I have come to the conclusion that it is not necessarily your own two-year-old that turns your hair white, but other people's two-year-olds.
As parents of toddlers, it's our duty to take the little monsters out to stay-and-play groups, so they can cover themselves in paint, glue sequins into their own hair and, most importantly, socialise with other children of the same age and essentially begin the process of learning how to be a civilised human being.
But it can be very hard to endure the terrible misbehaviour of other people's kids, all the while obeying the Unspoken Rule that we never, ever tell each other's children off. Who made that rule up?!
Anyway, it was with tightly gritted teeth and a forced smile that I watched a two-year-old boy repeatedly throw plastic balls at my daughter's head. After the fifth one had bounced off her temple (she was starting to look a bit sad) and my eyes boring into the head of his chattering mother had finally taken effect, she said: "Lucifer,* don't throw things, darling!" and turned away again. At which point he threw a ball at my head.
So, what to do? His mum hadn't see him do it. I could sense that my daughter, already armed, was thinking maybe she could get away with throwing a ball at my head as well.
I am ashamed to say that I threw a ball at the boy's mother's head, missed, and then pretended I had been trying to return it to the ball pit. I have consoled myself with the idea that it's probably okay, because neither of the children saw me do it (they were snarling at each other), it was not the first time I had seen this little boy acting aggressively without any interception whatsoever from his mum, and it was definitely better than throwing a ball at the boy's head, which I am fairly sure would be considered child abuse. Knowing I could have dealt with the situation in a somewhat more mature manner, I mentally gave myself the talk about not throwing things even when you feel very frustrated.
We walked home chatting about how clever Ava was for not retaliating and I realised I had taken two things from the experience:
1. I decided that, from then on, I would be the mummy who breaks the Unspoken Rule (my version of a more mature response). It can be hard having a two-year-old who pushes all the boundaries, and perhaps some mums get de-sensitised to their bad behaviour, but if a child does wrong SOMEONE should tell them off, even if it's not their mum; and
2. If that doesn't work, I will need to improve my aim.
*name changed to protect child's identity.
Related content: When is it OK to discipline someone else's child?