It happened overnight. Or it seemed to happen that way. Last Thursday, my two-year-old Elias decided he no longer enjoyed brushing his teeth in the morning. Rather than cooperating with me like he did on Wednesday morning, he screamed “NOOOOOOO!” at me like he had a choice.
“Elias,” I said, “We have to go brush your teeth. Let’s go, Bubbs.” (I sometimes call him Bubbs.)
So I proceed to pick him up. Well, I tried to pick him up. It was hard because he’d contorted his body into a upside down “U” and was grabbing onto his chair for dear life. My hands were tucked under his waist, trying to pull him up into my arms.
“No Daddy! No Daddy! No Daddy!”
What has happened to my son? I thought. He was so reasonable yesterday. Today, he’s possessed.
Frustration started stirring in the back of my neck–you know that feeling, something between a headache and turning into the Incredible Hulk. I breathed. The human inside me wanted to let go of him just to see what would happen, to pay him back for being such a little snot. But the Daddy in me held on.
I managed to pry his fingers loose from his chair and pulled him into my arms (he was sort of “P”-shaped now, and “P”-shaped is easier). I carried him into the bathroom.
I then attempted to set him down on the toilet (the lid was down, of course), but as soon as I prepared to this, he went transformed back into his “U” shape, except this time it was a sideways “U,” a stiffer, angrier “U.”
“Elias,” I said, “Do you want a timeout?”
“Then sit your bottom down on that seat.”
I considered letting go again. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The “Daddy” in me kept saying, “Be a parent. Be a parent.”
I finally was able to get some toothpaste in his mouth. I’m not sure you can call what I did actually “brushing,” but his breath smelled like bubblegum, so I was satisfied.
Four minutes later, Elias was laughing, smiling, blowing kisses, etc as he and Jessica left for school/work.
Maybe he was just having a difficult morning. I thought. Tomorrow will be different.
But no. Every morning since last Thursday, brushing his teeth (and a couple times, getting his shoes and socks on) has led to screeching “U”-shaped chaos.
Yesterday morning, he had two time-outs. And he slapped me during one of them. I grabbed his little hand and bit it. I’M KIDDING! I just wanted to do that. (Isn’t it insane the “monster” that kids can bring out in you?) But I did grab his hands and gently held them and said, “Elias, we don’t hit. Hands are for touching and hugging and picking up things…. blah blah blah… Mommy and Daddy don’t hit Elias and we get very sad when you hit us.”
I let go of his hand. And do you know what he did? He looked right at me and gently slapped my arm.
Sigh. But he did apologize.
So my little boy is going through a stage–the terrible twos. At least, that’s what we read in books and friends tell us. And so, I’m going through the “terrible twos” too. Because that’s what Daddies (and Mommies) do. We go through stages with our kids–many of them–some crazier than others. The difference is, we must go through these stages not just as the “adult” in the situation–being the adult isn’t enough–we go through them as the parent…
A “let’s make a good decision together” Daddy…
And we pray.