I think one of the biggest childrearing myths is what people refer to as the “Terrible Twos”.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the word “terrible” just doesn’t quite cover it.
Sure, it’s an extremely challenging age and the temper tantrums can drive you to the very brink of insanity, but there are also moments of pure joy, lots of laughter, and days that I would like to freeze in time and replay over and over and over again.
Living with a 2-year-old is not terrible…well, not all the time. It’s sort of like finding an absolutely perfect little chunk of land–beautiful scenery, amazing neighbors, close to all of your favorite restaurants and entertainment–and then discovering that you just built your dream house on top of an active volcano. You have to be constantly on guard. There are always little fires to put out and, even on a good day, there is always the threat of danger lurking just beneath the surface.
See, the thing about 2-year-olds is that, at any other age, they would indisputably be diagnosed as suffering from a severe combination of multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, narcolepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder, anger issues, and narcissistic personality disorder. Hell, at any other age they would likely just be considered a danger to themselves and society and be locked up. They are little ticking emotional time bombs. One minute they’re bubbly and smiling and charming every person in the room with their sweetness. The next minute you’re wondering if you need to call a priest to perform an exorcism before the screaming little banshee who is now foaming at the mouth and writhing on the floor in front of you manages to scare any other shoppers out of the cereal aisle.
And all you can hope is that the employees watching it all unfold on the security cameras are having a good laugh at your expense.
Yet, in spite of the tantrums and the sudden emergence of the word “No!” at the top of my own personal Things That Piss Me Off the Most list, I have to say, 2 is a pretty cool age.
At this point, Cadence’s personality is absolutely her own, and it’s fun to watch her already beginning to carve her own little place in the world. She loves movies and can recite lines from her favorites. She loves baseball–watching the Mets at home with her Daddy and going to Husker games with her Grandma Jayne and Papa Duane. She’s fearless, spunky, and wickedly funny. Her Daddy taught her to fart and then point at someone else and say “You fart!” which she thinks is hilarious. And we think it’s hilarious that it’s now become “You stinky fart! Ewww!”
We can’t wait for the call we’re inevitably going to get from her preschool teacher for that one.
She’s also wickedly smart, which can be both a good and a bad thing since she’s still at an age where she lives purely by impulse instead of reason. She loves music and art. She loves to color and draw, and carries a notebook around with her to write in. She loves playing the piano and Daddy’s new practice drum kit. And she sings along to dozens of different songs. No Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Itsy Bitsy Spider for Cadence. She likes Sugarland’s Stuck Like Glue and Karmin’s Brokenhearted and the Family Guy theme instead. And these days, she’s got some pretty sweet dance moves these days, courtesy of watching Dancing with the Stars on Monday nights with her Momma and Daddy.
I’m slowly learning that this volatile stage of development is just as important for parents as it is for the 2-year-olds themselves. See, it’s this point, during these Terrible Twos, that you are really molded into the type of parent you’re likely to be for the rest of your life. Are you going to pick your battles, or insist on always being right and having the last word? Are you going to let your children explore and fall down and learn from their experiences, or are you going to constantly hover and shelter them and tell them no. Are you going to worry and fret that the house isn’t spotless, or are you going to get down on the floor and play and make a few messes yourself? Are you going to let yourself get caught up in the tantrums and scream back louder, or are you going to take a deep breath, wait for the storm to pass, and help your children understand their sometimes overwhelming emotions? Are you going to hug and kiss and tell your children that you love them and that you’re proud of them every chance you get, or are you going to just assume that they know?
Parenting is trial and error. No one has the perfect answer. There is no handbook, no instruction manual, no magical formula that can guarantee you will all come out of it unscathed. But you can try. You can do your best. You can learn from the mistakes, and show your children that life is not about perfection. It’s about finding the beauty in the imperfections, and finding your own way in the chaos.
Here are just a few recent photos of my own little chaos maker…