“He’s ONLY 2?! No way, I would have said he’s at least 4!!”
“Yep, yeah, I hear that a lot. He is, um, very big for his age…”
Well, with parents measuring in at 6″4, and 5″10, he was never destined to be small.
On the day he was born, he had already outgrown the length of his new-born onesies. By the time he was a month old, he looked at least twice his age. A sturdy little guy! At seven weeks, he was holding peoples’ playful fingers and pulling himself into a seated position, head held high.
Crawling by six months, walking by nine, this child just did not want to slow down. It’s a trajectory that’s continued, with his paediatrician confirming that at 2.5 years old, he is indeed the height of a 4 year old, and the weight of a 4.5 year old! (Perhaps it’s his diet of spinach, steak and protein powder. Maybe he is just a baby He-Man!)
But this big boy also has these big age-appropriate emotions. Much bigger emotions than himself right now, even at his above-average size. Emotions that can boil over at home, but mainly erupt in public places. Places where crowds can get the better of even the best of people. Supermarkets, shopping centres, soft play – these are all prime meltdown spots for a 2 year old tot.
But the world can be a tricky place to meander as the parent of a 2 year-old, when your 2 year-old looks more like they’re 4.
Expectations are set.
And what appears to be a hysterical 4 year old is much less forgivable than a hysterical 2 year old, right? Because “they should know better”. At least that’s how you’re made to feel by the glares and the tuts. The people who literally stop in their tracks to watch and frown at your planking toddler are just the best, right?!
Yep, the world can be a tricky place to meander, especially out at soft play when your 2 year old pushes another child. They push, because, you know, they’re 2! Physical behaviour tends to trump verbal communication when frustrations are rife at this age. You scold, you explain, you gradually teach them the ways of the world. But it happens. It’s part of the process.
It’s tricky to tread socially as a parent however, when another child’s mother comes storming over saying “excuse me, excuse me, your son is SCARING my son! He needs to learn acceptable behaviour and apologise!”
You of course apologise for your 2 year olds behaviour. You apologise that he is upsetting her actual 4 year old. You explain he is only young and still learning between right and wrong, and that he is “big for his age”. You bite your tongue and try not to cry that “It’s a hard age and a bit of patience and understanding is needed from all angles, so cut us some slack, lady! Did your son never push?!”
Of course you make an effort to capture your tot and get him to apologise too, but in those minutes that have passed, he’s already guilty of a number of other toddler atrocities against humanity. You’re literally not even sure he knows what he is apologising for. The words “I’m sowweey” are spoken, and off he hops to wreak havoc elsewhere…because he is 2, and that is EXACTLY what soft play is for.
Yes, it’s a rough road to ride when every direction you turn, you’re made to feel that there is something “wrong” with your child. That at age 2 he should be perfectly capable of settling into day-care. He is big, and that makes him “too attached” because he cries for his Mummy.
That “he looks like he should be in school already” and should therefore have the mental capacity of a school-age child. That “big boys don’t cry”. That “big boys don’t need to be carried”. That as a mother of a bigger tot, you should somehow detach yourself, simply because his genetics have made him a bit less physically delicate than the other kids.
Well, the truth is that big boys do cry. And big girls – especially Mummies – cry too. Because at such a young age, you can already see how tough the world is going to be with its sky-high expectations. You can feel all the cruel things and judgmental words that are going to be spoken to your child from a young age. You worry that he is going to get a complex. That because his friends are small, their behaviour is somehow “cute”, but because he is big, he is “the naughty one” or “the problem one”.
Indeed you sometimes feel like making badges for him to wear that say “I’m only 2, please be kind to me and my Mummy”. But you worry, too, that by constantly defending him and using the word “only” that you’ll somehow hold him back. Because really, his desire to play with older kids that are his own physical size is a positive thing. That the fact he tells people “I’m 3!” is just another one of his quirks that continues to drive him forward in this world. That his physical size is one day likely to be a very big benefit to him in whatever path his life takes (rugby player, perhaps?)
But for now, the big boy and the baby in him are still colliding. Because as the mother of a big toddler, you still like to dress him in his cute baby-bodysuits for bed because he looks so cute. You still put nappies on him to go out, because he’s not quite there with the potty yet. You still sing him lullabies and cuddle him to sleep, because there is still so much baby in him, and because this baby still needs his Mummy for comfort. In such a judgemental world he needs the cuddles more than ever, and so do you.
So you’ll let him grow and develop at his own speed. And you’ll continue to listen to him – his wants, his needs, his age-related fears. And you’ll continue to be there and have his back against all the people who seem to think it’s appropriate to pass mean comments, or stand and scowl. You’ll do this, because as a mother of a big toddler, you know he is learning. You know he is on track. And you know he is perfect. And so are you.