The untamed toddler
Susan is shocked by sweet baby Finn’s transformation.
(Laresa Perlman)
Now that Finn has turned 18 months I can finally claim that I am the traumatised mother of a Toddler (it somehow seems more justified than simply being the traumatised mother of a baby). The word itself conjures up terrifying images of tantrums, unreasonable demands and a trail of destruction left in the wake of a small person toddling speedily away from their parents’ outstretched arms.

If The Books are to be believed it is the age of growing independence, of discovery and the experiencing of a range of new emotions. It is also the age of socialising.

As a mommy friend of mine often laments while breaking up our brawling babies, ‘Socialising is such a difficult thing.’

In my short-lived and limited experience of The Toddler, I have become aware that they can roughly be categorised into two social types: those that march up to other toddlers, snatch the bright shiny object out of the clutches of their victim and march off with it, sometimes shoving them to the ground for good measure. And there are those toddlers who unexpectedly find their prized and precious toy yanked from their small hands as they simultaneously collide with the floor.

Now, I definitely think it is not easy being the mother of the pusher nor the pushee, the yanker nor the yanked, but I have landed the post of mother of the pushed and yanked. And let’s just say I’m not particularly loving the new position. I have seen some shoved toddlers look vaguely surprised at the unsolicited attack, pick themselves up and grab another toy. Others may moan a bit but are quickly comforted by their nearby mothers.

But my dear son’s reaction is neither of these. Finn’s face crumples instantly and he collapses into sobs of inconsolable tears. He doesn’t just cry – he laments… bitterly and for a very long time. These are not the mock tears of tantrums but rather the hollow howls of heartbreak and unbearable disappointment.

Depending on my inner resources I find myself reacting in a number of ways. Sometimes I calmly comfort him and ask the pusher for the toy back. Mostly this doesn’t work. The pusher usually backs away looking vaguely pleased with itself at having won over the toy. Sometimes I attempt to get the toy back, which usually results in some kind of horrible reaction from the pusher, with me claiming defensively, ‘I didn’t touch her I swear.’

I was barely getting used to my new position when things took an unpredictable turn one recent Saturday morning down at the park. From across the playground Finn eyed a small pink pram containing one scrappy doll. Being quite partial to any vehicle with wheels Finn raced towards it, narrowly escaping an incident with the seesaw. He was oblivious to the surprised little girl attached to its handles as he yanked the pram from her grip. Being highly sensitised to the feelings of the victim, I quickly intervened explaining to Finn that he return the pram to the little girl with the now wobbly lip. Predictably Finn turned quickly away from me and attempted to run half carrying half dragging the pram with him. When I finally wrestled the coveted possession from his vice-grip Finn threw himself onto the ground in a rage. The rest of the outing was spent trying to organise some kind of turn-taking system, which usually left one of the irritable tots either in tears or in a rage.

I’m horrified. How did this happen? If we can’t hang out with other mommy friends and their kids what will become of us? ‘Sort it out guys!’ I want to say, ‘We’ve got some much needed socialising of our own to do!’ But, truthfully, the most challenging thing of all, is the heartbreak I feel for my son, who I never want to see pushed around, disappointed, nor hurt and the guilt and embarrassment I feel when he bullies and rages.

While Finn experiences and learns to manage his new emotions, I guess I’ll just have to learn to manage mine.

Does your child’s behavior surprise you? What’s the best remedy for brawling toddlers?

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