As much as I love two, and every phase so far, I really dislike the phrase "terrible twos." The reason I dislike this phrase is not because I have an ultra-compliant little boy who never exerts his own opinion and will. It's not because he's never had a tantrum in a public place. I have been there--in the grocery store, the playground, and the library. On two occasions, it was bad enough that I had a librarian trying to help me. And no, I don't think this behavior when it happens is cute, endearing, or acceptable. But I do think it is normal for a toddler to "lose it" now and again when he/she doesn't get his/her own way, or when he/she is simply tired, hungry, confused, or some combination of those. And I do believe my not-even-two-year-old at that time needed boundaries and love and direction and instruction and gentle discipline to help him understand what was going on and what was expected of him. Tantrums are not commonplace in his life, but they do happen. And even if it is not a full-blown tantrum, he has been exerting his opinion long before he turned two. I guess I just don't see that as a bad thing. I am glad that even at a young age he has shown independence and thoughts of his own. It is my job to make sure that his point of view is listened to in an understanding way, while at the same time not tolerating disrespect on any level.Maybe a lot of parents feel the way I do, but I have heard so many parents and grandparents and grown-ups in general start complaining about the "strong will" of a child as soon as the child shows any sign of being an individual or having a thought of his or her own. We should be celebrating our children's thoughts and opinions and, yes, even their strong wills. Given the proper direction, which requires a lot of hard work, children with strong wills and a sense of independence and fight have potential to lead and create change in their worlds. On the other hand, a child with a crushed will has the potential to bring a lot of hurt to his or her world. This is a tragedy and happens all to often I am afraid.
I would not necessarily describe my child as strong-willed. I would describe him as having a mind and will of his own and I would describe him as an intense child. He is a very happy child and has always been a joy to be around, but he is not necessarily an "easy" child. For instance, he has a ton of energy, and he seems to require very, very little sleep to keep running full speed. This has been the case since he was just a tiny baby. So, his dad and I are often very sleep deprived, because it is entirely impossible to get anything done with this little live wire awake, so we have to wait until he is asleep, and those hours go by fast. When he is awake, he is interactive and social. He does not usually enjoy playing alone. He wants to engage whoever is with him, usually me. He wants to be involved in absolutely everything I do, and he wants me to be involved in everything he does. I adore this about him. But it also means it takes me a very long time to accomplish something, and that can sometimes be stressful when I have a lot on my plate.
Toddlers feel things big. My little boy gives me such intense hugs, he can take my breath away and give me a chiropractic adjustment in the process. When toddlers love, they love huge. When they are happy, it's often over-the-top, uncontainable joy. When they are sad, they can completely fall apart. When they are angry it's sometimes more than they can handle. It's called being a toddler. It's called trying to figure things out in this world. It's called part of growing up. It can be called a lot of things, but not "terrible." We are privileged to walk alongside these little human beings, teaching them about this world, their feelings, and guiding their steps and their understanding of things.
Yes, there are challenging days with a little one, but there is nothing terrible about it in my opinion. The privilege of raising these little ones, of guiding them and instructing them through hard days and easy days, is nothing short of a blessing. It's hard work. It's rewarding work. It's the best work there is. It's definitely not terrible.