“I told you he was tricksy.  Hobbits can be very tricksy.”

–Golum’s monologue with Smeagol from The Two Towers

It’s one of my favorite lines from the Lord of the Rings.  I suspect that we have a hobbit living in our house and this recent rash of sweetness I believe is a ploy.  I am not sure to what end, but he is very tricksy, that Mr. T.  I wonder what he is up to and when the whole paradigm will shift again.

I’ve learned a little something as a father and as a parent.  That the months and years of our little boy’s life do not have as much to do with his growth and development as I thought they would.  Sure the biggies of developmental milestones like walking and talking happened on cue.  But the smaller, more subtle phases that young children experience—those that seem to sneak up on us—happen in spurts lasting sometimes just a month or even a few weeks.  I didn’t understand this at first.  The literature talks about the terrible threes which are the new terrible twos.  And sometimes it seems that that is all there is to childhood development.  They don’t tell you about the terrible eighteen months, the wretched twenty-three months and equally appauling twenty-six months. 

Our son’s teacher used to tell us that development happened in six month increments.  What we have noticed is that development, like life is a series of phases and sub-phases that appear more like contortions, eruptions and explosions and they happen all around us, all the time.  The kind of person that I am, I expect T’s behavior to be more static, maybe because life seems easier when the things in it don’t change so much from day-to-day.  I get used to the loving, sweet, polite boy and get put off balance when I get something else.  Last year I began to wonder who I was going to encounter every time I came home from work.

At times we look at him and what he may be doing at the moment, then look at each other and wonder what the f@#$?  We’re both pretty perceptive characters but it’s hard to understand what he is going through sometimes.  One week he is pure evil and the next a little angel boy.  What we have noticed is that some of his most challenging phases happen just prior to some developmental explosion—an explosion of new words, new ideas, new patterns of speech, and new behaviors. 

Just before he began to speak—not just a few words here and there but the first time he actually could tell us things in sentences—it was preceded by an unprecedented period of screaming, whining, oh-help-me-god, craziness.  And as the words began to flow out of his mouth shortly thereafter, it was clear—he had had a lot to say without the ability to say it.  It must have been the height of frustration for a little guy who desperately longed to express what was rolling around in his little brain.  Sadly, even though this little developmental cycle was clear to me at the time, it was easily forgotten at the onset of the next torturous period of his mal-behavior.

After some pretty belligerent behaviors recently, including one in which a window was broken, he’s given us a short respite.  I am at a loss to explain what he has been going through developmentally, except his assertion of independence.  Now with the onset of this bit of sweetness Darrow and I look at each other, shrug, and wonder what happened between last night and this morning.  Why does food no longer fly?  Why is the answer to every question no longer no?  Why is there suddenly this spate of cooperation?  Why does he love us again?  The unfortunate thing for him and for us, is that no one really knows how long it will all last.  I wonder sometimes if being a rabid little Hobbit or rather a Gollum is as exhausting for him as it is for us.  It makes me a little sorry for him that he feels our anger and frustration; that he senses the stress that rips through the room when he wails and thrashes about on the floor.  Milo will often race across the room, sit on our feet and shake while the T tantrums.  Sometimes we can redirect his wrath in ways that don’t wreak havoc on the house and everyone inside.  Then other times we cannot.  I wish T could realize that life is much sweeter for everyone when he is not pure evil.  But he doesn’t, he can’t.  He’s three and this is his development.

Some day soon, the tantrums will subside or at least diminish and we will be on to another phase.  Development will manifest itself in some other way.  But then it will be Lucas’ turn.  It’s all about having hobbits in the house.