What’s that in the distance? It looks like… well, I am not sure. An amorphous blob of angry black cloud? A thousand decibels of imagined pain wrapped up in a coarse swaddling of frustration? Oh yes, now I recognise it. It’s the terrible twos. I’ve weathered this storm of wretchedness before and I seem to remember it being a right barrel of laughs. Shame that the barrel seemed to have sprung a leak, so by the time I got there all the laughs had bloody well GONE.
B is fast approaching two, but he is not letting the small matter of a few weeks get in the way of him signing up to the terrible twos club. You know the club. The one full of screaming toddlers who spend a large proportion of their time lying face down on the floor. The club with at least a twelve month membership, that gives each new member a free gift of bottomless lungs and an unwavering sense of entitlement. Yes, that club.
Already he is in full practise mode for his tantrums, trying out all the different floors in the house (carpet is comfier, but whilst the wooden kitchen floor is hard, there is the possible bonus of finding a morsel or two to eat whilst he’s down there), experimenting with positions (a standing up tantrum requires less effort but without the dramatic crumbling to the floor it lacks a certain element of spectacle) and exercising his vocal chords regularly to ensure maximum ear drum impact. It is a joy to behold.
‘Here we are,’ I say to him one day, ‘here’s some banana’. I hold out a bowl into which I have sliced some banana. He takes one look at my offering and immediately his mouth springs open into an unholy chasm of half-emerged teeth and flailing tongue. The noise starts slowly, building up in decibels like an air raid warning siren. In fact, if these tantrums persist, an Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden might be the only solution. And I don’t care who goes in it: him or me. Just so long as it is not both of us. As his wail reaches its crescendo, the knees slowly buckle, and he falls prostrate to the floor in slow motion, just to ensure that I don’t miss a moment of the Toddler Tantrum Topple. And there he stays, screaming into the floorboards, as small puddles of tears collect beneath his face and snot is slowly smeared from floor to face and back again, all because I had the audacity to offer him a fruit-based snack. Or because I sliced the banana incorrectly. Or maybe because the slices made a peculiar pattern in the bowl. Who knows. I have long given up trying to understand what causes a tantrum. I sigh, put the bowl on the table and go and watch some paint dry in another room until he has finished. Silence eventually falls, punctuated only by the repeated quick, raggedly intake of breath as B realises that he needs to offset the three million cubic feet of oxygen he has just expended in the last five minutes with a few inhalations.
Now calm, I can offer him the aforementioned sliced banana again. “Yay!” he cries with glee and takes the bowl from me. “Nank noo mummy,” he says and smiles. He is delighted with the exact same offering that provoked nuclear melt down five minutes previously. Of course he’s delighted. Because he is nearly two, and in that world, swinging wildly from two utterly contrary emotions is part of the deal. It’s just not part of my deal. Well, it is. But I don’t want it to be. Which of course, simply means it is. Now it is my turn to lay face down on the floor.
And then there is the screams. Oh my days. This boy has a scream on him. He screams like a naked diva who has got her nipple trapped in the top drawer of the filing cabinet. It is a scream so loud and piercing that if I am within a six foot range, it actually makes me salivate. What the sodding hell is that all about? I can only think what happens is that the nerve endings in my ear drum go into temporary acute overload and my brain, panicked into doing something – anything – to block out that noise, accidentally connects my ears to my saliva ducts. I suppose it could be worse. It could connect them to my sphincter, and then we would all be in serious trouble.
I peer forward, squinting, into the near future. There are things to anticipate with glee, like B getting to grips with language so he can stop saying ‘nank noo’ and start saying thank you. And like him comprehending that ‘sharing’ does not actually mean that everyone gives everything to him right now and don’t even think about picking up that toy that I have discarded because it may look like I don’t want it but the moment you touch it I will scream so loudly your facial skin will melt and mummy will start drooling like a simpleton. And then when I peer some more, there’s the terrible twos and the inevitable tantrums.
Hmm. You know that empty barrel, the one that used to be full of laughs? Pass it here, would you? I may just climb in and nail the lid shut from the inside. Just for a year.