Sunday, July 1, 2007

The So-Not-Terrible Twos

When people ask how old Amado is, and we answer that he's two, the response is a blend of sympathy and what seems like a shudder or recollection. "Oh, two is such a hard age! The Terrible Twos!" But its funny because though it seems like they are remembering their kid at two, it seems more like they are reiterating what we as a broader society feel about caring for (managing?) two year olds.

The terrible twos. I guess its because at 2, these little people are really coming into their own. Amado's two most repeated refrains these days are "mio hacer" (i'll do it) or "solo" (I can do it by myself). Of course there are hard moments when what we think is possible for him and what he thinks is possible for him are at odds (for example, he want to jump into the pool alone, as opposed into one of our arms. um, yeah right, kid.) But man, how amazing to watch this little person who sees himself as capable of anything. He is not too small, not too short, not too weak, not too young. He wakes up in the morning and he sees possibilities. He has will like you wouldn't believe. He is his own person. He may not want to go when its time to go, he may not want to stop playing when its time for a diaper change, he may have different plans that what we have on the agenda, but man, you really gotta respect that. And Im sure these other parents felt the same way about their kids when they had two year olds. But its funny, we are told "the two's" are terrible, so we call them terrible. The Terrible Twos - its a phrase everyone knowingly nods when they hear. "Oh yeah, the Terrible Twos". Yup.

I am reading a book called "The Emotional Life of the Toddler" and it talks about how toddlerhood is a constant pull between asserting independence and the need for a secure base. And its a constant tension for the kids and its a constant tension for the adults. And one place you can take it is frustration, "man, why wont he do what he is supposed to" but another place you can take it is to admire what it means for these little people to be defining themselves, and to always be that secure place that they can come home to, after venturing out to assert their independence.

This age is about asserting who he is. Testing him limits. Trying new things. Being who he is. Identifying himself as a real person, not just an appendage of Jason and me. He is working so hard these days, working hard at Being Amado. And that may be different that what we had planned for him, it may happen on a different timeline than we had our watch set to. But he is becoming himself. The wonderful, fantastic, magical Twos.

The first few times it happened, I didnt know how to respond.
"Two?" they said.
"Oh, god, two is so hard! The terrible twos! Watch out!"
I was like, "Um, what? Have you met my kid?"

But now I know to expect it.
"How old is he?"
"Two! Man,its so much fun!"
"Oh, um yeah!" they say, skeptical, but smiling.

And at night, before I climb in bed, I sit on the edge of it and look at him. It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust, to see where he starts and ends and where the blanket is. I look at this little-big lovely warm soft baby-kid sleeping in his crib, rythmically breathing in-and-out, and I just want to hold him, bury my nose in his warm neck, wrap my arms around his little waist. Each night, I consider it. Can I move him into the bed without waking him? I know that I will wake up in two hours with his feet on my cheek and an hour after that with his one finger in my mouth and another in my nose. But I still consider it.

I decide no. Soon enough it will be 5am, and he will be standing up at the edge of his crib, calling for us gently, asking to be brought into bed with us for his last 2 hours of sleep. Its not just those few hours of precious kid-free sleep I am choosing, it is an attempt to also respect that he is in process of growing apart from me. It sounds so sad to say it that way, but its true. There are moments I yearn to turn back the clock, to start over, to grow him inside of me once again and relive, relove all those amazing moments. But I know that now my job is to allow him to be him. Toddlerhood is hard on the mamas, I think, because we are continually confronted with the fact that they are their own people. So when Im frustrated that he doesnt want to get his shirt on, or doesnt want to leave the park, or wants to bang my computer with his dumptruck, I gotta ask myself. Am I frustrated at him and what he is doing, or am I maybe a little sad that he is not a swaddled baby laying in my lap? Two years old. I guess we are both growing up a little bit at a time.

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