He's teething. He must be going through a growth spurt. He's overtired. I think he's got a cold coming. There are a million and one reasons why your toddler could be behaving in a less than charming way on any particular occasion but the truth is - you'll never really know.
Parenthood, no matter how many books you read, websites you browse and friends you consult with, is largely guess work. There'll be good days and bad, some will be very, very, very bad and the reason why is locked away in your little person's brain.
The terrible twos are called that for a reason, they're pretty damn awful. A few minutes of web research and you know you're not alone. I found this article on the Mayo Clinic website which explains it all very well as the "...struggle between their [toddlers] reliance on adults and their desire for independence." It goes on to mention the massive social, emotional and motor changes they are going through at this age ... and it all makes perfect sense.
It's not personal, they can't help it. However, it's hard not to feel upset when your child is screaming "GO AWAY MUMMY" at the top of their lungs or having a fit because they "Want nail back on... WAHHHH!!!!" after asking you to bite it off a few seconds before (yes this did happen last week!)
Tantrums, mood swings and tears (most of the tears will be yours) as your cute little baby develops a voice, a personality and a mind of his or her own.
Some days my two year old is delightful; chatting away, full of good humour, cheeky and loving. Other day's he's not. For whatever reason some days are a whirlwind of emotional melt-downs, irrational demands and lashing out.
Yesterday was one such day. I told our son we were visiting a friend and her daughter, he's been asking to go to "Bicky's" house for a month since the last time we visited, yet yesterday he said "NO MUMMY. I want to play in my home. NO!"
I explained that our friend Vicky and her little girl were expecting us and that there would be lots of things to do there; they have lots of pets which he loves and of course that elusive cat-nip for toddlers - lots of toys that are different from your own toys so therefore extremely exciting.
I knew it was going to be one of those days. For the last three months he's been an exceptionally fussy eater and yesterday he flatly refused cereal, toast, cheese ... just demanding "MOOT TIME PLEASE!" which is milk. Also, he had earlier in the week developed an aversion to wearing trousers. PJ's fine, trousers "NO!" I managed to get him, screaming and struggling, into a pair of jeans. He ripped at his legs as if I'd wrapped him in flaming rags, until I relented and took them off.
I asked if he'd like to come upstairs and choose a pair of trousers, I know toddlers like to be in charge so thought giving him a choice would make him feel empowered. This didn't work either. Eventually I negotiated him into a pair of jogging bottoms, a T-shirt and his shoes and packed a bag ready to set out.
I strapped him in his pushchair and we left the house. I stupidly went past the new toy-shop in the high-street. "Mummy I buy new toy?" I said no and he started screaming. It's actually a really good shop which sells nearly new toys, so ideal if you want to buy a little car or teddy but are short on cash, however today was not the day and we were already late.
"Later, we go later" I eventually relented after he started ripping at his pushchair straps trying to get out. We arrived at my friends hot and sweaty but pretty much on time but unfortunately she was running late so we waited in the front garden, my son getting more and more upset "We got inside now Mummy!? Wahhhh".
Eventually my friend arrived and we began a less than relaxing few hours. The children wouldn't share, there was a heated altercation over a oversized teddy bear and my son started to whine "Want go home now? Go toy-shop now?"
So we left, this would have usually be the time when he fell asleep but he's been skipping a few daytime naps recently; often going without sleep all day only to crash unexpectedly at 4pm. Unfortunate.
We neared the toy shop and so I resigned myself to buying him a new toy, well nearly new, and we spent a pleasant 20 minutes choosing an item.
I hoped on leaving the shop he would to sleep. Nope. Got him home and made some pasta for lunch which was flatly refused "I have cereal bath??" (cereal bar). Aggggh.
The afternoon went from bad to worse; my parents took us out to a local shopping centre to look around. He wanted to go and get a drink in the cafe. We got to the cafe, he downed his drink and then ran off - wanting to do something else.
He fussed, he didn't want to get back into the car seat, he screamed, he sat on the floor, he cried, he crashed at 4.30pm. The end of a less than perfect day. Luckily he slept through till 5am.
Today has been a different story. Despite the 5am wake up call he's been a joy. He woke up in a delightful mood. He ate a bowl of cereal and I managed to get him dressed with the minimum of fuss.
We walked around to a friends house, he played nicely with her children. We came back, he had lunch, we walked to the shops, he fell asleep in his buggy and is now having a nice middle of the day nap.
Yesterday I was on the verge of tears, ready to throw in the towel. Today I feel bustling yet serene - like one of the mum's in the adverts, I've even managed to put on some make-up.
When he wakes it could be a different story. Like I said there are good days and bad days, and like with any job sometimes you'll feel unappreciated, overworked and underpaid. On the good days there are rewards beyond measure. Just keep going.