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Drama King

When Simon was around 18 months old, he experimented with a temper tantrum or two. It wasn’t fun, but I expected them, read about them, and dealt with them as best I could. Then, at twenty months, he began to walk, and the tantrums came to a halt.

As I had read that negativity frequently begins at 18 months, becomes bearable at two years, and may taper off by 2 ½, I had the idea that Simon’s terrible twos began in the spring, lasted a mere two months, and were now over. I felt, in all honesty, that if I hadn’t exactly dodged a parenthood bullet, that I had at least put it off for a year or so.

I was wrong. Two weeks ago, Simon woke up, realized he had turned two, and transformed into a drama king. A frustrated, confused, oppositional drama king.

Frustration: If Simon does not at first succeed with a given task, he does not try, try again: He collapses into a fit. So, if he wants to turn a light on or off and can’t reach it, he shrieks. If he tries to put his shoes on and can’t, he throws them and cries. And if he can’t carry all his crib friends at once, he cries and gets flummoxed every time one falls from his arms. What’s worse is that, in each of these scenarios, his frustration makes him clumsier and less mentally focused, thereby increasing his odds of continued failure and increased frustration.

Confusion: At other times, the problem is that Simon wants to make a decision but can’t do it. Does he want water or milk to drink? He’s not sure. He’ll tell you one, then the other, and then be unhappy with whatever you give him. Does he want to play ball or house? Well, he wants to play ball in the house, or perhaps ball in front of the house. Again, he just doesn’t know, and his not knowing makes him miserable.

Opposition: We can be sure of one thing: Simon does not want anything we want. If we want to get in the car, that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to him. Changing clothes is torture and changing diapers is cruel and unusual punishment. Having a bath is fun, but getting washed is most decidedly not. Going to school is great, but walking through the parking lot holding our hands is torture.

When I pick Simon up from school, he’s delighted to see me and loves to run up and down the ramp that leads from the back door to the parking lot. He’s even learned not to walk past the end of the ramp. But once it’s time to stop running up and down the ramp, trouble begins. He won’t walk to the car unless I hold his hand. And when I hold his hand, he gets frustrated at being guided/restrained and fights me. Typically, this scenario ends with Simon sitting down in protest in the middle of the parking lot, and my having to pick him up and carry him-literally kicking and screaming all the way-to the car.

The challenge with all of this is two-fold. First, it’s to keep my cool and not escalate things by screaming at him. Second, it’s to figure out how to handle these situations without reverting to physical force. I really don’t want to resolve every battle of the wills by out-muscling him. I don’t like the message that sends, for starters, and the day is swiftly approaching when Simon will be stronger than I am, for second. But I can’t always wait him out. When Simon is sitting in the middle of a busy parking lot, for example, I don’t see how I can allow him to remain there until he’s ready to get up.

I suspect these challenges and frustrations are going to frame the weeks and months ahead. My goal is not to overcome them or make them go away. I know that Simon has to go through this stage. My goal, which I hope is not folly, is to keep my cool when Simon is blowing his stack and try to have some sympathy for him. Fingers crossed.

One Response to “Drama King”

  1. christine says:

    Hmm…Alise is 19 months and sounds like she’s going through the same thing.

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