Our Two-year-old May Be Winning

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October 30, 2017 by bhjames78

Liz and I have been teachers for, collectively, over twenty years. A strength we have each developed over those years is classroom management.

 

The key to effective classroom management, we have found, is establishing crystal clear expectations (for pretty much everything) and being relentlessly consistent about those expectations, including, perhaps most importantly, the doling out of consequences for failures to meet those expectations.

 

And since becoming parents five years and forty days ago, we have periodically smugly noted to one another that those well-honed skills have made us better parents.

 

But then came Sam.

 

After thousands of students and one relatively well-behaved five-year-old, it would appear that Sam (our second) is winning.

 

Take, for example, yesterday, which ended, once they both finally passed out, with lots of red wine.

 

Sam is two. Several weeks ago, he discovered independence, and, as a result, Sam hasn’t worn his shoes on the correct feet since. When you try to help Sam, he sort of screeches: “My tuhn!” Sam says “My tuhn!” a lot. All day long, for example. But no one else ever gets a turn, ever. It’s always his tuhn.

 

Yesterday, when it was time for Sam to get dressed, I pulled out a pair of shorts, triggering a head-thrown-back fit of agony.

 

Sam’s fits of agony, in their extremity, are what to a normal fully-grown human would seem appropriate if we had tied his hands behind his back and forced him to watch as one-by-one we guillotined his favorite toys.

 

In reality, though, these fits are prompted by more pedestrian matters: that was the last cracker, or that pencil is blue.

 

Or, I chose the wrong pants.

 

I pull from the drawer another pair of pants. Wrong pants. Agony. Head-throwing. Another pair, and another, and another. All wrong. The child collapses. This is now a Greek tragedy.

 

I call for Mommy. Then I hide and listen as Liz reenacts the same scene. Pair after pair after pair of pants, all wrong.

 

Liz demanded my return, her tone implying threat of divorce. We finally offered Sam the dirty clothes he had just taken off, which he accepted.

 

We tried to help him dress, but it was his turn (information that was shrieked at us). The pants went on fine, but the shirt ended up inside-out with only one arm in its correct slot, the other arm joining the head out the head hole, so that, for the remainder of the day, Sam resembled a cross between a Go-Go Girl and a member of the Roman Senate.

 

Sam’s independence and his reactions to it being thwarted are complicated by the fact that some things, at two years old, despite it being his turn, he is just not capable of doing.

 

Take, for instance, Batman. In this house there are at least half-a-dozen anthropomorphic toys of various sizes representing the fictional character of Batman. On any given day, any of those Batmen may be the “right” Batman. The challenge, then, is finding the right Batman on the right day. [Note: it’s not always Batman. The above is also true for Superman, or Sherriff Woody. Or Harry Potter. We have two Harry Potters. At one point yesterday, I caught myself desperately pleading with my two-year-old that That is Harry Potter. That is Harry Potter!]

 

Buy yesterday, finding the right Batman wasn’t the hard part, the hard part was that the right Batman was the tiny little Lego Batman.

 

The tiny little Lego Batman has a tiny little cape. The tiny little cape is hard to put on. Even for a fully-grown daddy (or mommy) it’s a test of dexterity and focus.

 

So the four o’clock hour consisted basically of doing our best to keep Sam from injuring himself as he flailed about, unable to put on the cape but unwilling to accept help.

 

It’s not that behavior like this didn’t happen with Tom (our five-year-old). But back when Tom was on all fours banging his head against the floor, there wasn’t also a five-year-old standing there emphatically demanding that we look at the play-dough rock he made or how to spell his friend’s name.

 

Yesterday, naptime (a precious period on any Saturday) was cut short when the finally-sleeping Sam was stirred by his older brother repeatedly storming through his door to gallop down the hall and loudly announce that he’s been playing very quietly in his room. And to pee.

 

Later in the day, while Tom finished a movie he had started watching the day before, Sam and I generated pages worth of dialogue consisting of the same two lines repeated (and repeated and repeated):

 

S: I no lie iss moo-ie!

D: Well you don’t have to watch it. You can just play.

S: I no lie iss moo-ie!

D: Well you don’t have to watch it. You can just play.

S: I no lie iss moo-ie!

D: Well you don’t have to watch it. You can just play.

 

And so on.

 

But the true highlight came shortly before dinner. We were playing out front. Sam was playing in the bed of the truck. For reasons unknown, Sam began trying to lick my truck. More accurately, when I say Sam began trying to lick my truck, I mean that he first successfully licked the truck—a rather substantial helping of the dust-covered rear window—and then tried repeatedly to lick other parts of the truck, with me repeatedly stopping him.

 

Tom walked up. He asked for a napkin. There was something on his hands. We had just carved pumpkins. I couldn’t get Tom a napkin; I was busy blocking Sam from licking the running board. My pants were covered in pumpkin, from said carving. Mid-lick-block, I instructed Tom to just wipe his hands on my jeans.

 

Several minutes passed. I asked the boys who had stepped in cat poop. They were both barefoot. I pulled out the hose, then checked feet. Nothing.

 

It was another several minutes before I noticed that the pumpkin on my jeans was not at all pumpkin.

 

Come to find out, it had been Tom who had stepped in cat poop, but he had cleaned it up himself, with his hands, having then, according to his father’s instructions, wiped those hands on his father’s pants.

 

Liz drew the bath. I opened the wine, to breathe.

boys pumpkins

[Note: there are no numbers of fits or amounts of cat poop that are not worth enduring for these two (sometimes) smiling faces.]

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