tantrums

Dad's view: Don't judge me for hating the 'terrible twos'

Dec. 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM ET

A while back I went on about how I’m such an easy-going dad that I could never judge another parent for doing the best they can.  So imagine my surprise when I saw that moms recently had a “No Judgment Day.” I thought the matter was settled.

Because it’s pointless, right? I realized that anew when I read comments from 1) moms who don’t want to be judged for being stay-at-home moms, and 2) other moms who don’t want to be judged for sending their children to day care. Or moms who don’t want to be judged for breastfeeding in public, while others don’t to be judged for feeding their kid formula. I mean, when the judgment is coming from all quarters, what’s the point?

Perhaps my judgment about judging is a bit skewed – for the past few weeks I’ve been walking on eggshells around here because the light of my (and my wife’s) life has been a Screaming Toddler from Hell. It’s a simple, unavoidable, you-know-it’s-coming phase of a kid’s life, but nevertheless it’s made me a raw nerve. NJ has thrown more tantrums lately than Tony Romo has passes.

Bob Trott /
Bob Trott and daughter NJ

NJ wants to climb into her dinner table chair alone – tantrum. NJ wants to go into the kitchen but not if she has to walk by me – tantrum. NJ isn’t ready for her bath – tantrum. Daddy looks at NJ wrong – tantrum. Rinse, repeat.

So if you’re looking to judge me, use this: Sometimes I feel like tossing my only child out the window.

The tantrums are terrible. They’re a daily occurrence. They’re so bad that she’s even aware of it, I think, because she’s always agreeing when my wife or I ask her if she needs a time-out. In fact, she usually smiles and eagerly trundles off to the spare bedroom where the time-outs take place. This makes me stew with rage – as much rage as a mild-mannered doofus like me can muster, anyway.

Now, I get angry at a lot of the usual B.S. that ticks off most people. Are you in front of me on the road and driving under the speed limit? Die. After you get out of my way, that is. But I’m the strong, silent son of a strong, silent man and I keep my rage bottled up inside me, like you’re supposed to. (What’s that? One day it’ll all boil over and I’ll foam with unstoppable rage like someone dropped Mentos into Coca-Cola? Pshaw! I’ll be fine.)

So when I read this Deadspin.com post by Drew Magary (caution: salty language!), I actually said “Yes!” out loud, pumped a fist in triumph and mentally high-fived myself six times. This comment, in particular, perfectly sums up the difference in my demeanor pre-baby and post-Terrible Twos:

“Ten years ago, I was a perfectly normal human being who never yelled at anyone and would go out of his way to avoid fights and/or confrontation. Nowadays, I'm a bug-eyed rage demon who starts yelling the second something gets thrown across the playroom.”

Except that I don’t yell. I clench my jaw and squint my eyes and get quiet and sullen until you think I’m going to explode. And I think that my beautiful, bright, loving daughter is a terrible person. And then I realize that actually makes me a terrible person, and I resent her just a little bit more for bringing that up.

So in the spirit of the “Don’t judge me because I …” campaign, here are a few more for you. Don’t judge me because …

I called NJ a Screaming Toddler from Hell. Unless you, too, were reaching for a pillow to put over your head at 1 a.m. today because the baby monitor was about to blow a fuse. It was a stunning, upsetting wall of sound. Breathtaking, even.

I get snippy with my wife for turning up the baby monitor to almost its highest volume. When the kid shrieks at 1 a.m., it’s as though you’re standing four inches away from Pearl Jam’s stage speakers. C’mon! (“What do you care? I’m the one who’s going to go down there,” my wife replies. Which misses the point, I think, but still: Touché. I’ll allow it.)

I’m tired of how the kid’s affections for me ebb and flow like the tides. This is something I’ve mentioned before, and while it’s still going on sometimes (the recent spike in Terrible Two-ness has been brutal on this front), I’m trying a new tactic: I give up. I just walk away and start reading or watching TV or whatever and wait for her to calm down. Which makes sense, but I still feel bad about it – I judge myself for it, pretty harshly. But you shouldn’t.

Anyway, as she’s toddling off to bed nowadays she says “I love you, I had a fun day with you” with a cheery smile – even when we didn’t spend the day together – right before hugging me and planting a wet kiss on my cheek. It’s canned, it’s memorized, and it makes me forgive all transgressions. Every time. Even when I know she’ll do something the next day that will leave me seething.

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