This morning Liv woke up, slipped out of bed, padded across our apartment to our room and to my side of the bed. It took all of my strength to will my eyes open and muster a smile.
"Mom," she whispered, "there'sth a dinosthaur in my room!"
Liv is two years old. She has grown several inches in the last few months and multiple times a day, I am startled by what I see behind her beautiful, wide-set eyes. She understands the world around her. Interprets it. Mimics it. And feels it.
It makes me wonder if we're too quick to call the two's terrible.
I mean, I get it. It's a hard age. The two's are the first time that our adorable, dream-fulfilling progeny have enough in their knowledge arsenal to turn on us, and they do. It's the first time that we see, with consistency, that they, too, are real sinners. I'm not trying to be harsh or overly dramatic here, I'm just saying that they do what they shouldn't and leave undone that which they should do. Like the rest of us.
And that's hard on us as parents, and it's frustrating. My mom called last week, and she'd barely said hi before I unloaded my frustration with how quickly Liv had dissolved into tears over silly things all day long. "No, Liv, you can't lick the oven door. No, you can't jump off the kitchen island. No, you can't run with scissors." I send her to the couch in our bedroom when she's crying unnecessarily, and I swear she'd spent half the day sitting in there. I was exhausted from feeling like I was breaking her heart all day long.
I've referenced the book The Scientist in the Crib before, and I definitely recommend it. Something I read in it has stuck with me and helped me give me an extra dose of patience on days when my tank feels empty. The authors explained that right around this age, kids start to feel things differently. Like a pre-teen, they don't always know how to handle the frequent floods of emotion.
These new waves of feelings are usually what lead to the break-downs and tantrums, but they also enable changes that are quite beautiful. Kids this age become a little bit more self-aware, and with that they realize for the first time that not everyone feels the same way they do. They can be happy, and know that someone else is sad. They can feel sympathy, and maybe even empathy. One of the authors of The Scientist told a story of when her little boy was about the same age as Liv. She was a single mom, trying to balance being an up-and-coming researcher with being a good mom, housekeeper, cook, and so on. She got home at the end of a particularly demanding day and realized she'd forgotten to get the chicken out to thaw for dinner. She slumped down on the couch and started to cry. Her son saw her, ran to the bathroom, and came back with a band-aid. He put it on her knee, and said, "It okay now Mommy."
So the two's aren't all terrible. They are difficult, yes, and like I said, it's not all fairies and unicorns all the time over here. But taking the time to dig past what Liv's doing to why she's doing it has really helped me enjoy this last year.
And she does some pretty awesome things.
Like wearing shoes all day long, even to bed, and changing them 7-10 times a day.
She's incredibly imaginative. There is usually a dragon or dinosaur in her room and my bed is apparently her castle. She is quick to "shh" us and turn off the light when her baby doll is asleep. Or when her monkey is asleep. Or her Tickle-Me-Elmo. Today she told me she needed her "magic wand," and when I didn't know what she was talking about, she said "Wight Dere! My magic wand straw."
She's been carrying around a green eraser for months. I'm not even sure where she got it anymore, but she will protect that thing like her life depends on it. Sometimes she pretends it's an iPhone and asks if we want to watch the "peetar" video on it. (She's talking about the cover of the Gotye song where 5 people play one guitar.)
She brings me goggles and asks me to put them on, then declares herself a superhero.
She loves playing hide & seek. And by that I mean she loves telling me where to hide, then counting to three, and then "finding me." The way she hides when it's her turn is so cute it hurts. I feel actual pain when I walk in and find her half-covered by a quilt, convinced she's invisible.
Last week we were in Charleston, and one day we went shopping. Duff and I decided that before we left, we'd let the girls ride one of those kid merry-go-round rides. Eliza was not super impressed, but when we put Liv on it and she started moving, her face was unforgettable. She was SO thrilled. The ride was about a minute long and after 30 seconds or so, it hit me that this would probably not end well. I warned Duff, and as the music ended and the ride slowed to a stop, Liv burst into tears because it was over.
So the two's are not easy. They are exhausting in ways I often can't anticipate until seconds before an eruption. They are the hardest age yet.
But terrible? I don't think so. There's too much beauty here to call them that.
Cross-posted at www.table-for-3.com