If you had to ask me to name the top five reasons why babies cry, I could probably answer you quite confidently. Babies usually cry for a specific few things and by asking yourself the following questions, you can typically calm a stressed baby. Are they wet? Are they hungry? Are they tired? Are they feeling unwell? Do they just need a cuddle? All this, of course, in a baby who isn’t seriously ill. Right, so I passed that test quite easily. So why then, can I not figure out why my two year old has become such a cry baby? He cries intermittently from dusk until dawn until my husband and I are on the verge of crying ourselves. I fear we will need to be institutionalised because all this crying is driving us stir CRAZY.
Yes, Liam is Two years old and with that comes the Terrible Two’s and Tantrums and Trauma for the parents. Something ominous about that letter T, hey? But recently, he has intuitively discovered that convulsing on the floor, or jumping up and down yelling, really doesn’t bother us. Boy, your dad and I are from the late 70’s, early 80’s – that was a dance style for us. So by simply ignoring him or even laughing at him, it would break the ice and the episode would be over. So he has left the tantrums behind, although sometimes he reverts to this behaviour if all else fails. As I was saying, he has discovered that crying constantly, in varying tones, with high and low pitches, from a soft moaning wail to a shrieking scream, is really what does the trick. You see, when a child cries for no reason for longer than three minutes, it’s very difficult for the parent to remain calm. I usually start by saying something like “what is it boy?” to “ok, tell mummy what’s wrong and I can help” to “WHY ARE YOU CRYING” to “IF YOU DON’T STOP CRYING I AM GOING TO BE CROSS WITH YOU” to “GO TO YOUR ROOM AND STAY THERE UNTIL YOU HAVE FINISHED CRYING AND CAN EXPLAIN YOURSELF” to “YOU ARE DRIVING ME INSANE, STOP CRYING BEFORE I GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Now before you label me a bad mother, let me put this into perspective for you, by giving you a few examples of why and how the crying game starts. Then you can go ahead and judge who’s the crazy one here – the kid or me. We’ll be driving to school, Liam will ask for Barney to be belted out from the radio (if the volume is not to his liking, he’ll demand that we “make the radio make a noise!”), the husband will oblige until the top of the hour, when he likes to listen to the news following by the traffic report. Liam immediately goes into hysterics when Barney is put on pause. I explain that this is MY car and MY radio and for just 5 MINUTES I’d like to listen to something other than Barney. He retorts with crying.
Next example. Together, Liam and I will select his clothes each evening, for school the next day. This in itself is a process, because for a two year old to make a decision between either the Spiderman t-shirt or the Ben10 t-shirt is like asking me to choose between chocolate or cake – it’s a difficult decision. This process usually comes with a tear or two, but the real crying comes the next morning when he decides that he made the wrong decision last night and wants to wear something else this morning – the whole point of choosing clothes the night before is to save time in the mornings, hello? We are NOT making wardrobe changes again, sorry. The crying begins.
Liam has taken to crying if his food is too cold, or if it’s too hot, if Hannah takes one of his 50 000 crayons or she sits on his side of the couch. He bawls if you remind him to say please, or if you forget to leave him a few shavings of grated cheese while cooking. He cries if his father hugs me for too long, or if I take too long to warm his milk up in the microwave. Sometimes I think he cries just because he likes the sound of his own voice. And I know it’s all part of his master mind plan to drive me slowly insane, because if I manage to placate him, he bounces back to his bubbly self in less than two seconds. I have never met a kid who can turn on the waterworks like my Liam can. It’s literally like a tap you can turn on and off. I’ve chatted to other parents who all say their kids went through this phase, that crying is a form of manipulation used by toddlers, in a bid to “flex some muscle” – well the only muscle I want to flex when the crying starts, is my bicep, in an up and down motion on his rear end.
When he isn’t crying, we can have long conversations about his crying. I’ll explain that crying is for when you feel sad or unhappy or upset. I try and explain in as simple a language as possible, that if he cries for no reason, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration – ok not really, but I explain that he needs to find other ways to express himself other than crying. And he agrees – until the next episode. I don’t want him to ever think that big boys don’t cry, or that crying is for sissies, I myself know the value of releasing pent up emotion through a good long cry, but I also want him to understand that crying in an effort to get your own way, is not how we do things. Only mummies are allowed to use crying for that purpose occasionally.