They warn you about the Terrible Twos, but it still doesn't mean you're ready for them when they come.
As two-year-olds go, Berry's not very terrible at all. In fact, she's generally quite mild. But when Pauline and little Sophiene came to visit from South Carolina, Berry revealed a combative side that caught us off-guard.
Although she plays well with other kids at school and at her friends' houses, at home it's a different matter entirely. When another toddler tries to play with her toys, in her territory, she becomes – well – territorial. Sophiene is the first child ever to stay with us, and we were horrified by Berry's outbursts – the grabbing, the pushing, the flailing, the hitting, the shouting: "My Dora! No my paints! My Rody! No Fofie, my chair! My Elmo! Mine! My Mama!"
Sophie is one year old, still in the lovely, easy-going, live-and-let-live stage of toddlerhood. The fuss was all very baffling to her. When Berry was at that stage – facing the shoves and bellows of older kids with an "oh well" attitude – I was concerned that she might not be assertive enough, that she might end up being a doormat.
I needn't have worried.
From the photos here, you wouldn't know there'd been any conflict, any embarrassing outbursts. That's because when the fights were on, all the grown-ups were desperately refereeing – and when peace reigned, we all said "Quick! Get the camera!"
I know (intellectually) that sharing – especially on her own turf – can't really be expected of Berry yet. As psychologist John Gottman, PhD, writes:
"...Attempts at cooperative play and sharing are often problematic, given the "toddler rules of ownership," which are: (1) If I see it, it's mine; (2) If it's yours and I want it, it's mine; and (3) If it's mine, it's mine forever. Parents should realize that such attitudes are not based on meanness; they are simply an expression of the toddler's developing sense of self.... the concept of sharing is meaningless to them."
But I still can't help feeling alarmed, apologetic, and a teensy bit of a failure when these one-sided fights break out. I told my friends at coffee (all of whom have more and/or older kids) how embarrassing I'm finding the whole two-year-old tyrant thing, and the universal response was "Oh honey, get used to it. There's no way around it, only through it."
Which is not what I wanted to hear... but at least I'm not alone.