Now that we’ve celebrated Arddun’s birthday 3 times in 6 weeks and she has well and truly turned 2, Tony and I are starting to realise that we now have a Two-Year-Old.

By that, I mean Arddun has turned into a Two-Year-Old.

In fact sometimes, she turns into that kind of Two-Year-Old.

I haven’t been blogging much at all, but I’ve been working on this post in my head for ages. The fact is, our child has – in a matter of weeks – turned into a souped-up version of her former self. She has sprouted lengthways. She has leaned up. She has a natural hairstyle most women have rather seriously informed me they’d spend good money to have. She has a sense of humour. Her vocabulary has exploded. The light in her eyes glint with more understanding.

She plays with other little girls. Not in parallel – with.

She laughs heartily. She giggles like a girl. She also chucks massive tantrums.

Yes. The latter is what’s annoying and concerning me muchly.

I think most mothers I know try their hardest, and each mother has specialties they hope they especially shine in. I can’t bake glorious birthday cakes, or summon the energy to make yoghurt from scratch, or crochet her winter wardrobe. But I can sing. And I have tried my darndest to discipline Arddun consistently and firmly from the beginning.

So it’s rather bewildering when my mummy standards, rules and boundaries – which I thought I had carefully put in place and reinforced with 80-95% consistency since day dot – suddenly flops on its proverbial belly like a beached whale on day 731… or what feels like The Day After My Girl Turned Two.

She is contrary. She asks for an apple, then says No when you give it to her. Then asks for a biscuit. Then says No when you give that to her. Then wails Noooooooo all the way to the bedroom where you give her a time out. Then looks at you, eyes wide and shining, mouth straight and obstinate when you swat her on her bum or her leg. Then refuses to cry.

Most days, I battle her at least once. On average, I battle her 4 to 5 times a day. There was one day she got 2 time-outs in her cot before breakfast. There are days when all it feels I do is march her into her cot, and/or swat her.

The swatting was my mother’s method with me. Actually, I’ve tried lots of my mother’s methods on me with Arddun. And you know what? I think we were 2 very different little girls. Because my mother claimed I tried certain things once and never tried it again after my mother took action, but with Arddun? She will try it again.

It gets even more aggravating when she seemingly regresses. She doesn’t want to play by herself anymore. Bad habits such as throwing food and toys on the floor now tries to make the occasional comeback – mostly because she’s watched her peers, and wonders if she can still try the same with me. Ditto throwing herself on the floor and wailing. Ditto running away when I call. Ditto not saying her pleases and thank-yous.

It is, frankly, both vexing and humbling when your daughter’s good behaviour turns so very not. Because it is such a tangible reminder of how incomplete and imperfect my parenting is, and how I really haven’t sorted it out.

In amidst all of this, I am second-guessing the root cause of her behaviour. Is she testing limits because she’s

  • two
  • not comfortable because her eczema has broken out in a major way since we returned from hot and humid Singapore to its antithesis in Canberra
  • tetchy, thanks to a cold and cough she hasn’t been able to shake for close to a month
  • still dealing with the constant changes to her environment and routine this year
  • feeling insecure because of these constant changes
  • all of the above
  • none of the above – I’ve just been a lousy parent.

In the midst of yet another yell-in-my-cot, the last option pops into the mind and heart more often than not.

We’ve all been warned about the Terrible Twos. I’ve heard some mothers refer to the Terrible Fives. I’ve been told by one mother that she didn’t like her daughters from the ages 12 to 23.

And yes, I’ve also been told  that the Terrible Twos is a myth, brought on mostly because the fundamentals had not been put in place. If you put in a firm foundation from the start, you won’t grow a Terrible Two, because Terrible Twos don’t grow overnight – they grow over the months and months before.

To that statement of parenting belief, I now vacillate between snorting in derision and cringing in guilt. Because guess what. My daughter has turned into a Two-Year-Old. And it feels like the changes are happening overnight.

The thing is, I don’t believe I’m a slack parent. And I don’t think Arddun is terrible. She’s testy. And right now, she’s testing. But I no longer buy into the concept that if you set up firm foundations from the start, it follows that your toddler will ALWAYS  transition seamlessly and obediently from babyhood into childhood. I think it still depends on the temperament and nature of the child, and how they manifest each behavioural milestone.

Crediting ALL bad behaviour to a child’s natural temperament is irresponsible… but crediting all good behaviour to parenting skills can be equally erroneous and prideful.

Or maybe I’m just being rather defensive in my delicate, hair-torn state.

To make it that much more complicated, I also ponder the concept of showing grace, forgiveness and mercy to my child. Have I been patient enough? Have I shown mercy and in so doing, translated Christ’s love? Has my punishment been disproportionate to the offence? Have I allowed enough grace?

Conversely, am I parenting strictly because I want my child to learn how to walk a straight path… or am I parenting to please others? To assuage guilt? To save my face?

Because perhaps, in the end, parenting righteously is to

Show justice
Love mercy, and
Walk humbly with my God.

Lord knows I’ve repeated this verse to myself for days because guess what… my daughter is a Two-Year-Old.