The Terrible Twos weren’t so terrible for Charles.
Don’t get me wrong, they had their moments. I distinctly remember the time I couldn’t get Charles into his carseat – I was several months pregnant at the time – after picking up a pizza and we sat in the parking lot, Charles screaming, me openly weeping at my plight, for maybe 45 minutes until Tony could come and rescue us from each other.
Tony’s always been better at bending Charles to our will, especially since Charles figured out that there were limits to my physical strength.
But ages two and three were fun in spite of the constant energy, clinginess, and sleep troubles. He was easily distracted if things didn’t go his way, everything was new and interesting, and bribery totally worked. Time out worked with some success. He took naps. Exhaustion resulted in sleep, not tantrums. It has always been tough to mother Charles, but I think we have reached a whole new level of difficulty with age four.
He’s bigger. He’s stronger. He knows much more about what he wants, how he wants it, and when he wants it. He understands when he is not getting his way and is unwilling to be distracted by shiny things or fun activities. He’s struggling to seize power from us. And he lashes out when he’s angry.
Last night, I sent Tony off to enjoy some time out with the gang from my office at pub trivia while I put the kids into bed. Charles refused to brush his teeth or have his teeth brushed. Then he refused to get into bed, so I picked him up and put him in, an act which earned me a screaming, kicking fit. Charles threw himself on the floor in the hall, effectively putting an end to my efforts to get Jamie to bed, who, by that time, was exhausted and showing it by throwing his own screaming tantrum when I took his toothbrushes away from him by force. The great thing about Jamie (largely due to his age, I’m sure) is that when he is mad, his temper burns hot and fast and then he sticks his thumb in his mouth and snuggles into my shoulder and calms right down. Despite Charles’s terrifying screams, Jamie finally went to sleep.
Charles, however, continued to rage. The neighbors probably thought that I was pulling out his toenails one-by-one.
I eventually sat down next to him in the hall and held open my arms. He crawled in, snuffled into my shirt, and I calmly explained why we have to brush our teeth (he didn’t care) and also that he was losing library privileges for a whole week. If he could go a whole week without throwing a fit at bedtime, he could go back to the library and take home a sack of books.
He crawled into our bed around 3:30 am. I got up for a meeting at 6, and as I was getting dressed, he woke up and said, “Mommy, why are you wearing that?!” When I told him I was getting dressed for work, he got out of bed, walked over to me, and smacked me right on the back while screaming “no!” The little jerk. (We don’t hit him and tell him “no!” by the way, so he isn’t mimicking.)
Our constant discipline of Charles is wearing on me. He gets a lot of time out. He often has privileges, toys, and books revoked. We’ve embarked on a program to give him more responsibility, more little “jobs” like wiping down the table after dinner and making sure books and shoes are organized and in their places, in the hopes that he will learn to do these things without them being extraordinary requests that cause a fight. He responds well to love and cuddling, but not at all to discipline. And frankly, I don’t feel like cuddling him when he is kicking at me and throwing food on the floor and screaming and telling me “no!”
Oh, Charles. When he is good, he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad, he’s terrible.
This is a good chance for you all to weigh in and tell me that it gets better… that five, six, and seven will not be so horrible. That powers of logic and reason may develop soon in my son’s brain and we’ll all get some relief from the violence of his misbehavior.