23/05/2012 11:07 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Terrible Twos: Fire In Her Belly

Toddler tantrum Rex

The funny thing about the name of this column is that Ruby has never really been very Terrible at all. As far as big tantrums go, hers have been so few and far between I could probably count them on, oh I don't know, half a hand.

Sure, Ru gets the grumps every so often – tiredness and hunger the two biggest culprits for lowering her mood. But as she seemingly eats every hour and a half, and she sleeps for a good two hours at lunchtime, she pretty much has it sussed.

Ruby's placid personality has made me feel very fortunate at times. I've met a couple of other mums whose Terrible Twos pull wobblies every other day – the sorts of wobblies that see them rolling around on the floor, screaming, going purple and trying to bite the carpet. Very distressing for all concerned.

But while we've never endured tantrums with any regularity, we did, a couple of weeks ago, face Ruby's biggest hissy fit yet. And wowsers...

It was bed time. Ru was absolutely exhausted after a Saturday of frolicking and, though she had eaten plenty (as usual), she'd had too little sleep during the day. I guess adrenaline had kicked in and while, to me, it seemed obvious that snoozing would solve everything, she had other ideas which she was hysterically attempting to convey.

"Really Ru, it's bed time now, we've already had three stories and..."


"Darling, you need to..."

"NNNNNNO!" Oh cripes, she was going purple.

"Come on, let's have a cuddle and you can lie down and..."

And now she was really screaming: "NNNNNNNNO MUMMY! DON'T LIKE LIE DOWN, MORE STOOOOORY"

Heavens. It went on and on, for more than an hour. I'd made six attempts and I was at a loss. When I was in the room, Ruby was losing the plot – cuddles weren't working, she wanted me nowhere near her unless I had a book in my hand, but she was too out of control to listen. And each time I left the room, blowing kisses, and closing the door softly, her rage turned to heartbreak. She was not shouting but sobbing.

Seventh time lucky, I took a deep breath and went back in again. Ignoring Ru's flailing hands as she tried to reach the book shelf, I held her tight. She pushed at me, so I held tighter. And just as I was about to give up (worrying I was holding her TOO tight and exhausted from her pummelling), I felt her relax. I kept hugging, she gave in a little more and so I sat down and cradled her. I did wonder if it was a ruse, if she was about to leap up and grab The Hungry Caterpillar and beat me around the head with it. But she didn't, so I softly counted to 10.

At five, her eyes were rolling. At eight, they were closed. And at 10, her breathing had deepened. One very trembly intake of breath later, her body was heavy and she was fast asleep.

It hit me then how Ruby's long legs, which were flopping off my lap, belie just how little she still is. At two-and-a-half, she can already (normally) be reasoned with to a degree.


But she's still a baby in so many ways and she's still learning to reason with herself; this was an occasion when she just needed her mummy to take control of the inexplicable anger in her belly and squeeze it into the shape of an all encompassing hug.


For a minute there, as I sat watching the fire retreat from my little bundle's cheeks, Ru looked just like she did when she was born. And as I wiped all that salty fury away from her eyes, I cried.

I think I was a bit tired, too.