Family, friends and strangers warned us: Just wait until your son turns 2. Then you’ll experience the “terrible twos,” a year that I couldn’t quite picture and yet was assured would be awful. Of course, there also have been those who said ages 3 and 4 would be just as challenging. And as I write this, I can hear my parents saying, “Wait till he’s 18!”
OK. I get it. But to be honest, things haven’t been so difficult.
If anything, he is beginning to show more of his personality, and as he does — sometimes in good ways, sometimes in not such good ways — our role as parents is changing, too.
When he was an infant, we forgave him for everything. But now when he gets frustrated and throws something, we’re there to say no, you can’t do that.
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When he thumbs his nose at dinner, we’re there, pointing at it and encouraging him to try.
When he gets home from day care and leaves his coat, shoes and socks wherever he pleases, we’re there to remind him that there is a place for his stuff.
And when he demands something of us, we’re there to remind him to say please and thank you, hoping that this is the beginning of shaping a toddler into a mature adult.
There also are those awkward moments when he decides that the playground equipment at the public park nearby is just for him and not anyone else, and once again we’re there, explaining the importance of sharing.
But in one area — sleep — our terrible two got the upper hand.
Prior to his turning 2, we were told — and I can still see the pediatrician shaking his head at us — that when he starts to cry in his crib, we should leave him there, perhaps soothing him by remaining by his side, but not picking him up. He said we needed to instill the idea of separate sleeping areas for the child and parents.
Well, we caved. Because if our son has exhibited any terrible two signs, it has been prior to going to sleep. Once we said good night, the crying and the screaming would begin.
Meanwhile, we would lie in bed, wondering when it was all going to end. Some nights it would take 30 minutes, other nights an hour before he would scream himself to sleep.
But the problem was that after an hour of sleep, he would wake up, still unhappy about sleeping alone, and the crying and screaming would start all over again.
In the end, we decided — and I know this violates the Geneva Convention of Parenting — that some sleep is better than no sleep, so we pushed together two beds and invited him to sleep with us. And you know what? We all sleep through the night.
Is that so bad? I sleep, he sleeps, my wife sleeps. The only challenge is that he has become a world-class bed hog. He loves to maximize his sleeping area, so sometimes he sleeps perpendicular to me, pushing me with his feet right to the edge of the bed.
That means I wake up to straighten him out, making sure he sleeps parallel to me.
It doesn’t last long.
Although we’re all getting more sleep, I can’t help but wonder whether he’ll be sleeping next to me when he is 3, 4 or 5.
At least he won’t be 2, right?