Happy in Hawaii (credit: Kristine Lazar)

See that sweet boy over there? The one with the mop of shaggy, blonde hair, beaming smile and squeezable cheeks? He is simply the light of my life and brings joy to everyone who knows him. He also has a mean left hook, tiny, sharp teeth and a scream that can wake the dead. That’s right, folks the “terrible two’s” are here, and mama isn’t taking the transition well.
Though I don’t like being hit, smacked, bitten and yelled at, I understand that these are common behaviors for an almost-2 year old. I have spoken with his pediatrician, as well as my go-to baby guru (Jackie Rosenberg), and they both assure me that Griffin just doesn’t have the words and ability to express how he feels verbally, so he does it physically. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and it’s when it happens in public that I really struggle.
I worry that other people who don’t know my child will think he is aggressive or some kind of mini bully. Will they think that I am a bad parent, because I can’t control my toddler? Maybe they will wonder if Griffin is being raised in a home where his parents fight all the time, and hit and bite each other (which we obviously do not)? In short, I don’t worry that my son is a bad kid, I worry that other people will think he is.
Every mom I talk to shares their own stories of misbehaving toddlers. I have heard about moms getting black eyes from toddlers wielding plastic toys, and parents needing tetanus shots after a particularly hard bite. So far, Griffin hasn’t sent me to the ER, but we have resorted to time outs and we are trying to teach him to clench his little fists when he mad, rather than clock mommy in the face (we’re about 70-30 on that one…not in my favor), so that things don’t escalate.
I know I am not alone here, but whenever we are in public, it seems like it is only my child who is acting out. On the playground, little girls and boys play side-by-side sharing toys and snacks, while my Griffin is screaming his head off because I took him off the swing. At our baby gym class, Griffin bites a little girl, while the rest of the children and their parents look on in horror (ok, maybe I am imagining their scorn, but it always feels that way). And at the grocery store, a little boy sits in his mama’s cart, obediently while my child cries until I let him walk the aisles at his leisure. Please tell me my child isn’t the only one!
And so, I lay awake a night, full of anxiety that I have done something wrong. How did my sweet, smiling, cuddly baby turn into a 28-pound mixed martial arts fighter?
For the record, 99% of the time he still smiles and waves at every stranger, hugs and kisses his mom when asked, and delights an audience with a mean air guitar and moon walk. I guess I just can’t stop obsessing about the other 1%.