This behaviour started not long after he turned a year old, and conversations with other parents have led me to believe that the whole notion of the Terrible Twos is in fact a terrible misnomer. Be not fooled, parents of small babes. The real temper tantrums and troubles will not start only at 2. They will creep up on you waaay before and only escalate about 265 notches the minute your precious cherub blows out the candles on his 2nd birthday.
But the lead-up to the bath? No way Jose’. To him, he is like the proverbial calf as it’s being led to the slaughterhouse. He finds the whole thing unjust. Life threatening. An utter tragedy that must be prevented at all costs.
“I don’t want to bath!” comes the reply, with increasing urgency, volume and unraveling emotion each of the 23 times he repeats it over the next 3 minutes.
I dunk him in. He splays his legs like a chicken about to be drowned (yeah, two animal death metaphors within 4 paragraphs. Sorry furry, feathery friends.)
I grab his towel and start patting the sticker frantically. “It’s not wet! It’s dry!” I try to reassure him, while grabbing the mirror to show him. But by then he is too far gone. There is thrashing of limbs. Gnashing of teeth. I am in the thick of a moerse tantrum, vicious and violent to the max. It continues long after I hurry him out of the bath. Angry, shrill screaming shattering the Sunday silence of our townhouse complex, coupled with violent heaving and sobbing and lashing out.
Mean Mummy decides a time-out is in order to calm him down a bit. Usually just the threat of time-out is enough to shush him, but not today. It only makes him more inconsolable as I march him to the spare room. He tries to make a break for it. I give him a quick pre time-out lecture about why he’s going into time-out in the first place. Blood curdling howls ensue. Then silence for milliseconds. Then more blood curdling howls. I crack when I hear him sputtering and choking on his snot. Sjoe. Well, it was a long, tough, 45 seconds of time-out before I decided that’s it. F off Mean Mummy. You are damaging this child and one day he will end up in therapy and blame you. Make way for Zen Mummy.
Zen Mummy is much calmer and more easy-going. She only appears when I have had adequate sleep. She speaks in soft tones and keeps her cool while the kid is freaking out. Zen Mummy holds him and explains that his behaviour is not nice, it’s naughty and he is a nice boy so he should not act this way. He keeps screaming and then smacks me on the arm. Zen Mummy fights the urge to lose her cool. Ok, let’s explain again. “Good boys don’t hit people, especially not their mommies. Mummy loves you and she…” THWACK. He lands another smack on my arm. Then a slap on the head. Are you freaken kidding me?
So I launch into Sad Mummy mode. Sad Mummy is the one where I fake cry and become very sad and disappointed in his behaviour, because I might have read somewhere that this could teach him empathy, flip, something like that. I rope Dad in at this point and tell him through fake tears that I’m sad because Ryder hit me and is not being nice. Ryder meanwhile is still screaming like a banshee although I suspect he’s long since forgotten that this all started over a wet sticker. A minute in, Dad can’t take the screaming any more and he lets out a huge, angry shout… which promptly shuts Ryder up and startles Zen Mummy out of her bubble. Ryder lasts 10 seconds without crying. Then he starts again. But it’s definitely come down a notch or two. Now its mostly whimpering.
At this point it’s all been going on for about a half hour. Suddenly without warning he asks for water, takes a sip, and then shuts up and holds me tight. And then lets out a chuckle. And then he’s happy. Like giggly, smiley happy, like the last 30 to 45 minutes actually never happened.