I’ve gotten to a stage in my life where I don’t feel like a liar saying I’m an open book. Ask me anything and I’ll tell you what I think, even if it’s not a popular opinion, even if it’s uncomfortable. I think I’ve just gotten to a point where it’s far too exhausting not to speak my truth or own my opinions. I’d much rather people know what I’m thinking or where I stand than to come across as “hard-to-read” or ambivalent.
On the flip side, I appreciate matter of factness. I sometimes think living nine years in New York had something to do with it. I’ll go to my grave arguing that New Yorkers get a bad rap. They’re stereotyped as being mean, overly aggressive, loud, obnoxious, any number of adjectives that basically translates to people generally believing all New Yorkers go out of their way to be assholes.
(Okay, so maybe I can’t really argue that New Yorkers aren’t loud, but come on, in a city with that many people and that much traffic and that much noise, they’ve simply evolved to have a baseline volume that’s closer to rock concert than bedtime lullaby. We really can’t fault them for that, now can we?)
In my experience, New Yorkers are some of the kindest, most attentive, and most delightfully down-to-earth people I’ve met. That being said, they’re busy people, and they have a low tolerance for bullshit. They’re going to tell you exactly what they think. Direct. To the point. And then move on. Call it aggressive or abrasive if you want, but I’d choose that simple blunt honesty over an intricately choreographed dance to soften the truth any day.
We’ve got such a limited amount of time to spend on this planet–why waste it trying to be something or someone we’re not?
One of my friends texted me this week, not exactly seeking advice, but I could tell she had things weighing on her mind and that always spurs me to speak. She’s at that point in her life where she’s married, progressing well in her career, just bought her first home, and she’s thinking about kids. She understands what a monumental decision it is to bring a new little life into this world. She knows that a baby changes the course of everything.
Her text opened a vein of thoughts, so I took a few moments to type a reply.
**Disclaimer to anyone who ever decides to text me–While I use and greatly appreciate emojis, GIFs, and a well-placed meme, you will never get a short, cursory LOL, TTYL, or OMG-filled response from me. If full sentences and paragraphs via text bother you, it’s best not to engage. You’ve been warned.
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…