Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What I Love About Toddlerdom

My daughter turned two in December, and I braced myself for the "terrible twos."

Trust me. I know how they got this reputation. There are times when her ability to express herself is inadequate and she becomes so overwhelmed that she absolutely melts down into a fit of crazy. There is no predicting when this might occur, unless it is bedtime; then it is a certainty.

And sure, she takes forty-five minutes to climb down the stairs, won't let me help her with her coat (and proceeds to wear it upside down), puts her shoes on the wrong feet and screams if I try to fix them, looks at me defiantly and dumps her plate on the floor after I have the audacity to not take it away the moment she says "I done," and absolutely tortures the dog.

These things are challenging. I'm not denying that, and if you catch me in the right moment, I'll probably have the wild look of a captured animal in my eyes, the sheer exhaustion of wrestling her to sleep overwhelming me so much that the thought of spending the few quiet moments of the evening doing anything other than falling into bed is out of the question.

Still--even with all of that--this is my favorite age (you know, so far).

1) Even the hard times are good signs. 

Yes, my child insists on wearing her shoes on the wrong feet and might have a thirty minute breakdown over the fact that her cup lid is the wrong color, but beneath the crazy is a shimmer of her future: a strong, independent future.

All of that passion comes from her trying to figure out her world and how she fits in it. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing her realize that she has control over who she is.

I took her to the children's museum the other day. The last time we were there, I wouldn't let her climb the beanstalk because it was a weekend and really busy. I was afraid she wouldn't be able to do it on her own and would get stuck in there with a crowd of bigger kids. But the last time we were there, it was a weekday and empty. She asked to climb. I let her.

She didn't quite make it all the way down. A particularly far drop intimidated her, and I had to climb up and guide her feet to the next step, but she was so damn proud of herself when she got out. "Mommy, I climbed the leaf all by self!" All of that defiance is setting her up to be a strong person, the type of person she'll need to be to tackle the world ahead of her, and I'm hopeful. 

2) She's so funny!

I'm obviously biased, but this kid is hilarious. She tells jokes. She has timing and delivery down. She loves to make us laugh. Sure, sure, even at one year old (or two days old, for that matter) she was adorable and I was filled with overwhelming love for her, but I have to admit that it's only now, as her personality flourishes and grows, that I can say I absolutely like spending time with her, like, as a person, not just as an extension of my own self, my own flesh. 

Seeing her interact with the world around her reminds me to take the time to think about how I interact with the world around me, too. She's got this entire lifetime of finding her own style, making people laugh, making friends. I feel honored to be someone who gets to guide that journey. That might sound too touchy-feely, but it's true. 

3) I get to share my world. 

I have already started debating with myself what the appropriate age is for introducing her to all of my favorite things. Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Eight year olds can watch that, right?  The City Museum (for you non-St. Louisans, this is the best place ever. You should visit.)? I don't know. Five? The Beatles? The Last Unicorn? Totally fair game already. 

This doesn't always work out, though. Here's a conversation we had in the car:
Her: "Mommy, want to listen music."
Me: (Gesturing at the CD player while Bob Dylan is playing.) "This is music!"
Her: (sadly) "This not music."
What a hater. 

But in addition to getting to share my world with her, I get to share hers, too. Here she is reading (more or less) Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?:

So, maybe this post is just an excuse to gush about how awesome my kid is, but I also want to remind other people how awesome your kids are, too, especially if you're about to hit the bedtime meltdown in an hour. 

If you're a parent, what age is your kid(s)? What's the best part of it? 

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