Sometimes I feel like I need to be two different people at the exact same time for my children. They sure didn’t mention that in the baby books.
My almost 4-year-old son James is extremely well-spoken, articulating his every thought and emotion (sometimes incessantly). It’s always been a challenge to figure out how to correct James’ bad behavior, because he can pretty much talk his way out of anything. Sometimes I have to stop myself and remember who is the adult and who is the child. I’ll be knee-deep in some argument with him that ultimately shouldn’t even be happening because I am 32 years old and he is 4, end of story. Yet somehow he gets me roped into these discussions. And to think that I was so happy he was an early talker.
On the opposite spectrum, our adorably goofy 2-year-old Luke has jumped head-first into the stereotypical “terrible two’s” with abandon. He can’t be reasoned with. If I even look like I’m going to tell him “no” or come over to stop whatever extremely dangerous thing he’s doing, he screams, runs or throws himself on the floor. In these moments my husband and I like to quote from the beloved storybook, “Knuffle Bunny” by Mo Willems, “He went boneless.” And like a crazy person, I actually try to talk to him like I talk to our older son and end up wanting to bang my head against the wall.
Why do I keep forgetting that they are at completely different levels of maturity? When I step back and remember this, I’m able to regroup and shorten my statements to the caveman-like commands I remember using with James to get my point across to Luke. Time is of the essence with 2-year-olds. Unlike James, who I have to give a minute to take a break and calm down before I talk to him, discipline with Luke needs to be immediate and quickly stated because his attention will be gone in about four seconds. There is also the agony of not really getting a definite response from Luke to know whether he even heard what I was saying. He’s been trained by watching his older brother to say “ok mommy” or “I sorry mommy” to quickly get away from our close, face-to-face talks, but is it sinking in? Is he understanding anything I’m saying? As soon as I’m convinced that he’s got cotton in his ears, out of nowhere he’ll end up doing what I’ve told him to do. It’s like the skies open up, rays of heaven shine down, and I hear choirs singing “Hallelujah!” Then he goes and hits his brother.
So far the most difficult challenge has been trying to correct both of them at the same time. Perhaps there was a tussle over a toy and hitting ensued. Or maybe they both decided that screaming at the top of their lungs inside was totally fine. Or they teamed up and ran away from me in a public place like two escaped convicts, looking behind them in terror as I’m yelling like a mad woman. Both are to blame. They both need my quick attention, but I can’t talk to them at the same time because I’ll lose one of them. What’s a mom to do? If I can, I’ve tried separating them and putting James in a break to give him a minute to think up a witty retort. Then I keep it short and simple with Luke before coming back around to James. It’s exhausting!
Call me a bad mom, but there are days when I just pretend I don’t hear them arguing or hitting each other, because I haven’t recovered from the last multiple-personality session from three minutes ago.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.