We have two main traditions in our family: milkshakes on Christmas Eve and, when the weather cools in October, a trip to a local pumpkin patch. Here is my two-year-old enjoying being outside. He was really into sitting on pumpkins and looking cool with my sunglasses on.
I just attempted to do a YouTube yoga workout for moms and toddlers. The mom and toddler in the video were serene and cute, whereas I was falling over most of the time, and my kid spent the first half looking upside down at me saying, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy,” and the second half sitting on me, trying to pull me back up, climbing on my back, and finally, when he could bear no more, lying face down on the ground and saying, “This is the worst. God.”
I took my two-year-old for a well visit today. I always get kind of anxious during the part where the nurse asks questions about development. Does he throw a ball? Does he respond to his name? I can’t explain why, but I always have this minor fear that he won’t be doing something “normal,” like that time she asked if he blows kisses at nine or twelve months, and I thought, I’ve never blown a kiss to him! How would he know that?
Maybe this explains why I became a smug little shit when she asked, “Does he know fifty words?” and “Does he put two words together?” I made this little sound, a kind of righteous scoff, and told her, “He uses coordinating conjunctions. So yeah.”
He is “perfectly normal,” the doctor said of his height and weight. Which is what every parent basically wants to hear, at least as a baseline. He is right at the 50th percentile, not extraordinarily tall or short.
During the whole visit, my kid said only one word: No.
I used to bristle when people assumed, because he doesn’t say hello or goodbye on command and gives strangers a death stare, that he wasn’t talking yet. At home, with people he knows, he talks a lot. He uses compound-complex sentences. He knows the names of at least as many kitchen gadgets as I do. He can identity about fifty animals, maybe more. After reading a book a couple times, he starts filling in end rhymes.
A woman in the waiting room spoke up during a lull while my kid was sitting in every chair in the waiting room to say, “I don’t even know why people get Dr. Seuss books for little kids. They’re so long. No two-year-old has that attention span.” And I nodded and said, “Oh, for sure.” I didn’t say my kid regularly requests The Cat in the Hat, two or three times in a row.
When I take him shopping, if we pass close to another shopper, he says, “Oh, sorry.”
I am always apologizing. I see that with clarity now.
When my kid talks to his stuffed animals, he says, “Aw, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” He tells me, out of the blue sometimes, “I’m okay. I’m okay.”
I get anxious about the nurse’s development questions because I feel like a “wrong” answer is a reflection of me, of my parenting. What if he can’t really jump off the ground? What does that say about me? Should I be creating obstacle courses to foster jumping? Should I bring him around other kids who jump? Should we read books about jumping? It’s exhausting.
At the end of the interrogation, I get to say, “Oh, he knows much more than fifty words. He uses coordinating conjunctions.” So there.
On this, the eve of my son’s second birthday party, I am reminded of his first few months. Most of the parents I talk to, whether new or old, say infant/toddler growth happens quickly—too quickly. They plump up, they get teeth, they roll over and crawl and pull up and walk, and they fall, and they fall, and the next thing you know, they can open the silverware drawer and come running into the living room with knives. Some parents I talk to say things like, “They grow so fast!” and “Uh-oh, you’re in trouble when he starts walking.”
My son’s first few months were a blur of screaming and an ever-present sense of panic. He wasn’t unhealthy, though he had some physical ailments. So did I. Breastfeeding was such a challenge that I began counting the days until he could be fed solids, until he could take a bottle with less risk of nipple confusion, until I could leave him for longer than an hour. He had colic. He was/is “high need.”
I fell in love with him for real, for the first time, when he laughed. I felt closer to him when he could interact with me, when he started to look like me. His first attempts at words bowled me over with pride—and relief. He was happier and easier with every milestone, especially walking and talking. I spent so much time when he was a baby waiting for motherhood to let me breathe… The things other parents didn’t want to pass, the things they mindlessly told me to cherish, were the very things I hardly missed as he outgrew them. Each new stage, though they all come as a mixed bag, meant my kid had a little more independence, which meant I could too. I am far more comfortable with toddler tantrums than I was with colicky screaming, and I’m pretty sure that’s because now he is communicating clearly, if somewhat irrationally, whereas infant crying feels so mystifying and one-sided and overwhelming.
At two, my son has conversations with me about animals, swimming, recycle trucks, his birthday cake. He likes to affirm everyone for everything. (“Good job singing!” “Really good walk!” “I love that book!” “Good job watching West Wing.”) He recites parts of his favorite books. (“There’s a clatter in the tree.”) He loves all animals, but especially bears, hedgehogs, meerkats, and goats. He likes to hug my waist while he rides in a shopping cart and says, “Aaw. Sweet Mommy.” He likes to make up stories.
In some ways, he still takes up as much of my energy as he did two years ago, but now, he replenishes it with his curiosity, his sense of humor, his sweetness, and how he loves so many things that I love too. So, instead of worrying about the fact that he can now unlock and open all the doors and run out of the house, I’m looking forward to all the new experiences Year Three has in store for us. Bring it on.