The toddler years separate the strong from the weak. After barely surviving the brutality that was my daughter's toddler years, I had to do it again when my son reached this stage. My two kids are wildly different and, yet, so similar in how destructive each can be when they set their minds to it — including the creative, albeit frustrating, ways my kids' toddler years almost broke my marriage. Now, let me preface by saying neither child knew how awful their behavior was at the time, or the negative impact that behavior had on my relationship with my husband. Because, obviously, they're kids.
My daughter's "terrible twos" came on abruptly near the tail end of her toddler years. She wasn't 2 years old, even, but closer to 4. We thought we were in the clear, and then BOOM. Her tantrums were a regular occurrence that only seemed to increase in frequency and duration, until ultimately settling into a daily dose of snark and pre-teen backtalk. Lucky me.
Once the "worst" was over, I had my darling son. He's a rainbow baby that's been the sweetest, most thoughtful boy throughout most of his days. In the last couple years, however, he's developed a knack for ruining a perfect day with an out-of-nowhere fit. Even as I type this, he has flopped his small frame onto the floor, declaring how "terrible" his life is. I adore him and all he is, but this kid (hell, both of my kids) have put a strain on my patience and my marriage too many times to count. The following are just a few ways the toddler years tested my partner and I as parents, and as a couple. Thankfully, in the end, those years also made us stronger.
By Throwing More Fits Than We Could Handle
I don't know what wires cross in a toddler's mind that convinces them it's perfectly cool to interrupt literally anything so literally everyone has to stop and pay attention, but my kids' crossed wires worked overtime. If my son throws a tantrum, five more will follow. That's a rule. As a couple, my partner and I could only handle so many epic tantrums before we started shutting down a shutting off each other.
By Turning Us Against One Another
My daughter was, and still is, good at cross-manipulation. She's perfected the art of backstabbing one parent to get the other on her side. This attempt at complete control doesn't always work (I'm onto her), but when it does, my husband and I usually end up mad at each other and, as a result, distracted from whatever it was that our daughter did to get us there in the first place. It's diabolical.
By Clinging To One Of Us
My son has always been my little sweetie, but the times I want to snuggle with my husband are usually the times he decides I can't even breathe without him attached to me. It's a sixth sense that tells him my attention has been diverted, so he must act before I forget about him completely. This method gets old after a few hours of him hanging on me and, at the end of it, my husband and I still haven't snuggled.
By Wasting Our Time
All the arguments, tantrums, fits, and public displays of resistance have wasted so much time, it's ridiculous. While my husband and I have tried to stay on the same team, there's only so much time in a day. If we're constantly having to separate ourselves to deal with a kid's meltdown, when is there time for us?
By Physically Inserting Themselves Between Us
My son pushes himself between my husband and I on the regular. He's done it as long as he could walk. In the beginning, it was endearing to know how much he loves and wants to be with me. However, after over a year of this behavior I can confidently say I'm over it. Marriage is a garden that needs tending to. If there's rarely physical connection, because our children are constantly between us, our flowers can never grow (or sprout, or whatever).
By Pushing Us Past Our Stress Limits
Both my husband and I have a lot of responsibilities every day. Add to that a demanding toddler who won't let up and we're bound to break. We can only take so much. Many times, we've been so stressed out it's hard to not let it get between us.
By Not Sleeping
You know that time at the end of the night when the kids are fast asleep, and you and your partner decide to "connect?" Except your toddler is experiencing this thing called a sleep regression, meaning all those well-intentioned nights are put on hold again and again and again? Yeah. That's fun.
By Keeping Us From Date Nights
My partner and I used to go on dates all the time. After kids, it became less frequent due to lack of sitters and such, but we tried to connect whenever and however we could. Once our daughter was a toddler, we couldn't seem to get out of the house without her. Every time was so much of a struggle, we ended up putting them on hold completely. Things have been slightly different with our son, except most of our date nights involve our children. So, they win again.
By Dramatically Changing Our Plans
We've always had the best of intentions as parents and as a couple. The times we attempted to include our kids in something during the toddler years, have sometimes ended in a drastic change of plans due to a meltdown that couldn't be stopped. When plans change so often, and your time together revolves around parenting, it's difficult to see a way out of it. Thankfully, my kids are (mostly) out of those challenging years and my husband and I have lived to tell the tales, however scarred we may still be.