I am constantly surprised by things that seem to be conventional wisdom among parents further along in the process, but that are NOT widely known by us new parents until you run into them yourselves. Breastfeeding, for one-- how tough it is for many women. (This, I think, is fortunately becoming more widely known, so that new mothers struggling with it don't feel like freaks of nature. Now, if we can just get to the point where women who end up formula feeding don't get judged within an inch of their lives, I'll call it progress. Moving on.)
Everyone knows about the Terrible Twos, right? Well, one of the things that I have now run smack into is that, apparently, 20-24 months is peak meltdown time. Elle stumbled into this at 19 months, because she's such an overachiever, but 20-24 months is apparently the height of the toddler-losing-her-shit phase. Every mom I ask about this confirms it.
No one told me this! I thought I had a few more months, and that this stuff happened closer to her turning two! We need to update the (mythical) New Parent Info Manual!
It's unconfirmed, but I can't help but wonder if the 20/24 meltdown phase is linked (in all kids, not just mine) with the last four teeth often coming in somewhere between 18 and 24 months. As I've mentioned, Elle's been working on her canines for a few weeks now and having an absolutely terrible time of it; I am dreading her last molars like nobody's business.
It also has to do with their little brains knowing more than their little vocabularies are able to express. Elle's pretty darn verbal for her age, but verbalizing feelings isn't yet part of her toolbox. (I'm working on that hard, trying to identify feelings in things we watch or read. "Oh, look! Elm0's happy/sad/whatever!" I'm guessing this will eventually help.)
Anyway, Elle has discovered a variety of new, wretched behaviors to go along with this meltdown phase. She's really pushy with the other kids at day care, which is a delight. But my very favorite is the eardrum-piercing screaming that goes along with not getting something she wants. At home, I ignore it or laugh at it; in public, strangers don't appreciate losing their hearing.
These behaviors are far more common late in the day. After her midday nap is when it's the worst (particularly if she takes a truncated nap, which she often does on weekends). Late afternoon/early evening is pretty much Defcon Four for most parents I know; that long march till bedtime is brutal for many small children, even when properly rested and fed throughout the day. When planning playdates with a small group of area single moms, I generally suggest we do it after the midday nap-- giving the kids something to do during that time frame may not lead to a quiet, orderly play date, but they're occupied, and that's a godsend.
So we're getting through it. It's not easy every day, but I never thought that it would be.
I'm fortunate in that, despite everything, Elle is primarily a sweet, inquisitive, busy toddler who's endlessly fascinated by, well, everything. In general, she's a happy little muffin, working hard to figure out the world around her. If we have a bad evening, I know that the reset button gets hit overnight, and the next morning she'll be back to her usual good-natured self.
But those damn teeth had better come in. NOW.