I never much minded the terrible twos. We could see the tantrums coming, the way you can see thunderstorms approaching in the desert, and sometimes we could get to shelter (put Eve to bed or feed her) and avoid the downpour. If the rain did break over our heads, we'd hunker down and ride it out. It always passed, and the skies were always clear afterwards.
Three was much harder for me because three was on purpose. Two happened to her, but when she was three, she was deliberately antagonistic. She did not WANT to put on her shoes or let me comb her hair or sit down in her chair. She wasn't tired. She wasn't hungry. She just didn't want to, she realized she had a choice, and she chose to argue with us. She was still three, so she couldn't really be reasoned with, and of course if we pushed, she just pushed back, harder. It took a while before I learned to be very careful what choices I offered, and to respond as calmly and neutrally as I could even when she stamped her foot and tried to spit at me (that last one was so ineffective that I hard time keeping a straight face).
I've been trying to remember the lessons of two and three as we navigate twelve and look at thirteen coming closer. Sometimes she's hungry and sometimes she's tired, which is no surprise, because it takes a lot of protein and a lot of energy to grow three inches in four months. Sometimes she's anxious about the pecking order at school, and sometimes she's lonely for Laura, and sometimes she's just, well, sometimes it's the thunderstorm bearing down on us in the desert. Now she can be reasoned with, but not when the emotional lightning is in the air.
Like so many parents in every generation, I forget all this, and I forget what it was like when she was two and three. I have a hard time staying calm and neutral. It's obvious that Chloe's opinion about Eve's hair, or what Morgan said to Josie in homeroom, is completely trivial and unworthy of the level of energy involved in the dramatic recreation that is playing nightly in our kitchen. I want Eve to ignore all that and focus her outrage on the bullying and the racist/homophobic/sexist language she hears in the hallways - but she, of course, shrugs all that off as "just the way things are". My rational brain knows that I am expecting too much if I expect to Eve to share my adult sensibility about social justice and oppression. My rational brain also knows that she is learning our values, and that she will find her own path. Despite my rational brain, my own internal weather system starts to circle and I thunder back at her.
We're coming up on the last week of our respite from adolescence. Eve has been at sleepaway camp for ten days, and as much as I miss her, it's been a nice break. When she comes home, I will try to remember that my job is to be a shelter from the storm.
Woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered.....