Terrible Twos- how bad can they really be? This is the question I asked myself on Riley’s second birthday, as I watched her jump up and down with pure glee at the sight of her new tricycle.
The answer after 9 months of pure mental and physical exhaustion? – hard, really, really, hard. The child is trying to kill me, I swear. My sweet, sweet, little gem of a baby turned into a defiant, uncooperative, stubborn, and independent to a fault, little monster toddler.
The first five minutes of the day with Riley are my favorite. I walk into her room where she is usually still snuggled in under her blankets, sucking her thumb. She smiles at me and says “hi momma.” I ask her how she slept and she says, “good,” followed by “ I go downstairs?”
We head downstairs where she says, “ I watch something?” On mornings when I’m running behind, this is usually an automatic “yes.” Frankly, there is no time to play dress-up, build houses out of magna-tiles, or scrape play-dough off the floor, when you have exactly 42 minutes to provide breakfast, pack lunches, bottles, diaper and dress two kids, pack the car, inhale coffee, and make yourself look presentable, before rushing out the door in order to make it to daycare and work on time.
On days when we are ahead of schedule (which rarely happens…), the answer is “no.” This has the same effect as a punch to the gut. Riley collapses into a dramatic pile on the floor, screaming, “Noooooo, I want to watch something.” Followed by “you’re a meanie” and “you’re a mean guy.” Two phrases that she has picked up at daycare from one of her lovely two-year old terrors friends. I retreat to the kitchen, leaving her to pick herself up off the floor.
She follows me in a few moments later like nothing happened.
Riley: “ I have cereal?”
Me: “ Sure. Plain or with milk?”
I pour cereal into the bowl and hand it to her.
Riley: “ No, I want the blue bowl”
I pour the cereal into the blue bowl and hand it back to her.
Riley: “No, I want milk.”
Me: << Double SIGH>> “OK.”
I reach for the milk and pour a little in.
Riley: “ No, I don’t want milk, I want it plain.”
At this point I’m about to lose it, and remind Riley of our ongoing conversation about how we can’t waste food, and that if she asks for something, she needs to eat it.
Riley: “I don’t want it. I want muffins.”
Me: “No. You need to eat the cereal you asked for.”
I put it on the table and walk away.
Repeat the same situation as earlier; Riley in a puddle of fake tears on the floor, as she pleads for muffins, yogurt, pancakes, and anything else BUT the cereal that she just asked for not more than two minutes earlier.
Eventually, she eats. I chase her around trying to get her out of PJs and into school clothes. Bode is usually watching from his “Jump-a-Roo” with pure delight, squealing and laughing at the fun game he thinks we are playing. When in reality, I’m 2.5 seconds away from tears and letting Riley go to school in her cupcake jammies.
At 8:05AM, we make it to the car.
Riley: “I listen to wheels on the bus?”
Side note: her “wheels on the bus” is Google Play’s kids playlist. It includes Wheels on the Bus, along with any other kids song you can imagine. By the time I get to daycare, I have come close to slamming my head into the steering wheel more than once, because surely physical pain would be better than this musical torture.
I put it on.
Riley: “I don’t like this song.”
I change it.
Riley: “I can’t hear it.”
I put it louder.
Riley: “It’s too loud, it hurts me.”
I put the volume down.
Riley: ”I want Farmer in the Dell”
I skip through looking for the stupid farmer and his stupid dell until I hear the familiar intro music.
Riley: “Mommy, you like this song?”
Me: “Yes.” Followed by me attempting to sing the first line “ The farmer in the dell. The farmer in the dell…”
Riley: <<screaming>> “NO I SING IT. Only ME.”
Fine. Child. You sing it. I take a sip of my coffee wishing it were wine and take a deep breath.
This kind of dialogue continues through the rest of our day, including drop-off, pick-up, dinnertime, bath time and bedtime routines.
I am literally in a constant tug-of-war with her until 7:30 PM, when I have managed to get her back into her cupcake jammies (one of the few pairs she likes to wear), read five stories after agreeing on two, brushed our teeth, had milk and water. She is finally in her bed, with all four of her blankets, two pillows, lamb and zebra stuffed animals, and a book that she insists she can read in the dark, by herself.
Riley: “Where are my stars?” she asks, referring to her Winnie the Poo nightlight.
I put them on and lean over her.
Me: “I love you. Do you know how much I love you?”
Riley: “So much.”
Me: “That’s right.”
I turn for the door, and just as I am about to close it, I hear her sweet, sweet, voice say, “I love you too, Momma.”
The struggle is real, but worth it. Oh so worth it.