch flipped and he resumed human form. The mini-hulk monster who spent hours raging in his room disappeared and he became the sweet boy we all know and love today.
When Adrian came along, we prepared ourselves for 2…and…terrible never happened. It was barely bad. And at 3? He had some tantrums, frustrating but certainly not terrible. I think Adrian has struggled more since the twins have been born. But I realized that Stephen trained us to handle tantrums in a certain way: by steeling ourselves against the tears and sending him to his room. The sheer frequency and magnitude of Stephen’s tantrums hardened us against tears. But of course, different kids, different personalities. It occurred to me recently (yeah, ok, I know) to try an old technique not used since its disastrous failure in 2009: sympathy and comfort. I tried this on Adrian, and shockingly, it worked!
This morning before preschool, tragedy struck. Adrian broke the nose off his show and tell stuffed animal (a dog, for D- day) on the way out the door. Adrian was in hysterics, and we were late, so I grabbed the first d- thing I found in the boys’ room (a stuffed dolphin) and rushed Adrian into the car. Adrian screamed the whole way to preschool in disappointed rage.
As I drove, and he scream/cried, I remembered my previous success with hugging him during a tantrum and decided to try it again. After we parked, I leaped out of the car, unbuckled Adrian, and COMFORTED HIM. And it WORKED. We got a lot of strange and sympathetic looks as he sniffled on my shoulder in the parking lot, but I was filled with triumph. I can solve an Adrian puzzle a lot easier than a Stephen one!