petite anglaise

October 4, 2005

terrible two

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 2:53 pm

Tadpole and I get a simultaneous attack of the giggles, strands of spaghetti drooping perilously from our mouths, some sticking to our chins. I like the French phrase for this a lot: un fou rire. Mad laughter.

Catching Tadpole’s eye, I have to suppress a sudden, overwhelming urge to sweep her out of the high chair and into my arms, raining kisses down on her reluctant, curly head. Being a mother sometimes means experiencing such ferocious urges; they literally take my breath away.

Unfortunately Tadpole is not a very demonstratively affectionate child, and doesn’t take kindly to being grabbed and forcibly hugged. It is wiser to wait until she comes to me of her own accord. Especially this close to bedtime, when my toddler appears to suffer from some form of schizophrenia. One minute all is well with the world, the next she is crying theatrical tears and not even she really knows the reason why.

A few minutes later, she zooms into the kitchen on her plastic car, an unbuttered piece of scone in her hand.

“What you doing mummy?” she asks with a frown, craning her neck to look up at the worktop, where I have been caught in the act, liberally spreading butter, raspberry jam and crème fraîche onto my piece of scone with the back of a teaspoon, while waiting for the kettle to boil.

“Mummy’s putting some jam on her scone,” I reply, waving it under her nose, knowing full well that Tadpole will add this to her list of falsely composed compound nouns: strap-on, shoes-on, socks-on, jam-on.

And no, I’m not sure why I talk in the third person to Tadpole either.

“I want jam-on on my scone” she says, eyeing the jar.

“You want some jam?” I repeat, knowing full well that she doesn’t really. She refused to have anything on it the day before, and didn’t even deign to taste mine.


Wearily: “OK, give it to me, and I’ll put some on for you,”


Petulantly: “Well don’t have any then!”


I am getting a bit cross. It is 8.00 pm. I have been at work all day. I arrived home with Tadpole at 7.00pm and the preservation of my sanity depends on her being in bed in half an hour. Clearly she has just crossed that invisible line and gone over to the dark side where logic no longer applies and high pitched screaming can erupt at any moment, without due cause or prior warning.

I snatch the scone from her grasp and dab some jam on it, offering it back to her with a triumphant “There!”

“NNNOOOOOOOO!” she screams.

The neighbours probably think I am torturing Tico the dolly.

She makes as if to drop the scone face down on the kitchen floor, so I grab it, scrape off the jam, hold it out to her again.


The neighbours probably think I am torturing Tadpole. I wonder idly what the equivalent of Childline is in France.

Something inside me snaps. It’s official: Mummy has now crossed over to the dark side to join her daughter.

I eat the scone.

The screaming starts in earnest.

Only eight months until she turns three. I think I may need medication if I’m to make it that far.


  1. My daughter will be three in four months time and i’m hoping she gets out of the terrible twos by then. I know what you mean by knowing she will not like things but she still asks for them, it puts my head away sometimes i think i’m going mad. I must admit i’m quite hard when it comes to bed time because i’m a staying at home mum when it is bedtime they must go or i get stressed and angry but thats just because i need some me time. Being a mum is a full time job and anyone says that it is easy is out of their minds.

    Comment by Growing Up — October 4, 2005 @ 3:14 pm

  2. Hee hee hee!! Hilarious, especially for those of us who’ve been there. The solution is to give them a spoonful of jam directly in the mouth, bypassing the scone altogether. Shuts them up for a few seconds anyway. Then of course they spit it out on the floor.

    Two questions:

    How do you manage to go so seamlessly from such a serious post as yesterday’s to something so funny today? Chapeau, as the natives would say.

    Where the f*** did you find scones in Paris? I’ve been craving them for ages. Are they real ones? Don’t tell me you made them in your domestic goddess mode!?

    Comment by suziboo — October 4, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

  3. I made them. Nardac can vouch for that.

    My new role model as a mum is Lynette Scavo from Desperate Housewives. Anyone got some Ritalin they can spare?

    Comment by petite — October 4, 2005 @ 3:43 pm

  4. Don’t worry the terrible twos will soon be over then you have:

    – Terrible 3s
    – Terrible 4s
    – Terrible 5s

    My mother tells me things get better around the terrible 40s

    Comment by P in France — October 4, 2005 @ 3:53 pm

  5. I’m desperate to be a mother, have always loved children, and in my student days looked after many whom I loved dearly, and still do. It’s memories similar to this episode that sometimes make me doubt my desire to have a baby but at the same time, I think it’s all these little moments that I crave. Infuriating yet so sweet because they are all part of the child’s personality as he/she develops, along with the exaggerated facial expressions which accompany such fury and frustration.
    The post put a warm smile on my face!
    P.S. You can get scones in Monoprix, for anybody not up to making them…

    Comment by Katherine — October 4, 2005 @ 4:05 pm

  6. It doesn’t happen solely in our house then. Our boys are 17 months apart, so just when you think you’ve gotten through A STAGE, the second one starts up.
    Should you find a good medication, please let me know.

    Comment by Greg — October 4, 2005 @ 4:13 pm

  7. Kevin (11) howled just like that because I FORGOT to stick the two halves of his petit pain au nutella together this morning. I had taken the medication yesterday, so it numbed me nicely!

    Comment by Antipo Déesse — October 4, 2005 @ 4:23 pm

  8. really, we just need to develop that mind reading techonlogy and all would be well (or terrifying) in the world.

    Comment by mainja — October 4, 2005 @ 6:44 pm

  9. It’s not so much the tantrums I don’t like – it’s the downright badness. This morning the littliest trooper decided to wake a slightly hungover dad up by sitting her bare bum on daddies head. She then proudly announced “Daddy I’ve just been wee-wee toilet”. She’s not very good at wiping yet…………..

    Comment by Universal Soldier — October 4, 2005 @ 6:45 pm

  10. My little niece is about the same age as Tadpole and is *always* asking what people are doing, several times over. She was watching my brother change his son’s nappy and must have asked him about 6 times – just cocks her head to one side and says “What doing?” in a very inquisitive tone.

    When we were on holiday recently, I perfected my tantrum “distraction” technique. As soon as she started screaming irrationally about something, I would just do something completely unexpected (pick up her doll and play with it, drink some of her drink) and she would forget what she was crying about and become adorable again.

    I’m still not going to give up the (childless) day job though…

    Comment by anxious — October 4, 2005 @ 7:46 pm

  11. Oh, stick it out, 3 is truly fab. Yes, there are still tantrums but they are much rarer and you can explain things.
    Oh, and don’t forget school. Marvellous people the French, universal school at 3 and you’re a bad mother if your child DOESN’T go.

    Comment by Flighty — October 4, 2005 @ 7:55 pm

  12. Stories like this make me wonder why I’m so keen to have children. I’m frightened I won’t have the patience.

    Yet the next time I see a sweet little toddler gurgling with laughter off I’ll go again…..

    Comment by stressqueen — October 4, 2005 @ 8:02 pm

  13. Yes, ‘terrible two’s’ seem universal. But then when they get to three it seems like the only word they know is ‘NO!!!!’.
    It gets better when they’re about 25, and at least hopefully have moved away so you aren’t daily bothered.

    Comment by joeinvegas — October 4, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  14. You ain’t seen nothing yet! Wait till the teenage hormones kick in! One of my boys went straight from toddler tantrums through to teenage trantrums without a break. Mind you, boys are worse in my experience.

    Comment by Jennyta — October 4, 2005 @ 10:12 pm

  15. I’ve been there! My child has done exactly the same thing. And believe me, it’s happened more than once (she’s now going on four) and there is no right thing to do. They want everything AND nothing.

    I hope that Tadpole does better on the three’s than mine did. The three’s have been worse, but in a different way. Everyone tells me that it doesn’t get better, it just changes. But you will always have those moments of loving emotion, just keep remembering the good moments when you want to throttle her. Good Luck!

    Comment by gijasue — October 4, 2005 @ 10:42 pm

  16. Hmm, framboises?
    Now, if you were to try Bonne Maman Cerises Griottes confiture she’d probably eat it…
    I know I would.

    Comment by Taupe — October 4, 2005 @ 10:44 pm

  17. Oh! I was instantly transported back to the days when my daughter and I were two – when she was only two. “the preservation of my sanity depends on her being in bed in half an hour” – oh how I have been there!!

    Comment by Alda — October 4, 2005 @ 11:14 pm

  18. Have you ever tried screaming back?

    An imitation often gets them so curious as to why you are throwing a tantrum, that they forget to continue whining/screaming/screatching/crying.

    I think it’s funny. Sick, twisted–yes. I taught middle school. (insert evil laughter here)

    Comment by Ronica — October 4, 2005 @ 11:25 pm

  19. My same-age-as-Tadpole daughter has at least 1, and normally several, full-on screaming, kicking, lying on the floor tantrums every single day. Doesn’t matter where we are: home, park, Monoprix (where you can buy scones BTW), airport. You name it, she’s had a tantrum there.

    Oh, and her dad thought it would be a good idea to feed her Bonne Maman Strawberry jam straight out of the jar last week. She would have finished the jar if I hadn’t intervened.

    Comment by kjr — October 4, 2005 @ 11:38 pm

  20. Avanie et Framboise Sont les mamelles du Destin

    Comment by Chicago — October 5, 2005 @ 1:10 am

  21. They haven’t told you about the frightful three’s have they?

    I recommend early nights for the child, and alcohol for you, oh and maybe some earplugs.

    Comment by jen — October 5, 2005 @ 1:43 am

  22. You really made me laugh, thank you for sharing that petit moment d’intimite ;-)

    Comment by Miss Pink — October 5, 2005 @ 3:24 am

  23. Suziboo- you can get scones at Bon Marche food hall, next to the english muffins and crumpets. I think that they are expensive though…

    I like the post petite, childrens logic kills me.

    Comment by Anne — October 5, 2005 @ 8:56 am

  24. Another lovely ‘tranche de vie’. It sounds as though you are not the type of mum who gives in for the sake of peace. Please don’t go there – the result could be a spoilt brat and there are too many of them around today!
    I’m looking forward to being a grandmother though – eventually . . . . . . .

    Comment by Sandy Bootman — October 5, 2005 @ 10:24 am

  25. ok… a little late, but here I am… yes, the scones were real, and home-made! Yum. But, y’all shoulda had the crumble. That crumble is like Johnny Depp in a Jack-in-the-Box. Surprise!! *oooh*

    I have little to no experience with small children, and I have absolutely no parental skills. But Tadpole is really quite an impressively adorable child.

    Comment by nardac — October 5, 2005 @ 12:36 pm

  26. Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! And I’m sure you could scream *much* louder if needs be…

    Comment by Huw — October 5, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

  27. Ah, the Madness.

    I remember it well.

    Bon Chance ;-)

    Comment by Greavsie — October 5, 2005 @ 4:18 pm

  28. You know, I worked for a period of time for a major retailer here in the States, and every once in a while, you would get a child that would have a major meltdown in the store. I mean a meltdown that would make Chernobyl look like a campfire by comparison.

    One day, this kid and his mom comes in. I am working on one side of the store, and the kid is way on the other side. (He was maybe 2 or 3 years old at the time.) This kid starts kicking up the dust, and I mean, screaming, crying, punching, etc. We go over to find his mother desperately trying to calm him down, but the kid will have none of it. Then he starts biting, and a host of other atrocities as his mom finally gives up and starts moving him out of the store. (Which btw, makes things worse as he doesn’t want to leave; he wants to look at toys.)

    As they were leaving, I look over to my co-worker, and just say : “This is the reason that animals eat their young.”

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — October 5, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

  29. at the risk of destroying your sanity, i hate to admit it but 3 is much much much worse than 2. i am the mother of twin girls, and when they were 3, i almost lost my mind.
    of course, now they are teenagers, and i’m losing my mind again, but for entirely different reasons.

    Comment by amy — October 5, 2005 @ 6:12 pm

  30. Oh, how your post took me back! One thing I learned from rearing children:

    The screaming, illogical requests and tantrums are in direct inverse proportion to the level of fatigue of the mother.

    Comment by Anita — October 5, 2005 @ 9:44 pm

  31. Don’t worry Petite, they grow out of the screaming and the tantrums when they reach their twenties.

    Comment by Simon — October 5, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

  32. Oh, yes! I know the good old ‘let’s test mum and see how far I can push her’ syndrome VERY well. My three year old now ropes her 12 month old sister into her ‘I want it, I don’t want it’ games – double the fun for all ;) But they just want to know where their limit is and if you show them its not very far every time then they (usually) find some other way of getting your attention .. like singing really loud songs. PS. I just found your blog and I love it! Well done :)

    Comment by surfingfree — October 11, 2005 @ 7:08 am

  33. Hahahaha. You have just described a typical evening at my home on the other side of the world. Cape Town, South Africa to be exact. My daughter is 3 and a half and I hate to tell you this but she is still throwing those tantrums. In fact I don’t think she hit the terrible twos so I am going through the tormented threes instead. Good luck!

    Comment by Bee — October 11, 2005 @ 2:15 pm

  34. Oh god i am so glad i found you – leah is 2.5 and i just had one of the worse nights with her. it started from the moment i picked her up from the babysitter and lasted til she fell asleep (2 hours later). of course i’m sure i did everything wrong while she was screaming and throwing herself on the floor- including insisting she take a bath once she had calmed down – which just got her going again. thank you all for letting me see that i am not mad – though i pray she tapers off when she’s 3

    Comment by JoAnne — October 12, 2005 @ 2:50 am

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