Q: My girlfriend and I are busy prepping ourselves for my son.
Here is the deal. Shortly after my son was born his mom and I made an agreement that once he turned two years old we would sign off on joint custody, equal time, to raise him.
Starting in just a few days, or just after his second birthday, my boy will move back forth, a week at a time, between our house and his mom’s place.
All of us are pretty pumped for this thing. His mom wants to get back into her classes and needs a few of those extra moments to prepare for her studies, my girlfriend is keen to learn whatever she can about being a parent (she’s an only child, never did learn much about what it means to be a kid), and I am just excited that I am going to get to be a dad to my boy.
The only snag is that we are going to plunge into our new family system just about the same time our son moves into the terrible twos.
At least that is what I have been told. To be honest with you, I have no idea what the terrible twos are. All that I know is that it is something that Grandma in her wisdom shared with us when we were visiting her in the nursing home.
She says that chances are great that my son will say “no” to just about everything, that he will likely indulge in a temper tantrum or two, and that he might defy whatever it is that we think he should be doing, like going to bed on time or eating his veggies.
This was a little discouraging. I do not want to spend the first part of our time with my son in tensions and anxieties.
I want all of us to enjoy and appreciate each other. What do you think: can we get around the terrible twos and have fun together?
A: Relax, no two-year-old child is terrible. That is a myth perpetuated 100 years ago.
We live in a world where each of us is valued for the unique and wonderful persona we have developed through the stages of our own life’s span. That whole process, in which I become an individual within my own right, starts somewhere around two years old.
A child may have had unique characteristics before then, but he or she is not necessarily aware of them until he or she is around two. The more he or she discovers his or her uniqueness the better that it is, and the more that you can appreciate that drive to be his or her own person, the more exciting it is for you to be a parent. It is not terrible.
You will have challenging moments — that is what parenting is all about. Sometimes I think that having to deal with a child’s temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store on a busy Saturday afternoon is one of those required experiences in which you have to engage to get your parenting badge. Then there is the bedtime refusal game — just about all kids have mastered it even before they turn two.
And let’s not forget the inevitable pout when you ask your son to kiss Grandma and Grandpa good-bye Christmas morning. He pouts, and you and Grandma get all flustered because you are not sure what to do and you would do anything rather than disappoint the woman whom you loved for so much of your life. You want your son to love her too.
But apart from being a little embarrassing every now and then, this whole thing is fun. The more that you understand that your son is growing up to be his own unique and wonderful person, the more rewarding it is. You don’t need to get embarrassed. You don’t need to worry that everyone will think that you are a bad parent. You simply need to enjoy it.
Keep it simple. Good parenting means regular bedtimes, regular meal times, regular play times and loving like you have never loved before.
Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.