They warned me about girl babies.
They warned me about the stroppiness, the tantrums, the attitude, the tears and screaming and histrionics. But whenever someone took it upon themselves to tell me that my sweet little baby daughter would turn out to be trouble, I tuned out.
It was hard to believe, you see. Because The Baby was pretty much born smiling. She’s always been laid back, easy-going, happy happy happy. Her default mode is ‘grin.’ Or at least it was…
Not any more. It would appear that The Baby has ploughed headlong into the Terrible Twos – at 14 months old. And oh my goodness, this girl can STROP.
Most of the tantrums at the moment centre around mealtimes. The Baby has entered that ‘I will do it myself and I will not let anyone help me’ stage, with bells on. This means that she is unshakeably intent on feeding herself her pasta/yoghurt/Weetabix with no assistance whatsoever. And woe betide anyone who tries to intervene.
The problem is she’s not very good at it yet. She’s always fed herself beautifully with her hands, but now she wants to use cutlery. Which is fine, but I’d really, really like to be able to help her a bit. You know, just by steadying her yoghurt pot, or helping her spear the occasional carrot. Nothing terrible – or so I thought.
The Baby disagrees. Yesterday, DH dared to present her with her fromage frais with the spoon already in the pot. Big mistake. She dissolved into floods of tears that had me running from the other room, thinking she’d fallen out of her highchair, just in time to see her smacking her beloved daddy in a torrent of rage. We laughed; it was so funny to see our sweet-natured baby girl in such a fury.
The same thing happened at lunchtime today, when I tried to hold her yoghurt pot still so she could scrape the last bits out. We laughed again, especially as Grandma was here and managed to video the whole performance for posterity/future humiliation.
And then at teatime, I set down her plate of macaroni cheese and veg, and handed her a fork. So far, so good – until I dared to try to turn the fork over in her hand to facilitate spearing. The fork went flying across the room, hurled away in disgust by my incensed, beetroot-faced baby. This time, I didn’t laugh. It’s getting very, very tedious already.
Tantrums are a mostly uncharted territory for me. The Boy (who was a horrible baby but a lovely toddler) has only ever had two full-on, kicking and screaming tantrums in his life. Unfortunately, one was at my friend’s wedding… And because his strops were so few and far between, I handled them both really badly. I shouted, I tried to pin him down, I even smacked him on one occasion – not my finest parenting moment.
Already, it’s becoming clear that I’m going to need to develop much better tantrum-defusing tactics to use with The Baby. If, as I suspect, every day is going to be punctuated by fits of temper, I can’t lose mine every time. In my head, I’m the sort of mother who understands and calmly reasons, but there’s a limit to how much calm reasoning you can do with a 14-month-old. So what do I do instead? Ignore? Distract? At the moment, I’m leaning towards sympathising and soothing with lots of cuddles, but will that just teach her to tantrum more?
Thankfully, she *is* still lovely. Just 10 minutes after The Baby’s teatime fireworks display had me walking out of the kitchen with gritted teeth, she turned me to mush by saying ‘bye bye… bye bye…’ to the Pok-Poks as they sailed off in a boat on The Adventures of Abney and Teal. And alongside today’s many explosions, there have been just as many beautiful smiles, cuddles and unsolicited kisses.
I will need to keep those moments in mind as she gets older. Because one thing is certain: things are going to get worse before they get better. Not only is The Baby a girl, you see, but she’s also a redhead.
God give me strength…