In the darkest days with R and G, where they take it in turns to be so utterly horrible that we have no option but to put them in time out, I remember a reply to a forum post on a well-known baby website (not the one advertised to your left, incidentally). In the throes of the terrible twos, someone asked if it would ever get easier. Among the soothing replies, there was one that has stayed with me. I can’t remember the exact words that were used but the gist of it was as follows:
‘If you do everything right from 0-4 years the child will be lovely and compliant from the age of 4 until about the age of 9’.
So what in GOD’S NAME OF HELL have we done wrong with the girls?
They oscillate between being utterly lovely and adorable and being completely vile shitbags. I’m sorry but there’s no other word for it. We’re consistent with discipline, the boundaries are very clear and we’re as fair as we can possibly be when trying to meet the needs of two little girls.
The only consolation is that we’re not alone. A number of parents we know with 4 year olds are going through a similar thing. I thought there might be a gender divide as the boys seem to be super-physical at the moment, preferring to vent their frustration by punching and kicking each other while the girls are in meltdown diva mode. However, I was chatting to one of the mums and she said her boy is physical AND having meltdowns. Apparently their newborn baby is infinitely easier to take care of, despite the feeding and night waking.
Everyone accepts that the terrible twos exist and allowances are (mostly) made for toddlers losing it in public places. I thought we were out of the woods with the ‘Threenager’ phase. No-one talks about the pre-schooler meltdowns though. I find it very hard to admit to people that the girls can still be quite challenging precisely because I feel like I must have failed them in some way.
I have posited a number of theories for the girls’ behaviour: they’re frustrated and need to go to school; we’re not stretching them enough intellectually; nursery isn’t stretching them intellectually; they’re bored; they need to go to boarding school; they need to go to a young offenders institution….I’m joking about the last two – you knew that right?
They don’t flip out at anything major. It’s always tiny things that wouldn’t bother them normally, but on a particular day, when the wind is in the wrong direction, they decide to become cross about random stuff like…sweetcorn, getting dressed, the right pair of knickers, the tights they want to wear happening to be in the wash, R not listening to G, G not listening to R, them not wanting to listen to us, trainers, bathtime, the wrong colour shampoo bottle, the toothpaste being ‘too spicy’, having to walk the relatively short distance from the bus stop to home, losing at a board game (R), the whole world not doing what she says (G).
Jesus. We’re bringing up two Naomi-fricking-Campbells.
Thing is, they can also be so ridiculously lovely that they make my heart sing with joy. I took them out at the weekend and they were, quite simply, a pleasure to spend time with. They tell me I’m the best Mummy in the world. They adore Dh. They behave impeccably at nursery. Why can’t they be lovely just a little bit more of the time? Even when they’re in super-good mode, I wait for one or both of them to blow. I’m hoping it’s just another sodding phase, that we haven’t got it horribly wrong for the last four years, that they don’t have behavioural problems.
I know one thing though. I’d like to meet the person that wrote that reply on that message board a year or two ago and tell them to look after R and G for 24 hours…no – make it a week. They’ll be a husk at the end of it. In fact, that goes for anyone who smugly reads this and thinks ‘My child doesn’t do that. Aren’t I brilliant?’ I’ll happily set up an R and G loan scheme.
The really bloody annoying thing is that the girls would be absolute angels and the hapless person would wonder what the hell I was bleating on about.