Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kyle the Terrible

Our child will turn 18 months old on Sunday, and yet he is already well into the "terrible twos." Yes, the phase that causes most parents' hair to go prematurely gray is upon us, much to our surprise. Jennifer and I were under the impression that Kyle would be an angel until he turned two, listening carefully to all our instructions and commands while keeping relatively quiet, except for the occasional laugh or cheerful whistle. On his second birthday, we were going to send him off to military preschool, where instructors would keep him in line until the "terrible twos" were over. Kyle's early transformation has blown up all those plans. Apparently, the "terrible twos" often happen not too long after the FIRST birthday, a fact that many parents keep secret, as they take a twisted pleasure in watching new parents be shocked by the change in their child's behavior.

Kyle's pediatrician was the first person to reveal to us that the "terrible twos" had arrived. He mentioned it during Kyle's 15-month appointment back in September. At that time, we simply thought Kyle was just a little irritable because of teething or the state of the economy. We still had trouble believing that he had fully entered the "terrible two" stage and concluded that the pediatrician, while a very good doctor, probably was a poor counter and confused "15 months" with "two years." Three months later, we realize that the good doc was right.

Dealing with a kid going through the "terrible twos" is like trying to have an intelligent conversation with the Tasmanian devil. Despite the fact that Kyle has yet to figure out how to turn a doorknob, he is already trying to exert some independence. The problem is, he does not yet understand everything you tell him and actually is amused whenever you try to scold him. Sometimes he'll laugh if you get angry enough. There's no way to reason with him when he walks into a room he shouldn't enter, touches something he shouldn't touch, or makes a high-stakes gambling bet on the Patriots. Telling him "no" works only occasionally, and whenever you try to stop him or change his direction, he just starts screaming like you kicked him in the shins. Then he goes back to doing whatever it was you tried to stop. Even though we do have a rather good-natured kid, this sort of thing is happening more and more frequently.

These tantrums are manageable (though exhausting) at home, but in public places they are less than welcome. Especially at church. We have been taking Kyle to church weekly as part of an effort to expose him to our faith and the lifelong guilt that comes with it. The problem with that is it requires a person to stay in one place for an hour. That has not suited Kyle's style ever since he started walking. He wants to leave the pew and roam the church almost immediately after we first sit down. Try to stop him, and the piercing screams begin. Nearly two weeks ago, during our Thanksgiving trip to Massachusetts, Kyle's cries were so loud at my parents' church that we were getting looks from other people in the crying room. We had no choice but to take him outside the building, and Jennifer could feel the stares from the people in the back of the congregation as she took our wailing son from the crying room to the outside door. My parents, though, are lucky to even have a crying room at their church. Our own church does not have one. We just have a foyer. Kyle has spent a lot of time there. He often climbs the stairs leading to another room and that tends to keep him occupied. Still, Kyle has his moments, and, unfortunately, the closed doors are not exactly soundproof. As people inside the church are sending their prayers to heaven, they could hear Kyle out back raising hell. Fortunately for Kyle, we normally attend a Family Mass, so he's in good company with other kids who make noises each week.

It's not always easy dealing with this, but I know we have to be persistent. Someday Kyle will learn to scream less in public places. He has to. After all, "terrible twos" do end at some point. I went online to find out exactly when, and one website actually has a calculator to figure that out. It says we have a mere 551 days until it's all over... and Kyle turns three. 551 days, that's it! Here's hoping my hair won't be entirely gray by then.


Craig said...

Just wait for the Terrible Threes, when he can pitch a fit AND use expanded vocabulary to tell you why you're an evil parent.
Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

I have to say the most recent research says that 3is the new 2!