There is a reason that this time is commonly called The Terrible Twos. It's a hard time to be a parent. It's also a hard time to be a toddler. There's just so much going on in their tiny heads that they occasionally just lose their cool. O.K. fine - more than occasionally. Some days I really hate it that my job is to be the 'grown up' and stay calm. Some days I am unable to perform my job and I throw a toddler sized temper tantrum myself.
Still, I've chosen not to refer to it as The Terrible Twos. I feel like it's a self-fulfilling prophecy to do so. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's loud. Yes, I feel like I may not be up to the challenge some days. But I'm not willing to simply say 'there's no way around it, it's just going to be awful, so put on your helmet and hope it ends soon.' That's not what I believe. I believe (and I fervently hope) that while this is a part of parenting that I really wish I could opt out of, it is also an opportunity for incredible wonderment and joy... if only I can stay calm...
My daughter has exhibited more mental growth in the past few weeks than I would have thought humanly possible. From enhanced vocabulary to a startlingly clear recall (often of things I was unaware I had said!), she blows us away every day. It's exhausting. She's worn out. I'm worn out. We're like two limp dishrags - no drive, no spark.
Between the heat and our attitudes, it has been harder than usual to leave the house. We used to bounce out of bed, eat breakfast then jump into clothes and start our day. Lately, we wake up late, stagger out of bed, Lily Ruth announces that she wants to stay home then she starts listing the movies that she wants to watch. My attempts to cajole her into motion are met with tears and high-pitched wails. My attempts to order her into motion are met with shrieks and slammed doors.
Today is a prime example. Now, while my Darling Daughter did manage to take one of my pleas to heart, she did so in what I would consider a half-assed way. Since she's not a teenager yet, this came as a surprise. Yesterday I told her (for the billion-th) that I didn't like waking up to whining. I let her know that it would feel much better to me if she said nice things like 'good morning, Mama! I'm so glad to see you!' instead of whining 'I'm hungry' or 'I want out of here!' This morning she managed 'Mama, I'm awake' in a neutral tone. Since there was no whining, I decided to count it as a win. While nothing overtly awful happened after that, it was the last win for a while. Every. little. thing. is a battle right now. Bath, clothes, food, shoes, getting in the car. Each step is like pulling teeth. If I agree with her, she cries. If I disagree with her, she cries. If I offer her a choice, she refuses to speak to me. And I wonder why I'm so wiped out every day...
Yet these incredibly dragged-out days of stubborn craziness are filled with moments of ridiculous happiness. There's the girl who asked politely for her sunglasses, then wore them to push her doll on the 'big girl' swing (before having a full blown melt down in the library):
There's also the girl who woke up from her nap and wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her day snuggled into her Mama... and the Mama who wanted nothing more than to hold her big girl close.
Oh, and the girl who (completely unprompted) shouted 'BAD CHOICE, DADDY!!!' then collapsed into giggles after her dad chose to check the college football replay before joining her in the pool.
Let's not forget the girl who sings the theme to The Muppet Show in the cutest monotone drawl you've ever heard.
Or the angel who just laughed her way down the hall to read stories with her 'Dahd'.
It's those happy interludes that I'm working on keeping in the front of my mind. Especially during days like today when my greatest urge is to go back to bed... or cry... or both... because it really is still worth it. Every minute of it. Reading over this post, I'm struck by the almost audible hum of my frustration. My nearly palpable sense of need. This is a phase. It will pass. Not that the next phase will be any easier, but it will be different. Mostly, I need a little perspective, a deep breath and some sleep. Not only can I do this, but I'm honored to do so.
Still, if you have a spare case of patience just gathering dust in your garage, please send it my way. I will also graciously accept donations of stylish clothing, money or alcohol. Thank you in advance for your support.