Curious J is now 2.25 years old, and by definition as well as action, she is squarely in the throes of two-hood. This is my first time experiencing a true two year old. My older daughter never went through “terrible two’s” or “terrible three’s” or anything like that. When Lyd was young, she was, in many ways, a model child. She was so easy to handle that I figured I was a superb mother, and I secretly looked down on other people whose children were less behaved than my child. Of course, God has a sense of humor, and my second child has knocked me off my self-appointed pedestal and put me on a level playing field with all other mothers. (And, Lyd has begun to demonstrate some odd quirks of her own that leave me mightily perplexed, so apparently she’s just a normal kid, too.)
So, I have this daughter who is thoroughly two, and my goodness, can she be exasperating! I’m amazed at how quickly her mood can change from fair to foul, how unexpectedly she will start to hit a fellow creature whom she deems to have wronged her in some way (even if it’s just another two year old standing next to her in music class – yikes!) She can be loud (so loud!) for no apparent reason and at inappropriate times, such as church. (Sigh.) A perceived wrong can cause her to fling herself to the floor in despair, or (if she’s sitting in a chair) throw her head back and howl, reminiscent of Charlie Brown on the comic strip “Peanuts.”
But, at two, she has an incredible capacity to learn, and I am amazed practically every day at what she remembers. For example, we’ve been working on the “No screaming” thing recently, and as I’m typing this, J is sitting next to me “reading” a book. As part of her “reading,” she screamed softly, and then said, “no screaming” before I even realized what was happening. She’s obviously working this out in her mind, and she’s learning.
Also, this morning she noticed the two decorative snowmen figurines that grace the windowsill of our kitchen table area. She promptly said, “snowman,” and despite having not heard the song for over a month, she began singing “Frosty the Snowman.” Another singing development is that yesterday afternoon, I noticed her singing a new song that I introduced in music class that day. We only sang through it 2 or 3 times in class, and yet she was repeating it back four hours later, unprompted by anything! I started to actually sing the song with her, it’s in a “call and response” format, and J instantly started singing the response part — and even on the correct note! I’m not surprised that her musical development is so strong, but still, it’s interesting for me to observe it.
Curious J imitates everyone, but especially her big sister. Whatever Lyd does, that’s what she wants to do, too. She’s good enough at sharing now that when Lyd has something J wants, I have to facilitate it so that both girls get equal turns. For bette or for worse, when J was younger and wanted something her big sister had, we told Lyd to just let her have it, knowing that her attention span was short and she’d soon forget about it. Well, those days have come to an end, because J can sit and read a book or do an activity for extended periods of time now. So last night, as the girls fought over the new “Thomas the Tank Engine” book that J got for Christmas, I monitored turns in three-minute increments. J threw a complete fit while waiting for her turn, which made me wonder if I should give her some sort of consequence for fussing so strongly. However, to my utter surprise, once it was J’s turn with the book, she walked over to Lyd with the book in her hand, opened her arms to her sister and said, “I sorry.” !!!!! Yes, we’ve been working on saying “sorry” lately, but this unprompted but aptly applied apology just knocked my socks off. Lyd graciously accepted the apology, as well as the hugs and kisses that J insisted accompany it. Pretty soon the girls were each ensconced on two arm chairs in the living room, quietly and calmly taking turns with the two Thomas books.
So, while we still see plenty of totally two year old behavior, I cautiously say that I think we’re on the road to improvement. I don’t think there’s quite as many tantrums as their used to be. She’s not flipping out over “ickies!” as much as she used to, although she still wants the icky removed right away. She’s learning more words for her feelings; besides labeling “sad” she now can also label “happy” and “surprise.” I’ve been trying to be conscious of helping her label emotions, and it seems to be working. She is wonderful at entertaining herself, as her sister is, a trait which I’ve attributed to my aspect of parenting I label “benign neglect.” The only problem is sometimes the girls are too good at playing alone, especially Lyd, and I have to actively facilitate when they play together to help set up boundaries and navigate friction. But, it’s getting better, and the girls do like to actively play together. We brought our small outside slide indoors for the winter, and the girls both love to play on it, taking turns going down the slide as fast as they can and laughing together.
J also has quite a memory. Now as I type, she’s reciting the entire book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” and I do mean the entire book. She is completely in love with all things “Thomas the Tank Engine,” and has all the names of the engines memorized; she got a stuffed “Thomas” for Christmas, and he now shares her bed every night, as well as most of her days. She has also taken to singing our nighttime prayers at random times during the day, and she will always stop and fold her hands while she prays.
And her talking! Oh, her vocabulary! For a girl who only really started talking in August (five months ago), she has an amazing ability to speak. She chatters all day long, whether she’s playing with me or playing alone. I guesstimate that we can understand about 90% of what she says, too. It’s just amazing to me.
I can see why parenting experts and experienced parents say that the “terrible two’s” are such a challenging time. They certainly have their moments! But, there is SO incredibly much growth to see, and I feel priviledged to be able to be with her day in and day out. Despite her burgeoning independence, she still is very much a “Momma’s girl.” We love to go places together, and she’s very easy to take places. I really enjoy this beautiful daughter of mine (have I mentioned that she’s gorgeous? We used to call her “Little Miss Big Eyes” when she was a baby, and we could still justifiably call her that if we chose.)
My daughter has a sunny temperament, an enthusiastic personality, a ready smile, and a large capacity to love. She is a gift and a blessing, and I so enjoy the priviledge of mothering her.
One more thing: You may know that we are big Green Bay Packers fans at our house. (Well, I’m probably better labeled as “Packer sympathetic” rather than a Packer fan, although I was as upset as anyone else over the missed facemask call on the final play of the Green Bay-Arizona game last Sunday.) My husband is an avid Packer fan, and he loves to get our daughters on board as Packer fans, too. He taught J the Packer chant: “Do-do-doo, duh do-do-doo – Go Pack Go!” and she often goes around the house chanting that. ANY football game she sees on the TV is immediately a Packer game, in her mind, and she yells at the screen, “Go Packers! Touchdown! Oh, yeah!” It’s hysterically funny; even my husband had no idea how enthusiastic of a fan J would become. And anytime she sees anything with a Packers “G” on it, she immediately starts saying the Packers chant.
This caused a problem two Sundays ago when we were in Wisconsin and attending Sunday morning worship at a church in Green Bay where a friend of my husband’s is pastor. My husband and I were standing in line at the front of church, waiting to be ushered forward for communtion. J was in my arms, and while we were standing in line, she noticed a member of the congregation wearing a Green Bay Packers jacket. So, what does she do, while standing in line up in the front of church? She says, quite clearly but not too loudly (although certainly not whispering), “Do-do-doo, duh do-do-doo – Go Pack Go!” Poor JJ and I were probably not in the appropriate frame of mind to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood after that, but it was pretty funny!