Dealing with the Terrible Twos

So Coco turns two in five weeks and I have to say, things have been pretty terrible lately. :( 

In French, the word terrible has a more nuanced meaning than it does in English. It's not simply bad, or horrid; it's fascinating, formidable, hard-to-take-your-eyes-off-of, extraordinary bad. Like the unsettling siblings in Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles, who play dark mind games and isolate themselves from the outside world. Thankfully, toddlers aren't menacing in the psychological mind game sort of way, but they can be absurdly grotesque, violent, primitive little people all the same. Terrible is a rather fitting adjective for the age two, it turns out. 


But not all hope is lost. I am learning (the hard way) that I actually can navigate the Terrible Twos without feeling broken and needing a glass of wine at the end of each day. It all comes back to our dear friend and best ally: The Routine.

Last night, on our way home, I popped into the grocery store to pick up two things we needed for the baked potatoes J had already made at home: bacon and chives. It was already past Coco's preferred dinner time of 5:30. In fact, it was already 6:30, but I thought it would just take a minute. I dashed through the store in about one minute flat, and then there were long lines. Once we got in the line, Coco was beginning to lose it and she started climbing out of her buggy. (That was when I should have left store). I had tightened the straps down on her buggy the day before, but she'd broken one, so it popped loose and then she wiggled her way out of the rest! I was tired. I was really, really tired. So I just looked at her and asked her to please sit down. She didn't. Then I leaned over to look up at the front of the line and see if it was moving at all, and in the space of about half a second, Coco stood up and managed to topple over the side of her buggy and land on the top of her head on the grocery store floor! "OH MY GOD!" I screamed, tossing the bacon and chives into the air as I scooped her up. And I didn't even see where they landed. I just left the store, head down, making sure not to make eye contact with one single person on my way out as she wailed like a banshee in my arms. Thank goodness those Bugaboos steer with one hand. 

It's terrible, but that is how an almost-two-year-old child acts when she's hungry and not happy about being strapped into her buggy in a line. It's terrible, but she doesn't listen to reason. It's terrible, but she can't control herself. It's terrible, but it can all be avoided if I give her what she needs when she needs it. And it's terrible that it took her skull hitting the floor to do it, but when it did, that simple fact finally got through mine: Give her what she needs when she needs it. 

So simple. Yet, so powerful. That single idea would probably circumvent 95% of her terrible tantrums. 

Ouch. Learning the hard way, indeed. Within a couple of blocks, she was walking along holding my hand chatting happily and pointing out all the trees, people, trams and cars. I kept checking throughout dinner and her bath to make sure her eyes were dilated evenly and she was fine. At about 11, while I was brushing my teeth, she got out of bed and pattered into the bathroom on her soft little toddler feet, sucking her pacifier and clutching her lovey blanket. She hugged my leg and held onto me until I was done and then snuggled up with me to fall asleep once we were in bed. With all her cornsilk curls falling around her angelic pink cheeks, it was impossible to see the flailing, screaming demon child from the grocery store. And so, while two can be a somewhat terrible age, it's also heart crushingly tender and immensely loving. I'm so grateful for every single day.


  1. Yay for posts! Boo about a head-plant... I had visions of this happening at my local migros where there is no escape unless you actually crush the people in front of you, or traipse back through the entire shop to the beginning, which would seem an eternity away, I'm sure.

    You've gotten me thinking about the actual meaning of the English word "terrible" too. Surely in the beginning it also didn't mean "really bad", but something to be feared. Perhaps? I am actually really looking forward to the twos. Am I crazy? I just know that every single week, every day even, my boy is more fun, more amazing to me. And to imagine him at this age, testing our his boundaries more, playing more and more with language, with responsibility, with his own versions of reality... I think it'll be awesome! Not always, of course :) But you describe it perfectly when you say "crushingly tender". I feel like I'll explode with love multiple times a day.

  2. And! Curious as to how you distinguish a need from a want.

  3. It's like the chart of "Needs" in 5th grade: Food (on time), Clothing (appropriate to the weather) and Shelter (includes protection?). Also, for toddlers, a predictable schedule so that they feel secure and oodles and oodles of love, so that they feel loved. ;) xo


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