Name: Timotéo Nicolas Gomez
Age: 2 years
Clothing: Hanna Andersson top, navy (or likely, no) pants
Last seen smiling in April 2016. This child can be further identified by giant flames which burst from his ears when a commercial interrupts the Little Baby Bum video he’s watching. Or by daggers that shoot from his eyes when they rest upon his mother. He is also identifiable by a trademark right hook, which rarely misses making contact with his mom’s nose.
About six weeks ago, my two year old disappeared one night. While I was resting with one eye and ear open, someone replaced my giggling, sunny, mommy-loving baby with an angry, whiny, destructive Little T doppelganger whose face contorts into a miserable grimace at the very sight of me. I heard about this Terrible Two phenomenon, but never paid much attention. Our 8 year old was somewhat stubborn and a little oppositional at two, but either she skipped the part where she wanted her parents to suffer, or I have one hell of a selective memory. Both equally possible.
For the past month or two, when I get home after hubby has been watching the kid(s), T always seems to be whining as I walk in the door. Jeff swears – every time – that T is “perfectly fine” until I arrive on the scene. Initially, I thought he was just trying to absolve himself and stay out of trouble with his wife. After all, I’m Mommy! Giver of unconditional love, source of endless patience, dutiful preparer of organic, free-range, perfectly balanced meals. Why would T possibly not be as thrilled to see me as I am him, beaming at the sight of me just like he did for every day of the first two years of his life?
I’m not offended by T’s sudden need to take his frustrations out on me. On occasion, it’s even comical. If he gets upset when he’s on the floor and I’m on the couch, he will actually park in front of me on his hands and knees and back up to give me a little kick in the shin. I find it terribly hard not to laugh while I either move or redirect him. True, I don’t necessarily appreciate that it’s me he wants to whack when he’s mad, but I would prefer that he get upset with me than beat up other kids or our dogs or something.
What I am struggling with is accepting and understanding that when little kids lose their sh*t completely, it might not mean that something is even terribly wrong. Harder, still, is that there may not be a way to “fix” it. Before he went to the dark side last month, the only time I’ve actually ever heard T let out blood-curdling screams was when he had his first ear infection – when something was definitely wrong. So now, when he shrieks and collapses on the ground, I desperately search for some kind of acute injury. In recent weeks, however, the cause of the screaming may be something as seemingly benign as an old balloon caught in telephone wires.
Sometimes I see the meltdown coming or identify what’s causing it, but still cannot head it off at the pass either because I can’t give him what he wants (safely, anyway) or there just doesn’t seem to be anything that works. The other day he went ballistic over holding my hand in a busy parking lot. He didn’t want to go in his stroller, nor did he wish or be carried. The resulting drama lasted a solid 20 minutes. It isn’t that I want to force him or teach him to do anything, it’s just not safe to walk through a busy grocery store parking lot without holding on (tight!) to a toddler. While he’s such a little person in so many ways, he’s not yet old enough to reason with, and currently un-soothable in these situations. So I often find myself carrying him kicking and screaming back to his car seat.
I’m not sure there is a way to tell the difference between furious frustration of undetermined origin and physical pain, except maybe to have more kids which I understand leads to the development of some kind of 6th sense that distinguishes between toddler terrorism and veritable crisis. It is both possible and plausible that if you have enough kids, you become so thoroughly exhausted that nothing raises your hackles unless it involves bleeding from an artery. So clearly having more screaming children is the route to figuring out how to manage screaming children.